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TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


  • Total voters
    33

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 44: November 1988



part 1/5



40 pages. How many nuyen for that sword, chummer? A curiously cyberpunk looking cover, especially considering Shadowrun hasn't even been released yet. Looking at the credits, it's by Tim Bradstreet, which explains everything. I guess his art style was just naturally like that, and the writing eventually caught up to give it a proper place in gaming history. Well, that's an interesting turnup for the books even before we've got properly started. Let's see if anything else is conspicuously ahead of it's time in here.



Notes From HQ: For a second year in a row, things actually went smoothly at Gen Con, which they're very happy about. Somehow Polyhedron managed to win both best professional gaming magazine and best amateur gaming magazine, which obviously they're even happier about, although it does raise questions about the nebulousness of the qualifying factors for each of those categories and if that loophole ought to be closed for future years. As with every year so far, there were both more attendees, and more different tournament games to choose from, making for increasingly difficult choices if you wanted to play everything. An unusually large number of the modules are familiar names to me, and will be republished as official ones on sale to the general public in the next year or two. Hopefully this means they were good, rather than the publishers being lazy. An equally large number of familiar names get their fair share of the credit for putting in a ton of unpaid work in to organise all this. It all seems pretty positive overall. Just don't forget the hard-earned lessons of a couple of years ago, otherwise you'll once again find yourselves dealing with the same problems.



Letters: The first letter is a rather long one by one of their regional directors defending the decision to keep the precise details of their scoring system secret. You proved you couldn't be trusted to know all the details without lawyering them. This is your own fault. Well, maybe not you personally, but you know what I mean. In any case, you'll just have to trust us. Why would we mess around and play favourites with the scoring anyway?

The second complains about people going to conventions as a group and then all signing up to the same game as a group, crowding out any other players who also have to play with them with in-jokes. This is why randomisation of groups is helpful, especially in multi-round competitive tournaments where there's lots of them all playing the same modules at once. It prevents nepotism and forces you to actually talk to new people. Might be a bit more stressful, but more fun in the long run.

Finally, we have another letter of generalised praise, and request for info on their current publishing guidelines. Both need repeating regularly to keep things running smoothly.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 44: November 1988



part 2/5



The "Other" Game: Another promotional article for Top Secret/S. I., really playing up the idea that it's not just their spy game, it's their all-purpose generic modern day action game. Whether you want gritty, cinematic or pulp, we have modules for that! Buy them so we can justify making more different genre variants and adventure modules. It's a hard life for their designers of other systems trying to get out of the shadow of D&D, but they keep on trying. After all, if they didn't, they'd have to try and shoehorn everything into the D&D system and that works even worse. Will the public save them from overproducing D&D settings? In hindsight that's a big fat nah, but it's good to see them going down fighting. Nothing much else to say here.



A Few Monsters: Vince Garcia continues to be a frequent contributor to all their periodicals, with another collection of monsters. It's not as if we have a shortage of them, but they're less common here than the other two, so let's see if there's any good reason for them to be in here specifically.

Draggers are a good old gotcha monster like Trappers, Cloakers and Piercers, floating slightly underground and then trying to suck people into their maw and submerge to digest them. If you don't have earth manipulating magic to chase after them they present a challenge considerably in excess of their hit dice. Much more old school and ruthless design than I was expecting.

Greater Sea Hags are pretty similar to regular ones, only they also have wizard spells equal to their hit dice. The kind of thing that would be covered by giving them actual class levels in 3e, instead of having to make up a new monster just to give a specific NPC more customisation and flexibility. Meh.

Living City Ravens have human level intelligence, powers of prophecy, and if you mess with them they can inflict a death curse on you. Just like Ravenloft ravens then. Gothic stuff gets everywhere in D&D worlds. Whatever happened to niche protection? I suppose corvids get everywhere in the real world too, so it's just realistic. Results of being intelligent, social and highly adaptable. Best to give them plenty of respect rather than try to fight unless you want a long-term ironic punishment hanging over your head.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 44: November 1988



part 3/5



With Great Power: This column is still filling out characters from the MX series timeline. The daughters of Spiderman & Doctor Doom, both of which have inherited their parents powers, but with somewhat different personalities. Steve Barton, the new Moon Knight, who's also a lot better at ranged weapons than his predecessor thanks to his dad's training. And the bizarre amnesiac offspring/melding of Cloak & Dagger known only as Twilight, who switches sex and race with the rising and setting of the sun. Thats …… something alright. So yeah, if you want some somewhat cringy Ranma 1/2 style 80's trans representation, apparently Marvel did that too. The whole thing is definitely starting to look like one of their periodic attempts to pass the mantle onto more diverse legacy characters, only to revert to the regular ones after a little while because it didn't sell. How many times have they done that over the years? I guess we'd better keep going, see how long they keep this delve into alternate future possibilities up before getting bored and reverting to the eternal rolling present of regular comic time.



