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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
    35

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 48: July 1989



part 1/5



32 pages. The focus on building up shops and other commercial establishments in Raven's Bluff continues, with a cover that looks surprisingly everyday, only with somewhat different fashion to the modern world. They obviously get a lot of these submissions, so let's hope they can continue to give us places that are useful not just between adventures, but as springboards to adventures in themselves for quite a while more before they start repeating themselves and diminishing returns set in.



Notes From HQ: This follows directly on from the cover in encouraging people to create Living City locations, and the format they ought to use. It's not that hard. You just need to juggle an interesting premise, functional mechanics, and making sure your submission isn't too similar to an already existing one. The rest of it is pretty familiar. Another of the regular reminders to tell them if you move address, and keep track of when your membership expires, because otherwise you won't keep getting your newszine's delivered regularly. An equally regular reminder that they are not made of money, and so cannot give you free stuff to serve as prizes for tournaments. And a little promotion of their new comic at the back. Let them know if you like it or not so they can tell if they should keep it going. No real surprises here.



Letters: The worries about roleplaying a character properly even when if might hurt your tournament scoring continue. Both of the two letters published put different perspectives on it. The first want to see key personality traits pointed out on the sheet and maybe even mechanically incentivised. There's plenty of games that will do that in the future, but D&D is not one of them. You may want to switch.

The second reminds us that people should know the mechanics and be playing to win as a team. Roleplaying should always be secondary to achieving the goal of the adventure, particularly in a pregenerated party playing a tournament module. Vote for people who know what they're doing and get on with it, not ones that stand around yakking. (an inherent flaw in the democratic electoral system, where no matter what you want to do, you also need to master the art of getting people to notice you on top of that, which means the system favors amoral self-publicists who's primary goal is getting into and staying in power over people with actual goals and principles who would actually improve the world for people in general if elected.)
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 48: July 1989



part 2/5



On Your Feet: Having recently inspired a whole load of kerfuffle in the letters pages, Peter goes for a less controversial topic this time. How he got involved with the RPGA in the first place. Like these things often are, discovering it existed was a happy accident, and signing up was a spur of the moment decision to get access to new tournament options at a convention. But once he did, he definitely hasn't regretted the choice. He's made good friends, and got to play in adventures that are better written and more consistently adjudicated than the independently run ones. Seems like preaching to the choir to me. Perhaps this would have been better placed in Dragon, where a big chunk of the readers aren't RPGA members. In any case, it's another reminder of how much of our life events like relationships and social groups are based on luck, and a difference of a few minutes going somewhere or choosing a different table to sit on at an event can throw your life onto a completely different track long-term. Don't overestimate the degree of control you actually have in your life.



Cataclysm part 1: Fresh from doing a sequel in Dungeon, they decide to stretch their limits for the first time in a couple of years with a multi-part adventure in here as well. The title is a pun. There's a plague of cats in Claxton. Cats, cats, everywhere, as far as the eye can see. People are both perplexed and peeved. The high priest is allergic and wants them all exterminated. This is a bad idea! They're the only thing protecting the city from an even worse plague of literal plague carrying rats. Hopefully your PC's will decide they couldn't possibly slaughter that many adorable felines and look for another solution. The pregens are pretty free of the wackiness many old adventures were suffused with, but the adventure itself is still quite lighthearted in general, with lots of encounters where you should really ham up the roleplaying element. It's pretty interesting, but would have been even better if it was done in Dungeon, with their greater focus on setting building that allows players to make their own choices in a nonlinear fashion. The need to wrap things up in 4 hours once again makes them rush things along at the expense of fine detail, leaving it in the middle of the road in terms of overall quality. Let's see if it gets better or worse as it goes on.



By The Book: Another bit of convention season advice to remind both DM's and players how they should be handling things in their tournament sessions. House ruling is strictly forbidden, as the title says, and you should lean conservatively in any interpretation of grey areas. Work together, figure out what actions you're going to take before your turn comes in combat so you don't bog things down, don't forget to map the dungeon if you want to get out alive, make sure all the players get approximately equal spotlight, ensure the voting forms are filled in legibly afterwards. All pretty familiar really, with a few twists that don't apply to regular groups. We've seen this stuff before, and I'm sure we'll see it again in a year or two to catch the newbies once again.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 48: July 1989



part 3/5



The Mutant's Armory: The second half of this extensive list is considerably shorter, but covers things which need longer individual descriptions. Various high explosives, including grenades, dynamite, bombs and missiles. Many ways to cause overkill amongst players and their adversaries, and a few less lethal options like foam and smoke bombs. Seems decent enough, but I can't think of anything much to say about it that I didn't last time.



Spelljammer: Dragon first started teasing this setting back in december '88, but it looks like they're going to give it some promotion in here as well. Jeff Grubb gives us an efficient single page campaign pitch that's pretty clear both on what it is, and what it is not. It's not any kind of remotely realistic treatment of space - they're intentionally making it weird and fantastical, inspired by 18th century ideas of crystal spheres and phlogiston, filled with solar systems which vary widely in composition and arrangement. All sorts of races can venture into space, including mind flayers & beholders, which play particularly important roles in the setting. Since this is D&D, they're not forgetting the dragons, and the ones up there can be many orders of magnitude larger than terrestrial ones. And then there's the Spelljammer itself, the ultimate macguffin of the setting that gives people a big legend to seek out instead of just wandering the vast expanses aimlessly, or doing crossovers between the previously established AD&D worlds. It's all gloriously ambitious, and it does seem a shame that it wouldn't get much traction with the wider gaming public and be cancelled after a few years, never to even get a proper conversion to future editions like the extraplanar material. Such are the dangers of being too different and nongeneric. Oh well, we'll always have Bral. Let's hope there's a little more interesting material for this setting to be found in the newszine along the way, to make it that little bit bigger and more versatile.



