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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
Dungeon Issue 19: Sept/Oct 1989



part 1/5



68 pages. The somewhat indeterminate bimonthly schedule makes doing things like Halloween every year a bit tricky, but it looks like they're giving it a solid go this time with a distinctly spooky cover. Let's see if it's a full themed issue of horror, or just one token adventure in an otherwise normal issue.



Editorial: The editorial rebuts complaints that they're using the same few writers over and over again. They're not actually that bad at this. They've included at least one new name every issue so far! And while a few regulars are building up, they still regularly reject submissions from them as well. It's just that unlike first time submitters who get rejected and never try again, they're thick-skinned enough to know that it's not personal and try again with a different idea. It's just like dating. You need to be persistent while also staying calm, as one rejection isn't the end of the world, but getting aggressive and creepy WILL not only not change the mind of the person who rejected you, but also ruin your chances with anyone else in their social group. Another timeless lesson that can be applied to nearly any field where you need to interact with other human beings, or even animals for that matter.



Letters: The first letter points out that the Vecna lore in issue 17 contradicts the info in the DMG. Vecna lies. A lot. It's kinda his thing. Either or both are false, and you can obviously decide which in your own campaign.

Another request for adventure submission guidelines. Seen you before and will again. They haven't changed much.

Third, someone thinking two of the adventure maps must have a mistake. Nope. Tortles of the Purple Sage genuinely is that epic and awesome. You can fit many many other adventures within the framework it provides. Island in the sky, though, they did mess up on. Oopsie.

The next two both want more Greyhawk adventures, and are disappointed so few people feel the same way. You can try, but we know in hindsight you're never remotely going to catch up with the Forgotten Realms.

A suggestion that since they have magazines called Dungeon and Dragon, maybe they ought to have one called & as well. Hmm. That's definitely worth keeping in mind for the future. :)

Someone who wants all the room descriptions put in neatly boxed text so they don't have to think about it. They respond that some adventures are more open-ended, and you should have to think when using them. They want to offer a good variety of both types.

Some general praise from Wolf Baur. Issue 16 was a bit of a slump, but you turned it right around in issue 17. Keep it up.

Some much more specific praise for their incredible shrinking adventure. That was a good idea that D&D hadn't done before. Keep your eye out for similarly boundary pushing ideas and let them in.

Finally, another grumble that the average adventure in Dungeon is way too generous with treasure for their tastes. There are many ways you can deal with that. Our sister magazine Dragon has done articles on it several times over the years.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 19: Sept/Oct 1989



part 2/5



By the Wayside: Since they've been having multiple complaints about the lack of Greyhawk material, here's one straight away to calm them down. Let's head to the hive of (pond)scum and villainy that is the Hool Marshes. Slavers, demon cultists, weak & corrupt government, oh my, and that's before you even get to the nonhuman dangers. Straight away, it's obvious we're in grim and gritty fantasy fucking vietnam Greyhawk, not bad puns and liberal crossovers with completely different worlds & genres Greyhawk. Although they have made concessions to 2e watering down by turning what was obviously an Assassin in the original submission into a regular thief who just happens to engage in assassination as his primary source of income. This is one of those adventures that's as much a sourcebook as it is a plot, devoting nearly half the pagecount to fleshing out the village, which is hardly a safe haven in itself, before you face the real threat, an unusual pairing of intelligent monsters that use their unique abilities synergistically to make them more sneaky and dangerous than the sum of their parts. They'll lure travellers through the swamp off the safe paths and have them for dinner. If you spend too long in the village they'll come to you and engage in increasingly reckless schemes to separate the PC's and kill them one by one. So this is basically a slasher movie turned into a D&D module, combining a generally untrustworthy landscape and population that the PC's are quite right to be suspicious of, with an enemy who is actively out to get you that uses the other two factors to their advantage in hit and run attacks, and if you only kill one of them and think you're safe now you'll get a nasty jump scare a little bit later. As usual for horror, it'll take a bit of work by the DM to generate the atmosphere to actually make the players afraid, and you'll need to be willing to actually kill characters rather than pulling your punches, but this is easier here than some others I've seen, and not a railroad like far too many of the Ravenloft modules. I think we're off to a pretty decent start.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 19: Sept/Oct 1989



part 3/5



The Vanishing Village: An ultra-short encounter that's basically an excuse to introduce a new monster to the game. The PC's come across a seemingly empty village. When they try to get in one of the houses, it turns out the houses are alive! They're a particularly large subspecies of Mimics that grow their shells to resemble houses and then swallow anyone who wanders in. Fortunately, like real world mollusks, they're pretty slow moving, so it's pretty easy to get away if you don't fall for the trap. However, they do have a high HD, AC and damage output for the suggested party level here, so if they do stay and fight hand to hand rather than keeping their distance and using spells & missile weapons (or one gets snared and the others are trying to free them) it'll be a pretty tough battle. An amusing spin on haunted house horror that doesn't involve undead in any way, and can be used to make the players paranoid in the future with false alarms, this manages to be both in theme and not at all what you'd expect. There are more mundane forms of slime than ectoplasm, and who ya gonna call then? I thoroughly approve.



