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TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

What, you really thought I wouldn't include one of these? As if!


  • Total voters
    28

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 1: Sep/Oct 1986



part 1/5



68 pages. So, here we are at the start of the other half of this story. It'll be quite a while before they join into one, but running them simultaneously means I'll get a lot more variety of material in the meantime, which will hopefully keep me from getting bored of either so quickly. After Dragon started off scrappy and low budget, & years of Polyhedron sticking to 'zine quality production values, it's nice to see Dungeon start with a gorgeous high detail cover that would make a great poster for your bedroom wall. Say hello to Flame the red dragon, who we'll be seeing again several times over the course of this journey. Good luck carrying all that treasure home after killing him if your DM is tracking encumbrance strictly. Let's see if they managed to assemble enough good submissions to make this debut issue good, or if it'll take them a while to find their feet like a lot of magazines' early instalments.



Editorial: Although I'm reviewing this after Polyhedron 32, it's likely this was actually released slightly before, as Roger is still fairly relaxed about getting his own magazine to edit, before Kim & Penny's abrupt quitting forces him to take on lead roles for Dragon & Dungeon at the same time. So we get a small bit on how he started roleplaying in the first place, and a reminder that they can't make this work without, you, dear reader, sending in adventures and letters saying what you like and dislike, so they can provide the sort of thing people will actually enjoy reading and use in their own games. Fairly standard introduction then. It'll take a while for this magazine to develop it's own distinct flavour and readership compared to TSR's other products, especially with such heavy crossover in the production staff.



Letters: The letters printed here were technically aimed at Dragon Magazine, while they were still working out the details of it's counterpart. But they're going to print them in here anyway, because otherwise they'd have nothing to put in this space and have to make it all up on their own.

Our first two letters, unsurprisingly, are about the name of the magazine. People have a lot of suggestions, but one that came up over and over was Dungeon, simply because it's in the name of the game, and they already have a magazine called Dragon. They agonised long and hard, but eventually decided to go with the most obvious option. And so it shall remain for the rest of it's life, no messing around with adding and removing definite articles like their other two periodicals. It pays to not tie yourself in knots trying to be too clever.

The third one is from someone grumbling about them removing adventures from Dragon. Another thing to buy?! I don't know if I have the budget for that! I hardly think $3.75 every two months is going to make much of a difference, even accounting for inflation. Unless the writer is still a kid and only gets a dollar a week pocket money or something, which isn't beyond the bounds of possibility given D&D's player demographics. This is also why they're intentionally only doing it bimonthly, as they know there's only so many adventures any one group can run and don't want to oversaturate the market, and a magazine aimed at DM's will sell less than one aimed at all gamers.

The fourth one asks them to make sure they clearly label bits that are meant to be read to the players and bits the DM is meant to keep to themselves. They'll do their best.

And finally, they get a suggestion that maybe as well as new adventures, they could include actual plays of previous adventures in here. They decide not. It would spoil the adventures for people who haven't played them yet. You'll have to wait until the rise of streaming for the technology to catch up with the demand on that front.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 1: Sep/Oct 1986



part 2/5



The Dark Tower of Cabilar: Well, they certainly know their audience. Ravenloft was the top-selling AD&D module that didn't come with a corebook, so it seems very fitting that they're starting this off with another vampire lair. It doesn't have quite the same depth or replay value, as it's only a regular 16 page tournament module, starting the players at the tower rather than fleshing out the surrounding landscape. But for what it is, it's pretty good, with some interesting combinations of monsters, that use the terrain they're in to good effect, a map that isn't completely linear, and multiple successful endings of various tragicness based on how well you paid attention early on and made the right choices, plus a few hooks sprinkled in that can be used to make a sequel. It's all pretty fun to read. I can see why they chose this to lead with, and just hope the quality drop-off won't be too bad with the rest.