Wand of Wondrousness: Muahaha. Ah yes, the Wand of Wonder. An item to instil terror into every DM and player except maybe the one with a Wild Mage PC. But the number of options given in the DMG is somewhat limited. Before you know it, they'll start to become predictable. Here's another hundred options to amuse, annoy, and occasionally terrify. This is one that's familiar to me from the Encyclopedia Magica, which collected a good half-a-dozen of these lists from various sources over the years. It's definitely on the less lethal end of the spectrum compared to some of the alternatives. You'll probably be able to survive burning through all the charges. The big question then becomes if you'd want too, and if your DM would stick with one list or arbitrarily switch between them when you're getting a bit too comfortable. Do you trust them to not screw you over with this of all things?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 48: July 1989



part 4/5



The Critical Hit pt 1: The review column decides they can't avoid the elephant in the room in the RPG world, and publishes a review of the AD&D 2e Player's Handbook. Future Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens gives it a fairly critical appraisal, pointing out both the areas she thinks it improves on it's predecessor, and the ones it's actually worse. It's definitely more clearly written and better organised, but it's also double the size and moves a lot of the info that was in the 1e DMG into here, so you have to wade through a lot of material that isn't strictly necessary if you're only planning to be a player before you can actually get down to gaming. Some of the class design decisions and divisions still seem pretty arbitrary, and if she were in charge she'd have made different choices. Well, if that isn't some substantial foreshadowing for the things Pathfinder changes from 3e. Overall, her conclusion is positive. (Not that they'd have published it if it wasn't, as this is still a TSR subsidiary) After all, if they'd screwed this up they could wind up tanking a whole edition, and letting someone else temporarily claim the top spot in the RPG world. ;) Massive amounts of foreshadowing aside, this is also a pretty decent review, breaking things down analytically and saying precisely which bits are good and bad. That's the kind of attitude you need to iteratively improve things.



The Critical Hit pt 2: Following on from the Player's Handbook, they quite logically do the Dungeon Master's guide next. (but not the first monstrous compendium, which would still be at the printers when this was being written) Since the new PHB has taken a lot of the material that was in the old DMG, that begs the question of what they'll replace it with. The answer - lots of optional stuff! So this review instantly spots the big difference in overall philosophy between the two edition's designs. 1e was intended to tighten up the rules and standardise everyone's playstyle so tournament games could be run consistently. 2e is intended as a framework for lots of different campaign worlds, some which are indeed very different from the default dungeoncrawling fantasy the core rules assume. Speaking of dungeoncrawling, they also spot that XP for treasure is no longer the default, and you just need to defeat enemies, not kill them to get experience, so killing everything and taking their stuff is not rewarded as strongly as it used to be. This encourages roleplaying & finding noncombat solutions to challenges, and also means campaigns will last longer before you hit the kind of power levels where the rules start to break down. A pretty good assessment of which way the wind is blowing in the TSR offices. Despite the title still being AD&D, the writers grow tired of dungeon delving and dragon killing, and want to set their horizons higher. Now they just have to bring enough of their fanbase along for the ride without splitting it too much.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 48: July 1989



part 5/5



The Living City: Unless your party is comprised entirely of demihumans with infravision, you're going to need to think about lighting when dungeon delving if you don't want your adventuring career to be short and nasty. Fortunately, in Raven's Bluff, there's a shop dedicated to light creating items of all kinds. From mundane candles for the regular people of the city to light their houses, to a highly limited supply of continual light enchanted items for the wealthy. (which obviously saves them money in the long run, in another excellent example of Terry Pratchett's Boots theory) Many of these items are also flammable, and can be used as weapons or explosives in a pinch. As usual, the NPC's take up the bulk of the description and are pretty interesting, with a built in conflict the adventurers can easily wind up engaging with which could be spun out over several visits in a long-term campaign. After all, even after they can cast their own continual light spells, they'll still need explosives. Why wouldn't they go back to a place that has good prices and friendly service for repeat stock-ups?



Bloodmoose & Company: It's been a while since they tried a comic in here, so they're giving it another go. An adventuring party composed of anthromorphic animals in a world where that seems completely normal, a la Ducktales and many other Disney properties. The aforementioned Bloodmoose (first name Eric), who looks like a fighty sort. The rather pompous Shadowhog and a still unnamed owlboy accompany him on an adventure for a lost city. Much comedic bickering ensues. Will they be able to pull together enough to avoid some kind of horrible death, while also remaining interesting enough to avoid an equally ignominious cancelation with the plot still unresolved? Let's keep reading and find out.