The Serpent's Tooth: Nigel Findley once again leans in a dark and cynical direction that would be just as at home in a Shadowrun adventure as a D&D one. The PC's are hired by a person who says they're a member of the Scornubel secret police, to spy on a criminal and gather evidence of their wrongdoing. To do so, they have to case out the eponymous Serpent's Tooth, the worst pub in the worst part of town, for several days, preferably without drawing attention to themselves and getting involved in trouble. This is much easier said than done, and of course there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than there seems. The suspect is nicer than they seem and your employer shadier, and as things go on the PC's may wind up switching sides. In the meantime, there's lots of opportunities for roleplaying with the various ne'er do-wells who regularly drink there, who get full stats and plenty of personality detail. So this is a (hopefully) fairly combat light adventure with lots of flavour and freedom for the PC's to accomplish their objective any way they decide, and change their course based on what they do or don't find out during their investigations. There's no definite right or wrong answer to what they should do, just a setting and timeline of what happens where and when, and it's up to them to be in the right place to see the right things and take advantage of them. The way detective stories ought to be done.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 19: Sept/Oct 1989



part 4/5



Encounter in the Wildwood: In sharp contrast with the last adventure, Willie Walsh once again brings the biggest helping of whimsy to the table. The PC's are wandering through the woods somewhere and have to deal with a couple of semi-connected fae encounters. They don't want to kill the PC's, just scare, confuse, and rob them of some choice shiny things. As they said in the letters page, sometimes you do need to relieve the PC's of their excess cash, or a magical item that's proved unbalancing to the game, and this is one way to do that. They may hate you for it at the time, but if it saves your campaign long-term, what price on that? And hey, they might succeed and get their items back anyway. All depends on how nice you're feeling and how well they roll. It also functions as the Ecology of the Boggle, including a fair amount of exposition on the nature and limitations of their ability to step or reach through one opening and come out of another. Definitely not for every group, but another welcome bit of variety that sees them effectively putting world-building articles and advice into their adventures. Things often make sense more with added context, and larger multipurpose articles are a good way to accomplish that.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 19: Sept/Oct 1989



part 5/5



House of Cards: Oh crap. The cover image wasn't just a regular grim reaper, it was one from a Deck of Many Things. Now there's something that truly inspires terror in knowledgable players, far more than any amount of supposedly spooky undead. As Dragon did a physical version of the Deck just last month in issue 148, that also makes this their first co-ordinated tie-in between the two magazines, which is very interesting to note. As usual for the last and longest adventure of the issue, that's not the only interesting thing going on here. Due to the worshippers of Mask, Westgate is descending into gang warfare as they try to corner the market on all the organised crime in the city. The authorities want to deal with this, but they also want to maintain due process and not become as bad as the criminals they're fighting. In practice, this means you can't use divination magic to find them and prove their guilt or AoE blasty stuff that causes widespread property destruction without forfeiting your reward and being thrown out of town, forcing the PC's to stick to the plot and do things the way the writer wants.

Once you do find their hideout and get inside, that's where things get really weird. All the doors are immune to magic, so you're forced to stick to the paths, and many of the important rooms have cards from the Deck of Many Things (hacked so they function separately) covering their keyholes, so you can't open them without effectively drawing the cards and suffering the consequences. To get through the entire dungeon, they have to deal with the various brands of woe and weal from every single one of the cards, plus the more mundane monsters and traps as well. So this is interesting and different from the average adventure, but in a horrible linear bullshit way combining the worst parts of 1e screwage dungeon and 2e plot-based railroading. It's fascinating to read, but also not one I'd ever EVER want to play in or run in a million years, and I wouldn't judge a group for packing up and going home after getting through one or two doors, and doing the math on what condition the party is going to be in after dealing with all 22 cards. Unless you have a Wild Mage in the party who can hack the cards back, they aren't getting through this one without casualties. (Although given the levels, they'll probably be able to raise/rescue them later) To top it off, having been actively unhelpful in solving the problems with their bureaucratic nonsense, the authorities will then give you an IOU for the majority of the bounty money in slow yield stocks and shares, essentially cheating the PC's out of their money in the majority of campaigns that don't run for years of in-game time. I'm both impressed and horrified at just how annoying this whole adventure manages to be in both mundane and fantastical ways. It has my respect for it's inventiveness, but I sincerely hope I never see anything like it again.



With two Forgotten Realms specific modules and a Greyhawk one, this is easily the most grounded in their established settings of any issue so far. With three adventures that are all scary in very different ways, it also fulfils it's theme pretty decently as well. The main adventure being a sharp lurch towards linearity is a bit worrying though. We're definitely in 2e territory now, and I just hope the amount of adventures that use and expand on specific settings will increase more than the amount of annoying railroads. On we go to see what the next pair of big round numbers holds.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 50: November 1989



part 1/5



44 pages. We do seem to be in an extra festive mood, as a red-clad gnome distributes free presents to an appreciative crowd. This being D&D, there's bound to be a catch somewhere that forces adventurers to get involved. Let's see if the writing inside will be getting a similar bump in production values, and just how useful the various presents in this expanded special issue will be.



