General D&D Topics* Let's read the entire run - Page 257





  1. #2561
    Dragon Issue 295: May 2002


    part 6/10


    Nodwick faces a traditional adventuring challenge. Storm the castle. As ever, the techniques used are not so orthodox.


    Class acts gives us a 5 level prestige class for the first time. It also gets cut down to a single page, with no illustration. Bit of a step down, really. Anyway, Andy Collins gives us the Siege Engineer. One PC's are fairly unlikely to take, because it is only useful in a specialist campaign, but if you've reached high level and decided to do the old companion set thing of settling down, building a castle, and attracting followers, having one of these as your cohort and chief of guard would be immensely useful. Similarly, if you do a lot of breaking into castles, for whatever reason, and have a high int fighter, you might find it useful to dip into this for the Disable Device skill. Just don't take it on a whim, even if it is only a 5 level class. If the DM isn't on board, you'll just end up not using half it's abilities most of the time.


    Elminsters guide to the realms: As Ed has done before, but very few other writers have the space to do, he includes a false rumour in his campaign setting. In a world full of supernatural creatures, it's surprising more plot hooks aren't false, or the product of one thing pretending to be another. Amusingly, the illusions are more impressive than the real thing this time around, which is just the way the actual culprits want it. Fitting with that, the illustration is really good this month as well, being both evocative and useful, while keeping the real dangers out of sight at the edges of the image, where a casual skimmer won't spot them immediately. I think this counts as another success, and shows again that he can do cool things no-one else can get away with because of how much he's done in the past. It's good to be on top.

 

  • #2562
    Dragon Issue 295: May 2002


    part 7/10


    Bazaar of the Bizarre: Siege weapons! We definitely haven't covered those since the edition change. And smashing things on a larger scale than your regular weapons can handle definitely counts as a good thing in my book. How will magic further enhance our capabilities in this area?

    Burning and freezing metal stones unleash a AoE heat or chill metal affecting everyone around their impact point. This is a brilliant way to break formations, as everyone has to drop their weapons and scramble out of armour. Very clever idea indeed.

    Defoliant stone is another brutal defence breaker, especially against elves. Hit them in the fundamentals, watch them shrivel. Muahahahaha!

    Earthquake stone is also a quite self-explanatory fortification ruiner. Just make sure you keep a good distance away, because you don't want to be caught in the blast.

    Quench stones can be handy used on your own side as well if things go wrong. Or they can ruin the enemies attacks handily. One to use with caution.

    Softening stones penetrate Hardness. Meh.

    Wall Stones create walls where they land. You really want to have a good aim with this one, for instant fortifications will wreak chaos on the battlefield. They can be made of all sorts of materials, each with their own quirks. Will you go for fire, ice, thorns, force, or boring old stone? In any case, this looks like it'll change the battlefield in quite interesting ways.

    Chain launching Ballista Bolts fix onto your wall, and leave behind a long chain so the enemy can climb up and get in. It's not easy to detach either. You may have to hack away a chunk of your own wall to save the rest of the building.

    Disjunction Ballista Bolts fux004 all the enemies magical warding. Keep them ready to use for your second sortie if you find your first one countered.

    Needlespike Ballista Bolts are designed to AoE skewer the enemy infantry without damaging the environment too much. Nice contrast to the massive devastation surrounding them.

    Reverse Gravity Ballista Bolts will completely bork nearly any standard fortification, and the people manning it. Floating in the air, they'll then be easy meat for your next shots. I love the visuals on this one.

    Bellows of Blasting let you make a mini hurricane to blow people away and put out fires. Another battlefield control effect that'll hopefully keep you in the lead and the enemy literally off balance.

    Fists of Grumsh protect you from bombardment while you're holding it, letting you charge openly across the battlefield to break stuff down like good warboyz. Typical Orcish thematics then.

    Rams of Passage let you charge straight through walls instead of breaking them down. Should make for an amusing visual, especially if you don't know that's going to happen.

    Rams of Rusting Show preserved rust monster antennae go down well in mass combat too. If your enemy has metal fortifications, they won't for much longer. Remember, go for the joints.

    Siege Golems have a ballista on their back that they can fire themselves. They're pretty handy in close combat too. Ride on them and bring the pain to your enemies in style.

    Dust of Returning is sprinked over your bolts, and brings them back, albeit in a rather unpleasant way. Use with caution, possibly on your enemies.

    Mantlets of Warding shield you from magic on top of the usual fortification bonuses. If you have sorcerers throwing fireballs left right and centre, this'll reduce their slaughtering effectiveness.

