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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
Polyhedron Issue 42: July 1988



part 1/5



32 pages. Secret agents must maintain their immaculate suits and hairstyles, come high society soiree, mountain skiing, or tied to a villain's deathtrap! No surprise that Top Secret/S.I. is getting more than one token promotional article given how long the first edition lasted. Let's see if there's any cool new stuff exclusive to here to discover, or we should have left off after exhausting the main database.



Notes From HQ: Back in 1982, they did a membership drive to get things going, offering a bunch of prizes for the top recruiters, including the opportunity to meet the biggest names in the game industry. After a couple of years in which their growth not only stalled out, but actually slowly declined, they decide it's high time for another one. But since they've learned a lot since then, it's going to be bigger and better organised than the first. Rather than just putting all their eggs in the same basket, they're dividing the world up into regions (although 4 of them are for the USA, 1 for Canada, and the rest of the world is covered by the remaining 3, which shows how USA-centric their membership still is) each of which has their own prizes to be won. So don't feel intimidated because you live in a country where roleplaying hasn't really caught on yet, get recruiting! You still have a fair chance at winning something. Hopefully with all these new members, we'll then be able to run more officially sponsored tournaments, and therefore individual members will be able to level up faster. Good to see they understand the virtuous cycle of increasing network externalities. I wonder if they'll actually give concrete numbers of how many people the winners recruited this time around. Here's hoping.



Letters: The XP system continues to weigh heavily in people's minds. The first letter is another person who's unhappy with the system as it is, and thinks it needs to be scrapped or heavily overhauled to reward things other than just frequent con attendance. They're already working on it as they write.

Fresh from having one Bingle contribute last issue, highest ranked player in the system Don Bingle also writes in in favour of keeping things going. He'd enjoy going to conventions anyway, but the extra reward is nice. Healthy competition keeps people motivated. Just don't expect to be able to stay on top without keeping up the effort.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 42: July 1988



part 2/5



The Critical Hit: Errol decides to give a little extra publicity to Skyrealms of Jorune, one of the most interesting, but also complex new settings recently unleashed upon the world. Like many settings where a ton of worldbuilding was done before it was ever introduced to the public, the in-setting language and game jargon can be somewhat intimidating to newbies. But once you've got past that, the system isn't any heavier than D&D, and there's a rich world full of adventure hooks to explore. It still has a small but devoted fanbase to this day. But it never did get any articles in Dragon. I wonder if they'll manage one or two in here before it becomes all D&D all the time.



The Living City: :Sighs heavily: This column decides to revel in dated stereotypes again, and do the gypsy fortuneteller thing. Let's tick off the list of tropes, shall we. Withered old crone who conceals herself in a cloak. Check. Scammer primarily interested in maximising profits by playing on the expectations and fears of the customer rather than giving any accurate prediction of the future. Check. Does actually possess some genuine magical ability despite that. Check. Sexy granddaughter who\s learning the family trade that she uses to attract more customers. Check. Thieving grandson who'll make note of any particularly wealthy customers and follow them home to engage in further larceny. Check. You've seen it in innumerable examples of all kinds of media, and this puts no interesting spins on it, or shows any kind of self-awareness. Even if it weren't racist and sexist it would still be lazy writing, especially as a Roma analogue is ironically one of the few real world things the Realms doesn't throw into it's kitchen sink. Another one that's definitely best left in the past.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 42: July 1988



part 3/5



The Charleston Academy: :sighs again: Who let Skip Williams get away from his piles of Sage Advice questions long enough to do another adventure? Don't they know by now that it always turns out goofy and irritating. Your characters (Which may or may not be the typically punnishly named pregens) get roped into a posh boarding school drama, and have to bring back a kid playing hooky, hopefully uncovering the reasons he was so distressed by his school experience in the first place. There turns out to be something very sinister behind it all, in a very Harry Potter stylee. This is definitely interesting, but it's really not very well suited to the D&D system and default setting where a bunch of murderhobos get involved in problems they have no personal connection too, as non-students tromping around on an active school ground will disrupt things and make finding the culprits much harder. So this gets some points for being different and experimental, but doesn't get above middling due to the aforementioned general goofiness and being a poor fit to the D&D module format. You really need to change the surrounding framework a fair bit before ideas like this can reach their full potential.



