General D&D Topics* Let's read the entire run - Page 261




  1. #2601
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    Quote Originally Posted by (un)reason View Post
    Flesh for Lolth: In which Robin Laws goes completely over the top in his description of drow society, making the degree of unpleasantness in the old Drow of the Underdark book and various FR novels seem tame. They aren't just evil, they're Eeeevil from before birth, with killing and eating the other foetuses sharing their mother's womb standard procedure! They need to make sacrifices equal to 1% of their city's population a week to keep Lolth happy! (which means they're always on the lookout for new supplies of slaves and traitors) Treachery is essential to advance in their society! (but it has to be the right sort of treachery) If they do manage to live long enough to die of natural causes, this is shameful, not respected. The whole thing goes through grimdark and out the other end to become funny, and I'm not absolutely certain if he's in on the joke and trolling the other magazine staff and readers or not. Funny how the cultural differences of 10 years ago can sometimes be more jarring than those of 30 years ago, because you don't expect them.
    God, this article. I have a rant saved up for this that I'll write when I'm less recently conscious, but sufficed to say that this is my least favorite article in the entire history of the magazine.

 

  • #2602
    Dragon Issue 298: August 2002


    part 4/10


    The bestiary: Our bestiary this month is more an article, with a few incidental monster stats tacked on. It's not just Driders that are created when people up Lolth's tests, they're just the most famous stage. There's also Arachnoloths, the low level spider hybrids formed by random spot checks on your ego. And that's just the start. In order, the various tests are:

    A test of ambition, which failing doesn't result in transformation, just cursing.

    A test of dishonesty, which removes your ability to lie if you fail.

    A test of sacrifice, which you have to do the opposite of the previous ones to pass, just to be arbitrary, and if you fail you get transformed into a giant mass of writhing spider legs.

    A test of betrayal, which will end in death for one of the two chosen individuals for sure.

    A test of dominance, which will see you transformed into an endlessly spawning Brood Mother queen spider if you fail.

    A test of Vengeance, which once again pits Drow against Drow, TO THE DEATH!!! Only a few ever get to rule, and you will not be amongst them, starscream.

    And finally, if you do all that, you get to personally fight a proxy of Lolth, once again to the death. If you pass that, and continue to be a correctly bad Drow, you might get to be a proxy yourself. It's all more than a little over the top, just like the previous article, and seems likely to send their population into terminal decline if applied strictly. Course, given her chaotic nature, that's unlikely to be the case, but it's still not really that usable unless you play scheming Drow in a city campaign, and doesn't quite work for me as worldbuilding. Needs more care in straddling the line between evil and EEEEEeeeevil.

  • #2603

  • #2604
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    Quote Originally Posted by (un)reason View Post
    Do go on.
    Well, let me give it a shot. *cracks knuckles.*

    The drow demonstrate something bout nerds that I really like. As a general rule, we don't do universally evil races. It seems like as soon as some popular media says, "This race is evil. Absolutely evil in every circumstances. No exceptions," the first thing we do is ask "so what are the GOOD ones like?" Admittedly, they tend to be more about the "sexy" races, like vampires, demons, and the abovementioned drow. But they're just as interested in other species. Sith, orcs, klingons, ogres, killer robots, you name it. Hell, google "friendly dalek" and see what you get.

    I'm not sure why that is. Maybe geeks, used to stereotypes aimed at them, tend to reject those in others. Or maybe studying the culture and histories of other worlds requires analysis of their own world, where similar stereotypes never tend to work out well.

    Either way, toss us the drow, and we get Driz'zt and his various clones, the good drow goddess Elistrae, webcomics like Drow Tales, and hell, Yocchi. We turned a capital E Evil race into a fascinating species of dueling political forces and groups, some sympathetic, some not.

    And then Laws pisses all over it. He practically recites the big book of villain cliches, with the human sacrifices, them being evil even before birth (I like to call that thing Fetal Kombat,) the whole nine yards. He even tried to squelch the common moral issues before the could come up. Like the really creepy party where he gave the A-OK, or even encouraged, the murder of drow children!

    But this image of the drow doesn't even make sense within the damn rules! For one, drow are portrayed as being intelligent, more so than the average human, but this treats them as practically mindless fanatics. On that note, check their alignment. Usually neutral evil. Does that alignment describe a race of slavish, fanatical devotees to a chaotic evil god? No. The more logical expression of that concept would be a group of cutting, self-interested parties, likely of the scheming Machiavellian sort, reluctantly forced to put up with Lolth and her cultists as a dominant but not ruling faction within their society. Which fits; there are plenty of other drow gods for them to align with, and most of them didn't get them into this mess in the first place.

