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TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 5: May/Jun 1987



part 1/5



66 pages. A wizard, his apprentices and a kobold face the wrath of an air elemental. He obviously didn't secure his books well enough. Never summon anything you can't control is one of the first rules you should have drilled into you. Let's hope the PC's in your own campaign will be a bit more sensible and figure out a way to fix this mess, or maybe even prevent it from starting entirely. Let's find out how hard it'll be in the actual scenarios.



Editorial: Polyhedron has never stopped struggling to get enough reader contributions to fill the issues. In sharp contrast, Dungeon has been going less than a year, and already has a substantial slush pile to last them for years. What they do not have though, is the right sort of adventures. So Roger once again has to remind us that brevity is the soul of wit. They get fewer short submissions than long ones, so you're more likely to be published if you do send some in, hint hint. To further encourage this, he's shaking things up this issue, with 7 shorter adventures rather than 4 medium-long ones so you have plenty of examples of what they're after. Another example of how hard it is to constantly seek perfection, especially in periodicals, where even if you get it right one issue, you still have the next deadline breathing down your neck and have to come up with something different but also good next time.



Letters: Following directly on from the editorial, we have a complaint that they're doing too many AD&D modules and not enough regular D&D ones. Once again, this is what the public is sending in. You want to turn the tide, contribute! Or just convert them. The rules differences are hardly insurmountable.

David Carl Argall continues to have plenty of opinions on all their publications. He's another person in favour of more small adventures per issue. He also nitpicks their recent adventures mercilessly. There's always tweaks to be made to improve things, especially in small adventures where they have to leave out the little details to fit pagecount.

Praise for their april fool adventures. They too have their purpose in the great scheme of things.

Finally, another person who really does not want them doing non D&D adventures. Not even one! I'll thcweam and thcweam and canthel my thubthcwipthion! Didn't your mother ever teach you about sharing? You can't eat all the cakes yourself. It's not a personal affront to you if they make flavours you don't like as well as ones you do.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 5: May/Jun 1987



part 2/5



The Rotting Willow: Fresh from the ultra-whimsy of last issue, they still have some regular grade whimsy to give us. A small village plagued by trickster fae. But not the nice sort, the sort that don't care if their pranks are fatal or not, turning the place into one of oppressive paranoia and burgeoning superstition as the people try to ward them off and pretend everything is fine. Let's hope that by targeting the PC's, they'll have bitten off more than they can chew. This could be over very quickly, or it could ramp up over days of in-game time, which will make their defeat all the more satisfying for your players. And once again, they put a fair bit of detail into the village, so you can reuse it if they pass the same way again. If they do that at least once every 2-3 issues we'll have more than enough prefab towns to populate a setting with by the time we finish this journey.



Lady of the Lake: Our second short adventure keeps the whimsy, but gets even weirder. The adventurers find a girl by the roadside, severely wounded and with amnesia. Even magical healing doesn't work properly on her. Apparently, the only solution is to take her to Orb Lake, wherever the hell that is. If you do successfully get her there, she turns into a magic deer from another dimension, then vanishes. Um, yay?!? So this is a romantic fantasy influenced adventure with a load of worldbuilding going on in the background, that'll probably just go over the players heads and leave them baffled unless they go back and use divination magic or the DM just explains in narration afterwards. Big chunks of it will probably be useless, but I guess you never know which bits they'll be, depending on how the players act. At least it manages to be heavily story-focussed without being a railroad, even if it is pretty twee. And it definitely wasn't boring to read. Lots of good and bad points is always more interesting than blandly competent, even if the overall rating winds up in the middle in both cases.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 5: May/Jun 1987



part 3/5



The Stolen Power: Our third adventure also has a sense of humour about itself, albeit of a very different kind. The clerics of the local god(s) of love have noticed stuff being stolen from their churches recently. Now it's escalated to nabbing a major magical item and a paladin. Divinations have revealed the name of the culprit, but no-one's powerful enough to do a scry and teleport, so it falls to the PC's to do the lengthy overland trek to get there, and then explore his stronghold and engage in righteous killing and taking of stuff. Turns out they've been kidnapped to be sacrificed to Shami-Amorae, demon queen of shameful degrading sex, who in sharp contrast to the average goddess of love or lust only accepts hot guys and ugly girls as her worshippers. I guess it's easier to get to godhood when you pick a highly specific niche that has fewer rivals for the portfolio to split worshippers amongst. So this is a fairly standard adventure in terms of encounters, with a wilderness bit and then a dungeon bit, but with a plot framing of "tee hee, kidnapping and rape is funny when it's woman on man." Which is a bit gross, really. I'm somewhat surprised that got through their code of conduct, and it looks even worse in hindsight. I guess Roger's already caused one sexism flamewar by being a condescending dumbass while thinking he's being helpful and progressive, and there's no-one higher up who's any better or paying attention enough to deal with his blind spots. It's all rather unfortunate. Somehow I really don't think I'll be using this one.