Sneak Preview: Ah yes, here comes Jon Pickens again with his constant adding and tweaking of spells. The upcoming release of 2e gives him a chance to make all those little changes they've thought up over the past 10 years official. So here's four pages of notes covering slightly over 100 cleric spells. A few spells are cut, a few more are rolled into other spells or relegated to background details, and there's lots of little changes for game balance or clarity of writing. As is usual for this kind of revision, most will be accepted as unambiguous improvements, or not even noticed due to their subtlety, but a few will probably provoke nerdrage that their favourite twinky trick no longer works. It's quite interesting if you're into that kind of fine detail, and I'm sure there'll be a counterpart one for magic-user spells along in the near future.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 42: July 1988



part 4/5



New Rogues Gallery: This column is the one tied into the cover image, with stats for four Top Secret agents and the agency they've created. This gives them the chance to show off the new edition's system, which while simplified in some ways, has a surprisingly complex 6-axis "alignment" system for their personalities, plus a decent selection of GURPS style advantages and disadvantages to customise your character with. As with the D&D ones, there is a certain amount of "let me tell you about my character", with the four of them playing off each other like a retired adventuring party who settled down, and are now your bosses. It's a reminder that while the new edition may have introduced obvious international good & bad guy agencies, there's still plenty of smaller operations of various degrees of corruption that you could join or play off one-another, and supplements will probably introduce more. You don't have to stick to the defaults, especially if you've been playing for a while. The main problem here, just as with the D&D ones, is that the characters are just too nice, not giving you enough reasons to come into conflict with them in an interesting way. But this is still more interesting than the last few simply due to the novelty. Keep on exposing people to new systems, it's good for them in the long run.



Remembrances of Cons Past: Donald Bingle doesn't just contribute a letter this issue, but a whole article as well. He tells the story of how he caught the conventioneering bug, a good decade ago now, and how things have changed since then. While he does have a certain amount of nostalgia for his first time, he has to admit that things have got both bigger and better organised since then, adventures have more room for actual roleplaying, and if the game you really wanted to play in still goes wrong or is overbooked, you have plenty of other choices instead. We get to find out more about him, and his almost as high-scoring wife and brother, and the way they interact with one-another. An entertainingly written fluff piece, this doesn't give us anything particularly useful for our own gaming, but it's still nice to know more about these names I've seen repeatedly in the newszine. May they have many more years of good gaming ahead of them.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 42: July 1988



part 5/5



With Great Power: The Marvel article this issue is tie-in material to their recent MX series modules, where the PC's had to deal with Sentinels taking over the USA. This is a pretty open-ended premise, and obviously there was a load of potential participants who weren't covered. So here's a couple of pages on the reactions of the Inhumans, Atlanteans, Deviants, Eternals and alien species, followed by detailed stats and information on this timeline's version of Rick Jones, who wound up taking on the mantle of Captain America after the original was killed by a Sentinel, and like every successor to Steve Rogers, struggles with feelings of unworthiness while doing his best to honour the uniform, before eventually accepting that they have to do it in their own way and can't be angsty forever. Life goes on, even if we don't get to see what happens afterwards in all these alternate timelines that only appear for one story. Still, I guess that gives us more freedom to continue it in our own way without worrying about the latest metaplot events in the 616 Marvel timeline. This is both thought-provoking and reasonably entertaining, so no problems here. Alternate universes offer infinite possibilities for adventure, you just need to avoid throwing too many possibilities simultaneously and confusing things. That way, you don't need to be afraid to use familiar names in different contexts or worry about players killing them off.



Another issue in which both the good and bad articles are quite interesting in their own ways, showing the progress towards 2e going full steam, but not without it's fair share of holdouts and mistakes along the way. Looks like there will indeed be some cool new information on their process that didn't get into Dragon, and I will have a more complete view of D&D history after getting through this. Quite a satisfying note to end on and head into the next issue.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 12: Jul/Aug 1988



part 1/5



68 pages. It seems they're in a whimsical mood again, as the cover shows a leprechaun painting cows green for some reason. Well, that's definitely an adventure hook worth following, to see where it leads us. Of course, given that it's fae-related, it might well lead into a string of well-prepared pranks, and the pot of gold at the end turning into leaves the next morning. Let's see if there's any way to get the better of them in this particular scenario, or the railroad inevitably leads to them getting the last laugh.



Editorial: Straight away, they cement that they are indeed in a whimsical mood this issue with a quote from the big name parody book Bored of the Rings. Well, you've got to balance out the boring stuff, like making indexes, that also comes with the job. Yup, only two years in, and they're already doing an index to make it easier to track down adventures of a particular level. They grow up so fast these days. Very interestingly, what they're most pleased about in this accomplishment is that they did it all with freelance submissions, not adventures written by the staff. Yet despite that, or actually perhaps because of it, they've maintained a considerably higher average standard of adventures than the ones in Polyhedron. It makes sense when you remember that the staff writers are working on tighter schedules than the freelancers, and they don't have the same luxury to just reject their creations outright or tell them to start again from scratch if something isn't working. Plus there's the whole on spec element. Just how many submissions do they get for each one they actually publish? I guess what it illustrates is that gatekeeping can be a good thing as long as it uses the right criteria, and the gatekeepers aren't getting so many submissions themselves that they can't properly evaluate each of them & wind up making decisions based on superficial looks/listens to the start before dropping most, or letting bad submissions through just because they're by familiar names. Well, it seems to be working for them at the moment, so let's hope it continues.