    And that's before the elephant in the room. Let's face it: the drow makes us look bad. Even geek-friendly media, like Dr. McNinja or Community, rips on us for them, and that's just the costumes. The drow are not only the only well-known dark skinned race in Dungeons and Dragons, but arguably the only matriarchal. And we had to turn them into a race inherently evil at birth with children you can massacre without hesitation. It's just ... ick. And makes me a little grateful we often make drow with gray, blue, purple, or red skin.

    The bottom line is, we're better than this. We ask these questions, about what to do with the helpless of ostenably evil races. We respect the virtues of even evil races. And we make them as heroes and show how evil can be redeemed. We turn the one dimensional into something with depth, with internal conflict, often with their own bloody languages. There is no excuse for something this regressive and utterly pointless, except if Law really was being satirical.

  • #2605
    Dragon Issue 298: August 2002


    part 5/10


    Sinister tools: Drow do love their poisons. With save or die mostly gone in 3e, that means they have to get a little more inventive if they want to stay as scary as they were when we first saw them. So along with new magical items, they give us a fair number of new chemical and mineral concoctions here that have various ways of making your life interesting. Some they take themselves, some they put on weapons and traps, and some they just sprinkle liberally into the environment to ruin it. As chaotic evil creatures, often short-term pleasure and destruction takes precedence despite their potential long lifespans. So the items here are entirely in keeping with their established personalities, with spider stuff, torture stuff, tentacle stuff, and vanity stuff all catered for. Unlike the previous two articles, this is both highly useful for players and DM's, and not silly at all. The harder and more interesting the challenge of killing them and taking their stuff is, the more players will value it once they have it.


    VS Drow: This column gets a complete repurposing, dropping the usual terse tactical advice for fighting as and against them, and instead providing a specific organisation devoted to killing Drow, along with a bunch of prestige classes, feats, spells, and items that'll hopefully make things a little easier. Feels a bit like cheating really, compared to learning how to use your existing tools to their fullest potential. But I suppose that's the thing. Increasing the size of the pie will make you more popular than telling you you ought to carefully make the most of the slice you have. And like any race that can gain class levels fairly freely, Drow are a pretty difficult challenge to prepare for. You need a combination of being able to survive, navigate and blend into the underdark, which is a pretty big challenge in itself, and then bring the blinding light that'll put them at a disadvantage when you do find them. And since a party is only as stealthy as it's noisiest member, that means everyone in the group needs to have some skills in that area. Fortunately, even the spellcasting prestige class here gets an emphasis on silent spellcasting and blindsight, so that's covered. And spells that not only affect the visibility, but also the earth around you so you can hem them in or create pits in the ground quickly might give you an edge, as Drow wizards don't often become earth elementalists, weirdly enough. So this is another indicator of their changing direction, towards providing lots and lots of new specific crunch every month, rather than giving info and advice that could be applicable to any RPG. It's not that it's not useful, but it's only useful in a far more limited and specific situation, and I guess it's up to you to make sure those situations come up, as they're less likely to do so naturally.

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  • #2607
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordVyreth View Post
    Hell, google "friendly dalek" and see what you get.
    Huh. Fan fiction about Daleks who are nice and go out to do good things. YouTube videos of friendly Daleks roaming conventions. Pictures of Daleks being helpful (towing a car out of snow?). And.. this:

    ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwqbdMTWXuw
    (yes, I know they were pretending to be good, but still)

    (I keep trying to edit the link so the video doesn't blow up all over the page, but everytime I try to go to the advanced edit options the connection times out)
    Last edited by jonesy; Tuesday, 13th November, 2012 at 01:15 PM.

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  • #2608
    Dragon Issue 298: August 2002


    part 6/10


    Shades of death: Another thing that gets switched around is the idea of articles on class combinations. Wheras before they were relatively simple, this article goes for complex builds with multiple prestige classes from various splatbooks over the 20 level progressions. That's a very interesting change and one I approve of, as it'll give us a much better idea of what they consider good tactics at the moment. As you may have guessed, this is about various types of necromancers, both wizard and cleric. Not all of them are evil, but very few of them are fully trusted, and let's face it, having a plentiful supply of perfectly obedient (albeit smelly) servants can turn even someone who started with good intentions into a lazy spoiled diva who can't relate to normal people at all. There are a few new feats as well, but they're pretty weedy, and serve to emphasise that animating large numbers of undead servants really ain't what it used to be. So I do have mixed feelings about this, as it shows us that while necromancy is still cool, it isn't the most optimal character choice in 3e, and can take some serious work to do tricks they could pull casually before. Conjurer seems a better choice now.


    Campaign news: Whoa! The RPGA has dropped all it's membership fees! Like the creation of Paizo, that speaks of some serious restructuring going on in the WotC offices. And if they're no longer funding the RPGA from members fees, then exactly how is it being supported now? Obviously in the short run that's good for them, as they've lowered the bar to entry considerably. But it does make me wonder why. Was the membership dropping and they wanted to do something radical to turn things around. Did the ease of distributing adventures over the internet cut their overheads dramatically? Does someone in the WotC offices secretly want to kill them, so they're cutting them loose and setting them up to fail? So many ways to spin this, both positive and negative. This issue is turning out to be a real turning point in their business structures, and once again, I'd really like to know what went on behind the scenes to cause these changes.