War's Tide Rising: The adventure this issue is another subject Dungeon hasn't touched at all, despite their increased drawing on supplements in recent issues. A mass combat scenario! Put on your boots, we're going back to our wargaming roots. The PC's are hired by a typically traitorous Mr Johnson to protect a village from a conquering army. Of course, there's a whole load of political stuff and shifting loyalties going on in the army itself to exploit, so it's not just a case of rolling a few rounds of Battlesystem stats and seeing who wins. It is shorter than most of these adventures though, at a mere 6 pages long, it feels like one of the filler quests in Dungeon for when you have a fraction of a session free. Still, it's not a railroad, and it's trying something different, so I'll give this middling marks rather than a outright fail. Just needs a bit of extra DM work to fully flesh out all the action and make it exciting.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 44: November 1988



part 4/5



Playing the Alien: Another decidedly less-travelled path here, as they float the idea of playing a giant rugose cone in Call of Cthulhu rather than the typical humans investigating the maddening secrets of the universe. What is it like for the Great Race of Yith when they bodyswap with humans, what are their goals when they do, and how do they relate to the people around them. You're a time-travelling near immortal intelligence who's aware of the vast bleakness of the universe and already knows how the future is going to turn out on a cosmic scale, but you still need to make sure you're not killed unexpectedly, keep your body in good condition, learn the local geography & customs and form social structures in the era you're in to gather temporal power and comfort. There's definitely interesting storytelling to be had in that premise, and there have been several games built entirely around variants of it, such as Nephilim, Immortal: the invisible war, and a substantial fraction of White Wolf's splats. Ok, so they usually have to water down their alienness and amorality to make them palatable as PC's, but you can probably make it work in this setting too. So this is a pretty interesting little article with some nice bits of new crunch. It might not fit entirely on a thematic level, but games are what you make of them. If you're having fun, who's to say you're doing it wrong. Take a look at human society from the outside and remind yourself how bizarre and maddening it would seem to someone viewing it freshly.



The Big Con (and me): Skip once again gives us his perspective on the Gen Con experience. As usual, this involves a lot of behind the scenes chaos and the staff playfully tormenting one-another as they try to hit all their myriad deadlines. Thankfully this year they had more than enough selfless volunteers to get on top of the paperwork, so the usual last minute scramble was avoided. They did have to face a new problem though, when convoying them around, the following car ran a stop sign to keep up with the leading one, which resulted in an embarrassing (but ultimately harmless, due to the whiteness of all involved) traffic cop encounter. When they got to the convention, they actually managed to get everything set up well before they were due to start, and remembered to bring a decent camera as well. This means they also have several pages of photos, which are properly scanned, also showing how much they've increased their production values in the last year. As with the editorial, It's all pretty positive, while not being polished and airbrushed to the point of unreality. There's always going to be minor setbacks, and you look more relatable by not cutting them out. Let's hope next year can strike the same kind of balance.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 44: November 1988



part 5/5



The Living City: The Raven's Bluff location detailed this issue is an open air farmer's market. Not an obvious place for adventurers to tarry long, so they put plenty of effort into filling it with plot hooks. A half-elven elf supremacist who will be overly obsequious to any full-blooded elves passing by, but then get bitter, creepy & stalky if snubbed. An exceedingly misogynistic thief (but also an exceedingly good cabinet maker who could easily make a decent living from just his cover job) who's backstory is cribbed from Greek tragedy. A bored young mage with a much older husband who will eagerly join any adventuring party with an interesting plot lead & plan to accomplish it, then get cold feet from all the bloodshed and go back to him after a bit. And the owners of the place, who are relatively mundane by comparison but still have full stats and detailed personality quirks. Like all the best Realms articles, it's dense with quirky information that you can use in all sorts of different ways, and any one group will probably only scratch the surface of, but really helps in making it feel like a big, complex world filled with moral ambiguities and minor problems to fix. Much more interesting and handy than it needs to be, which definitely deserves praise. Ed Greenwood has taught them well.



New Rogues Gallery: Former RPGA boss Kim Eastland returns to Polyhedron as a normal contributor, with some Gamma World material. You've seen the modules for sale based on his home campaign, now read about the characters that originally played through those plotlines. Well, this is certainly more historically significant than D&D characters sent in by some random player. Let's see how well written they are.

Boris the Bear is not the same Boris the Bear that got a comic in the wake of Turtlemania. That one was a mean-spirited parody of the mutant animal genre, while this one plays things completely straight, which is particularly weird because this is Gamma World. He adopts the trappings of an arthurian knight, and strives to be a fair and chivalrous hero at all times. In a wacky postapocalyptic world this kind of exaggerated seriousness is inherently funny in itself. He seems very usable in other people's campaigns.