Assault on Eddistone Point: Straight from a vampire's tower, to a much smaller tower aimed at low level characters. Not that P. N. Elrod can't do gothic as well, as anyone who's read I, Strahd will know, but flexibility is a good thing in a writer. A signal tower has been taken over by bandits, cutting communications across the mountains. Guess who has to go sort it out. So this is unusually high tech for a D&D world, and has a whole load of worldbuilding that means it won't fit into every campaign. But it is very interesting worldbuilding, featuring well fleshed out NPC's, use of magic as technology, and lots of little details for the antagonists, their captives, and the surrounding landscape. Even more than the previous adventure, you can take stuff from this and use it in your setting, have the characters pass through the area again, or even get involved in spreading signal towers across the continent, with all the logistical challenges and economic knock-on effects that causes. Lots to think about here, so I definitely approve of this one.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 1: Sep/Oct 1986



part 3/5



Grakhirt's Lair: No towers in this one, but it is once again aimed at starting level characters. Maybe save it for your second adventure rather than your first though, as it deliberately uses less common variants of monsters - Norkers, flinds, leprechauns and most surprisingly of all, minimal animals, which I've never seen used in official adventures that are normally more keen on adding templates to make the monsters stronger, not weaker. Despite the quirky monster selection, it's a pretty standard dungeon crawl in the Keep on the Borderlands tradition, sending you into a little cave complex to root out the marauding norkers and their leader. The character names are terrible, and it definitely doesn't have the potential for long-term expansion the last two adventures had, but it does have some interesting setpieces, and spellcasters that buff themselves & use their selection intelligently rather than just blasting away. So still a solid 6 or 7, but not as good as the first two adventures. As with Dragon, it definitely looks like they're going to front-load their best articles each issue. After all, you've got to catch those casual newsstand readers if you want to expand your playerbase.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 1: Sep/Oct 1986



part 4/5



The Elven Home: After three adventures that'll take at least a full session to complete, quite possibly more, they decide it's time for some light relief, with a short flavour encounter that doesn't have to involve combat unless your PC's are complete bloodthirsty psychopaths. As the title indicates, you come across the home of a group of elves, who are out frolicking in the woods. If you nick their stuff they'll hunt you down, but otherwise it's pretty easy to get through this one unharmed, and maybe even with some new friends. It involves both drugs and nudity, albeit in a lighthearted whimsical manner, not a hardcore one, and reminds you that elves are fae, and should have a different perspective on life than humans even discounting the lifespan disparity. An interesting palate cleanser, this won't be for everyone, but shows that to keep a magazine like this interesting for the long haul, they're going to need to give us plenty of variety not only in length of adventures and character levels they're aimed at, but also levels of seriousness, creature types, terrain, and as many other dials as they can think of. Otherwise they'll be rehashing ideas within a matter of years and boring away longterm readers. The anthology format gives them the chance to experiment with publishing more niche adventures that wouldn't sell individually. Hopefully they'll take it.



Into The Fire: After that break to catch our breath, it's time for the largest and highest-level adventure in the issue. It wouldn't be Dungeons & Dragons without a dragon, and here's what will become the magazine's mascot. A chunky 19 pager that doesn't skip the wilderness buildup, while still leaving plenty of room for a dungeon crawl at the end. It remembers that a dragon is a rather large monster, and doesn't put him in a room that he couldn't fit into, and also reminds you that outside video games, corpses don't just disappear in a puff of smoke when you kill them, dungeon walls aren't indestructible, high level characters have weird powers, not just bigger numbers, which you need to make sure don't short-circuit the whole adventure. The treasure for success is suitably epic (and awkward to transport) and there's plenty of loose ends the DM could use to create follow-ups. It fully deserves to have created the magazine's iconic character, and I hope the follow-ups will build upon it in a way that enhances that legacy.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 1: Sep/Oct 1986



part 5/5



Guardians of the Tomb: We finish off with a little one-room adventure like the ones they put in Polyhedron before realising they could actually squeeze full adventures in there. A tomb in a swamp with some undead and some traps? Definitely seen that before. The most interesting thing here is the introduction of Razorweed, which would be adapted into Razorvine and become a lot more frequent in appearances when they released the Planescape setting. So this is mildly influential as it introduces a new monster that would then go into common circulation, but as an adventure in itself, it's easily the weakest one in the issue. Any magazine is going to have at least one article per issue that's chosen primarily to make sure the amount of content precisely fits the page count, and that'll be more noticeable in here than Dragon due to the longer average length of each one. Such are the limitations of physical publishing.