Letters: The big topic this issue is module length. David Howery is part of the mild majority that would prefer to see the average length go up a bit. But not so much that you have to split them between multiple issues, as it's tricky to spin even the longest adventure in here out a full 8 weeks while you wait for the next instalment, so you wind up having to wait until the whole thing is out before you start it at all anyway. There's a good reason why 32 pages became the standard module length in the early days of the hobby.

The second letter covers a related topic, wanting more high level modules. They do seem to be positively correlated, don't they. Where are the short but tough high level encounters to pad out a session? Could really do with even a few of those.

The third one also wants more high level modules, and more Oriental Adventures ones in general. Turtlemania is really boosting the profile of ninjas and anthromorphic animals, so it's not surprising D&D players would also want more adventures that involve those things.

The fourth one wants them to try an epic multi-parter. The one two-parter they tried didn't get much response, (What?!) so unfortunately they won't be trying that again for quite a while.

They have to include a contrary opinion though. A young Wolfgang Baur (who ironically will be involved in creating some of the more epic adventures in Dungeon's future) pipes up in favour of short but flexible encounters that you can drop more easily into any campaign. Those are the ones more likely to actually get used rather than just read.

Our next six letters all concern the merits of solo adventures, with four for and two against. Enough to keep on doing them, but be careful of overdoing it and wearing out their welcome.

The next one asks about the feasibility of Forgotten Realms adventures. Technically all the OA adventures are already FR ones anyway, but yes, as long as you don't contradict canon or their metaplot plans. This may get increasingly difficult as the sheer quantity of details racks up.

A slightly more leftfield letter asks if they plan to reprint the adventure from Dragon 131 in here. Nope. What would be the point when nearly all Dungeon buyers also get Dragon anyway?

Finally, we have someone complaining about the use of Unearthed Arcana material in adventures. Did you not the memo that everything in it is Official AD&D™ material that you're expected to incorporate into your game to keep it tournament-correct? Gary was very clear about this, and even though he's gone, it will remain TSR policy until the new edition is released.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 12: Jul/Aug 1988



part 2/5



Light of Lost Souls: Nigel Findley returns with another small location-based adventure that'll last you a single session at the most, probably less. A lighthouse keeper died with unfinished business. One of the PC's gets possessed by his ghost, and one would hope they have the sense to try and figure out what his deal is and how to lay him to rest instead of just killing their companion. (and having him jump into another body anyway.) So this is very much a horror story rather than a hack-and-slash adventure, designed to build tension and make the players worry. You can definitely see why he'll do some of his best work on the Ravenloft line in a few years time. It's no world-changing epic, but still another solid way to fill in a campaign as your group wanders from one place to the next, as it's easily dropped in anywhere coastal. As they said in the letters, they've got to keep including some of these, despite the greater demand for long adventures, as they're the most likely to actually get played.



Scepter of the Underworld: Another name that would go onto much bigger things and is still working in the gaming industry today gets their start here. James Jacobs gives us our second fully solo adventure. Take the role of Jan Daystar, (no relation to Jander Sunstar) a fairly high level fighter teleported straight into the adventure by a mysterious archmage to retrieve the eponymous scepter. As with the last one, it's your basic choose your own adventure branching path system that'll take you maybe an hour or two to complete if you roll through all the encounters properly, and considerably less if you just read it and pick which option to go too next. Comparing the two, this definitely shows iterative improvements from the first in both degrees of meaningful choice and clarity of writing, while still offering plenty of those opportunities to screw up and die horribly the format is known for. Having lots of hit points in particular definitely makes a difference to the way the adventure runs, allowing for more attrition between encounters before failing outright. Another handy change of pace from their usual group adventures that more than justifies it's place in here.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 12: Jul/Aug 1988



part 3/5



Dungeon Adventures Index: 2 years, 12 issues and 62 adventures later, we get our first index. It seems a bit soon, as it barely fills a page, and is padded out to two with recycled artwork. It's also not particularly useful as it's sorted primarily by alphabetical order of adventure names, rather than system and character level, which is what you really need when you have a session in a few hours and didn't have time to prepare, so you need to find something appropriate and fast. They'll definitely make substantial improvements in the formatting in the future. So this is mainly notable to show what they haven't figured out yet when it comes to good editing and organisation. Let's carry on and see how soon another one crops up, and if it'll be any better designed.