The Kappa of Pachee Bridge: Another single-monster trickster encounter, this time for Oriental Adventures. This time, precisely what it is isn't a spoiler, as it's been hanging around the village for years being a nuisance, but only recently started eating people again. As usual the PC's are asked for help. The catch is that they can't just kill it, as even a Kappa currently in disfavor with the celestial bureaucracy has a pretty nasty death curse if you do. An excellent example of privilege in the form of in-groups who the law protects but does not bind, and out-groups who the law binds but does not protect (ie, the whole of humanity, who are nothing but straw dogs in the eyes of heaven) So the easiest approach is to use trickery, as despite millennia of lifetime, it's still reckless and emotional, and has several folklorish weaknesses for players to capitalise upon. However, that won't get you honor points the way beating it (but not killing it) in a fair fight and then forcing it to swear an oath will. All depends on your party composition, level and alignment leanings. A pretty flexible adventure that'll reward roleplayers over hack-and-slash players, and feels like the original story while changing just enough that players who've read the source material can't just cheat their way through. That's the kind of thing I approve of.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 5: May/Jun 1987



part 4/5



The Trouble with Mylvin Wimbly: The somewhat comedic trickery continues to build, with another very different take on the idea. The PC's wake up to find someone's stolen the wizard's spellbook in the night. In the process of trying to follow the thief, they will likely blunder across all manner of traps and wandering monsters. When they do finally catch up, they find the thief is a bedraggled half-starving halfing who's no threat at all in combat, that you're obviously expected to take pity on despite all the hassle he's put them through. If you do, he'll glom onto your party and be loyal and helpful but comedically incompetent. No good deed goes unpunished does it. This one could be not just annoying in the moment, but also provide long-term irritation for your party for the rest of the campaign. If you liked the D&D cartoon and want your games to be more like that, you might consider this. Otherwise, stay far far away.



The Eyes of Evil: Oh crap it's a beholder get in the van! Yup, it's time for a genuinely high level encounter, with a powerful monster that uses it's powers intelligently, and is using them to gather minions around itself. No particular comedy here, although there's very much the danger of some of the party being mind-controlled and turning against one-another, which can get humorous in actual play. While still fairly short, this is brutal enough that it might last you more than one session, and uses a pretty decent variety of monsters, some of which don't appear very often in adventures. Good luck, because you'll need it with all those save or die rolls. No objection to this in terms of quality, but only use it if both your characters and their players are tough and emotionally mature enough to handle this kind of lethality and respond with appropriate tactics. Otherwise there may be tears before bedtime.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 5: May/Jun 1987



part 5/5



Hirward's Task: After all these little adventures, it's a relief that they still include one 20 pager designed to take multiple sessions. As the cover showed, an out of control air elemental has driven a wizard out of his home. He hires the PC's in a tavern, as is standard adventurer operating procedure, and sends them to sort it out, preferably with a minimum of killing and taking of stuff, which is very much not standard adventurer procedure. For once, a quest that actually makes sense, as even though he's much higher level than them, without his spell book, his spell selection is highly limited and irreplaceable. What does not make sense is him then sweeping out dramatically without telling them the details of the monsters and traps he has guarding his place, but I guess it's hard to break the habit of a lifetime. His home is like this too. a whole load of surviving servants holed up in various rooms around the dungeon complex and communicating poorly with each other and the PC's, making the problem much worse. If he'd spent a little less time on magical research, and a little more on emergency evacuation procedures and safety protocols then this mess would have been solved easily without needing to ask for help from random murderhobos. Why is it that whenever wizards replicate modern technology with magic, they always go for cool gadgetry and superficial pop-culture references rather than practical modern health and safety regulations? Anyway, logical deconstruction of adventure tropes aside, they did manage to fit nearly 100 room descriptions into 20 pages, so there's plenty of use to be got out of this. All the better for the contrast with the other adventures this issue.