Subscriptions for magazines are usually cheaper than buying them at the newsstand in general, but they're making them extra cheap as a limited time offer to help get the magazine rolling. Buy now or miss out! No lifetime subscriptions this time around though. They're not making that mistake again.



This definitely felt a lot more like a polished product than the first issues of Dragon or Polyhedron, which reflects how much later in TSR's history it started. Budget & production values are slightly lower than Dragon, as they're still running this as an experiment, unsure if it'll be a long term thing, but the staff are bringing their full skill and experience to bear nonetheless. The selection of adventures was pretty good too, although I suspect they were saving them up for a while in preparation, and they'll become more uneven once they've been going a while and have to feed the deadline beast regularly. Let's see how quickly they settle into a rut or evolve with time and experience.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 33: Nov/Dec 1986



part 1/5



32 pages. Christmas has rolled around again. Let's see what they have to give us this time. With the chaos still continuing in the office, it doesn't look like they'll be delivering anything themed, (and it's quite likely this actually arrived at the subscribers in early 1987) but there are only so many christmas jokes you can make anyway, so let's see what lurks behind this knightly facade. Will it be fair and honourable, or a secret blackguard?



Notes from HQ: Skip is the guest editor on this particular issue, a position he has no intention of sticking with for long. In fact, they've already found their new editor, Jean Rabe, another promotion from within the RPGA who's been doing local co-ordinating and running tournaments for them for a while. That makes three female head editors in a row. Dragon never even had one! Curious that despite the overall demographics being about 95% male, so many women are rising to positions of power within the RPGA. I guess they're the ones doing the real work, as the rest of the editorial is another round of grumbling about how apathetic the average member is. We need more people to GM tournaments, not just show up and expect to be handed modules to play on a plate. At the very least you could fill in the forms and vote on the gamer's choice awards each year, instead of leaving it to reflect only the tastes of the most obsessed 2%. It's a hard life, caring passionately about something and realising just how mediocre and unmotivated the average person is. Afraid you'll be railing in vain against that problem forever, no matter how big you get. In fact, the bigger you get, the smaller the ratio of real hardcore participants will become. Such is the nature of fandom. It'll always be a pyramid, not a tower.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 33: Nov/Dec 1986



part 2/5



Letters: Our first letter is from the writer of the reviews, and echoes the editorial heavily in praising all the work Penny did for the RPGA, while bemoaning the apathy of the average member. I slave away at those reviews every month and get no responses! It's very demotivating! How very relatable. The fact that you're not getting any responses means you're doing it well, or at least adequately, because if you were in the least bit controversial in your opinions trust me you'd be seeing no end of complaining fanboys. This is why you should do at least a few negative and silly reviews mixed in with the positive ones. It'll drive more traffic, and grow your audience in the long run.

Our other letter is from one of the tournament co-ordinators, trying to get a response out of them due to their general tardiness in doing admin lately. They've got all this tournament data, and plans for next year, but if you don't respond, it'll all grind to a halt eventually. Despite all the complaints about the general membership, their hands aren't particularly clean either. Either get your shit together, or scale down your targets to achievable levels so you aren't setting everyone up for eternal disappointment.