Completing the Thief: They might have been offering presents for free on the cover, but in the real world, you'll still have to pay to get your shiny new toys for the shiny new edition. Unless you steal them of course, which is where this bit of promotion comes in. Buy the complete thief's handbook, and you get access to a whole new axis of customisation for your characters! The rest of it is an explanation of what Kits are, the names of all the example ones that'll be appearing in this book and why you might want one. (such as if you're one of the people annoyed about Assassins being removed from the corebook and want them mechanically differentiated from regular thieves again.) A reminder that 2e is going to lean a lot harder on the splatbooks and other player-facing crunchy stuff than 1e, and this is a trend that will only escalate in the next couple of editions as well. As this is the kind of advert that's useless once you buy the book, it's one of the more tedious examples of it's type. Give us something a little more exclusive please, not something I've already seen examined from many different angles already.



Mutant Materials: Kim Eastland still hasn't quite run out of ideas for more Gamma World equipment, but they're getting increasingly weird. Which given that this is gamma world is actually a good thing. A selection of exotic materials that for all practical purposes are indistinguishable from magic, for those players who want enhanced gear like they're used to in D&D. Your basic light but ultra damaging ones, your ones that are extra effective against specific monsters, psychic crystals that enhance your energy manipulation mutations, intelligent blobs that can shapeshift into any item of similar size, and two different kinds of ultra-shiny metal that have special effects when wielded in bright light. Absolutely no basis in scientific plausibility, but they're pretty broadly useful abilities, and that's what counts in actual play, plus the rules are general enough to be easily transferred to other systems. Why should D&D characters hog all the power escalation in here?



Notes From HQ: Since this is an expanded special issue, they've got a lot to talk about in here as well. They started off from humble beginnings nearly 10 years ago, and look at them now, releasing full-sized AD&D sourcebooks packed with exclusive material. It definitely hasn't been a smooth ride though, they were regularly running embarrassingly late, and went through several rapid staff changeovers before the current set came along. They couldn't have done it without their ordinary members, and still can't. This pivots neatly to another reminder that if you want your convention to run official tournaments and be promoted in here, you need to do so a good 6-12 months in advance. If you're moving house, you need to tell us where you're going, etc etc. They're still only human, and not mind-readers. But they're gradually growing again, and look forward to another decade which will hopefully be even bigger and better. Yeah, about that …… :) Life doesn't go smooth, does it. Let's continue the journey back to the present, one month at a time, and see which ones are good and which ones are bad for them.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 50: November 1989



part 2/5



Letters: The first letter raises questions about how many RPGA tournaments aren't actually exclusive to members. It's your typical loss leader. Let them play the first one without any commitment, THEN sell them on signing up and the benefits from having a persistent presence in the scene & accumulating points for each one you play in. Marketing principles remain pretty similar whatever the field.

The second raises another scoring question. We've had a ton of debate on scoring different types of roleplaying, but what about rewarding people for mastery of the rules? That's something that can be done much more objectively, yet doesn't seem to factor at all in a lot of people's voting. We haven't had a rollplaying vs roleplaying argument in a while, have we. I guess it is about time, especially with new rules that allow more character customisation, and therefore more chances for over and underpowered builds.



Fun In Games: Rick manages to be both festive and wacky with his latest suggestion. Running out of suitably impressive foes to pit your minis against? Use the thanksgiving turkey! With or without the flesh still attached, it's the perfect size to look like a really terrifying dragon by comparison! Ha. Now that's an idea I've seen before, but only once, and it was chronologically a lot later, in Dragon issue 347. It's quite possible that that was inspired by this article in the first place. If you want to give them extra incentive to fight hard, use Gummi Bears as minions, and whoever kills one gets to eat them. These are both highly usable ideas that I might actually try when face-to-face gaming becomes an option again. I won't be using any of the slang suggestions, which continue to just not be very catchy. In a world where the best memes rapidly get shared around the world without any central curation, the old attempts to make new cool words happen seem very quaint and forced.



With Great Power: This column does not live up to it's name this instalment, instead choosing to focus on some completely non-superpowered street level heroes. The Wolfpack are your typical 5 man band of teenagers dragged into an ancient war between good and evil and expected to protect the south bronx from whatever the cabal of 9 remorselessly evil cackling villains throw at them this week with nothing but their wits and whatever gear they can cobble together. If they talked to other superheroes they could at least get a few spare iron man suits or something, but no, they have to do this the hard way. Connected universes can be silly like that sometimes.