To top off the in-adventure whimsy this issue, we finish with an advert for Snarfquest. Not a setting many players will want to draw on for their adventure building.



Curious that the pivot towards more and shorter adventures has also come with a tendency towards the lighthearted and goofy. I guess the shorter they are, the less writers have to worry about consequences, so they have more room to put in jokes and leave the fallout to people who actually run them in ongoing campaigns. Still, at least it means we're never going to see Expedition to Chateau de Fluffyville, the 12 part adventure path taking us from 1st to 20th level. For that we should be thankful. Let's see if they'll continue in this direction next issue, or try out something completely different.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 6: Jul/Aug 1987



part 1/5



68 pages. It's a little easier to distinguish these Tortles by their headgear and choice of weapon than certain teenage sewer-dwellers who were recently introduced to our TV screens. But will they have the time and energy to give them clearly distinct personalities as well? Well, it's certainly an interesting question to start this issue on. Let's see how well the adventures in here have stood the test of time.



Editorial: Roger reminds us that even though Dungeon might currently be D&D exclusive, that shouldn't stop you from converting the adventures to other systems. Just turn a mind flayer into a psychic alien, a ghost into a man wearing a very convincing animatronic outfit who hates meddling kids, and a dire wolf into a regular one that'll still be really dangerous because you're in a system without levels and exponentially escalating hit points. It's hardly rocket science. True, but there are still subtler baked in assumptions that won't be removed by converting it, like the need for enough treasure and monsters over an adventure to give you a certain amount of XP in systems where that's simply not an issue. It would be nice to have more adventures for other systems that are built from the ground up to work with the system, not against it.



Letters: They might have enough adventures in the slush pile now, but apparently they have an absence of letters this time around. The only one is once again from the highly verbose David Carl Argall, reminding them to put grids or hexes on all their maps so it's easy to tell distances and travel times. This is AD&D, not some theatre of the mind game. Yeah, don't forget the basics in your pursuit of more sophisticated storytelling. It tends to backfire in the long run.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 6: Jul/Aug 1987



part 2/5



After the Storm: A second underwater adventure already? Mildly surprising, but still preferable to yet another vampire one. As they're still in the mood for a greater number of shorter adventures, this is somewhat less ambitious than the previous one, with less travelling and politicking, although it does have an interesting sting in the tail if they make the wrong choices during the adventure. It's your basic sunken ship scenario, taken down by a recent storm with a whole load of treasure on it, and salvage rights go to anyone who's got the skills to get down there and bring it up alive. As with the last one, they take pains to remind you that you not only need some way of breathing down there, but also have to adopt appropriate methods of fighting and communicating unless you want to be at a major disadvantage against aquatic monsters. This is still 1e, after all, and environmental hazards are as important as the monsters. If you can't figure that out you've got no chance in extraplanar adventures a few levels later. This is sufficiently different enough from the last underwater adventure that I don't think we're hitting diminishing returns yet, and I've got no problem with it as an adventure in itself either. There's still vast quantities of unexplored ground of many different terrains to discover down there.



White Death: The second adventure this issue is also a return to a previous idea with a different spin, as we get another dragon-focussed adventure. Last time, it was a big, badass red dragon with a substantial lair, while this time, it's just a moderately powerful white one with a few interesting personality quirks. No way this is lasting more than a session unless the PC's get completely lost in the arctic wastes on the way there. And that's about as much as I can say without giving away the twists and making it easy. Perfectly serviceable mid-level filler.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 6: Jul/Aug 1987



part 3/5



Bristanam's Cairn: You never know what you'll find under a big rock? In D&D? I'm gonna take a pretty confident guess at undead for 500 Alex. Ah, but what type, that's the important thing. In a high level adventure like this, you have a pretty wide choice, possibly including hordes of lower level ones as well as singular big bads. Plus whether they're just monsters put there by a spellcaster as a guardian, or have some tragic backstory that keeps them going from beyond the grave. This one definitely falls into the tragic backstory variety, with a ghost, a death knight and a living man trapped in a sysyphean cycle of unpleasantness, unable to escape unless the PC's do something to break the deadlock. It's all very Ravenloftish, and if that were a setting at this point, would probably be a small domain there. It's fairly atmospheric, while not as long and intractable as a full-size domain of dread scenario. I quite like this one.