Cody Matrix is a cyborg with an absolute ton of unique modifications, giving him a truly Inspector Gadget level of flexibility. He believes he's just a robot, but is actually the true heir to a kingdom overthrown and taken over by a dictator. If his memory returns and people see the birthmark on the small part of his body that is still human, they'll rally behind him. So this seems to be projecting high fantasy tropes onto Gamma World, seeing how they work for building a long-term campaign in a different milieu. It's less kitchen sink gonzo and more the humour of juxtaposing just a few clashing ideas. I wonder how people will react to that.



Another pretty good issue overall, with plenty of variety in both game systems and approaches to playing them. After a lot of hard work to get things running smoothly, they finally have both good staff and a decent number of submissions to choose from. Hopefully they can keep that up for a good few years before diminishing returns and being caught up in the general downfall of TSR. Let's head on into 1989 and see how the RPGA deals with the changing of the editions and it's effects on organised large scale play.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 14: Nov/Dec 1988



part 1/5



72 pages: Rats! But will they be foiled again? Looks like we have a lycanthropic infestation this time around. Better stock up on the silver and magic weapons, otherwise we'll definitely be in big trouble. Let's see just how contagious the fun is in this issue.



Editorial: We have an actual theme this issue! I've been saying they ought to do more of that. Not just the one set of shapeshifters on the cover, but a whole selection of intriguing and deceitful challenges. Not for amateurs who haven't progressed beyond pure hack and slash, but if you have, or if you've been meaning to make that leap but haven't been sure how to go about it, this is the issue for you! That's pretty pleasing to see. I've always been in favour of the greater depth and perspective you can get by devoting a whole issue to a topic. Let's hope they managed to do so while keeping the quality up, and will get a positive enough reception to repeat the idea.



Letters: Our first letter continues the support for solo modules. It's not just good for people without groups, it's also for people who usually DM and need a chance to blow off some steam. Don't underestimate the size of that market.

The more whimsical Willie Walsh adventures generate thoroughly split opinions in the second letter. Still, overall, plenty of fun was had. More combat-light and playful adventures are definitely a niche that needs filling.

Third someone asking if they can send in planar adventures. Yes Please! Just make sure it's consistent with the stuff in the manual of planes and they'll be very happy to fill in a few of these.

Next, someone pointing out the joke when you stick their magazine names together. You must not be a subscriber from issue 1. This may yet wear thin over the years.

Fifth, more praise for them doing small, setting heavy but combat-light adventures that wouldn't merit a standalone module. They're handy and easy to slot into a campaign. Keep on including them.

Another person telling them not to be put off including lots of variety because a few people get stroppy when everything isn't catered to their personal tastes. They're not the kind of people you want in your gaming group anyway, so better to weed them out before even getting to that stage. Much more fun for everyone else.

A reminder that low level adventures are actually one of the hardest to design in a challenging but fair way. Give credit to the people who can without fudging things to ensure the PC's survive.

Another reminder, that if adventures include things not in the corebooks, they at least need to tell us where they are located to make them runnable by non hardcore gamers. This is one they adopt unreservedly. Can't collect 'em all and be the very best like no-one ever was if you don't have a good source for what all means to work from.

Finally, we have some more defence of wacky illustrations and solo adventures. A little light relief makes the more serious adventures have more impact by contrast, so you really need both to make either work their best.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 14: Nov/Dec 1988



part 2/5



Masqueraider: We start things off with an adventure that seems pretty straightforward at first. Something's been eating the local's herd animals, and the farmers are obviously rather unhappy about this. So they have a bounty out for anyone who kills it. This means you have to traipse around the countryside for a bit and run into a bunch of other mundane challenges before you find out what it is and why it's so hard to catch. Turns out to be a hungry Protein Polymorph. Cunning and able to disguise itself to stalk prey and escape if the fight goes against it, but still basically an animal. So there's no particularly deep plot here, just your basic hunt the tiger mission and bit of general worldbuilding that's given a specific place on the Forgotten Realms map, but is easy enough to plop down in any temperate land. Useful, but not going to be topping any best of lists any time soon. I have no strong feelings about it either way.



A Question of Balance: Nigel Findley continues to be a very frequent contributor here. This is a bit more lighthearted than most of his adventures, as he pokes at the 4th wall in this little story of a hapless extradimensional traveller from Earth about to be burned at the stake for being a demon ( a doubly ridiculous premise to anyone with knowledge (the planes) as actual demons are both fire resistant and have teleport without error at will) Hopefully the PC's will be both compassionate and smart enough to see the flaws in their logic (even if it's not on their sheets) to intervene and follow the plot hooks to get him back to his own world. In the process they wind up having to fight a creature that might not taxonomically be a demon, but is functionally indistinguishable from one. A reminder that even though they have pinned the AD&D cosmology down a fair bit, there's still a massive extended multiverse out there and you shouldn't feel bound by the creatures and locations in the great wheel. After all, the official designers will tear it down and radically change it from edition to edition. Is it really worth holding yourself to higher standards than them? Pretty decent overall.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 14: Nov/Dec 1988