An issue that's very of it's time indeed, in that it focusses both on things that are newly released just then, and things that are handy for that time of year in general. It was a bit of a slog, to be honest, and relatively low on things that are still useful now. Oh well. Plenty still to go. Let's see if the next one is any better.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 18: Jul/Aug 1989



part 1/5



68 pages. They just can't resist escalating, can they? That gargoylish statue looks rather familiar from the 1e PHB, only a lot bigger. Will the challenges and treasures be scaled up commensurately, and if so, how will the adventurers get it all home? We've had several adventures where the logistics of treasure retrieval before it's taken by competitors or destroyed was a big limiting factor in how much you can actually profit in the end. Will this issue repeat that idea?



Editorial: They can't snap their fingers and instantly convert all the adventures submitted to 2e ones, but they can change some things. Ability scores are being switched in order from Str Int Wis Dex Con Cha to Str Dex Con Int Wis Cha. A subtle change, but important, as it categorises them into physical and mental instead of putting the ones most likely to be prime requisites first. Slightly less subtle is the outright ditching of Comeliness, which was only added in Unearthed Arcana and ignored by most groups, as it's both essentialist and extremely subjective from race to race. As it hasn't returned many editions later, we can safely say that was a good decision. THAC0 is being added to every statblock so now all you need to do is a bit of maths rather than looking up a table every time you have a fight. Once again, not a thing I see anyone complaining about in hindsight. It goes to show, most of the little refinements from edition to edition are good, it's just the big ideological shifts people complain about.



Letters: The first letter complains that they put too much treasure in their modules. That's so even if you don't find it all, the average group will still get their hands on a decent amount. And they usually edit the numbers down compared to the original submissions as well! I think it may be your party that's unusually conservative rather than the official writers being a bunch of monty haul twinks.

Second points out a particularly significant typo. Unless time travel gets invented, that advert is ridiculously late. You might want to fix it next issue.

Third reminds them that you can't double specialise in two-handed weapons. What sense does that make? Another fiddly little restriction that can easily be houseruled away anyway.

Fourth, we have the usual panicking from someone who can't afford to convert to 2e, and doesn't want too anyway. You'll get off pretty lightly this time around, nearly everything is still compatible. They won't be nearly so merciful next time though.

Fifth, a satisfied customer baffled by the petty things some people find to complain about. I know not every adventure will be to your tastes, but it's still pretty much the best value for money if you want scenarios of all kinds.

Sixth, another request for longer adventures. It's easier to make a long adventure short than the other way around. Go on, push the envelope a little more.

Finally, a similar one encouraging them to include more adventures that require using your brain, as those are harder to write than basic hack and slash dungeoncrawls. Give us what we can't do ourselves, or what's the point of continuing to buy this magazine?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 18: Jul/Aug 1989



part 2/5



Irongard: Ed Greenwood's prolificness in Dragon is long established by now, but this is his first contribution to Dungeon. Unsurprisingly, it's a Forgotten Realms one, but easily adapted to other worlds as well. A mad wizard curses one of the PC's to gradually forget all their spells one by one for the pettiest of imagined slights. The players need to go to the tomb of the original inventor to find out how to remove it. The result instantly reminds me that while he's good at coming up with cool ideas, he's also capable of being deeply irritating and railroady, filling a story with whimsy and NPC's that can do things that are impossible for the PC's, while cheating on or ignoring the dice rolls to make sure things go the way he wants. This definitely qualifies in both respects, and while it has some cool encounters, the only reason it's not more annoying is that it's mercifully short, so the linearity doesn't have a chance to get too implausible and tedious. It also references multiple other products (gotta collect 'em all!), including an issue of Dragon magazine, making it distinctly newbie unfriendly despite being a starting level adventure. As much as I love his articles, this is well below the usual standard of adventure writing in here and can go straight in the fucking bin. Hopefully we won't be seeing him around here too often, as this format does not play to his strengths.



Whitelake Mine: Another regular purveyor of whimsy follows straight on. Willie Walsh takes us to tinker gnome territory, to go fishing for a giant pike with an experimental submarine so they can mine the lake bottom for jewels. There are several twists in the tale to keep it from being too short and simple. Definitely one for the more technically minded player, as they're still too low level to just bypass all the hassles of underwater adventuring with magic, and have to actually think about how to handle the underwater adventure with the equipment they're given, plus whatever clever uses they come up with for regular tools from the PHB. So while this is still a little silly, it's still a vast improvement on the previous adventure because it sets a problem and gives you free reign to solve it, expecting the players to use their brains, while not tying you down to a single solution. Plus it's the kind of adventure which is well suited to being built upon and having long-term consequences later in the campaign, if they encounter a similar problem and can go back to their gnome allies for further technological aid. The pleasure of solving adventures via using out of context abilities is definitely something I like to encourage, and this'll set you on the right track.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 18: Jul/Aug 1989



part 3/5



Tallow's Deep: We've had stories of Tucker's Kobolds quite a few times over the years. Now it's goblin's turn. Bill Slavicsek builds up his freelancing portfolio with this bit of trick-heavy sadism where the PC's are facing creatures considerably weaker than them in a fair fight, but they'll do their best to avoid it becoming one of those. It's the kind of dungeon you can put down anywhere there are caves, and a community to be hassled by goblin raids. They may be relatively easy to drive back in wide open spaces, but rooting them out of a place once they've made it their own is not easy, and even if you do, there'll be a new set along to occupy the area unless you move in and thoroughly remodel, which most adventurers lack the patience for. There's plenty of traps with detailed diagrams, that would have fit right in with the old and sadly undersubmitted column on the topic, plus some interesting writing on goblin psychology to justify why they make suboptimal choices in environments not of their creation. Both are extractable and reusable as general setting details, and the map itself is practically begging you to restock and reuse it if the players aren't thorough enough. It's certainly not as big or brutally inventive as the Kobolds in Dragon Mountain, but it'd make a good step along the way if you're planning to include that later in the campaign. I can definitely see myself getting a fair bit of use out of this one.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 18: Jul/Aug 1989