At The Spottle Parlor: Solo adventures, both one-on-one and DM-free, have proved themselves to be successful experiments. Our most experimental one this issue is even more quirky. Rick Swan invites us to join in with a game of fantastical gambling, which includes complete rules for the game along with the scenario. Of course, as this is an adventure, things aren't nearly so simple. You have a whole load of interesting characters at the table, each with their own agendas and foibles. Even the dealer is not to be trusted. It's an entertaining read, but both too wacky and too heavily scripted & linear for my tastes, being very much an 80's cartoon representation of gambling. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since he's just coming off the equally wacky and parodic WG7, but I can't see myself using this one in a serious campaign without it ruining the suspension of disbelief. The game rules seem perfectly usable even without the scenario though, and easily incorporated into a more gritty game, so it's not completely without value for me, but overall, I think this particular experiment doesn't quite work. It could easily have been a Dragon article without all the wacky cruft added on and better off for it.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 12: Jul/Aug 1988



part 4/5



Intrigue in the Depths: Underwater adventures continue to be quite decently represented in here, as here's a 4th one to fill out your repertoire. A mage guild has had their supply of important magical components from undersea sources disrupted. As they're far too important and busy to get their robes wet, it falls to the PC's to go down there and find out what happened. Turns out the merfolk have declared war on the aquatic elves. Will the PC's encourage all-out war, or use a more diplomatic approach? As the title indicates, it definitely pushes you towards trying to find out why the merfolk have suddenly turned hostile and finding a non-genocidal solution to the conflict, although there will inevitably be a fair bit of combat in there as well to keep the bloodthirsty from getting too bored. This is another tournament adventure that shows it's origins, but has taken steps to expand beyond them for campaign play where you don't have to finish up in a single sitting, and might want to visit there again and have long term relationships and consequences from your time under the sea. It's once again higher than the average standard of it's Polyhedron counterparts.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 12: Jul/Aug 1988



part 5/5



Huddle Farm: Begorrah! Willie Walsh goes full Oirish on us in this lighthearted tale of feuding halflings beset by mischievous leprechauns. The PC's are hired by the aforementioned Huddle family, who disturbed a leprechaun living on their land, and are now regularly waking up to all sorts of silliness done to their property. They suspect their neighbours, which is of course causing further problems with their accusations and retaliations against the wrong target. Will the PC's be smart enough to catch the real culprit, and will they be able to convince their employers to believe them and make amends? You know, if you're going to do a mystery-based adventure, you really shouldn't spoil the solution on the cover. I guess that like the index, that's an editorial error rather than one on the writer's part, but it still makes this one a lot easier than it would be otherwise, as there's not many adventures where the PC's are employed by halflings, so it's more likely to trip the memory of any well-read players. You may want to reskin the details a little if you actually use it to throw your players off the scent. Basic organisational problems aside, it's still an entertaining read packed with little details, another of those adventures that's useful as a bit of worldbuiding to come back too between dungeon delves, not just passed through once and cleared out. Until you can live entirely on conjured food and sleep in extradimensional mansions, you're always going to want to maintain a good relationship with the people who keep you fed and supplied. Giving them fleshed out personalities and histories definitely doesn't hurt your game.



With a definite spike in wackiness as well as some weak editorial choices, this is one the issues I've found least usable so far. It still makes for interesting reading, but it's definitely aimed at a younger, more lighthearted audience rather than long-term players. I guess that's one of the drawbacks of the 2e code of conduct and general editorial policy. Oh well, they still managed to produce plenty of cool stuff in the 90's despite it. Let's see what direction next issue will go in, and if there'll be anything pushing the envelope in there.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 43: September 1988



part 1/5



32 pages. OOh, they've mastered the art of doing transparencies on their cover images, so they can put their trade dress and logos behind the active figures, but in front of the backdrops. That's the kind of thing that's much easier once you have decent computers in the office, and an interesting sign of their technical progress since the old school years. Let's see what other bits of progress, and hopefully improvement they've made this time around.



Notes From HQ: Well, they've definitely made improvements on how well-prepared they are since last year. They can happily report that they now have enough reader submissions to actually start being choosy. This does not mean they don't want more! It just means they can raise the average quality of what they publish. Don't get lazy again, or the deadline beast will soon start to raven and howl. Of course, being better prepared involves the rest of the supply chain also planning ahead down the line. You can't expect them to cover your convention unless you tell them at least 5 months in advance. A full year would be preferable, which is why you make these things regular yearly events if you have the audience. They then remember that positive reinforcement is as important as nagging, and remember to thank all the people who have gone above and beyond in writing articles and modules, running games, editing stuff for free, etc. The memories of their recent struggles are obviously fresh enough to keep complacency at bay. Let's hope it remains that way for a good few years.



Letters: We only have two long letters this issue. The first continues the long-term debate on the problems with their scoring system, whether points should be allocated individually, or for good work as a team, how you prevent people from gaming the system, and how transparent they should be in their process. The big conflict comes in that transparency reduces corruption, but increases how easy it is to manipulate the system. Getting the best combination of freedoms and protections is an incredibly fiddly balancing act far larger systems still struggle with.