part 3/5



Stranded on the Baron's Island: Stranded on a small island with a mystery to solve before you can leave? That's an idea they'll use several times in Ravenloft in somewhat darker form. Willie Walsh gives us an intriguingly multilayered detective story where the PC's initially think they just have to solve a simple jewel theft, and then find out that the whole scenario is not what it seems, and most of the other guests have their own secrets that they're trying to protect unrelated to the main plot. Some are minor and comical, and some are significant subplots that'll occupy a whole load of time and roleplaying fun if brought to light. It's basically a Poirot or Miss Marple story converted into a D&D plot. As such it definitely requires a fair bit of genre buy-in from the players to function, and a DM who can ham up the acting on all these characters. If you do meet those qualifications, it looks like great fun, with enough depth and twists to keep you going for quite a few sessions before exhausting the possibilities unless they get lucky and jump to the right solution straight away. It was definitely pretty entertaining to read in any case.



Gen Con is barely over, and they're already planning ahead to the next one. As with last year, they give Dungeon buyers in particular the opportunity to save money and get the best slots by filling in the early bird registration form.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 14: Nov/Dec 1988



part 4/5



Master of Puppets: :metallica intensifies: Ah joy. Time for an evil marionette episode. Another thing that they'd revisit in Ravenloft with a different spin and somewhat greater length. An evil monk/wizard stole a magic manual for the creation of constructs, and is putting it to uses that are not only evil, but aesthetically horrifying as well. There's no Dark Powers here to suck him into an ironic punishment for eternity, and worse, he'll get rewarded by Asmodeus if allowed to carry out his plans uninterrupted so you'd better foil him and fast. So you get to go through a dungeon filled with lots of interesting new puppet monsters, plus a couple of new magic items as well, making this one very plunderable for parts. (both in and out of game) It definitely has the evil funhouse spirit, with plenty of tricks and traps on top of the puppets, and a villain who's actively involved in supporting the monsters and taunting the PC's instead of lurking at the bottom. The PC's should thoroughly hate him by the end of this, making his defeat all the more satisfying. This gets my approval on multiple levels of design. Muahahahaha.



Phantasm's Chasm: As usual, we have a little encounter that seems chosen to make sure the amount of content matches the page count. The title is self-explanatory so hiding spoilers is pointless. A canyon is turned into a trap by a gang of humanoids led by a couple of illusionists. They'll use their spells intelligently to confuse the PC's and keep them at a disadvantage while the muscle attacks. Nicely in theme, but not as imaginative in the quality or quantity of tricks as the previous adventures this issue. Definitely filler overall.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 14: Nov/Dec 1988



part 5/5



The Wererats of Relfren: Another adventure that spoils the big secret in the title, so there's no point me trying to hide the twist. A group of wererats is gradually infecting and taking over an entire town. There's also a big festival coming up, which is probably what will attract the PC's there in the first place. So this is basically an Invasion of the Body-Snatchers adventure with a mousy theme, as the infected people switch loyalties to the wererat side even in their human form and become part of the conspiracy, and people who might have been trustworthy a few days could now be turned against you and revealing all your secrets and suspicions to the other wererats. If they aren't careful, some of the PC's might get infected as well, and then you'll be in an extra pretty pickle. Since it takes a few days to set in, you might even beat the adventure and still be infected, and have to deal with that as a party afterwards. There's plenty of detail in both the setting and the timeline, and even if the PC's didn't come in equipped to deal with lycanthropes, there's enough silver and wolfsbane to be found to give them a fighting chance, plus some NPC's that'll be very helpful if you get to them in time. So this is one that'll work best with proactive players, as every day you do nothing, the problem will get harder to solve, until eventually it'll take fleeing and calling in an army to take them down, which won't get you much XP or treasure personally. As usual with the cover adventures, it's probably the best one in the issue, and definitely the one with the most depth and flexibility. You can definitely play this one through several times and get completely different results with different groups, plus you can plunder it for setting parts and it's distinctive take on lycanthropy in general. Sounds pretty cool to me.



Sticking to a theme definitely resulted in an uptick of filler material compared to the last issue, but there's still several excellent adventures in here that give you plenty of freedom to solve the mystery in a way that your players choose. Once again, the adventures people are writing and submitting to Dungeon are far more the kind I'd enjoy playing or running than the Polyhedron attempts at mystery, which mostly turned into railroads that spoonfed you the clues to lead you from one scene to the next. Now if only they'd include a few non D&D modules in here to bring the variety up even more. Still, that's a relatively minor complaint in the overall scheme of things. Let's see if next year gives me more to bitch about.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 45: January 1989



part 1/5



32 pages. And stay down! It takes a full team of adventurers to keep a troll in the fire long enough to overcome it's regeneration and finish it off for good on this cover. They obviously haven't learned when to tactically apply their blasty spells for maximum efficiency. Let's see what this issue has to say on the topic, and if it'll still be relevant many editions later, with the state of charop considerably more advanced.