The Critical Hit: Fresh from putting his two cents in on the letters page, Errol turns his eye to the official D&D and AD&D character sheets, and engages in a forensic examination of both the current editions and the previous ones, and their strengths and weaknesses in efficiently and effectively recording your character. He concludes that while the current ones are on average superior, there are some things the old ones did better, and neither are perfect. Plus there's the general issue that some classes require a lot more bookkeeping than others, so a one size fit all sheet has a lot of wasted space. Really, this is an argument for making your own sheet, or just recording it all on computer where you can stretch the fields to arbitrary sizes, delete the ones you don't need for this particular character, and never have to worry about running out of space. It's good to live in the future sometimes.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 33: Nov/Dec 1986



part 3/5



Arcane Academe: This column is only half a page long, and gives us a particularly basic bit of advice. Your campaign needs to be fun for everyone if you want it to last. The best way to achieve this is to actually talk to each other about what you want out of the game, and treat it as a collaboration, not a competition where the DM is trying to kill the players, or an arbitrary god jerking them around and railroading them into his preset story. Don't advance the campaign too fast or too slow, don't play favourites. All stuff we've seen before and we will see again, because it remains eternally relevant, unlike the previous article.



The Sword & the Anti-Hero: Dragon stopped doing modules as soon as Dungeon started up, but it looks like Polyhedron is going to carry on with them for the foreseeable future. It's another full 16-pager that takes up half the issue as well. Let's head off to mythic Finland to defeat the evil plots of Loviatar, Maiden of Pain. A name that will also be very familiar to Forgotten Realms fans, and not to be confused with the Lady of Pain who runs Sigil. (Although it really makes you think. Is there a connection, or are things with pain in the name just that popular in D&D? (Not as popular as things with Shadow in them though.)) But anyway, the PC's get dropped into an epic quest by the gods to save the world, or at least the country, and have to deal with dwarves both good and evil, saunas, ice caves, polar bears, an evil intelligent sword and a resurrected epic warrior from thousands of years ago. The usual D&D fare, but with different trappings. So there is a bit of themeparkitus here, and as a tournament adventure they can only give you so much freedom, but they do at least have interesting set pieces with multiple solutions, and the sample characters aren't cringe-inducing stereotypes with comedy pun names. (unless they're bilingual puns I'm not getting) It's tolerable enough that I'm interested to see where this takes us, and if future instalments will build on it well or become increasingly ridiculous and over the top.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 33: Nov/Dec 1986



part 4/5



The Brenalette Family & Friends: Once again our cover article is a collection of interconnected NPC's with plenty of built in adventure hooks for you to use in your campaign. An aging knight who's made it to lordship in his own right, his daughter by his first wife who's become an illusionist, his half-elf son by his second wife who's following in the family trade, but with the swanky new cavalier class instead of boring old fighter, a young ranger who's trying to get in the illusionist's pants, and the group's cowardly comic relief halfling thief sidekick who's actually pretty effective at stepping up to save the day in a pinch. They actually feel like a PC group formed through actual play, rather than something created to entertain other people. That, and the fact that they're all pretty unambiguously heroic means they'll be less useful to other campaigns than most of these. There's a good reason why they don't put actual plays in here, and only Ed can get away with telling you about his campaign world in great detail. It's hard to do and keep interesting.



Let's Clean up our Act: Ah joy, the satanic panic again. That seems to be taking up more space in here than Dragon. I guess the type of gamers who gather together at conventions frequently present a more obvious target for protesters, so they'd wind up getting the brunt of it. As you may have guessed from the title, this particular writer thinks we ought to capitulate to the moral majority, and work to keep our games squeaky clean. No evil characters, sex or drugs, and downplay the religion and killing, since that bit's kinda baked into the system, so we can't remove it entirely. Sounds very boring. You realise that by ceding that ground, you're giving White Wolf a clear run to grab it and become the second biggest RPG company with ease? Oh well, it's probably for the best in the long run. If they're all things to all people they'll wind up becoming a monopoly, and that's not healthy for any pastime or industry.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 33: Nov/Dec 1986