The other letter wants less tournament talk, modules and classified ads, and more timeless crunchy material that's good for home games in years to come. They are gradually moving in that direction, despite it blurring the lines between them & Dragon. They also get reminded that they need to include more artwork of nonwhite humans, not just the various demihuman races. You don't want players to be more able to relate to a pointy-eared person who lives for hundreds of years than one that just has slightly darker skin. They reply that they'll try. It's not as if they actively want to exclude people - they didn't plan to wind up 95% male, and probably even more than that white. But cultural pressures are a complex and intractable thing, and have a lot of inertia once a social group has started out a certain way. You'd need a new game that brings in a whole different demographic, and then you have the grognards complaining that they're not real gamers. As with the last letter, this battle continues to the present day.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 43: September 1988



part 2/5



Fun in Games: Rick delivers another trio of goofily presented ideas that just might have serious applications as well. Reward your PC's with things other than cash. How will they react if the townsfolk erect a statue of them, or write a song of their exploits. How will they react if it's an extremely bad representation? Muahaha. That's all too realistic and much more entertaining than counting up the GP again. Second, some rather dated taking the piss out of multi-class characters, that hinges on the concept that a class is something that requires years of rigorous training to get into rather than just picking up various skills as you go. You can definitely link that change over D&D editions to the general decline of rigid education curricula and jobs for life in the real world, and the rise of the gig economy and googling everything rather than learning from a teacher. You can also link the decline of getting a domain and followers at Name level with the decline of Westerns as a genre and the glamorisation of exploring and conquering new lands in general. The final one is considerably less interesting, just another example of the mysterious magical bookstore cliche. Nothing new there, and Terry Pratchett made the silliness in that topic considerably more actually funny. This column continues to be as hit and miss as ever then.



The White Robes: A Dragonlance article at last? They haven't done any of those in here. You'd think their linearity would make them right up regular tournament-goer's street. :p Nope, it's a Paranoia one, which curiously enough has been getting slightly more traction with the RPGA crowd. Richard Bingle plays catch-up with his brother with this story of the six lives and times of Dan_*_SHK, a Paranoia Troubleshooter. He might have been a mutant, but only some of his clones were commie traitors, which is a better record than most of his peers. They died one-by-one in various misadventures, but the 6th one managed to work all the way up to Ultraviolet clearance before meeting his end in a typically summary and arbitrary fashion, for at no rank are you immune to the ever-accurate and merciful judgement of Friend Computer. It's all thoroughly amusing, but reminds us that Alpha Complex would be a terrifying place if stripped of the cartoon trappings. There's no game material, but as that would be traitorous sharing of classified information anyway, that's probably for the best. It's a pretty good summation of actual play that'll probably turn a few more people onto the game, and there's nothing wrong with that. Do you disagree, friend citizen?

(* middle initial changes repeatedly as he moves up clearances)



Dr Brown's Miracle Juice: The adventure this issue is a Boot Hill one, featuring an unusually large amount of real world product placement. Dr Brown's vs Coca-Cola! People are rioting because they can't get their preferred shipment of sweet fizzy chemicals! Hopefully the PC's will act in a suitably heroic manner and calm the crowd. If they do, they attract the attention of the Mr Johnson for this mission, who hires them to transport Nitroglycerine disguised as Dr Brown's down to Mexico. Of course, anyone who knows anything about nitro knows it explodes at the slightest provocation. Escort mission hijinks ensue! The writing is scene based rather than location, but unlike most recent examples of this, it's not a railroad, and does allow for a certain amount of player agency and getting different results on their rolls without the whole thing falling apart. It's lighthearted without being outright silly, and feels like something that might have actually happened in reality in some form. It shows them actually doing something good with their different module needs and restrictions to Dungeon. Yee-Haw! :fires guns in the air: Ain't that a relief like a waterin' hole after three days on the open prairie.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 43: September 1988



part 3/5



Radiating Magic: After a couple of articles that cover distinctly underrepresented systems, we go back to one of THE biggest topics over the years, new magical items for D&D. Thankfully it's the kind which have histories and quirky combinations of several powers rather than the generic & boring +whatever. Let's take a closer look.

Mervic's Dagger is an intelligent weapon that boosts a compatible wizard's spellcasting on top of it's own tricks. Rescue it from the boredom of the treasure hoard and it'll be very pleased.

Caeren-Uroth lets worthy Rangers speak to the animals. Sure, they can do that anyway at high enough level, but it'll save them a spell slot for other uses. Now you can get your Disney on all the time!

The Mace of Tasirond gives a worthy character wielding it a whole suite of undead smashing powers. What's more interesting is that unworthy ones trying to use it get cursed to find someone worthy and give it to them ASAP. This will likely leave them in a foul mood afterwards, so you might get a chance to try those powers out straight away. It's an amusing twist on the whole chosen one trope.

Torshorak gives you extra bonuses against elves, with the side-effects of berserker rage. Might not be the best option against enemies with mobility and ranged weapons that can use them to lead you into traps, but I guess even goblin spellcasters aren't the smartest tools in the shed. They might still win in the long run due to their faster breeding rate.