  • #2609
    Dragon Issue 298: August 2002


    part 7/10


    The vault of the drow: Our other Greyhawk feature is also bigger and more significant than usual, as well as being in theme. A 16 page return to D3, the first place many people saw them. Last time we went there was back in 1997, when Monte sent us there as one of the subplots in Dead Gods. And since we're not busy adventuring, they can give us more information on demographics, history (which includes the events from both of the previous two appearances) day to day life, and general setting detail than either of those did. It is possible to come there without instantly being attacked and enslaved, especially if you're one of the evil underdark races, but you should still watch your back at all times. There's lots of districts in the city itself, plus a reasonable sized fungus forest which they use for food, and which you can hide in and hope something doesn't make a meal of you. So this is an article that gives you a real sense of history, evolved in real time with attention to continuity. If you're looking for a nostalgia bomb, this definitely fits the bill, as both a special feature on it's own, and an expansion on past events that's system light enough to be useful if you go back and play them again. I strongly approve, which is a definite relief after first couple of articles were so risible.


    Chainmail: Even this column is in theme, reminding us just how popular Drow are amongst the office as well as the fans. They even find a way to tie it into the existing metaplot from the other continent, as referenced last article. What happened to the Drow who turned to Kiaransalee after the fiasco of adventurers invading D3 and causing tons of havoc? They were eventually beaten and exiled (for as long as Lolth is the core deity, they have to give her priority in new material) and decided to GO WEST! Life is warlike there. GO WEST! In the enclosed air. GO WEST! So many foes to choose. GO WEST! You only have your lives to lose. Which neatly gives us a reason why A NEW CHALLENGER APPEARS! in the Chainmail game. It's all very well tied together, and shows how much better co-ordinated the company is than TSR, hitting us with stuff in the books, wargame, and magazine all at once.

    Along with the pretty neat setting stuff, there's two drow-focused prestige classes for your game. Bloodsisters are female fighters who specialise in the kind of dirty fighting that works well underground. Crossbows, poison, sneak attacks, all that good stuff that you use to hit dumb people who can't see in the dark with, and kill them quickly without putting yourself at risk. Sounds pretty unpleasant to fight, but what did you expect from the Drow? The other one, the Nightshades, are a roguish relative of Arcane Archers, requiring spellcasting to get into, but not advancing it, just getting some supernatural innate abilities that make sneaking around and playing the thief and assassin easier. With their spider themed powers, they're also pretty appropriate for their niche. These both seem pretty appropriate for your game, even if you're not playing in greyhawk. As long as the drow fill basically the same niche, there'll always be plenty of room for sneaky poison wielding bitches amongst them.

  • #2610
    Dragon Issue 298: August 2002


    part 8/10


    DM's toolbox: Here's some advice we've seen before. If you want to improvise, make sure you have lots of general stuff prepared. Players are more likely to follow along and enjoy the game if you're playing the RPG equivalent of the blues, rather than atonal free jazz. This is why those old school modules have things like wandering monster encounters, rules for getting lost, and maps which extend outwards a fair way, so when the players wander a bit, they'll still run into something interesting, if not what you expected. As is the fashion, they have more specific bits of advice and directions on where to go and what to steal from than last time in issue 226, but they're also terser, and the approach here is somewhat more autocratic, seeing is the DM's responsibility to come up with stuff themselves rather than bouncing off the players. Overall, I think this is a case where multiple perspectives help you get a bigger picture, so I'm not complaining.


    The play's the thing: Robin continues on from last time, with a whole bunch of specific examples of how not to do it, and why they will probably cause problems at the gaming table. Characters getting too much or too little attention is the main one, showing up in quite a few different forms. This applies to the NPC's as well, with DMPC's once again firmly warned against. Also starting to be a problem is the ability in 3e of some character builds to be better than another at what they do and more flexible as well on top of that. (although that can certainly be a problem in the likes of GURPS as well) Finally, expectation gaps are the kind of thing that you can't really predict, unlike the other things here, and can only be solved by talking things out. While system can be an issue, the amount of enjoyment you get out of RPG'ing is far more dependent on the other people than the trappings. The big lesson seems to be that sharing is caring, which we should all remember from children's programs really, but so often forget. Fun is not a zero sum game. It can be created and destroyed, sharing it can mean you wind up with more each, it does not automatically increase in entropy in a closed system. Trying to treat the social sciences like hard ones is an approach doomed to failure. Are we crystal clear yet? Now play nice with each other, it's for your own good.

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