part 5/5



The d6: Expanding the Power of the Cube: A curious little half-pager that shows you how to approximate the probabilities of other dice when you only have D6's. It'll take up to 5d6 rolls, but you can get weighted results that are accurate to within less than 1% if you follow these formulae. Interesting bit of maths, and I applaud the effort that went into working this out, but not hugely useful these days, as you'd not only need to be without dice, but also without electricity or internet to be lacking randomisers these days. (and with electronic dice rollers you can roll arbitrary combinations of xdx and even have the computer add them up automatically, removing one of the big causes of slowdown in high level play) No objection to them putting this in the newszine, but I sincerely hope I'm never in a position where I need to use it.



Convention Judge Appeal: As they said earlier, they don't have enough judges per player for all the tournaments they want to run this year. So here they put in a form so they can create a proper database of GM's, what games they can run, and when they're available. Hopefully that'll make getting on top of their logistic problems a little easier, as they'll be able to prepare further in advance, and if they have a last minute dropout, they can call anyone who lives in the area, say "You want a free ticket if you can run some tournament rounds?" and hopefully get the numbers balanced again. Fingers crossed there's enough motivated members out there to get things running smoothly.



Convention Announcements: Nana nana nana nana Batcon! That's a name that stands out against all the other announcements here. Hope they don't get hit by the Warner Bros lawyers.



Well, it definitely looks like Polyhedron is taking the shakeups in the company harder than Dragon did, as their smaller staff is more vulnerable to any disruptions. Since Dragon suffered all through the next year before finding it's feet again in 1988 as they finalised their new direction for 2e, I'm guessing the next year is going to be pretty rough in here. Let's get through it and find out what ways things can go wrong travelling by this route.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Magazine 2: Nov/Dec 1986



part 1/5



68 pages. Arr, that city be in a little bit of a pickle. Shall we try and rescue them, me hearties, or wait until the lava's cooled down and see what we can loot? Or are ye scurvy swabs too distracted by me rather revealing outfit to care? Looks like Dungeon will be no stranger to using sex to grab the attention of casual newsstand browsers. Let's see if the contents reflect that in any way, and we'll get some romance and high fantasy amid the dungeon crawls, or it's all false advertising.



Editorial: This magazine has caught up with Polyhedron in that the big exodus of TSR staff who sided with Gary has happened, and now everyone who's left has to work extra hard to keep all their planned projects going. In Roger's case, that means being lead editor of two magazines at once. This means he'd appreciate all the more people sending in a decent variety of modules. In particular, ultra high level BECMI D&D adventures, and small adventures they can use to fit pagecount, as they have a shortage of both of those. There's always going to be a struggle between what the audience wants, the writers deliver, and the editors need to make everything fit together, and if you have submissions to spare, and can only pick good ones instead of wasting a load of time and energy making mediocre ones publishable it's all a lot easier to make everything work.



Letters: Our first letter has a couple of pun name suggestions for the letters page, and wants lots of Oriental Adventures modules in here. As ever, that'll depend on what you, loyal readers, send in.

Our next three are all about the minutiae of how much they pay for various things. How many letters count as a word for purposes of wordcount, and what size various kinds of artwork need to be. Roger warns that they'll probably redo any artwork you send in with their in-house artists, so don't get too enthusiastic about earning extra cash from that side of creating them.

The 5th one asks about the price of international subscriptions. They weren't offering them before as they're deliberately staggering the rollout while they find their feet, but they are now. Get to it! Maybe you should say that in Dragon, as they can't see it here unless they're already subscribed, which is kinda a catch-22.

Then they get asked what happens to modules created on computer, and ones set in Krynn. Both are entirely permissible, but once again, they reserve the right to change anything they don't like in editing.