    Dwarven Stonebows have shorter range but higher accuracy than regular catapults. Racial customisation's a funny thing. Goes to show what priorities they have.

    Halfling Catapults demonstrate the writer's sense of humour. They're not that different from regular catapults really, just scaled down a bit. Shrug.

    Mantlets are walls with wheels attached that you push across the battlefield as cover. This looks amusing, but is pretty invaluable really. Now if only there were such things as portable trenches.

    Poison Stones are just bags filled with gunk that bust on impact. Like throwing diseased maggoty carcasses, this is a rather unpleasant morale breaker, even without magic. Course, given how inflated poison prices are in D&D, this often costs more than an actual magic item.

    Repeating Ballista let you shoot 6 bolts before having to reload. Since it still takes 2 rounds to do so, you may be faced with panic in the face of onrushing monsters

    Suspended Cauldrons are of course for pouring unpleasant liquids on attackers. They present a bigger logistical problem than you'd think, for they are very heavy. Still, lots of burning oil is not to be sneezed at. And they are suitably inventive in thinking up other gross things to pour on people. Lots of fun to be had here amid the filler, presuming you have the cash to spend.

  • #2563
    Dragon Issue 295: May 2002


    part 8/10


    Monstrous denizens of oerth: Cataboligne Demons are one of those oddities you find in a few parts of the Abyss, where for whatever reason the Tanar'ri aren't the dominant flavor of atrocity. The reason they're not more dominant isn't due to less raw power, as they're quite decent at both combat and magical trickery. But they lack the ubiquitous teleporting and telepathy that means the Tanar'ri can go anywhere and adapt to new surroundings at a whim, so they're never going to have the same kind of ubiquity. Still, they're another decent option for summoners to call up and enslave, and much less likely to bother you again once being banished.

    Gingwatzim are another ancient monster from a module (C4) that have been mostly forgotten since then. But if there's one thing the Greyhawk guys like doing, it's reclaiming those weird old generic setting monsters, and giving them a home on Oerth. And these have some very odd elements indeed. They're air elementals, but are actually native to the Ethereal plane. They're often summoned and bound into inanimate objects or humanoid forms, which seems a rather roundabout way of getting decent servants, to be honest. They reproduce by splitting into multiple smaller ones, except for a few which grow to huge sizes and gain extra magical powers. Even the updating can't eliminate the oddness of the little details, which I suppose is a good thing. They really ought to get a good ecology of to expand upon their lifecycle when not summoned.


    Campaign news: This follows on directly from the last issue, detailing encounters up to level 10 for their Origins qualifier. As each is an ECL+2 encounter, they should be challenging, but not lethal. Interestingly, each is completely different from the previous ones, rather than just being an upgraded version with similar but more powerful monsters. I guess that makes it more likely that your stories will also be quite different, thus keeping the adjudicators interested, and able to easily tell what level your group is. I guess that all makes sense from their point of view. Now all that remains is the results. Who will come out best from this?


    Chainmail: Magical stones that change the rules of engagement in their vicinity? Muahaha. Just when you thought you were getting the hang of all the tactical permutations, they add some new ones. Since they affect both sides equally, but don't cover the whole battlefield, making them advantageous to your side will require decent control over your movement. Use missile weapons near the Stone of Vengance, and don't let the enemy close. Hem them in near the stone of sorrow or mercy and take them down. And steer clear of the stone of hatred, because it looks like a pain in the butt to to unable to stop attacking for both sides. Once again, they're adding new game options, and not forgetting about the setting info that ties them together, or making this useful to D&D players as well as wargamers. I'm once again pretty pleased with how well they're handling this line.

  • #2564

    Right. Time for some serious catching up here

    Dragon Issue 295: May 2002


    part 8/10


    Monstrous denizens of oerth: Cataboligne Demons are one of those oddities you find in a few parts of the Abyss, where for whatever reason the Tanar'ri aren't the dominant flavor of atrocity. The reason they're not more dominant isn't due to less raw power, as they're quite decent at both combat and magical trickery. But they lack the ubiquitous teleporting and telepathy that means the Tanar'ri can go anywhere and adapt to new surroundings at a whim, so they're never going to have the same kind of ubiquity. Still, they're another decent option for summoners to call up and enslave, and much less likely to bother you again once being banished.