Rafael Vega is the hot-headed leader of the group, jumping into trouble head first and bringing the rest of the group with him. He's a lover as well as a fighter, and will stick with them through any challenge to the end. In many other groups he'd be the Lancer to a more moderate leader, but I suppose you can't follow the sentai formula perfectly every time or stories would get really boring and predictable.

Slag (not to be confused with the triceratops dinobot from transformers) is the big tough guy who's also surprisingly erudite and well-read. A subversion that's almost as frequent as the number of times they play it straight. It's easy to get some peace and quiet to read when all the other kids are too intimidated to bully you.

Sharon is the token girl. She was born to run and not belong to anyone. She doesn't need to be loved by you. Wait, no, that's Miley Cyrus. Easy mistake to make when they don't seem to have much personality of their own.

Wheels Wolinski is the token disabled guy, which is still one more than most groups like this manage. He's the gadgeteer of the group, solving problems with wits where brute force fails. Don't underestimate the damage a rocket-propelled wheelchair can do to a monster.

"Slippery Sam" Weltsmerz is (or was, as apparently he's dead at the time of writing) the rogue of the group, doing the stealth, disguise and fast-talking needed to get into places and distract attention from the others. They all seem pretty well suited to a saturday morning cartoon adaption.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 50: November 1989



part 3/5



The Living City pt 1: This is in theme, with a toymaker's shop run by gnomes. Gunder & Relvan Gaewilder are an exceedingly prolific pair who combine thiefly dexterity and clerical magic to make toys that are pretty popular in Raven's Bluff, yet the supply still exceeds the number of paying customers. So whenever the stock room gets a little too cluttered, they'll load them up on a wagon, dress up and put on a show, and throw them to random members of the public. Even though they only do it once or twice a year, it generates them a ton of goodwill and probably drives further sales. Since they have both magical and mechanical tricks up their sleeves, the defences for if anyone tries to rob the place are particularly inventive, but there are quite a few decent magical items as well as all the mundane trinkets if you succeed. It's basically an excuse to give the place a Christmas equivalent, only their Santa Claus is completely real and not so powerful as to be untouchable. But given how popular these guys are, any PC's who do successfully kill them & take their stuff can expect to face serious consequences if discovered. Even with all the dangers and plot hooks out there, the Realms is one of the happiest and most stable fantasy worlds on a day-to-day basis. As adventurers, you should be maintaining that state of affairs, not ruining it.



The Living City pt 2: The second Raven's Bluff location this issue is somewhat more typical. A pawnshop where you can sell things for quick cash or use them as collateral on a loan. Any adventurer who doesn't keep a firm grip on their finances may have reason to use this, and even the ones that are flush with cash might want to stop in and see what bargains are available every now and then. It's run by a set of identical twins. One is a paragon of honesty who'll report any illegal or stolen goods he spots straight away, while the other is a sneaky scammer who'll accept anything, and pull dirty tricks like hiring people to sabotage your attempts to earn enough to pay back your loan, and of course you can't tell which is which by looking at them, or even know that there are two of them unless you actively investigate the comings and goings at the place. This gives you plenty of opportunity for mistaken identity and conversation confusion hijinks, and also the more dramatic plot of what the good brother would do if he found about his counterpart's misdeeds. Another place that works well as both a location to drop by casually for shoppers, and a springboard to further adventures in itself. It is quite pleasing how much they manage to squeeze into these small packages.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 50: November 1989



part 4/5



New Rogues Gallery loses it's The. It also once again lacks any interconnection between the characters, as they're all submitted by different people. Some are familiar names, some aren't, some were PC's in their original campaign, while others were merely creations of the Dungeon Master. It's all very much a grab-bag of whatever they had in stock at the time.

Sam Shock is a high level wizard who unsurprisingly specialises in electric magic. He recognises the potential of electricity to revolutionise the comfort level of the everyday man, and works tirelessly to make it a better world. With seven new spells that emphasise the magic as technology theme and a new magical item, he gets easily the most word count here. Such a shame his ideas'll never catch on in Faerun, due to the tendency of magitech to blow up entire countries when taken too far.

Harlequin is exactly what the name implies, a mysterious acrobatic clown who is a regular sight in Raven's Bluff but keeps his real identity hidden. He's pretty capable in both thievery and spellcasting, and can be a good source of information if you don't mind puzzling out answers in the form of mime and interpretive dance. Another one that's definitely not for the darker and more serious campaign. (in which case, why the hell are you in the Realms in the first place?)

Nuelman the Oracle is an illusionist who's set himself up as a sage, using mind-reading and other divinations along with his extensive library to answer his client's questions before they even ask them. A little showmanship never hurts in building a reputation, as it means you have more clients, and can charge them more as well. As long as they're dumb enough that they don't realise the violations of privacy and personal autonomy, he has a pretty sweet gig going.

Spunk & Grizzard are an elf fighter and his wizard glove puppet, who he will firmly pretend is a real person at all times, using the puppet as his obnoxious id while always being polite and reasonable when speaking as himself, and sometimes having arguments between his two personas. Basically just an excuse for Rick Reid to go full pantomime in his attempts to annoy his players. (oh no it isn't. OH YES IT IS!) I am not amused at all.