part 4/5



Crocodile Tears: Unusually, the oriental adventure this issue is not the most linear one here. The PC's hear a rumour that a whole town was completely emptied out recently, and as adventurers should, go investigate. As is often the case, the title is a spoiler so there's no point hiding it - It was giant crocodiles. Even the babies are pushing at the limits of real world croc size and the parents are approaching kaiju territory. (although with no skyscrapers around they don't need to be quite so vertically large to look suitably terrifying against the urban backdrop. ) Like any good Kaiju story, fighting them head-on would be rather foolish, and you'll need to use missile weapons, traps, poison, or some other form of cleverness to make the area safe again. Fortunately there are some unlikely allies you can make along the way if you're smart and compassionate that'll make it a lot easier. There's some definite morality play elements here where they reward or punish you for taking the good route over the evil one in a somewhat heavy-handed way, but they do at least make allowances for you to make the wrong choices and carry on. So overall, it's mildly irritating but still entirely usable. They've done far worse.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 18: Jul/Aug 1989



part 5/5



Chadranther's Bane: Aka Honey, I Shrunk the Adventurers. The inspiration for the final adventure is very obvious indeed. The PC's come across a magical artifact that shrinks anyone near it to lilliputian size. (And thankfully their equipment as well, as surviving at that size is tricky enough without having to do it naked. ) Just leaving the area won't reverse the effects, so you'll need to explore the world from your new perspective, facing regular sized animals that are now terrifying giants, and deal with several feuding communities of tiny people who managed to survive, and have been living in the rafters, floorboards and garden for years, adapting to their new situation the best they can in different ways. To get out of this, they'll need to figure out what exactly caused their transformation, and then destroy it, which will probably involve conquering or forming an alliance with one of the humanoid groups so you can assemble the equipment and manpower to get the leverage to move it at all. It's a pretty neat sandbox, (although it misses a trick by not including a literal sandbox in the garden) giving you a setting that could last quite a few sessions along with general rules for being tiny that can be reused for other scenarios. (Although as usual, they underplay just how much the square-cube law makes things work differently at different sizes when it comes to things like carrying capacity and falling) It's like going to a different plane of existence without ever leaving the house. I thoroughly approve of this kind of envelope pushing. Let's hope they can come up with another big twist adventure next issue.



An increase in the number of recognisable name authors ironically brings about a mild reduction in the average quality, with Ed in particular dragging the batting average way down for everyone else. A demonstration of the problem with not holding people you know to the same standards as strangers and just waving their submissions through the door. That's almost definitely going to become a bigger problem over the years. Let's see if next issue continues in the same direction, or they'll intentionally mix it up for variety's sake again.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Introductory Issue: Gen Con 1989



part 1/5



32 pages. In 1987 they wound up missing an issue. This year they curiously manage to add a 7th one that isn't included in the normal numbering scheme. They don't put a specific date on it, but looking at the context, it's definitely aimed at the new people they got to sign up at the big conventions this year, so I've put it here chronologically. Let's see just how different it is from a regular issue, and if there'll be anything particularly useful many years later.



Getting Together: Before we even get to the contents page, we have a single page article reminding us that the RPGA has an official club membership as well as the individual ones. You should get enough people together to make one! It's not that expensive and the benefits are substantial! Not mentioning the fact that at last count, the number of active clubs was still in the single digits because getting more than 10 gamers to agree on anything and get together regularly is not an easy task. But they're still persisting, trying to get it to catch on. In their ideal world, every community would have a gaming club in the same way they have sports ones, with similar outreach programs, doing charity stuff, and generally making an effort to be be a healthy normalised part of society on top of the actual gaming part. Um, OK. Still got a long way to go for that to be reality. Still, can't fault them for dreaming big. When you regularly save the world in-game, you kinda get into the habit. Should we seriously pursue the goal of making RPG's as ubiquitous as football? (Complete with very different rulesets using the same name in different countries) Is that a suitably epic quest that sounds appealing to you?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Introductory Issue: Gen Con 1989



part 2/5



With Great Power: The Marvel Superheroes column also focusses on a question aimed at new players. Do you want to create your own character, or use an existing one from the comics? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Existing ones are usually more powerful, and have an established personality and history. New ones give you the freedom to roleplay them however you like, but you have to actually invent a decent history and personality from scratch. Plus there's the question of integrating them with the group. Most superhero systems don't have classes like D&D, so the degree of freedom can be overwhelming - how do you make a functional team which has the skills to handle any situation? (not that you have to, looking at many of the canon team examples in comics history) The most important thing for team cohesion is deciding if they'll be a flying or non-flying party. If they're mostly flyers, they also need one with super-strength or a suitable vehicle so any non-flyers don't get left behind between scenes. If not, you need to design adventures to suit the more street-level power and mobility they do have. All pretty basic logistical stuff. Seen it before, will probably see it again. Looking increasingly unlikely I'll be getting much out of this issue.