    Gingwatzim are another ancient monster from a module (C4) that have been mostly forgotten since then. But if there's one thing the Greyhawk guys like doing, it's reclaiming those weird old generic setting monsters, and giving them a home on Oerth. And these have some very odd elements indeed. They're air elementals, but are actually native to the Ethereal plane. They're often summoned and bound into inanimate objects or humanoid forms, which seems a rather roundabout way of getting decent servants, to be honest. They reproduce by splitting into multiple smaller ones, except for a few which grow to huge sizes and gain extra magical powers. Even the updating can't eliminate the oddness of the little details, which I suppose is a good thing. They really ought to get a good ecology of to expand upon their lifecycle when not summoned.


    Campaign news: This follows on directly from the last issue, detailing encounters up to level 10 for their Origins qualifier. As each is an ECL+2 encounter, they should be challenging, but not lethal. Interestingly, each is completely different from the previous ones, rather than just being an upgraded version with similar but more powerful monsters. I guess that makes it more likely that your stories will also be quite different, thus keeping the adjudicators interested, and able to easily tell what level your group is. I guess that all makes sense from their point of view. Now all that remains is the results. Who will come out best from this?


    Chainmail: Magical stones that change the rules of engagement in their vicinity? Muahaha. Just when you thought you were getting the hang of all the tactical permutations, they add some new ones. Since they affect both sides equally, but don't cover the whole battlefield, making them advantageous to your side will require decent control over your movement. Use missile weapons near the Stone of Vengance, and don't let the enemy close. Hem them in near the stone of sorrow or mercy and take them down. And steer clear of the stone of hatred, because it looks like a pain in the butt to to unable to stop attacking for both sides. Once again, they're adding new game options, and not forgetting about the setting info that ties them together, or making this useful to D&D players as well as wargamers. I'm once again pretty pleased with how well they're handling this line.

  • #2565
    Dragon Issue 295: May 2002


    part 9/10


    Command points: The new emphasis on many player battles continues in this column with some more tactical advice, graded by ease of use and effectiveness as per last time. The first bit of advice is the most useful here. Maximise your action points so all your units can do something each round, as in a multiplayer fight, you're particularly susceptible to ganging up, so you won't get that many rounds. Setting things up so you can make enemies rout, and then take them down and win the game while they're at a disadvantage is the other big tricky one, requiring knowing your enemies stats, and good use of positioning. The other stuff seems fairly common sense, apart from the reminder that you can move over knocked down models, which is the kind of little rule you can forget in the heat of the action. It seems likely they'll be sticking with this topic for a little while longer, so I'm wondering what else they can do with it. I suppose the more variable you introduce, the more permutations you can create. What else are they discovering about their game that they didn't intend when designing it?


    The play's the thing: Robin continues from last month, by showing us how different people would describe the same event with lots of examples. Of course, these are less variable than real people writing about the same event because they're all from the same perspective, and all vetted by a professional editor for comprehensibility, so it's not a perfect example. If he really wanted to illustrate this, he wouldn't have written those bits himself, but farmed them out to his players to create. I guess that shows how hard it is to truly get outside your own head. Even professional writers are limited by their own experiences and research, and it can be almost as hard to write below your current skill level as above it. If you want to become a good novelist, working on your ability to think in multiple voices and slip between them is a skill that will serve you well. Once again, Robin is writing filler for this column to make up the page count, but it's still got a fair bit of useful information that you can learn from in there.


    Silicon Sorcery: Even this column is in theme, talking about using computer design applications to put together your strongholds. Be they simple overhead 2d ones, or the more sophisticated 3d designers that are gradually coming into existence, they can be quite handy in helping you get an idea of proper placement of various elements. Unfortunately, a lot of the time they can also wind up leaving out elements that would be essential in a real fortress. (The endless dilemma of finding a place to go to the toilet) So choose wisely. The eponymously named Stronghold seems to be their favourite, although they point out 5 other options as well. This is one of those articles that definitely feels it's age, with the graphics looking more mid 90's than early 2000's. Maybe there's a difference when things are in motion, but I'm not particularly impressed with how this looks. Makes me wonder what current apps are out that can do this sort of thing, as that'd probably be more useful than trying to hunt down decades old software.

  • #2566
    Dragon Issue 295: May 2002


    part 10/10


    Sage advice: How do you attack someone's armour (Shields are resolved like any weapon. You can't attack worn armour separately. )

    How do you disarm a wizards wand (Surprisingly easily, especially at high level. Hey, dramatic cinematic scenes! How about that.)

    How do 10 foot poles work when used diagonally (use the 1-2-1-2 rule. The universe is not perfectly pythagorean)

    What happens if someone with quick draw and improved initiative face off (Nothing special.)