Devon Tresk is a street urchin who stumbled across a couple of magical items, and is now gradually moving up in the world. If his luck holds up, he could be a protagonist and gaining levels before he hits 18. The readers do love a rags to riches story.



Season's Greetings: The centre pages also get a little color as a treat, and are filled with photos from the recent convention fun. The usual assortment of players, GM's and Klingon cosplayers. Enjoy the very 80's fashions and hairstyles. Nothing too surprising here.



Counterfeit Dreams: Skip & Jean collaborate on this issue's adventure, which is also set firmly in Raven's Bluff. Thankfully, it's not the most obnoxiously goofy thing either of them has ever done. It is still exceedingly linear though. The PC's are hired for a job that seems a little too simple and well-paying, and then paid in counterfeit money. As the fakes aren't very good, they're caught as soon as they try to spend it and faced with the choice of catching the original forgers or facing an extended spell in prison themselves. Nice legal system you got there. As is usual for tournament adventures in here, any investigation is cursory and heavily telegraphed to make sure the adventure doesn't exceed it's time limit. There's a fair amount of whimsy involving gnomes, the obligatory ratio of silly pun names and pop culture references, and lots of opportunities for hammy roleplaying. It's not the worst thing they've ever done, but it once again throws the limitations of their format compared to similar ones in Dungeon into sharp relief. Roleplaying heavy missions where it's expected most groups will get through the whole thing simply do not play to the strengths of tournament gaming. All it takes is one choice that the scenario doesn't expect and the whole thing falls apart.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 50: November 1989



part 5/5



It Takes One to Play One: Another dose of whimsy, as they engage in a humorous analysis of what kind of personalities are most likely to play particular classes. This is not done with any kind of scientific rigour, and is merely an excuse to wallow in stereotypes. It's all more than a little silly. They may not have illustrated Dragonmirth like Dragon, but they seem to be stepping up including the kind of things that they would put in there in recent issues.



Who? Me?: As usual after convention season, they do written recaps of the fun as well as the photographic documentation we saw earlier. Gary Haynes was the RPGA's point man for Origins this year, trying to corral as many judges as possible to run the tournament events. Also as usual, it seemed like chaos right up to the last minute, at which point people pulled together and things worked out pretty well. Some judges had to pull a lot of shifts, running games in more than half the slots, while others flaked out because there were games they really wanted to be PC's in instead. But unexpected heroes stepped up to take their places at the last minute, just like in the stories we love to tell. This is all becoming pretty familiar. I guess as long as human nature remains the same, it'll be the same problems of a few people doing the vast majority of the work, and everyone else only joining in at the last minute. And I wouldn't even begin to know how you might genetically engineer for such a subtle and complex personality trait as that. We'll almost definitely be seeing something similar next year as well, just different names and faces.



Bloodmoose & Company get to be in full color, just in time for the ooze and slime they find down in the dungeon to be extra gross. Bet they wish they'd gone for a cloud island adventure instead round about now.



A Special Offer: As they promised last issue, they're offering bargain prices on the back issues to help clear them out faster. Apart from the first two, which are dramatically more expensive than the rest to reflect their value as collector's items, and the other single digit ones are a bit higher than they cost originally as well. Always going to be the way of these things. Surprised that only 6 issues have sold out at this point, so you could pick up a fairly complete collection if you'd only just signed up then. Another symptom of their relatively small size compared to Dragon and D&D products actually sold in shops.



A curious celebratory issue, as it involved jacking up the level of whimsy to a level even some april fools issues don't reach. It wasn't boring, but it did definitely get irritating at times. It also increased the amount of focus on Raven's Bluff, making it very clear that it's popular with both the writers and readers, and going to play an even bigger part in their plans next decade. But only having one Living Setting also means it's becoming increasingly generic, accepting seemingly anything submitted even if it's more than a little silly. Will they be able to do anything about that? Let's head into the 90's and see what it has in store.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 20: Nov/Dec 1989



part 1/5



73 pages. Dungeon is also ending the decade on a nice round number, albeit a somewhat smaller one. They've also increased their page count in response, albeit by a smaller percentage. Will they have any kind of big celebration this christmas? It certainly looks like there'll be some big monsters at least. Let's see how threatening they are, and if their treasure hoard is worth the hassle to collect.



Editorial: Not only is it a nice round number of issues, it's a nice round number of adventures too, as they've now published exactly 100 of them. Bet they specifically chose the ones in this issue to make sure they hit that figure. They've made this issue seasonal by having not just one, but two adventures featuring Frost Giants. Hope you've wrapped up nice and warm in response. It's not all good news, they're losing their art director, barely a year after the last changeover. But the show will go on, and hopefully get a little more ambitious and interconnected over the next decade. Have fun actually taking these adventures and weaving them together into a larger campaign.