Finally someone asks if they're allowed to use Cthulhu stuff. No, but you can submit Lankhmar ideas if you like. They do have enough freedom in the licence for that to make publishing adventures in here possible.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Magazine 2: Nov/Dec 1986



part 2/5



Despite only being 2 issues in, they have a statement of ownership showing their circulation already. As they weren't sure how many people would buy this, they went for a conservative print run of precisely 10,000, of which slightly under half have been instantly snapped up by subscribers who saw it advertised in Dragon, with the rest still unsold, as they have yet to roll things out to the newsstands. So at the moment, they've actually got fewer readers than Polyhedron. Given who got top billing when they merged, we know that won't last. It'll be interesting to see how quickly they both grow, and when the transition takes place.



The Titan's Dream: Oh god. Like many a long-running TV show, they're doing a dream episode. As the name indicates, when the PC's go near a sleeping Titan, they get sucked into the warped refections of his memories, and have to resolve his subconscious issues to get him to wake up, or be trapped forever in an irritating loop of the same scenes over and over. There are three different plots going, each with scenes showing in a random order, so just getting any sense of the narrative as players will probably involve several repetitions before they can even start to put the pieces together. So this has not only the annoying elements of dream episodes, but also groundhog day ones on top of that, and plenty of whimsy in the specifics heaped on top of THAT! In other words, it's really irritating just to read, and I wouldn't touch it with a 10' pole. Not subjecting myself or my players to that under any circumstances. Nope nope fucking nope!!! :insert image of godzilla walking into the sea while flipping the bird:
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Magazine 2: Nov/Dec 1986



part 3/5



In The Dwarven King's Court: Our next adventure is also a lot more whimsical and talky than the dungeon crawls of last issue. Someone has been stealing from the Dwarven king, and you have to play detective amongst a motley court of advisors and hangers-on to hunt down the culprit. The Answer Will Shock You!!!! So this is the good kind of combat light sandbox, giving you plenty of freedom in your detective methods as the thefts continue to happen and the paranoia ratchets up. Was it the butler what did it? Is it the mysterious masked executioner? The slimy royal advisor? The stalwart armourer? Does the halfing Jester have some more serious plots behind his whimsical exterior? Players and DM's used to pure hack and slash will find running this one challenging, but there's definitely something in here worth making the effort for. I heard good things about Willie Walsh before starting this, and so far, he seems to be delivering.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Magazine 2: Nov/Dec 1986



part 4/5



Caermor: Oooh. Nigel Findley. Now there's a name I know from first hand experience has delivered more than his fair share of classic books and articles. Good to see him contributing in here as well. This is another adventure largely based around puzzle solving rather than outright combat. A small town is facing a mysterious marauder in the night, that started by killing animals, and has now progressed to kidnapping a teenage girl. But instead of asking for help, they've become extra suspicious of everyone and everything, and won't take kindly to outsiders poking around. That makes this a tough one to get into, because without an obvious quest-setter, some groups will simply pass straight through without noticing the potential plot hooks, or get discouraged by the general ingratitude of the villagers, who may well wind up driving them out of town even if they successfully solve the problem, but go about it in the wrong way. So as a portrait of a dysfunctional small town that's being made all the more so by the manipulation of dark forces, it's excellent. As an adventure, it'll take a fair bit of work by the DM to get the ball rolling unless the players are very proactive and heroic, and might wind up making them bitter and cynical from the experience. You can see why he'd do his best work in games like Shadowrun which naturally incline towards subverting the traditional heroic expectations. I like this, but I'd have to think carefully about the group before actually using it.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Magazine 2: Nov/Dec 1986



part 5/5



The Keep at Koragesh: After three adventures where you really need to use your OOC brains and social skills to get through them successfully, they finish off with a long, but relatively straightforward Basic D&D dungeon crawl. You hear a rumor about an abandoned shrine, go investigate it, find plenty of monsters living there, and a moderate amount of treasure. Apart from 2 quirky new monsters, everything here is from the basic set, which gives it a very different and much more mundane flavor than the AD&D ones which have three chunky dedicated monster books to draw upon. It's back to basics in more ways than one. So this isn't bad, and is a refreshing palate cleanser after the previous adventures this issue, but it is pretty vanilla. Sometimes that's what you need, as non-stop spicy food will play hell with your digestion.