Notes From HQ: The editorial continues the theme of being very specifically aimed at brand new sign-ups, telling them what they can expect to get out of being a member, the kinds of thing that will appear in each issue of Polyhedron, and what they can do to contribute & earn those real world levels. So get to those conventions and get gaming! The more you put in, the more everyone gets out! If you've been reading for several years you'll have seen all this before, but it's convenient to have it all collected in one place and clearly explained. They are at least doing what they intended to do competently.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Introductory Issue: Gen Con 1989



part 3/5



Ghost Righters: There's something strange, in the neighbourhood. Who ya gonna call? …… Well, at least it scans properly. :p The adventure this issue is also definitely aimed at the younger and lighter-hearted end of the market. Some very sillily named pregens with an established undead-hunting business get hired by a typically mysterious patron to clear out a haunted castle. They have to deal with the typical haunted house shenanigans like ominous suits of armor that come to life, paintings that move when only one member of the party is looking, doors that appear and disappear mysteriously, pit traps concealed by illusions, and of course plenty of actual undead to fight. It's all very obviously based on the cheesier side of Hammer Horror, with a lengthy melodramatic backstory that the PC's probably won't find out about, and a lot of intentional cliches in the encounters that mean the spooky bits will be persistently undercut by the humour. Probably entertaining enough in it's original convention environment where everyone is likely more than a little tired and/or drunk, but somewhat irritating to read in the cold light of day and not really one for using with your regular PC's in a serious, long-running campaign. I definitely aint afraid of these ghosts.



Heroes and Villains: Another basic little article that asks players and DM's what kinds of game they want to create. Do they have big destinies, does the world revolve around them, do they regularly save it from apocalyptic fates, or are they merely pawns in the game of life, wandering from one dungeon to the next without ever making enough of a fortune to have genuine temporal power? Similarly, do they face big bads with long term plans, or merely lesser foes who rarely last more than one battle, so it's barely worth coming up with names and backstories for them? If you do want enemies that the PC's fight personally to appear more than once, you should simply choose a different system to D&D, but of course, they don't want to admit that, so they simply advise you to avoid direct contact between the PC's and big bad entirely until the climax of the campaign. We've seen this kind of advice done both better and with more depth before, so this is pretty underwhelming.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Introductory Issue: Gen Con 1989



part 4/5



The New Rogues Gallery: This column is unusually long, devoting a full 7 pages to Skip & Jean's own PCs and their backstories & exploits. Both of them tend towards the comedic and goofy even in their official writing, and they have even fewer restraints on it in their home gaming. Get ready for some definite cartoon cliches that would be right at home on a saturday morning show.

Til-Kyrmeldur ap Puirdoch is a handome and heroic Ranger/Druid who always sticks by his principles, and makes sure the rest of the group does so too. Like many a half-elf, never quite fitting in makes him naturally non-judgemental and supportive of other outsiders, which certainly explains the rest of the party.

Lasgalen Taur Hithui is an elf cavalier who also tries to be heroic and true, but still has a few rough edges, and needs reminding to overcome his temper and judge everyone fairly. If you're going to go for the traditional sentai lancer role, why not make them a literal lancer?

Talf the Bold is the ironically nicknamed comic relief halfling. He's actually a really good fighter, but it takes a fair bit of goading to get him to overcome his fears and fight fair. If it weren't for the others, he'd be a lot nastier, so it's a good thing he has them to keep him on the straight and narrow.

Neecha Nightmoon Taur Hithui is yet another Drow turned heroic adventurer. After a rocky courtship where they both had to learn to overcome their racial prejudices, she wound up marrying Lasgalen. She has a pet yeti, and despite switching alignment is still more than a little rash in her pursuit of wealth and the finer things in life, which often gets the whole party into trouble. I guess that means more interesting adventures, so it all works out in the long run.

Sir Orville is a gnoll who joined up with the heroes. Now he gets to dress in a swanky set of plate mail, ride a rhino, and actually be popular with the general population. Despite his impressive trappings, he's still pretty fragile compared to the other party members, as this is pre Complete Book of Humanoids, so he isn't gaining levels from his adventures. We're still a long way from when 3e blows the door off all those annoying class and level restrictions that enforced human supremacy in all the settings. Can they keep the campaign going long enough for him to benefit from the progressive rules updates?

Scardo Linden is their evil arch-nemesis, a powerful Cleric/Wizard who observes them from his crystal ball and sends various enemies their way in classic evil overlord style. Eventually he'll get annoyed enough to get off his arse and fight them himself, but he's a little too fond of his temporal comforts. Better get on with it before they get enough XP to beat him in a fair fight.


They also get a decent selection of new magical items in their descriptions, which they're kind enough to stat up fully. At least that makes this article a bit more useful for your own games.


The Amulet of the Hero summons a trio of handsome heroes to obey your every command …. who are actually useless numpties that blunder everything that requires a dice roll. They can still be useful as distractions and meat shields, (or maybe even gigolos, since sex doesn't require any dice rolls to be successful in most campaigns. :p ) but this is essentially a cursed comedy item as you can't get rid of them or kill them yourself. Of course, you'll only find out after using it.