Letters: There's an unusually large number of letters published this issue. Many are follow-ups on topics from previous issues. Well, since they don't have a forum in here they have to use the main letters page for debate stuff as well.

First wants more high level adventures. The editors would too. They keep on asking for them, yet hardly anyone writes them. It's most irritating.

Second wants everything described in neat little boxes, including the people who write into the magazine. The editors don't care about your A/S/L, as long as you can create adventures and roleplay properly without being a dick, everyone's welcome.

Third also wants boxed text for everything, and more weird adventures like House of Cards. Your tastes are very different to mine.

4th wants boxes used in moderation. Anything in excess gets tiresome, and this definitely counts.

5th actively dislikes boxing things in. Let DM's run things their own way. And give us some more challenging adventures. None of this basic shit! Things can be basic or advanced on several different axes. It's not a straight continuum.

6th wants a mix of boxed and unboxed, as well as a good mix of settings. Better to please everyone some of the time than a few people all of the time.

7th also wants boxes used in moderation. Too much of that turns a GM into merely a script regurgitator and destroys their creativity. If you want nothing but linear prefab adventures where you can't think outside the box, you might as well play a computer game. That's one thing they can do better than tabletop RPG's.

8th also wants more big and high level adventures, and fewer solo ones that give the player few tightly proscribed choices. Do they even really count as role-playing?

After all this, we finally get onto some other topics. The 9th letter suggests more ways to deal with magical item overload. Many have limited uses, so just scale back on giving them out. Plus even a careless fireball can clean you out of a lot of your more fragile possessions. It's not rocket science.

10th we have a subscriber grumbling that the magazine gets delivered to stores first. Not a lot they can do about that when they send them all out at the same time. Battles with the post office are another perennial that never goes out of fashion.

11th, someone asking about back issue availability. Polyhedron just did a special offer on that. Maybe they should make an effort to plug their back stock as well.

12th, some general praise of the many things they do right. Always important to remember that the majority of customers are satisfied, they just don't write in to say so.

13th, someone who wants them to be more cultural in general. More OA stuff is particularly good, but there's also a whole world of other stuff out there to draw upon, plus many fantastical ones. Hit those encyclopaedias and head down a road less travelled.

14th praises the sneakiness of the goblins in Tallow's Deep. It turned out well in actual play, and that's what really counts.

15th is someone confused about paladin's protection from evil aura and how it differs from the spell. Buy the new edition, everything is explained much more clearly there.

16th and finally, (whew!) is someone who want more all-thief adventures, and maybe something with PvP in. The first, they'll happily do this issue. The second, they'll politely ignore, as is current code of conduct. Some experiments, they'll never do for political reasons.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 20: Nov/Dec 1989



part 2/5



The Ship of Night: Wolf Baur continues to build up his credits, taking us off to the Forgotten Realms for some deep dwarven fun. The PC's are hired to find and reclaim Hammerkeep, an abandoned stronghold with quite an interesting history. Why was it built in a place without natural caves and fault lines to expand upon, making all the work several times as expensive, and what is the eponymous Ship of Night? Is it an actual ship, and why would they build it where it can't be used? This isn't Mystara, where magical ships that sail through rock are a fairly common type of magical item and most decent-sized dwarf clans own one. After a (probably) fairly substantial bit of wilderness trekking, depending on where you were when you got the assignment, you get there and find out it's been taken over by Derro. From then on in it's a fairly typical humanoid-killing dungeon crawl, with some interesting quirks from Derro being smarter, but also more insane than the more common goblinoids most parties start with. There's plenty of other monster types sharing the area, some of which can be turned against the dominant ones and allied with, at least temporarily. A fairly standard bit of old schoolish action where you're a fair distance away from civilisation, which means you can't just pop back and heal whenever you feel like it, so you have to think about what condition your party is in, which fights you want to commit yourself too, which challenges you compromise on or use sneakiness to solve instead and what treasure will fit in your encumbrance limit. Decent, but not particularly surprising or original in any way. It'll get you some more experience between more world-shaking or character-developing scenarios.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 20: Nov/Dec 1989



part 3/5



White Fang: Nigel Findley appears a second issue in a row, with an adventure for a high level solo thief. Climb the forbidding mountain of White Fang, sneak into the home of some frost giants, and steal their stuff. Unsurprisingly given who's writing it, the protagonist is more than a little cynical and dickish, treating his hirelings and associates fairly poorly even when you take the "good" dialogue options. Of course, if you don't like him, you'll have plenty of opportunities to see him die horribly over the course of the adventure, both through dice rolls and your own poor choices. As usual for solo modules, it's somewhat more brutal than regular ones because you can just rewind and start again in a way that you can't in a full campaign. You do get a decent number of choices, and it's written so your thief skills are actually useful, so it works pretty well as a solo adventure, while also being not too hard to covert to a regular one with a larger, lower level party. It gets my approval. They can do a few more of these, preferably for the classes they haven't tried yet.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Well, we've made it through a year of posting, and nearly finished the 80's. Still a long way to go, so I hope you'll keep tuning in for the 90's and beyond, which will take considerably longer if the last go around was any indicator.