With a selection of adventures very different from the first issue, this shows them recognising that they need to keep the variety up to keep the adventures both interesting to read and useful in actual play. The actual adventures are somewhat more challenging to use, so on average, it's not quite as good as the first one, but they're both valid and haven't directly repeated themselves yet. Hopefully they'll pick themes like Dragon to give individual issues more flavour and keep diminishing returns from setting in too soon.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 34: Jan/Feb 1987



part 1/5



44 pages. The road to the living city is long, but we're definitely making progress. Still, it might be a good idea to stop on the way, get some rest, smell the flowers. These two definitely look like they're not getting enough sleep, with those hollow eyes and grim expressions. Is there a good reason they're in a rush? Let's find out inside.



Notes From HQ: Jean Rabe introduces herself, and once again confirms that the theoretical dates I'm putting on these issues are deeply inaccurate. They've been running consistently late for long enough that they've actually dropped in membership over the past year. To be fair, Dragon's circulation peaked in 1984, and never reached those heights again, so it might not be entirely their own fault, but they're definitely responsible for a decent fraction of the falloff. The casuals would have drifted away anyway when D&D stopped being a fad, but the kind of people who join a fan club need to be actively alienated to give up on you. Still, maybe it'll help with their structural problem, where they have too many passive consumers, and not enough people making modules, running them in tournaments, submitting articles, etc. Got to get that ratio up if they want to survive and get on top of their targets. Well, this all sounds exhausting. They really are not having a fun time in the offices at the moment. I really do hope they can get this sorted sooner rather than later.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 34: Jan/Feb 1987



part 2/5



Letters: Our first three letters are all from people who want to submit stuff, but aren't quite sure how to go about it. It's not as daunting as it seems! Just make sure you adhere to the tedious legalese and style guidelines and you've got a pretty good shot.

The 4th letter is longer than the rest put together, and complains how the decision to move from keeping the same group with each person playing the same character between rounds of a tournament to individual advancement that randomly assembled new groups each time ruined the roleplaying of their series. I think you may be getting a bit too precious about your worldbuilding and lore. That kind of thing is cool in a long-running campaign, but rather a crapshoot in even an extensive multi-round tournament.

And finally, we have another demonstration of how their bureaucratic incompetence and delays is losing them members. If you don't give people timely responses, you lose people who are on the fence, and then they'll be long gone by the time you do get your act together.



On the Road to the Living City: Well, that definitely explains why our cover stars are so sleep deprived. They've had to deal with not just one, but two different trickster encounters in their recent travels. Definitely the kind of thing to make you decide "We can't stop here, this is Sprite country" and spur the horse 'til it drops in hope of reaching civilisation. So here we introduce another regular feature for the next year or so, a combination of OOC updates on how the construction of the Living City is progressing, and IC short roadside encounters to drop into your games. A curious combination, but one that synergizes well, and makes this still usable today, rather than just a dry historical piece. Not that keen on the two specific encounters in this one, cause, y'know, irritating whimsical trickery, but I like the overall idea, and look forward to seeing some more.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 34: Jan/Feb 1987



part 3/5



Revolution: Part Two of our Finnish saga continues to not properly exploit the terrain. Calling a place that barely qualifies as a town even in the modern day a city? Fair weather AND a normal day-night cycle when your adventure is supposed to be set in the arctic circle? That happens maybe for the month or two around the autumn equinox. Why the hell would you bother writing an adventure set somewhere if you're not going to use the unique challenges the real world terrain offers even before you add in the fantastical ones. As this instalment has more wilderness journeying than the first one, it's all the more obvious that the writers have never actually been to Finland and experienced the terrain for themselves, and research was just stealing a few names from books. It's not terrible as a D&D adventure, offering a decent set of challenges that aren't all combat, includes opportunities for roleplaying, and gives you multiple choices of routes. But on a cultural level, this is just horribly dated and cringy. It would be so much easier to do better now, given how much easier the internet makes researching things, and actually talking to people from the place you want to find out about. I really wanted to like this, but reading it just makes me angry as I nitpick all the obvious mistakes. It's very frustrating indeed.