The House of the Brothers: The last adventure was quite forward-looking, in anticipating the tropes that would be codified and done to death in Ravenloft. In contrast, this one looks backward, to the very first D&D adventures and tries to make something that would fit in seamlessly. Yup, this is basically G4: House of the Fog Giant brothers. (not to be confused with G36: House of tha Bruthas, the D&D/Wu-Tang Clan crossover adventure.) If you thought the G part of the GDQ adventure path needed more meat, this is exactly what you're looking for. As befits the nature of fog, they're a little smarter and sneakier than the original giant races, while still being no slouches in terms of damage output and toughness either. It's not a perfect imitation of the originals in writing style - they've definitely become less densely formatted and more interested in the personality and history of their monsters since then, but it's on the right level in terms of overall challenge. Definitely one for bookmarking for the next time you go down that particular nostalgia well and want to give your players a little more than they expect.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 6: Jul/Aug 1987



part 4/5



Dragon regular the no-SASE ogre shows up for the first time in Dungeon. I'm sure it will not be his last appearance here either.



Forbidden Mountain: Two of the most frequently reprinted articles in Dragon were the ones on Tesseracts, and their potential in introducing 4-dimensional dungeons to your game. I'm not surprised at all that people would submit weird space-bending adventures here at some point. Since they haven't talked about it in this magazine before, and it's been a few years, they first have to spend several pages explaining the basics for newbies, which means the actual adventure is pretty short, and feels more like a showcase for the map than a finished product. Once your players get over the fact that they're not dealing with regular mappable space they'll get through it pretty quickly, as long as they avoid a couple of horrible instant death traps. So this is pretty cool as an article for inspiring you to make your own dungeons a little more weird and wondrous, but not that impressive an adventure. They really could benefit from including a regular column on adventure design in here, not just prefab ones, so they can teach lessons like this without feeling obliged to create a full adventure to go with it.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 6: Jul/Aug 1987



part 5/5



Tortles of the Purple Sage - part 1: Yay! Our first multi-part adventure! Hopefully this'll be less of a railroad than the multi-parters in Polyhedron, which definitely suffer due to the limitations of their tournament origins. It's not standalone in other ways either, as it's the first adventure heavily tied to one setting, to the point where it'd take a whole load of extra work to use in any other one, and references a whole load of basic & expert set modules which cover adjacent areas of the Known World. It's Tortle mating season, and the PC's are hired to protect them on their journey to their ancestral spawning grounds, which are hundreds of miles upriver like real world salmon, and also recently conquered. The future of the Tortle race depends on you! Well, that's definitely a pretty unique adventure premise, simultaneously epic and whimsical.

Once you have your mission, you have a lot of freedom in your route. Depending on where in the Known World you start, it'll probably take several months of travel to get there, during which the Expert set rules for wandering monsters and getting lost in various terrains will get a serious workout, and you might well stumble across whole other small adventures on the way. (like many of the ones included in the last couple of issues) So this isn't so much a singular adventure, as a whole campaign arc giving you a reason to set out on a grand adventure, and encounter all sorts of weird and wonderful things along the way, while still having a long-term objective to keep you pushing onwards rather than just wandering randomly in search of treasure and things to kill. It's very different from anything else they've published so far, but also pretty damn awesome. It manages to combine the best aspects of an escort mission and a wide-open sandbox, with tons of distinctive flavour, and introduces ideas that will influence future modules down the line in Mystara and Red Steel. I very strongly approve of this, and hope it won't be a complete one-off in terms of style and design quality.



The Manual of the Planes advert reminds you not to neglect dental hygiene, no matter what universe you're in. Sure, you don't need it on the astral plane, but it's still a bad idea to get out of the habit, and who knows how quickly abyssal bacteria will give you cavities.