Heels of Reunion come in pairs and point you in the direction of the other one. Always handy if the party gets split up.

Potions of Superior Animal Control jack up the duration and flexibility of the regular one. Nothing too surprising here.

Rings of Beauty are also entirely self-explanatory. For whatever reason, the RPGA heads like Comeliness, and plan on keeping it around into the 2e era when most groups have dropped it. Having extra hot PC's is a common and valid power fantasy, I guess, if a somewhat shallow one. There's been plenty of variants of this appear independently over the years.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Introductory Issue: Gen Con 1989



part 5/5



The Living City: Literacy is kinda important. 3e and onwards have definitely downplayed it to favour convenience over realism, but the proportion of the population who could read & write in previous centuries was actually pretty low in many places, so you could make a decent living as a well-trained scribe by taking dictation, copying and translating stuff, and similar things we take for granted now. Raven't Bluff may be high on magic in many ways, but it still lacks the ubiquity of technological comforts we're used to in the real world. Which is where Hoaten Thee and his scribe shop come in. Whether you want to send a letter home to your parents to tell them you're doing fine in the big city, or translate some writing in obscure dead language that'll hopefully lead to a new adventure, he'll do so at quite reasonable prices, and maintain impeccable client confidentiality. If he doesn't know it naturally, he'll use his quite decent wizardly powers and magic items to figure it out. He has two granddaughters, one of which is working up the courage to become an adventurer too. Another place that could definitely facilitate a good few adventures and become a regular stop for PC's between them if you play up your roleplaying elements. They seem to be getting pretty good at those.



Raven's Bluff Rumors: We finish up with a second micro-adventure, a single page scenario for people travelling to Raven's Bluff by sea. Many adventures in here and Dungeon have had a rumor table, mixing in real hints as to the danger they're going to face with red herrings. But this is the first time where the rumor table makes up more than half the wordcount, and the actual danger feels like an afterthought. As a result, it feels pretty insubstantial. Probably filler picked out of the slush pile at the last minute to fill out the page count. Meh.



Well, this issue certainly lived up to it's title, as the short articles are very basic indeed, while the longer ones are extra twee and cartoony, in an obvious attempt to appeal to a younger audience. Since even then most new roleplayers were teenagers rather than kids still in the single digits, and likely already looking for a bit more edginess, this may be a bit too saccharine even for it's intended targets, and is definitely way too shallow for me. Let's get back to regular transmissions pronto and see if they've saved something a little more mature for their long-term readers.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 49: September 1989



part 1/5



32 pages. If a halfling is standing their ground, you really shouldn't underestimate them. They may be literally half your height, but they're a lot tougher than they look, as many a Ringwraith has found out to their chagrin. Let's find out who's bothering this one, what he's guarding, and what kind of comeuppance his enemy is likely to get as a result.



Notes From HQ: They're pretty busy around this time of year, so the editorial is filled with lots of little paragraphs to try and fit everything they want to say in. Keep sending in those modules kids! We might not have found the time to respond yet, but we will get round to reading them all, and the best ones will be run at next year's Gen Con! Similarly, if you're planning on going, make sure you book now, as slots fill up like 6 months in advance. You really do have to plan a long way ahead when you're part of a big machine to keep things running smoothly. Planning a little less far ahead, they're implementing checks to make sure you can't get points for playing the same tournament module repeatedly at different conventions. Another consequence of not having quite enough submissions for the growing number of conventions around the country. Recycling sneaks in and next thing you know people are gaming the system by already knowing the plots and scoring extra highly. In more positive news, it's the big five oh next issue, so they're making it a bumper size one, while slashing the prices on back issues to clear up storage space. They seem a little less on top of things than last year, but not as disorganised as just after the TSR management takeover. They probably need more staff to keep up with the growing demand for their services.



Letters: Only one letter this time, a long one that continues to deal with their recruitment struggles. Maybe part of the problem is people sharing the benefits of membership with their friends, so they don't feel the need to subscribe as well. Yup. The old piracy problem, just in a slightly different format. Like multiple people using the same netflix account, this ain't going away any time soon. Unless they all actually want to play in tournaments and get rankings of their own, there's not much incentive for more than one person in a friend group to join. Can they come up with other incentives that'll tip the scales towards everyone joining individually? They're open to suggestions.



With Great Power: Another couple of characters from more far-flung parts of Marvel Earth here. Defensor, not to be confused with the transformer of the same name (which is not beyond the bounds of possibility since the franchises had crossovers in the past) is a guy from Argentina who found an ancient suit of vibranium power armor in a secret underground base. He has a stereotypical latin lover personality, to the great irritation of any female superheroes he tries to team up with. Mixing business and pleasure always leads to trouble in any workplace.