Fun in Games: Another person throws their hat into the ring and tries to start a new regular column for GM advice. What makes a monster scary. What makes a good convention game. The importance of snacks in making a session good. The joys and dangers of homebrew and third party stuff in your game. The weird jargon long-running groups wind up developing. It's all a bit scattershot, and looking forward, it turns out he doesn't have the attention span or consistency to make this a regular column, so this is a false start. Being a columnist is a lot harder than it looks, especially year in, year out. Don't take them for granted.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 34: Jan/Feb 1987



part 4/5



Arcane Academe: This column is once again only half a page long and really basic as a result, reminding you that when you're short of inspiration, you can steal ideas from anywhere. Books, TV shows, real life, your own personal experiences, recycling stuff from other GM's and previous campaigns if you still can't come up with anything. There, I said in two lines what he took half a page to say. Truly yawnsome.



Submission Guidelines: They get this a lot, so they're repeating all the submissions guidelines on a page of their own instead of answering them ad hoc as they appear in letters. Unsurprisingly, their standards have definitely become stricter over the past 6 years - they really don't want you using em dashes or excessive exclamation marks, emphasising your words with format changes or even employing the humble semicolon. (We only provide employment to pureblooded colons around here, thank you very much!) They're also really stepping up the insistence that everything has to be all family friendly, all the time. No sex, drugs, racism, (speciesism against humanoids will still be just fine in practice though) or anything else that might make evil look cool. As with last issue, it's obvious in hindsight how they're leaving huge areas of storytelling space untapped, open for other companies to take advantage of. It made the history of roleplaying as a whole more interesting, but it means the next 10+ years of these magazines are even more bowdlerised than they would have been otherwise, which is a nuisance for me.



RPGA Tournament winners list: This is much the same as 2 issues ago, only with a few more additions and corrections. They really are struggling with getting all the forms filled in and collected. Will they ever get on top of it, or will this plague us the entire run of the newszine? Guess I'll have to keep going and see.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 34: Jan/Feb 1987



part 5/5



The Critical Hit: Errol finally reviews a deep cut, turning his eye on Orcbusters, the Paranoia adventure satirising D&D cliches. Now you can die in the service of Friend Computer in even more fantastical ways, and chances are you'll be doing that a lot, as this is particularly drawn from the old school meatgrinders like the Tomb of Horrors. Good thing you've got all those clones to replace you when you fall then, which is a lot cheaper and quicker than resurrection spells. He likes it, but recognises that some of the jokes are pretty obscure, and many of them are purely between the writer and GM, and may not translate over to the players in actual play. Using it with newbies will simply baffle them. It'd probably have even more resonance these days if converted to the current edition of Paranoia, and had jokes targeted at 3e & 4e tropes added in as well as the old school ones, given how much more roleplaying history there is to take the piss out of now.



AD&D 2nd Edition Questionnaire: You may have noticed at the start that this issue is somewhat larger than usual. Most of that is this 8 page questionnaire about the direction you want the next edition to take. Rate several hundred things on a level of 1-5 to say what you like, and what you would rather be dropped, plus some demographic questions about you and your group, and a few more complex ones. Since they didn't change that much between editions, I suspect the answers mostly averaged out to a bunch of 3's, or they didn't really attach much weight to the survey anyway. Oh well, at least you tried.



Well, this issue is interesting, but in a deeply frustrating way, as all their struggles and mistakes as a company are on full display, so quality control is all over the place, and they're packed this with scattershot experiments to try and find something new that works. Definitely hoping this particular era is over sooner rather than later. On we press again to see what next time brings.
 

Halloween Horror For 5E

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