Hadrion's Spear detects and warns you of any backstabbing attempts, a very useful power when you're commander of treacherous mercenaries. Yugoloths might be smart enough to replace your failsafe with a disguised spear battleloth while you sleep, but against more mundane enemies, it's a pretty good bit of offence and defence.

Rainbow Armor gives you a small fraction of Heimdall's omniscience. Of course, it makes you pretty obvious as well, so no point trying to be stealthy in it. Just embrace the fabulousness.

Undead Armor is your basic evil overlord armor made of bones, that keeps you safe amongst them and boosts your ability to control them. Good guys will find themselves experiencing unpleasant wardrobe malfunctions if they try to wear it.

Kirith-Kanoi is a shield that magnifies dwarf's natural spell resistance to outright reflection. Better remember to put it down before applying any buffing spells pre-combat.

Prisms of Distraction are your basic hypnotic effect. Decidedly meh by comparison with the rest of these.

Pillows of Regeneration double your healing and halve your spell recovery time when slept on. Now your wizards and clerics can properly pull their weight on the night watch shifts.

Wands of Burdening give you a sudden sharp reminder you should be tracking encumbrance by loading a load of extra weight on your frame. It doesn't have a duration either, so whether it wears off, or you'll need a dispel magic or remove curse to deal with it will be up to the sadism of your DM. Muahahaha!

Augricrone's Tablecloth creates a decent sized feast when shaken and spread out. It only works once a day, so it won't completely solve your wilderness logistic problems, but it certainly helps reduce the issues the previous item exaggerated.

All pretty useful then. It's been a while since I've done one of these, so it's actually nice to see this in Polyhedron. As long as they don't crowd out the more unique selling points of the newszine, I wouldn't object to this kind of new crunch coming slightly more frequently. Or bump off the Rogues Gallery, as they aren't particularly useful. Speaking of which…..
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 43: September 1988



part 4/5



The Living City: This issue's denizen of Raven's Bluff is "Angel" Rockford, an ironically named elven wizard/thief who is very much not blessed in the looks department. He's always engaging in some grift or act of petty theft, which gives him plenty of reasons to come into conflict with the PC's. He's actually pretty overqualified for what he does, and his magic and thievery skills combine to great effect in tricking people and relieving them of their property, but low wis & cha and an addictive personality means he pisses away any gains he makes and winds up back in the gutter again. Someone who sees the diamond in the rough and helps him get his shit together could gain a powerful ally. This all seems both full of flavour and very useful, giving you plenty of options to use him as both an ally and an antagonist. The real world pop culture references are subtle enough to be amusing but not 4th wall breaking, and it's all nicely written. This one can have a hearty Ayyyy and two thumbs up as a seal of approval.



New Rogues Gallery: Unlike most of these, this article is a collection of contributions from multiple writers, which means the characters don't have the same degree of interconnection many of these articles have. But curiously enough, it also means they're of higher average quality individually. The joys of finally having a decent number of submissions for the editors to choose from.

Silverleaf might or might not be the same Silverleaf from the Moldvay basic set, many centuries later. It is a common elf name, after all. He's pretty much maxed out in level, but weaker than he should be due to a deeply annoying curse picked up in his dungeoneering days. He may well rope the PC's in to help him seek a solution, whether they like it or not. A reminder that the old school dungeoneering experience was pretty nasty, full of traps, level draining undead and magical fountains that could permanently enhance or cripple your character. They have definitely become more gentle in more recent adventures.

Li Po, who will go on to be the mascot for the planewalker website, is a world-hopping and powerful but humble cleric who would prefer pacifism, but understands that violence is sometimes necessary to deal with evil. If it becomes so, he has two pet tigers to back him up, and quite possibly their current litter of cubs as well. If you aren't dumb enough to fight him, you could learn three rather cool custom spells that aid in the goal of improving your communication powers so you resolve more problems in a peaceful manner. Very interesting to find out that this bit of D&D history has deeper roots than I thought, and he's pretty cool as presented here. I can quite see why people would want to use him again in the future.

Mervic is a powerful wizard who would like his dagger back, thank you very much. He has a long and interesting adventuring history that culminated in him gaining the personal enmity of Jubilex and the rest of his party being killed. He's since assembled new companions, and is working on a long-term plan to take the demon lord of slime down for good, and hopefully find his dagger into the bargain. Now there's a plot hook that puts him on the side of good, but still gives the PC's reasons to get involved with him both positively and negatively. Once again this is far better than most of their recent instalments for usability.