Peregrine is basically a french repaint of Falcon, with exactly the same tech based light flying powerset. Like most rivals with identical powersets, he's a lot more morally ambiguous than the protagonist so they can come into conflict. Nothing hugely innovative or compelling here in either powers or personalities. They'll be quick to die in any big crossover event to show just how serious the threat is.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 49: September 1989



part 2/5



Cataclysm part 2: If the PC's are still following the railroad at this point, they'll find themselves pointed towards the temple of Bast, where they'll have to deal with several whimsical feline encounters, and then suddenly find themselves face to face with the Cat Lord. If they're still leaning towards feline genocide as a solution they'll find themselves facing an abrupt TPK. A mildly less disrespectful interaction will still result in every cat in the city magically fucking off, leaving it at the mercy of the bubonic plague, which if you're playing this tournament style also counts as failing the mission and draws the curtain on the stage rather than having to play through months of quarantine and heavy deaths. Only being thoroughly obsequious will get them through this and let them find out the identity of the real villain so they can get to the next bit of dungeon-crawling (rat themed, obviously) to finish him off for good. So there's some definite tonal whiplash going on here, as they veer between lighthearted humour and distinctly heavyhanded plot writing, and players who can't switch gears correspondingly will fail the scenario. The result is another one I have no particular desire to actually play or run, particularly not in an ongoing campaign, as it'd require a fair bit of expansion work to reduce the linearity and give players other ways to solve the problem. The way they write tournament adventures continues to not really be my idea of fun.



The Mutant's Armory: A third instalment in this series, this time devoted to the joys of actual armor. This is even shorter than the previous two, as try as you may, there's fewer ways to protect people against dying than there are ways to kill them. I guess there are still more than in D&D, because there's both physical armor & various kinds of force field, and many are noted as being particularly good or bad against certain kinds of damage. Still, there's not a huge amount to say about this. Competent but dull. Let's move on and find out if they have anything else to fill our equipment lists with next issue.



On Your Feet: The first half of Peter's column is devoted to responding to the many letters he got about judging quieter characters/players. He doesn't change his basic opinion, but does take on board ideas about how to fix the problem. Randomising which characters players get instead of letting them pick in particular pushes them to roleplay outside their comfort zone and improve their general skill at both acting and system mastery. In a tournament adventure where the DM has no reason to keep you alive, you can't afford to be complacent the way you can in a home campaign. They may have become somewhat less lethal and more focussed on roleplaying over the past decade, but you still need to bring your A game when playing in a randomly determined group of people you've probably never met with a strict time limit.

The second half is a fairly typical bit of advice on showing not telling. Describe things in enough detail that they can come to their own conclusions instead of just telling them what's happening, with a decent chance to get it right, but also the possibility of getting it very wrong. This is particularly important when the actual things out there are trying to deceive the characters, and the DM has to balance the image they're projecting with subtle clues that they could have picked up on in hindsight. The endless battle between simultaneously being the player's adversary and the neutral judge of the universe. There's something that never goes away unless you split the two roles up between different people. (which is entirely an option, and can work very well.) The challenge is coming up with enough extraneous detail that whatever is dangerous or plot-relevant isn't instantly obvious to the players.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 49: September 1989



part 3/5



The New Rogues Gallery: We go back to regular RPGA members telling us about their characters here. The heroes of Shadowguard (not to be confused with Shadowdale, Shadowfax, the Shadowfell, the Shadowdark, the Sea of Shadows, at least three different Shadowlands and Shadow Wars I can think of offhand, or Black Ice Shadow) met up when a vampire invited them all to dinner. They narrowly managed to turn the tables, and have been working together even since. Adversity builds stronger bonds than just meeting randomly in a tavern.

Lydia Nimblefingers is the roguish halfling leader of the group. This frequently means she leads them deeper into trouble, especially as she casually keeps her pilfering skills in practice on random strangers. But hey, that just means more opportunities for XP, right?

Freda Strongblade is a ranger who is caught between her principles and mercenary pragmatism. At some point she'll have to choose between them, and of course if she chooses wrong, she'll lose her powers. Hopefully the DM is feeling relatively forgiving in how far you have to go to fully switch alignment.

Argon Firesword does not actually possess a flaming sword, but he'd very much like one, particularly the one his dad had and lost. He dreams of becoming a spell-caster, but doesn't remotely approach the stats needed to dual-class so he's kinda stuck with being a fighter. It's a frustrating life living in a rigid class/level system where you can't even improve your ability scores with XP sometimes.

Andor is the cleric of the team. He's a better preacher than he is a spellcaster, but that still makes him pretty useful, as he's good at delivering hard lessons in a tactful manner. If you're going to be the conscience of a group you need to not annoy people into doing the opposite just because they don't like you.

The Incredible Indill is the wizard of the group. As is often the case, his nickname is ironic, and he's actually pretty laconic and conservative, only adventuring because the danger comes to him more often than not. Another reasonably well balanced party that I'm unlikely to get any use out of.



Eye On The Network: Convention season is in full swing, so here's a single page set of photos from Glathricon. The Bingles continue to dominate the tournament rankings, but there's still plenty of room for other people to have fun as well. It all seems pleasingly mixed-gender for a gaming crowd, although that may be selective shooting by the photographer. Still, at least they're trying to create a good image. Keep it up and eventually we'll make progress.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 49: September 1989



part 4/5



Ghostbusters Revisited: With a comedic ghosthunting story in the introductory issue, the influence of ghostbusters on pop culture is evidently still running high. The cartoon has been going consistently for several years, and the sequel movie was released just a few months ago. They have a whole raft of toyetic tie-ins, including a new edition of the ghostbusters RPG. Which is obviously the main focus of this little promotional piece, telling us how they think it improved on the previous edition and what supplements they have planed to follow it up. It's somewhat rules-heavier than the previous edition, but still nowhere near D&D level, which really wouldn't fit the source material. Will they manage to get a few more sales this time around, and maybe even make the system capable of sustaining longer campaigns with actual character advancement? Hindsight says not really. This is pretty much pure advertising, only really notable because it's for a non TSR system. I thought they didn't do paid advertising in here. Did they do this for free then, or are they taking backhanders? Either way, I'm not amused. Give us something that's still useful once you buy the book. That's far more likely to get me curious and actually motivate me to make the purchase.