The Critical Hit: Errol isn't here, and so someone else submits a review instead. They decide to take a good look at the two Forgotten Realms products covering Waterdeep. (Just the two? How long ago that seems) The City System is a big boxed set with one large scale map of Waterdeep, and a whole bunch of zoomed in ones that cover various districts, which can be put together to make a MASSIVE map that shows every single street and building. It definitely looks impressive, and a lot of effort obviously went into it's construction. However, FR1: Waterdeep & the North is the one that actually gives more immediately game usable information to get you playing there. If you're a completionist you'll want both, but there is a fair bit of repeated information between them, and if finances are an issue, you should definitely go for FR1. Of course, either is definitely preferable to Volo's so-called guides, but they don't know that yet. :p I guess this is a reminder that even before the Realms became oversaturated with lore from multiple editions of supplements, there was still a fair bit of recycling and redundant writing going on. The lazy and unoriginal will always be with us.



Notes From HQ: The editorial this time deals with the joys of delegation. They've mentioned the creation of regional directors a couple of times, but never fully listed and explained what they're here for. Now they have a full set. So if you have a problem with a convention or general running of tournament games near you, there's an extra layer of people you can call instead of going straight to the top of the RPGA, who are obviously busy creating this newsletter and other TSR related functions. Now get out there, and get back to playing and trying to recruit more gamers. If you do well enough, we might be able to add even more layers of hierarchy! Having worked hard to get things more organised over the last year, they've got their sights set on world domination. Nice to see some optimism and ambition.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 45: January 1989



part 2/5



Letters: The first letter praises them for the recent improvements in formatting and artwork, including tiny details that they worked hard on, but most people wouldn't notice. Now they just want a bit more variety in the game systems covered. Since there's an equally loud contingent on the other side who want things all D&D, all the time, that continues to be a precarious needle to thread for the editors.

Rather than publishing specific letters, the rest of the column is devoted to a Q&A of the kind of questions they get over and over again. No matter how many times they answer them, they'll have to do so again in a year or so for the newbies. There are a few idiosyncratic ones I haven't seen before though. They may well implement multi-year memberships to ease bureaucracy. And if Dungeon has rejected a module, you can still send it here, or vice versa, as they have different editorial staff with different standards for what makes a good module for their target audience. Just don't forget your SASE, and don't nag us to reprint sold out issues. Neither of those are changing until the electronic era makes them moot points.



On Your Feet: Arcane Academe joins the graveyard of advice columns past, and a new challenger appears. Peter Hague decides to do a quite specific bit of DM advice on judging and scoring players in tournaments. You should remember to judge them not just on the amount of drama they produce, but how well it fits the character. This means scoring the quieter characters in the team that might otherwise be overlooked appropriately, because they were written to be played that way. Otherwise you often wind up with a group composed entirely of dominant personalities in the final round of a tournament, which has it's own problems. Not an issue I've had to deal with myself, but I can see why it would turn up repeatedly in convention spaces and need to be compensated for. So this manages to be interesting and not overly rehashed due to it's specificity, but not very useful to me personally. Maybe someday it'll matter. In the meantime, It means I look forward to seeing what other insights he has to offer, and how long he'll last in the position before giving up or being replaced in turn.



The Living City: Despite their tendency towards squishiness as you gain levels, many adventurers still have a fondness for their animal companions. So it's no surprise that a city an adventurer-heavy as Raven's Bluff would have a pet store dedicated to selling exotic animals that might be handy in a scrap or general wilderness wandering. Equally unsurprisingly, the owner is a retired mid-level adventurer with his own closely bonded companions, in this case a pair of Blink Dogs, who will use their powers quite effectively to deal with any adventurers who think they can rob him. The strong LG tendencies of both the owner and the Blink Dogs ensures all the rest of the animals are well trained and cared for, and he won't sell to anyone who seems like they'd mistreat their companions. It's all about as humane and ethical as a business like this can get. Hopefully the PC's won't ruin the place and can act like responsible customers long enough to reap the benefits.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 45: January 1989



part 3/5



Working for the Wizard: This issue's adventure is a good old-fashioned fetch quest. A wizard needs spell components fast and in secret, which means the traditional hiring of adventurers by fair means or foul to do the job for him. If they take the job, they get teleported straight from one location to the next, Sliders style, with strictly defined time limits in each one before the next portal opens and they have to move on even if they failed. As with Sliders, things do not go smoothly, and they find themselves appearing in the middle of other people's stories and having to get their bearings fast if they want to succeed in their mission. There's a definite sense of humour in the predicaments the characters find themselves in and the colourful NPC's they'll meet, and it pushes at the limits of my tolerances for goofy crap and railroading, but manages to stay on the right side overall by making the challenges genuine and allowing you to succeed or fail at each individually and get varying degrees of reward at the end if you survive. (not that it really matters if you're playing it as a tournament one with pregens) Well within the boundaries of what I'd consider usable.