Dungeon Issue 20: Nov/Dec 1989



part 4/5



Pride of the Sky: Along with a double dose of frost giants, it looks like we have a double dose of ship-related adventure this issue, as this one involves a Mystaran skyship a la the Princess Ark. Said airship was attacked by a dragon and crashed in the middle of the Broken Lands. As it was carrying a whole heap of treasure at the time, people would rather like to find and retrieve some of it. The PC's come across a map that will supposedly lead them to it. This is a fairly substantial trek through rough terrain, which explains why no-one's done it yet, and when they get there, they find out the crash site has been turned into a manscorpion temple. Better have some anti-poison spells or items if you want to get out alive. Most of the valuables are melted and fused into the floors and walls, which certainly looks impressive, but also adds serious logistical challenges to getting them home and getting a good market value for them. So this manages to strike a good balance between Basic Set dungeon crawling, Expert Set wilderness challenges, and Companion Set level monsters which raises the possibility of bringing along a load of hirelings and using the mass combat rules if it turns out the PC's don't have what it takes to do the job on their own. (Although that still means the magazine hasn't ever done anything remotely approaching Master or Immortal level, to my irritation) It reminds us that by this point, D&D and AD&D have diverged quite a bit in setting flavour and playstyle, with the supposedly basic one actually being more sophisticated and focused in some areas. So this manages to be both fairly distinctive, and gives you lots of freedom in how to go about solving it, while not being easy at all, as that many save or die attacks in quick succession is a threat to even a very high level party. That's the kind of high level challenge I like to see. Hopefully it'll inspire someone to push things a little further and submit a challenge for the whole BECMI.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 20: Nov/Dec 1989



part 5/5



Ancient Blood: After a relatively short solo trip to icy terrain, here's the main course, a very large (although with fewer rooms than usual for it's size) keep haunted by undead frost giants. They're actually less scary in combat than living ones, but there's a good reason for this, so they can keep the intended character level low enough that the characters can't just bypass all the mundane dangers of arctic travel with magic. This gives them room to play up the atmosphere of the forbidding wilderness, enormous ice wall and vast icy halls, and create an adventure where there's more tension between the combats than during them. Yup, horror season is spilling over from last issue and they're going full gothic with the writing style. Starting off with flavour encounters with superstitious natives and a relatively simple seeming assignment, they then get roped into trying to deal with an ancient ghost that will apparently devastate the town in a month's time if not laid to rest. To do do so, you have to deal with the mundane challenges of arctic travel as well as the supernatural ones. So running this one well is all about pacing and building up the drama. It's not as deadly as the last couple, but still has plenty of good qualities to it, as it does gothic without overdoing the spooky to the point where it becomes mundane or being a railroad like far too many Ravenloft modules. We're definitely accumulating enough decent far-north adventures to justify an extended stay up there.


With 3 out of 4 adventures involving far north or icy terrains, this issue manages to be reasonably seasonal even without any formal mentions of christmas or it's otherworldly equivalents, and also manages a decent variety of tones within the same terrain. A good example of the kind of thing we don't get when they're trying to sell us individual modules. Let's find out if next issue is similarly wintery, or they'll already be looking forward to the whimsy of spring.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
Hopefully it'll inspire someone to push things a little further and submit a challenge for the whole BECMI.
TBF, Immortals was such its own thing that it kind of supplants what precedes it. I could definitely see Masters level adventures using bits from every set, but Immortals is practically its own game.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 51: January 1990



part 1/5



36 pages. A new decade, a bright new future! Well, they're definitely in a futuristic mood at least, if not a bright one, as the rather murky spacebound cover indicates. Let's see just how far from earth they're willing to go, and how dystopian they'll get this time around.



Conventions continue to come up with terrible pun names. Genghis Con? Total ConFusion? ConnCon? Have yourself a solid round of groans and slow claps.



Notes from HQ: Once again, they're very keen on the idea of increasing size, so most of the editorial is devoted to the membership drive, it's regulations, and the prizes you can win. Unsurprisingly, the prizes are fewer and smaller than last year's flop attempt, but don't let that put you off. Even if you only recruit one or two people, you're making a genuine difference to the long-term strength of roleplaying in your community. This all seems pretty stressful for them. They need to figure out how to get people more engaged without seeming like they're nagging, which will just be irritating and counterproductive in the long run. In anticipation of their hopeful success, they've moved Skip from long-term freelancer to full-time staff, given the sheer quantity of stuff he was doing for them for free anyway. It's safe to say he won't be going anywhere anytime soon, given how big a part he played in both Dragon and many full D&D books over the next decade. On the negative side, that also means we'll probably be seeing some more obnoxiously whimsical modules from him in here as well, but oh well, no-one's perfect. His positive contributions to gaming definitely outweigh the negative ones overall.