Step by Step: Another article aimed at encouraging people who'd like to be more active participants in the RPGA, but aren't sure how to start. It's not that difficult once you break it down, but you do need to plan way ahead. If you want a decent turnout so what you're running is a success, you should have it scheduled, advertising and open for registration a good year in advance. Once you have that, the pressure is on, and here's a bunch of other deadlines you should meet so you're not panicking the night before. It's all clearly written, neatly laid out, and the kind of thing that's probably honoured more in the breach than actually adhered too in real life, as the antics of the TSR staff in their post-convention roundups regularly demonstrate. Knowing proper practice and actually sticking strictly to it are entirely different matters in a complicated and messy world. Seen this before, and almost definitely seeing it again.



Cure Light Wounds: AD&D 2e has been out a couple of months now, long enough for the first bits of feedback to come in. As usual, there are a few loud angry voices complaining about certain changes, and more simply wondering why they made them. So here's Steve Winter to do some explaining & justifying and hopefully calm them down. Giving players both more choice, and a bigger share of responsibility was a very intentional bit of design. 2e is not for GM's who want to be petty dictators. Druids actually have more spells now, not less on top of all their special abilities. Rangers get to choose what they're good at fighting, and a bonus to hit is less swingy in combat effects than a bonus to damage. Bards are massively more accessible and flexible now. Cantrips are still there, only even more flexible as you don't have to choose what type you're using until you cast it. Many of the things from 1e supplements that didn't fit in the new corebooks will reappear in 2e ones in updated and rebalanced forms. He's all pretty reasonable and conciliatory except on one point. Assassins are bad, and you should feel bad for wanting to play them! They're gone and they ain't coming back! We're trying extra hard to be family friendly now. At least none of the complainers have noticed the absence of fiendish creatures, as the new monstrous compendium is still bigger than the old one even without them. A reminder that the 2e edition war was relatively mild compared to the subsequent ones, but it was there, and the worst of it didn't happen until TSR themselves made a big deal of what they'd removed quite a while after it had been out. We shall see what the RPGA thinks of those changes soon, and I'm very interested to see how it differs from the more general audience response in Dragon.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 49: September 1989



part 5/5



Screening The Game: A bit of a diversion from the usual fare as they give us some DIY advice. If you want to create your own DM screen, this is how to go about it. All you need is a decent sized bit of cardboard, a photocopier or printer, a knife, scissors, and glue. Oh, and deciding what to put on the front and back in the first place, which may be the easiest or hardest part depending on your current inspiration levels. A reminder that we're still barely a decade from when the entire RPG industry was a hand assembled shoestring operation, and the bar for entry isn't actually that high. With a few year's practice, you too could produce stuff that has decent production values. Even without that, it can still have quick reference information that's more useful and ergonomically placed for the way you play than the official DM screens. That's more than worth a few hours getting your hands dirty.



The Living City: The cover image turns out to have a lot more than you'd expect going on beneath the surface. The halfling is actually a shapechanged baku, while the tree belongs to a dryad who runs a secret establishment for any fae creatures passing through Raven's Bluff. Any humans investigating the place will simply see a big oak tree in an overgrown garden, and be politely asked to leave by the caretaker. Presuming one of the prankster guests don't spot them first and decide to have a bit of fun, which is always a possibility. Nonevil elves & short folk will be welcomed, but that won't protect them from the mischief. As long as they take it in the right spirit and give as good as they get they'll fit right in. A reminder that the living city might be fantastical, but it's not TOO fantastical (getting fae to integrate with other races, get jobs and pay their taxes, now that's an unrealistic fantasy :p ) and it's not particularly dark & gritty either despite the frequency of raven symbology. There's an unusually large, powerful and diverse selection of interesting NPC's here, so even if they are annoying, you probably don't want to fight them head-on, as the others'll rapidly come to their defence. You can definitely get quite a bit of interesting plot stuff out of this one, making the players subject to pranks or thefts, and then having their investigation eventually lead them here. That's a nice change of pace from all the regular human shops and pubs we've seen so far. Will this encourage other submitters to get a little weirder with their ideas as well?



The Bard's Corner: Original poems rather than filks? That's a surprising, but also welcome little experiment. Even better, they're not the kind that rely on forced rhyming over coherence or cheap humor, but actually attempt to build atmosphere. That's something that could distinguish them from Dragon Magazine's Dragonmirth while still lightening the mood. Wouldn't object to seeing something like this again.



Bloodmoose and Company go full looney tunes with the comedic blundering. A hundred foot pit? Trivial injury. They'll be fine in an issue or two.



Another issue that was pretty hard work, although it did have some interesting bits in it. The bits where they depart from formula were the best, which once again shows the dangers of complacency. Let's see what celebrations the confluence of 50 issues and christmas will bring, and if they'll switch things around for the new year or stick with the current selection of regular features.
 

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