The Balloon at Beffu: Dawn Patrol gets a new scenario for the first time in a few years. With this and the Battlesystem one last issue, it's good to see them remembering their wargaming side that once upon a time was bigger than the roleplaying. So here's one of the last battles in WWI, a shootout over a spy balloon on October 10th, 1918. Five SPADS vs four Fokkers. ( :tries very hard not to snigger at the names: ) The allies definitely have the edge by this point in the war, but depending on the tactics, the Germans still might manage to pull off a better result than in reality, and delay their surrender by a few weeks more. It's interesting for the variety, but also shows how short WWI was in the cosmic scheme of things, and how tapped out they are for new scenarios. Unless you go for M.A.S.H. style fuzzy continuity you're going to have to wind down a campaign and start again with new pilots after a while. Unless we had a multigenerational air combat and pilot advancement system that took us from the start of aviation to the modern day, Great Pendragon Campaign style, with all the changes in technology and playstyle contained within one system that implies. But that would be a pretty ambitious project that's way beyond my field of expertise to write. Anyone who wants to take that idea and run with it definitely has my blessing.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 45: January 1989



part 4/5



Brawling in Style: In the course of pursuit of adventure, one will inevitably find oneself in a bar talking to nefarious potential sources of plot hooks. At times, this will not work out, and things will degenerate into violence. In the interests of not being banned from the establishment and having to seek out your plot hooks elsewhere, you might wish to settle the disputes in a nonlethal manner. So here's a system for brawling with improvised weapons, particularly the kind you might find in such an establishment. It all seems pretty similar too and compatible with the similar section on unarmed combat in the Complete Fighters Handbook, which is good to see. Worth bookmarking then.



Slay It Again, Sam: Since Dispel Confusion had it's remit taken by Sage Advice, detailed rules quibbling has been relatively light on the ground here, replaced by quibbling about the administration system surrounding the tournament games instead. So along with the wargaming, here's another blast from the past, as they look at exactly what it takes to stop a regenerating creature in AD&D 1e. As is often the case, a strict reading of the RAW produces results somewhat different from the way most groups actually played it at the table, especially since there are multiple different types of regeneration, each of which works slightly differently in itself. Another testament to the troubles that exception-based design and sloppy editing can cause. The kind of thing where it's definitely quicker and easier to start all over again with a new, better edited corebook than to hunt down all the different minor references and make them all fit together. Mildly irritating, and definitely not deserving of being the cover article. Mary mary quite contrary, I don't want to see how your troll limbs regrow, even if you do dress them in pretty maids outfits.



Fun In Games: Rick is feeling even more whimsical than usual, with joke magic items like the ring of protection from carrots 15' radius. Unless you're in a particularly terrifying april fool's scenario and facing Bugs Bunny, in which case it might be your only shot, this will just sit on your finger and occasionally be a nuisance at inns. The ring of toothache controlling and the ring of liquid cooling, on the other hand, seem like eminently practical inventions, especially in a world without proper dentistry. Guess that once again, the comedy articles can provide things that aren't combat focussed, but which would be valued by the NPCs far more than a +5 sword that drains levels on a natural 20. The rest of the article is even more jokey stuff involving using food items as minis, and the terrors you can subject your PC's too by doing so. Once again there is some useful stuff in here, but good god is it a slog extracting it from the cavalcade of bad jokes. Does he ever ease up on that?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 45: January 1989



part 5/5



New Rogues Gallery: Huh. Now here's a real turnup for the books. Palladium were regular advertisers in Dragon, but never actually got any articles published, even in their most permissive era for non TSR systems. However, here's one in Polyhedron. Erick Wujcik has done an official TMNT adventure for the RPGA, and here's the pregens from it. Say hello to the Sewer Rats, who ironically are mostly mice. Sandy, the leader, who has a quite handy set of psychic powers to give him a social edge over the others, but remains as scrupulously ethical and law-abiding as possible for a mutated mouse that lacks official human ID. Jo, the master of disguise, who acts as the face of the group and has all kinds of hammy personas in his make-up bag. Ace, the food-loving party guy who's recklessness gets everyone else into trouble. Totally bogus dude. Andy, who's a human mutated to look mouse-like rather than the other way around, and is scared the rest of the group will abandon him if they ever find out. Unlikely, since he has badass electrical powers that make him a great asset to the team. Kim, the only actual mutant rat, who delights in playing the big strong guy and calling all the others wimps. And finally, Yancy the Muskrat, the comedic coward of the group, who's actually even stronger than Kim, but good luck trying to get him to fight unless it's a real emergency. All seem very genre-appropriate, and I can easily think of multiple 80's cartoon characters that fit each archetype here. If I were presented with one of these and expected to get in character quick from reading the description, it wouldn't be too hard, which makes them a definite success at their intended use. I wonder if we'll get to see the actual adventure they appeared in in a future issue. Either way, this is definitely a pretty entertaining look at a game they haven't covered before, and quite possibly will never cover again, building characters that current D&D couldn't even come close to emulating. You can see why people would be looking elsewhere to scratch their itch for different playstyles and power options.