Thorym, Niatara, and Lirana are the fighter, thief/mage and cleric that round out Mervic's current party. All are considerably lower level than him and get only a small fraction of the description. They're not particularly interesting by comparison. It's handy to have sidekicks.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 43: September 1988



part 5/5



Great Familiars: Speaking of sidekicks, Vince Garcia manages a second article in the same issue, this time on the classic subject of wizard familiars. That's one that showed up several times in Dragon, often with some nice bits of crunch to make them more powerful and interesting. No new mechanical bits here, but several interesting actual play stories involving the relationships between PC's and their familiars and the personalities they developed over time. Like the Paranoia article, it's mainly useful as inspiration, and full of lighthearted humour while still having serious underpinnings. Nothing groundbreaking, but a pretty decent way to round off the issue.



A very noticeable high point in terms of overall quality here in both article writing quality and production values, showing that it really makes a difference to have an engaged audience rather than a passive one. That's a trend I definitely hope continues. Let's press on and see how the ongoing membership drive will add to their numbers and resources.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 13: Sep/Oct 1988



part 1/5



68 pages. A T-Rex busting through the wall like the Kool-aid man! Those house builders have definitely been cutting corners on their construction if it breaks that easily. Well, this'll definitely appeal to the Jurassic Park crowd then. Let's see how well constructed the insides are, and what design flaws will result in the monsters getting loose to terrify the players this time around.



Editorial: Wouldya like to take a survey?! We don't want our customer satisfaction index to go down da hooooole. Yup, it's that time again. They do it every few years. Will they ask the right questions to get useful data, and will they heed it even if they do? Unfortunately, the questionnaire isn't included in the scan, so i can't assess it for myself. Oh well, it's a pretty trivial piece of history anyway. I doubt I'm missing much.



Letters: Our first letter asks what happens if you pull the sword out of the stone in Anthraxus's temple. You get a disease-infested sword, duh. Bad idea unless you're undead or something else that's immune, otherwise you'll be suffering from it the most.

The second letter grumbles at the amount of goofy stuff they've included in recent adventures and artwork. Oh don't be such a downer. Those are the most memorable bits! Gaming is supposed to be, y'know, fun. Trust me, you'd miss them if they stopped entirely. I know I did when Dragon became all generic and serious in the mid-2000's, and I strongly suspect this magazine'll suffer the same fate since they shared most of the staff.

The third thinks that to get more readers, they should make the magazine larger and monthly. That's kinda a chicken and egg problem. Because they're smaller, they get fewer adverts and submissions, which means they can't afford to make Dungeon as big as Dragon. Get a virtuous cycle going, increase circulation, and they'll be able to do what you want.

The 4th is just generalised praise. They've got the overall formula right and shouldn't mess with it. I'm sure many others think so too, but didn't bother to write in, because satisfied customers have no need to do so.

5th grumbles about solo adventures, and issues 3&4 going out of print so quickly. Such is the nature of periodicals. Their ephemeral nature means if you don't like one article, another'll be along soon enough.

6th is David Howery again, who would also like the magazine more frequent and ambitious, with more high level challenges and multi-part adventures spanning multiple issues. Hear Hear! But then, I will always come down on the side of the hardcore, as it makes things much less repetitive for what i do.

7th is another in favor of solo modules, showing this topic continues to be one of the most contentious issues amongst the readers in general. Hopefully that won't scare them off including them entirely.

And finally, we have a tedious bit of postal service bureaucratic nonsense. Why oh why won't UPS deliver to PO Boxes?! Do they not want our money? Another petty hassle that will always be with us.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 13: Sep/Oct 1988



part 2/5



The Ruins of Nol-Daer: With Gary firmly out of the company now, but TSR managing to hold onto the Greyhawk copyrights, they need to continue publishing new Greyhawk material, at least for a while, to justify all the legal hassle they went through to keep them. But since they also have the Forgotten Realms competing for that generic AD&D setting space, how do they make the two distinct? First step, take a whole load of the more goofy monsters from the Fiend Folio that were generic D&D monsters in 1e, and make them Greyhawk specific in 2e, thus downplaying them without cutting them entirely, and cementing Greyhawk as the wacky yet brutal old skool dungeon crawling setting. Second, play up the fact that the place is a battleground for the schemes of various demon lords, and fiends in general are common compared to Toril or Krynn. This adventure points the way, with an interesting dungeon filled with monsters in an uneasy alliance, some of which are very tough to take on in a fair fight at the recommended level, but it's quite possible for the players to turn them against each other or trap them and defeat them without fighting them directly. Face Jermalaine, Yellow Musk Zombies, Berbalang, Coffer Corpses, Spriggan, and a few more common enemies as well. There are plenty of tricks involved, enemies may well retreat and then return to get revenge at a time of their choosing, and there are a couple of interesting new magical items that might well be more trouble than they're worth. So this is the good kind of old school dungeon, an amusing read but a serious challenge. It's easy to throw in anywhere, but also has a very specific location in Oerth. It's the kind of thing I thoroughly approve of, as it has plenty of flavor and implied worldbuilding, and successfully melds both the grim and the goofy sides of Greyhawk that various writers will emphasise in different degrees over the years.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 13: Sep/Oct 1988