Probably their strongest issue since the 1st one, as although they're starting to cycle through repeating themes for adventures, they chose a good set of individual adventures, which did some interestingly envelope-pushing things, and had a bit more continuity with outside products rather than being purely standalone. With a year under their belt, they're starting to get more confident. Let's see if they have any special presents to offer for their 1st birthday, or It'll take a considerably bigger number before they decide to do any envelope-pushing and retrospectives.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 37: Jul/Aug/Sept 1987



part 1/5



36 pages. It's been obvious all year that they're running late, and the dates I've put on these issues have been nominal ones, but here the disjunct becomes particularly obvious, as they go straight from volume 7, no 3 to no 6 without giving any indication to what 4 & 5 were. Maybe they were the official tournament adventures this year, as this is definitely post Gen Con. There's only 1 more issue this year, so it looks like they gave up on trying to get caught up the hard way and just did 5 issues this year instead. Will that be enough to get them back on schedule for good? Let's see what new developments the rest of this issue has to offer.



Notes from HQ: After much wrangling, they've finally settled on a name for their Living City. Say hello to Raven's Bluff. With Ravenloft their best selling module, they couldn't resist going back to that well, despite the trademark issues prohibiting their first choice. And given how long it'll be an active setting, I think it's safe to say there's room for more than one group of corvids in the roleplaying multiverse. Now all they need is a motto, preferably one that looks good when translated into Latin to put over their gates. What they really do not need, on the other hand, is people who try to manipulate their tournament scoring system by downvoting rivals rather than ranking people honestly on how well they played. It's usually pretty obvious when one person in a group does it, especially if they consistently vote in a different pattern to the rest of their groups over multiple rounds, so cut it out, or we may have to disqualify you! There's always a few arseholes, and if they're left unchecked they'll just shit everywhere. They may solve their scheduling and logistic problems, but the human interaction challenges will never go away. What ways will the obnoxious few find to spoil things for the majority next time?



Letters: The Satanic Panic continues to weigh heavily on their minds in here. Our first letter thinks the violence in D&D is no worse than the colonialist genocide of Risk or capitalist exploitation of Monopoly, and they don't have people saying they should be banned. Oh how naive. We're not trying to convince them, we're trying to make them look absurd to casual observers. That's the way to win the war long-term.

The second one points out the hypocrisy of the bible-bashers, when it's full of violence, sexism, incest, pedophilia, mass circumcision as trophy-taking, failure to show guests proper hospitality - and that's just the humans! What right do they have to say WE'RE a bad influence?! Yes, but they're embedded in virtually every community in the country. If you want to beat them, you've got to engage in community outreach too, show them that gamers are everywhere, they're not a danger, and they're not going away. Don't hide in your basement, be a hero in the real world.

The third one is also about community outreach. If you want tournaments in your area, get out there and make your own mini-convention. We've given you the tools, but ultimately, it's up to you to use them.

Next, we have someone agreeing with our review columnist that he deserves more feedback. Send it in, let him know how to improve! You first. Don't try to pass the buck onto everyone else without giving your own.

Finally, we have someone reminding them that followers are as crucial to an organisation as leaders. You can't expect everyone to actively contribute, and their money's as good as anyone else's. Another thing where you need to find the right balance, because too far in either extreme will lead to their own set of problems.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 37: Jul/Aug/Sept 1987



part 2/5



Cornucopia: Rather than one big review, Errol does a ton of little potted ones this time. CM8: The Endless Stair, DA2: Temple of the Frog, DA3: City of the Gods, GAZ1: The Grand Duchy of Karamekos, IM2: The Wrath of Olympus, H2: Mines of Bloodstone. C6: The RPGA Tournament Handbook (particularly important that they mention that in here, if they want more people to submit adventures and run tournaments.) NA2: Treasure Hunt, OA3: Ochimo the Spirit Warrior, I10: Ravenloft II, and REF4: the Book of Lairs II. All get blandly positive reviews with scores ranging from 5-9/10, which is the kind of thing I hate, because it gives me nothing to riff off of. Little more than self-promotion for TSR products, and at least the actual adverts usually put some effort into looking good. Could you kindly not.



Clerical Errors: Advice on how to play clerics is like busses. You go years without any of it, and suddenly two articles turn up at once. Where Jeff's concentrated on gear & spells, this mixes up roleplaying advice and once again, optimal spell selection, but with a different format. Aside from a mildly amusing reminder that your games needn't be as family friendly as TSR's official products and settings, there's not a lot going on here, and his optimal spell selections are pretty conservative. Roll on 2e, and genuinely differentiated speciality clerics with idiosyncratic sphere selections that you have to put in real work to make the best of because they have unique granted powers.