With both the return of an old feature and trying out a couple of new ones, this gives a nice fresh start to the new year. There's more silly elements than I'd expect for a non april issue, but they don't go so far as to ruin the experience. Let's hope they can keep that up and have another strong year. On we go to the next one then.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 15: Jan/Feb 1989



part 1/5



67 pages. All the mighty power that elephant spellcaster has, and it still has to deal with the irritation of flies. Or maybe it summoned them on purpose for some inscrutable reason, in which case that's a lot of lightshow for such a minor spell. Let's see if the PC's will be helping him along his way, or doing his best to foil his evil plans.



Editorial: They've got the result of their questionnaire back and it confirmed their suspicions. The majority of their readers only use a tiny fraction of the adventures in the magazine, which is why they make sure to choose ones that make for good reads and plundering for parts, not just using as is. There's a very mild preference for increasing average adventure length, but not so much to make them actively change their editorial policy. Solo modules and ones in specific settings are definitely contentious topics, so both will be used sparingly while making sure most of the stuff they do is generic AD&D adventures. Basically, not a lot's changing, because they're at the right kind of balance now. Maybe a few more ambitious experiments, but not at the expense of general accessibility. Nothing much to report here then.



Letters: Our first letter is just an elaboration on their questionnaire answers. A good mix of all lengths of adventures is preferable, with the exception of froofy and goofy ones that aren't really adventures at all. Anything fae related in particular needs to watch themselves carefully. Not surprised at all. Trickster adventures do tend to annoy people.

The second is also very much in favor of variety, and gets annoyed at the people who want to remove solo adventures and worldbuilding. The magazine is far better value for money than individually sold adventures, and a big part of that is getting things you need, but didn't know it yet rather than just things you want.

Two letters complain about the hassle of converting monsters between D&D and AD&D. What goes wrong if you use them as is?

Fifth, a request for more themed issues, but fewer spoilers on the covers. Both entirely sensible and reasonable requests.

A request to put a humour page in like Dragon has. Barbara politely declines this one. We want to stay a more specialist publication, and not waste page count on that kind of frivolity.

Finally, another round of complaints that some of the modules are way tougher than the recommended party level. They're definitely not going away anytime soon.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 15: Jan/Feb 1989



part 2/5



The Statement of Ownership sees Dungeon continue to grow at a fairly steady pace from 20,000 to 35,000 over the past year. They're well clear of Polyhedron now, and approaching 1/3 Dragon's circulation. Will they keep going and break half next year, or start to level off? Tune in again in 6 issues or so to find out!



The Wreck of the Shining Star: We've had a couple of sunken ship adventures that take you beneath the waves. Now we have one where the ship ran aground instead, so you don't need water-breathing magic just to access the adventure at all. This does not mean it's devoid of environmental hazards though, as it's falling apart and slippery, so you might fall through the decks into the hold below. Plus the obligatory undead haunting the place with a tragic backstory that you'll probably never find out about, because you're a bunch of wandering psychopaths who attack on sight instead of trying to find out if there's a peaceful way to free them from their eternal torment. So this is another one very much written to entertain people merely reading the magazine and not actually using most of the modules. Maybe the PC's will do something that makes all the extra historical depth useful, but if not, this'll be a fairly short set of encounters. Very 2eish indeed.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 15: Jan/Feb 1989



part 3/5



In pursuit of the Slayer: Buffy? Lina Inverse? Thankfully not, as either of those would be way beyond the capability of any normal group of PC's to defeat, particularly if backed up by the rest of their respective teams. This is another one packed with backstory, and expects you to pay attention so there's at least the possibility of a peaceful resolution. As they wander, the PC's come across a scene of devastation caused by the Slayer. Hopefully they'll decide to pursue him and stop him from causing more havoc. If they do follow his trail and pay attention, they'll pick up clues along the way that he was actually a hero until recently, so something might be up with his sudden change of heart. Turns out he's been possessed by an evil magic item. If the PC's go full murderhobo and just kill him & take his stuff, they'll rapidly find one of their number turning on the rest of them and have to deal with that, plus massively reduced objective XP for the adventure as a whole. Basically, this is a combination of chase & detective story that's designed to punish mindless hack & slash players and reward actually roleplaying and engaging with the NPC's. It once again shows that the 2e attitude towards adventure design started before 2e actually did, and was pretty common amongst designers of this period, reacting against the simple dungeon crawls of a decade ago. You have to hope that your group has kept up with the designer's increase in sophistication, or they'll find themselves left behind as grumbling grognards wondering why so few adventures cater to them these days.