part 3/5



Going Once…Going Twice: P. N. Elrod returns with a short combat-free scenario that's more about the world-building and roleplaying than the actual challenge itself. An ancient wizard is actually willingly retiring rather than seeking immortality, (don't see that very often :p ) and he's selling off near a century of accumulated magical items (and a fair few mundane ones as well) in an auction. This is an excuse to give us a whole load of quirky NPC's, an easily reused map and auctioning system and a bunch of new magical items, most practical, low-power ones that make everyday life much easier rather than combat focused stuff. (although of course, many of them can be used cleverly to aid your dungeoneering) Of course, while they are useful, it's also presented as a good way to reduce your PC's savings, as it's easy to get them to bid over the item's actual worth in the heat of the auction, or pickpocketed by thieves in the crowd while engrossed in the proceedings on stage. So this works best in worlds where magic shops aren't commonplace and taken for granted by the PC's and they're used to having to actively seek out or create anything unusual that they want. As with the last adventure, it has plenty of humorous elements, but is still usable seriously without breaking immersion, and a good way to subtly bring things back into balance if you've erred on the Monty Haul side in the past. If you finished an adventure midway into the session and still need to fill an hour or two before setting off on another big one, I can definitely recommend it.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 13: Sep/Oct 1988



part 4/5



The Moor-Tomb Map: After the refreshing exception of seeing a wizard who's willing to accept their natural lifespan, we go straight back to a scheme by one who wants to live forever, and is willing to employ distinctly unscrupulous means to achieve it. The starting premise is the same as Bigby's Tomb, go into hibernation and spread rumours about the awesome treasure in his tomb to lure adventurers. Then when they do get in, possess the young, strong healthy body of one of them and start a new life, which is where things diverge. The details wind up being very different, thankfully. The tomb itself is only a fraction of the adventure, which puts about equal time to the neighbouring town, and the wilderness trip there as well. It's neither wacky or a meat-grinder, although it's not devoid of humour either. For the third adventure in a row, they introduce some new magical items, which is a very interesting trend. So this is another adventure that's as much about the worldbuilding as it is the plot, and is easily mined for parts when making your own setting. Useful and practical, but I can definitely see the formulas at work under the surface.



The Treasure Vault of Kasil: We break up the longer adventures with another short one that would have fit right in in Dragon's old Dastardly Deeds & Devious Devices column, or Polyhedron's Encounters. The aforementioned treasure vault used to belong to a royal family, but they lost the keys that'd get them in easily and it's since become abandoned, because no-one could get past the traps. The PC's evidently think they can succeed where everyone before them failed. This leads them to a combat free trapfest where trying the obvious solution, or even the second most obvious alternative will lead to great suffering. So this is the kind of old school adventure that suits slow, paranoid, and above all large groups where even if one person makes the wrong choice and fails their spot checks and saving throws, the rest can rescue them when they blunder into the traps. Solo adventurers, even ones much higher level than the recommended one, are very unlikely to make it out in one piece. Good at what it does, but definitely not for every party then. A good warmup for if you plan to use the Tomb of Horrors a few levels later.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 13: Sep/Oct 1988



part 5/5



Of Nests and Nations: So this is where King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard got their name from! That's an incredibly obscure bit of gaming history to reference, which i guess is fitting for a band which makes such weird and progressive music. Equally fittingly, this is a rather weird adventure in itself. A highly specific mystery adventure set in Specularum, referencing lots of things from other basic D&D supplements to the point where it's considerably more advanced than any of the AD&D adventures this issue. It does lots of cool rules as physics tricks, and meticulously explains it's workings for the DM behind the scenes, while still being tough and complex enough that players will probably be baffled even though there are plenty of clues if you know the right questions to ask. The dinosaurs appearing mysteriously in the middle of the city make perfect sense in context, and the timeline of escalating weirdness gives it plenty of flexibility and nonlinearity. I'm definitely not going to spoil the finer details, as that'd ruin the adventure, but this was an awesome read, and hopefully an awesome game for those groups who fit the qualifications to use it. Even more than the last adventure, it's sufficiently complex and specific in flavour that it won't work with every group, but for those it does fit, it'll REALLY work brilliantly. This is definitely the kind of uniqueness that I crave in adventure design and I love it even more than Tortles of the Purple Sage.



With two adventures that are completely combat-free, two more that are quite setting specific, and lots of worldbuilding details in all of them, this issue pushes the limits of what they define as adventures by a fair bit. Even more interestingly, all these experiments are on the good end of the quality spectrum, making this issue very fun overall to read and review even if they definitely won't all fit every group and setting. Let's hope they find another different set of pleasing experiments to push the limits of what you can do with your game next time as well.
 

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