Arcane Academe: Meanwhile, Jeff moves onto Thieves, and their close relatives Assassins & Monks. As before, we get equipment advice, and some not so obvious uses for their powers, but with less choice of powers, there's less difference between an optimised one and a regular one. He's particularly baffled by Monks, and their grab-bag of powers from various literary sources that are cool individually, but don't give them an obvious combat role. Well that's the problem of thinking of characters primarily as parts of a combat unit to be optimised, isn't it. :p Still, well done on him for spotting a problem that'll continue to be an issue in 3e. If only the designers had been paying attention back in 1999.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 37: Jul/Aug/Sept 1987



part 3/5



The Living City: After 2 years of buildup, we finally get our first peek inside the walls of Raven's Bluff, with the highly specific contents of Building 275, section E4. That tells us that when they do release the actual sourcebook, it's going to have a massive map which is zoomed in enough to show every street and building, even if most of them will be blank at first so people can detail what's in them over the years, and hopefully even have their characters officially own property themselves. Keeping the Living City alive and tracking things like this requires an extensive and well-organised database, and it's very good to see they've thought about how to implement that before throwing the doors open and letting people flood in. It also serves as a reminder that it's going to be packed with adventurers, ex-adventurers, and other people with class levels. If you think you can kill the shopkeepers and guards and get away with it you're in for a rude awakening, for they're likely tougher than you. The specific information is less interesting than the things I'm inferring though. A married pair of ex-pirates, who now sell fish. If you get them talking you might pick up a plot hook or two about buried treasure, but don't trust them, for their larcenous urges are still close to the surface. Perfectly standard fare for a port town. As one of the first bits of material, they'll definitely have appeared in a fair few campaigns since then.



Film Noir: Our adventure this time is a bit of a curveball, as they decide to do one for the Chill system. Dragon never did any articles for that, and it's not even a TSR game, so this is a very welcome surprise. The ghost of a hack filmmaker who committed suicide because his films were both critical and commercial flops is haunting an abandoned movie theater. Unfortunately, his phantasmal manifestations of cheesy pop culture references are quite capable of scaring people to death. The PC's need to survive long enough to figure out what the hell his deal is and then lay him to rest, which cannot be accomplished by force alone, as is gothic ghost story tradition. This has some silly elements, but it could still be genuinely scary, as Chill PC's don't appear to be particularly powerful, so they can't fight the supernatural on it's own terms with exorcisms and fireballs like D&D or WoD ones can with a little XP. Seems a pretty decent way to fill 3-4 hours, and I'm quite pleased to see them covering a completely new system. Will this inspire other people to send in more adventures and articles for other RPG's? Here's hoping.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 37: Jul/Aug/Sept 1987



part 4/5



Multi-class characters: AD&D's multi and dual class systems were always … idiosyncratic, to put it politely. Knowing precisely who could be what, in combination with what else, and what level they could reach in each class required an extensive table, and effectively prohibited you from using new classes from supplements with new races from other supplements. This aims to clear things up a little by turning each potential progression into it's own table, with it's own XP, hit point and proficiency progression. Since you won't gain a level this way until you've accumulated XP equal to the sum of all your classes requirements rather than spreading it evenly, plus your proficiencies are averaged instead of added together, and you're rolling 1 hit die vs several and halving them, which usually gives you a slightly higher average due to rounding effects, this is actually a step downwards in terms of overall power. This is a noob trap, and a tedious one at that, as it eats up a full 7 pages with it's iterated formulae. Anyone with the ability to do mathematical analysis themselves will avoid it easily, and the rest should follow their lead.



With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Dragon has had The Marvel-Phile trucking along reliably since the RPG was first released. Polyhedron's superheroic articles have been considerably thinner on the ground. No more! This brave freelancer has taken up the mantle of producing a regular column for the newszine, come rain, shine, or alien invasion! Let's hope his submissions are a little more punctual than a certain web-slinger who shares this motto.