The Dragon's Gift: The oriental adventure this issue is also one that will not work well if the PC's try mindless violence and unadulterated greed. The celestial bureaucracy once again shows itself to be full of privileged creatures who use their wealth and powers to fuck with their inferiors. A dragon has recently shed his scales (& some other body parts too) in the process of going up an age category. In his great generosity, he sends out a letter requesting for someone to take out the trash collect these valuable and magically powerful ingredients to enrichen the mortal world with. If you take the bait, you'll have to trek through a bunch of encounters with his servants and other spirit creatures, each with their own annoying quirks, some of which are servants intentionally placed to test you, so killing them will piss off the dragon and you'll get no reward, while others are not affiliated and you can slaughter to your heart's content. (but of course you don't know which) If you do make it to the dragon, you'll still have to suck up to him for the privilege of taking away what is junk to him, because he's just that kind of guy. The whole thing definitely seems designed to test the limits of your capability for irritation and remind you how low humans are on the food chain around these parts. Being both linear and trollish, this is precisely the kind of thing I loathe playing through. To quote Firefly, they can go shove it up a 狒狒的屁眼.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 15: Jan/Feb 1989



part 4/5



The Glass House: The Forgotten Realms is gathering steam nicely, and here's another module set there. The PC's are travelling along the sword coast between Waterdeep and Leilon, and here's a bunch of things they could encounter along the way. It has a main plot of a ranger slain by a frost giant returning from the grave for vengeance. You can help him, or get out of his way. If you fight him or leave him alone, you'll still have to deal with the frost giant and his followers on your own, which is also a reasonably interesting little dungeoncrawl with some cool twists in it. On top of that, there are several other unconnected encounters placed at various points along the road. It's basically a way to stretch the journey out over a session or two and make it interesting in itself. The individual encounters are easily stripped out and used separately in other game worlds. Nothing hugely ambitious or world-changing here, but the kind of compact, practical stuff that's more likely to actually get used in a campaign than the big adventures, put together in an interesting way that makes it more than the sum of it's parts. And given the sheer quantity of Realms material published, I'm sure there's an adventure that'll give you reason to make this trip in the first place. Putting together an adventure path from 1st to 20th level shouldn't be hard at all.



Roarwater Caves: Another adventure that feels like a reaction against the static dungeoncrawls of old where an orc with a pie can sit in a 10x10 room forever until the players open the door. A group of Xvarts living in a tidal cave are getting fed up of their bugbear and kobold neighbours. So they plan on attracting some adventurers to the area while they take a convenient leave of absence, and whether the PC's win or lose, they'll still be in a better position afterwards. The entrance to the caves is submerged at high tide, so if the PC's enter at the wrong time and don't keep track of time they'll be trapped in there overnight unable to retreat and rest up, neatly solving the 15 minute workday problem static dungeons have. The enemies aren't particularly powerful, but they are intelligent and reactive, with relationships between the various creatures living in the cave complex and their movements detailed, and a timeline for what happens if the PC's don't clear out everything fast in one go. The whole thing looks to me like a quite specific rebuttal to the flaws of the Caves of Chaos, saying, no, this is how you do a dungeoncrawl against a conglomeration of bickering humanoids and how they'd react to incursions of adventurers being a regular thing in-setting. It's all quite pleasingly self-aware, while still being pretty easy to put into any generic campaign. Take that, Gygax! :p
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 15: Jan/Feb 1989



part 5/5



The Elephant's Graveyard: After several adventures that are self-consciously modernist in thinking, we go back to an old classic for inspiration. The legend of the elephant's graveyard, a hidden place they go to die which if found will net you an all you can carry buffet of ivory. The PC's come across a map that supposedly leads there and head off hexcrawling to find it. The result is pretty much exactly as you'd expect, a homage to those victorian novels and pulp comics featuring heroes that wear short shorts despite the dangers of the jungle, dastardly villains with no apparent motivation, dramatic cliffhanger sequences and narrow escapes, including the problematic bits like tribes of cannibal savages and the whole idea of using elephants for their ivory in the first place. It's good for what it is, with a nice mix of plot-driven bits & character freedom and clever design that keeps the players from just going there over and over and collapsing the economy, but yeah, it is a bit dated, and if you're not completely on board with the whole killing things and taking their stuff being crucial to the way the game functions and separating it from real world social issues even when they're real world things rather than fantasy monsters you'll probably want to skip this one.



Very much a mixed bag in this issue, with a mix of linear & open adventures and old & new design tendencies in writing. I guess that's diversity of a sort, but it's definitely one where not every adventure will be to your tastes. As usual, it's once again time to move on and see just how quickly things will change in terms of tastes and politics as we catch up to the present.
 

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