    Does being flatfooted negate your strength bonus to avoid tripping (no)
    Will a mighty bow's enhancement bonus stack with your strength bonus (yes)

    How far can you throw improvised objects. (Don't we have rules for that? Eh, we're not the first system, and we won't be the last. (yes, you, Scion) Eh, guess it's up to skip to fix the problem again. )

    Do you get an attack of opportunity if you're grappling someone and they cast a verbal only spell (yes)

    If a class starts off with proficiency in an exotic weapon, do they get the full skills needed in it (yes)

    How do the retrievers eye rays work (Roll to hit, then to save. Two chances to avoid it. Woo. )

    What happens when rays miss (Nothing much. We don't like bothering with spill damage hitting other things. )

    Do blink and displacement stack (No, they're rolled separately. Another two rolls added to every attack resolution. That's gonna slow combat down a bit.)


    What's new also thinks about getting a castle. And finds that it isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when there's bills to pay. This is why you become undead first. The savings are enormous.


    Well, this was a fairly strong issue, but also a frustrating one, as the emphasis on pricing everything out made it very clear that most players won't be able to afford all the cool stuff here. I guess despite some people calling for it loudly, the domain management and stronghold building side of D&D is always going to be a niche part of the game, because of the amount of effort it is to track it mathematically. We can only take so much crunch at once. So let's move onto the next issue, see if dragons can remain suitably iconic despite the amount of work handling all their powers is.

  • #2567
    Dragon Issue 296: June 2002


    part 1/10


    124 pages. Year 26. Eh, it's just another number. We'll have to wait until 30 before they can really make a big deal about that again. Unless they join the 27 club, but we know in hindsight that doesn't happen. There's a dragon on the cover, but given their current trend of zooming in closer and focussing the humans, we only get to see a small part of it. Will the contents be focussing on dragon hunters more than dragons themselves as well? Would it be so terrible if they did? Let's see if they can keep the quality up.


    Scan Quality: Excellent, searchable (the only non archive issue that has fully word searchable innards, actually)


    In this issue:


    Wyrms turn: Another year, another reiteration of the things that they want in their writers. And as before, creativity comes second to the ability to fit the formats and formulas of the company in general and gameline in particular, listen and react to editors, and get your work in on time. Which explains a lot. The only real notable point this time round is their reminder that they still require physical copies of manuscripts, even though the internet is more than big and fast enough to send them over. I wonder when that'll change, before or after the magazine itself goes electronic in 5 years time? Big wheels keep on turning, and even if the company as a whole is behind the times, it will keep on changing as new people come in and old ones leave. Once again, I guess we'll keep rollin down the river, watching out for signs of change.


    Scale Mail: Our first letter, not too surprisingly, is from someone who thinks the april issue this year mixed useful stuff and humour decently. Only one of the articles didn't have some usefulness to him. This unsurprisingly makes the writers happy, since april is quite stressful for them.

    They don't get off completely unscathed though. The beefcake on the cover draws mixed reactions. Turnaround is fair play, and this time it's the guy's turn to feel jealous and/or exploited. Not so funny now, is it? I hope you've learned something. We should all let go of worrying about gender and nudity and just have huge bisexual orgies. (while using proper protection of course)

    The gender issues continue with the Gamers vs Girlfriends article getting a fair number of complaints, one of which is actually funny in it's own right. Curiously, it's the letter by a man that's the most hostile. Ahh, overprotective white knights. What are we to do with them in this bold new online world where the difference in physical strength between genders is pretty irrelevant?

    Wolves also have their defenders, with a letter a little peeved all the elemental wolves in issue 293 were evil. Where would we be without some good old-fashioned froofy animism?

    Also, where would the magazine be without it's special features. The tiles get praised again. Hopefully this means some more physical stuff to cut out and use in your game in coming years.

    The final three letters are more generalised praise, once again showing how most people have enthusiastically leapt on the new edition, even ones that lost interest at some point in 2e. The gaming population as a whole is definitely younger and less conservative than it will be in 10 years time.

  • #2568
    Dragon Issue 296: June 2002


    part 2/10


    Nodwick reaches the spot on the map marked here be dragons. Thankfully, that's exactly where they want to be.


    Lest we forget, Hardestadt was a dick in DA:Vampire. Seems so long ago now. :sigh:


    D&D Previews is looking increasingly marginalized, literally. The D&D aspect of it is particularly so, with only 1 game product, but 4 novels. The possibility that the IP is actually more profitable as a licencing device than the actual game looks increasingly probable. The book of challenges is our gamebook. More little bits and pieces to speed along your adventure design, this probably wasn't a huge seller.