The first article, not too surprisingly, is on the quirks of running tournament adventures for superhero RPG's in particular. Even more than D&D, you really need to rely on pregen characters, as the power levels and flexibility can vary so widely, and letting people bring their own would all too likely make the scenario effortless or impossible. Don't hesitate to use existing heroes and villains from the comics, as this actually makes roleplaying easier. Choosing two or three villains to team up will often strongly suggest a plotline, based on their personalities, histories and goals. You also really need to keep things moving if you want that comic book style. Multiple routes are cool, but you can only plan so many, and you should make sure you have a failsafe to nudge them back on the plot if they grind to a halt or do something completely unexpected. It all seems pretty reasonable. You'll never be able to explore the logical ramifications of super-science on the world's long-term development in a 4 hour tournament slot, so you might as well lean into creating the best high-speed rollercoaster you can manage instead, and hope it stays fun enough that they don't start poking the backdrop and finding out how thin it is.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 37: Jul/Aug/Sept 1987



part 5/5



Where Have All The Scenarios Gone?: Now that is a good question. Quite possibly to Dungeon, as they've made it clear that they're getting more than they need (although not always the kind they want. Alexa, play the Rolling Stones song on this subject :) ), plus they actually pay if they publish them. The RPGA, on the other hand, is still struggling to get enough member submissions to fill all their upcoming tournaments. If you don't submit some more they might be forced to do reruns, and no-one wants that. Act now and save us from the horrors of syndication! Another mildly irritating sign that they're still not really on top of things after the past couple of tumultuous years. Just what will it take to shake enough members out of their passivity that the few that do volunteer aren't overstretched?



RPGA Network Tournament Winners List: The Bingle family continue to dominate the listings here, but hot young newcomer Dewey Frech is making big inroads, with three 1st prizes, plus one each of 2nd and 3rd places. Like any competitive sport, triumph one year is no guarantee you'll be on form the next, and D&D has enough random elements that it's impossible to complete a module perfectly every time even if you did know it by heart, which you wouldn't anyway, as they're trying to come up with fresh ones each year. Competitive speedrunners should stick to video games, because trying to get everything to line up perfectly when trying to co-ordinate with half a dozen other PC's just seems like an exercise in masochism to me.



Another round of stuff that's fairly historically significant, but highly variable in quality here. Their struggles to progress with their plans, and improve despite the decline in members and controversy with the general public continue to be highly visible in their output. Still, at least some of them are coming to fruition. Let's see what next issue brings for the Living City and if people will be able to move in yet.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 7: Sep/Oct 1987



part 1/5



68 pages. The circus is in town! The circus is in town! Oh god, those are some of the most horrifying scenarios in any TV show. Sinister clowns, evil puppets, hallucinogenic candy, impromptu gladiatordom, vampire feeding grounds, being kidnapped and renamed Dave, the possibilities are multitudinous. Let's see what darkness lurks behind the bright lights and music of this troupe of troubadours and harlequins.



Editorial: They've had a full year to work out the kinks by using their hardcore fanbase from Dragon & Polyhedron as test subjects. This is the issue that Dungeon goes on sale on the newsstands. How very exciting for them. Of course, that also increases the risk of overprinting and losing money on the unsold returns compared to being subscription only, but that's life. You've got to speculate to accumulate, or go digital only, and see if anyone'll pay for what you have to offer when they could probably wait a bit then pirate it instead. Hopefully their sales will increase rapidly at this point. To hedge their bets a bit more, they're offering special deals if you sign up your friends. Get recruiting! Adventure is better with a good set of stalwart companions! The atmosphere in here is definitely much less stressed out than the Polyhedron newsroom. It's good to be able to jump between the two and get a breath of fresh air.



Letters: Once again, letters are a bit thin on the ground here. The first one says it's about time they started selling the magazine in stores, which gives them another opportunity to smugly say they already have. Now if only they could get up the demand to do non-D&D adventures as well, which would stave off repetitiveness in the topics they cover by a good few years.

The other one asks once again why they don't do adventures for evil characters. They're not bending on this one, no matter how many complaining letters you send, because no matter how strident your complaints are, trust me the Satanic Panic ones are louder and shriller. It'll take a complete change in circumstances and management before we even consider changing that.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 7: Sep/Oct 1987



part 2/5



Nightshade: Nigel Findley returns with another short adventure for low level characters. The PC's are hired by a noble to collect a potion from a wizard. Why he doesn't just do it himself, and is willing to pay quite a bit to get a bunch of random adventurers to do such a seemingly trivial task for him is a very interesting question indeed, and the answer would be a big spoiler. Depending on how it goes, and how suspicious your players are, they might find out the dark (and somewhat skeevy) backstory and decide to do something different, making themselves a long-term enemy in the process, or they might complete it with only minor hitches, setting things up for more morally ambiguous quests in the future. Not one for the Paladins & Princesses playstyle, but if you like your missions more on the Lankhmar/Shadowrun side of things, and half the fun is seeing precisely what way the PC's go off the rails when they find out what they've got themselves into this'll fit right in.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 7: Sep/Oct 1987



part 3/5



Tortles of the Purple Sage pt 2: Having finished the escort mission part of the plot, there's still a ton of things for the players to do out here, with another 18 pages of worldbuilding and plot hooks. Half of this is a detailed description of the Richland Trading Post, a frontier town that seems intended as a base of operations for the PC's to come back too between expeditions, restock and sell any treasure they've found. The other half is a somewhat sketchier description of three ruined cities with some weird stuff going on that'll be very valuable indeed if they can get there and deal with the quirks and dangers of what they find. It's even more open-ended than the first part, and once again operates on a scale of both space and time many orders of magnitude larger than any other adventure here. With a bit of work to fill in the map, it could well give your characters years of exploration fun. Well worth the price of entry even on it's own.



The Matchmakers: P. N. Elrod returns to give us another quirky change of pace, with a very Romeo & Juliet style romance story of lovers from wealthy houses who's families are feuding, and want to marry them off to other people. Can you resolve things so they end somewhat less tragically than the source material? You'll have to anticipate several potential plot twists and head them off at the pass, or come up with a plan that bypasses them altogether and get lucky. Fortunately, this is the kind of adventure that also gives plenty of information on the surrounding town and NPC's, so it's easy to improvise in response to the players. A good example of how to do a plot-heavy, combat-light story without turning it into a railroad.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 7: Sep/Oct 1987



part 4/5



Samurai Steel: Our Oriental Adventure this issue is a political one that seems all too relevant to modern events. The PC's are accosted by a large number of Samurai, who will respond to the slightest disrespect by apprehending them with considerable brutality. If they're smart enough to kowtow, they'll find themselves roped into a political intrigue, as the ruler of the town is growing increasingly paranoid and despotic, jumping at shadows, and engaging in the kind of repression which ensures that if there weren't plots against his rule before, there sure as hell are now. If they want to be able to leave town alive, they need to figure out what's caused his change of heart and fix the problem. But Y'know, by working within the system rather than smashing it and rebuilding it, otherwise you'll lose honor points. So this is a story of the stresses of trying to be the good guys within a corrupt system, facing enemies who use the rules against you without being bound by them themselves. Not saying it's bad, but it's definitely way too close to home for me to run as escapism in the current political climate. If you can, or you're reading this in a better future and want to run it to remind yourself how easily authoritarian injustice can start up again, more power to you.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 7: Sep/Oct 1987



part 5/5



The Jingling Mordo Circus: Yup, it's evil circus time. Far scarier than even energy draining undead due to it's capacity to make the PC's look ridiculous, while quite possibly also killing them as well. And in this respect, the adventure really does not mess around, as it's run by an exceedingly powerful wizard who will use scry/time stop/teleport combos to fuck with the PC's without them having a chance to see who's responsible or strike back. The rest of the troupe are no slouches either, with an interesting mix of classes, races, and weird creatures, which are quite capable of using their powers intelligently and co-operatively. This is an adventure that will remain challenging no matter how much raw power the PC's have, unless they also have dirty tricks to anticipate and short-circuit encounters, and even then that'll just make this a level playing field. Don't use it unless you're prepared to play the characters as smartly as they're written, and if you do, it might be a good idea to plan ahead and have your PC's pass through the circus a few times at lower levels before triggering the main plot, so they get to know the flavourful NPC's and aren't immediately on edge and bringing their armour and weapons everywhere as soon as you mention the very concept of going. It'll all take a lot more work than just killing them in the Tomb of Horrors.



Issues 3&4 are already out of print on the back-orders list. That bodes well as an indicator of how quickly they're ramping up operations.



A pretty strong selection of adventures overall, spanning a wide range of levels and sizes, but all give you a fair degree of freedom in how you solve the problems in them, have room for roleplaying and long term consequences depending on how you complete them, and don't force you into a string of meaningless combat encounters. For all that they say they don't want evil PC's, they're giving you plenty of chances to play more morally ambiguous characters here. Let's hope they'll keep that spirit and sneakiness in the face of the moral majority for many issues to come.
 

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