    In novels, The Realms gets Crown of fire by Ed Greenwood and Heirs of Prophecy by Lisa Smedman. Dragonlance gets Dragons of a vanished moon by Weis and Hickman, and The Dawning of a New Age by Jean Rabe. Looks like one set of cataclysms is settling down, but the other is still plugging along. Now, when will we actually get to play in the new Krynn with both wizardry and sorcery coexisting?


    Up on a soapbox: Gary's story this month is different, but has exactly the same lesson as last month. Put it in your dungeon, and they WILL find it, and probably overcome it too. It's just a matter of trial and error. And good mapping helps a fair bit as well, as it means they spend a lot less time just wandering aimlessly, and can often guess where something is hiding by looking at the gaps in their current drawings and having a good nose around for secret doors. This contrasts with outdoor adventures where you're not on a grid or otherwise sharply bounded borders. There, it's quite likely they can wander for months, and not come across all of the stuff you put in there. I guess that shows why you want to start your adventures small. It means less of your work will wind up being wasted in the final game, and there's less chance of the variables getting completely out of hand, resulting in something you don't know how to react too killing the game. Probably part of the reason D&D became a bigger success than general RPG systems. It's much easier to get a game started when you have a clear objective and then expand on that, than presenting a paralyzing array of options right away. So put plenty in your game, but only reveal it in bits and pieces, making them work to get all the information, and your game is more likely to last a long time.


    Zogonias system fails to work first time in the field. Which is a problem, since it was a life or death situation. Lets hope they can afford the rez'ing.

  • #2569
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  • #2570
    Dragon Issue 296: June 2002


    part 3/10


    Epic level countdown: Here we have one of the definite headaches of the epic level handbooks. Monsters that have ridiculously high stats in everything, even those that aren't related to their area of expertise. As PC's have to specialise if they want to stay CR competitive, and will generally only have one or two obscenely high stats, this results in a situation where monsters don't have any significant weaknesses to capitalise on, so the only way you can beat them is through ridiculous amounts of brute force, rather than clever tricks that make for good stories. Particularly egregious are the examples which have superhuman mental stats, but still just act as basic predators, attacking with their natural weapons with no forward planning, contingencies, tools, social manipulation, or anything else that justifies those high numbers. It really does bug me tremendously how dumb that is. The stats and the description need to sync up, and this is important both at low and high levels. Frustrating Frustrating Frustrating. :grrr:


    Robin's laws of good game mastering. Well, he's certainly proved himself repeatedly in the magazine. And it's certainly got plenty of good reviews. But would it exist if it weren't for the pun he could make on his own name?


    Dork tower does sarcasm brilliantly. Oh yeah, that's gotta bite. Quite possibly the best punchline in the entire run.


    Dragon hunters: Well, this isn't surprising at all. A collection of prestige classes devoted to dealing with dragons? I knew something like this'd turn up sooner or later. Let's see how it compares with it's 2e counterpart from issue 230, and if they're one-trick ponies who's powers'll be useless when facing other monster types.

    Dragonscribes are pretty much the same idea as the Dragon Lords from issue 230. They get bonuses at understanding, communicating, and commanding dragons, and full spell progression on top, making them pretty decent. Unfortunately, they do have one of those awkward bits where they have skill requirements and bonuses for a skill they don't actually get in class, so you won't be able to just full wizard or sorcerer your way in and get a perfect build unless you find a feat that lets you take diplomacy as a class skill regardless. Do you know which supplement to mine for that little trick?

    Knights of the Scale are your basic mounted frontal fighting badass, resistant to breath weapons and inflicting extra damage vs dragons. Only in a clever twist, they get the ability to summon a flying mount at higher levels so a smart dragon can't just waltz away from an encounter it doesn't feel like. Definitely a case where the 3e version plays it smarter than the 2e one.

    Heartseekers obviously fill exactly the same niche as the Black Arrows from the 2e Kit collection. They too get a method of dealing with flying creatures, grounding them if they hit them with their magical arrows, before finishing them off for good. Their powers are fairly dragon specific, but with decent saves and half spell progression, they'll probably be better in a general fight than arcane archers at least.

    Vengeance Sworn are the only one that doesn't have an obvious 2e analog to compare too. They require Rage and divine spellcasting to get into, so you'll have to multiclass barbarian and something else, probably ranger or druid so you can keep those wilderness skills maxed out. They do get minor spellcasting progression, but it won't be a big loss if you go Ranger to keep that full BAB with no dips. They get an interesting combo of offensive and resistance boosts, that once again target dragon's actual common powers and negate them. I think I can pretty firmly say that these guys have a better chance of successfully kicking dragon ass and chewing bubblegum than their 2e counterparts. It's good to have more writers with actual tactical acumen around.

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