Letters: In connection with the membership drive, many of the letters are about the struggle in finding people to join and play with. The first points out that while there's plenty of gamers and games in the plains of Spain, there's virtually no RPGA presence there. You're absolutely right. This means you're a prime growth area with a little more promotional effort, preferably from someone who actually knows the local culture and it's quirks. Hey kid, wanna be a regional director? :winks: We can sort you out with some real good gear if you do. If no-one steps up, it'll never get done.

The second one addresses another problem with international growth, that it costs more than for USA residents. If a regional office gets big enough to do it's own printing that might be improved upon. Until then, you're stuck with the air mail costs. it's not as if they're seeing the extra money from it, especially if you paid for membership several years in advance and they rise in the meantime.

The third complains that not only are there not enough gamers in Hawaii, the ones that there are are nearly all military, who don't have any incentive to sign up to the RPGA because they already get service members discounts. Yeah, that is a problem. Might want to rejig your discount structure to help with that.

The 4th is another one complaining that they offer too many tournaments open to non-members. If they were bigger, they could be a bit stricter with the exclusives. Once again, fixing this is up to you guys really.

Finally, Multi-tournament champion Donald Bingle writes in to reveal that he's decided to try and actually make his own RPG's, and bought the rights to several other out of print ones. As he's a nice kinda guy, he's also offering a discount to RPGA members. That's the sort of community spirit we want to see. Hopefully this co-operation'll be profitable to all involved.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 51: January 1990



part 2/5



For a Few Gunfights More: Boot Hill material has always done relatively well in here. So it's no surprise that when publishing a new edition, they decide to promote it extra hard in Polyhedron rather than Dragon. So here's another of their full page pieces where they tell us what's changed in the new edition (much of it inspired by articles in this very publication), and why these changes are a good thing so hopefully you'll go out and spend some money on it. They've thoroughly rejigged the stats and added a skill system to make the game more than just a gunfighting simulator. (although the gunfights still get priority over everything else) They've got a whole chapter on customising and advancing your horses, so they can feel important and keep up with the humans over a campaign. And the back of the book is filled with both general campaign advice, a sample town and several specific adventures. (although some of those may well be reprints of old modules. ) It all reflects the general trends in roleplaying towards longer campaigns and more detailed settings these days. Hopefully it'll do well enough to inspire a few more articles in here before it fades away again, this time for good. Unless someone gets hold of the rights and publishes a new edition. But how well would that sell? Westerns were already a genre in decline in the 90's, they feel thoroughly anachronistic now, where you really can't use cut-out stereotypes of other human ethnicities or nationalities as the villain without serious complaints. How could they go about squaring the circle of making a Western set game fun but non-flamewar causing?



On a Roll: A second promotional article in quick succession, although this one is a little more interesting and useful than just a straight advert. Lou Zocchi has spent many years trying to improve the science of dice, creating new forms of increasingly complex polyhedron that are still symmetrical and so have equal chances to roll any side. His current goal is a 24-sided one, which seems relatively simple, you just get a 6-sided one and expand each side into a pyramid. But calculating the precise angles to make it roll smoothly while keeping each side well-defined, that's the tricky part. Anyway, to celebrate this, they want you to send in random generation tables with 24 entries on RPG related topics. The winners will get 24 sided dice to use the tables with, and the top three will get a deluxe jeweled hundred-sided die as well. This is one article that's particularly appropriate to the newszine's name, making people aware that there are more kinds of polyhedrons out there than the familiar 6 used in D&D, and it wouldn't hurt to add a few of the rarer ones to your collection. They may not ever be as popular, even 30 years on, but they sure do add a lot more speed and granularity to generating various probability spreads. Get your Dungeon Crawl Classics out and give them a roll.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 51: January 1990



part 3/5



With Great Power: This column is in a slightly silly mood, as it's covering the Great Lakes Avengers, the off-brand team of misfits and rejects (oh, and Squirrel Girl, but that's still in the future) from more serious superhero groups that protects Wisconsin and the surrounding region. The founder, Mr Immortal, who can come back to life from apparently anything, and dies a lot because that's his only superpower. His anthromorphic pterodactyl lover, Dinah Soar. G-rated Chuck Tingle before he got started :p Big Bertha, the supermodel that transforms into an enormous super-strong fat woman. No chance of anyone connecting her civilian identity with her superheroic life. And filling out the ranks are Flatman & Doorway, who's powers are entirely self-explanatory, plus established superheroes Hawkeye ("The city is flying, we’re fighting an army of robots and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.") & Mockingbird, currently on the outs with the regular Avengers. What wacky adventures will they get up to this week before their comic gets cancelled due to lack of sales or they get sacrificed to show how serious a big crossover event is? Will anyone care enough about them to include them in their own campaign as PC's or NPC's? Did you? No, really, if you did, I'd like to know.



The Caves of Confection: Last article was mildly silly, but this one really goes the whole hog. Rick Reid takes a break from forcing us to rescue small but well-coiffeured canines, and sends us into the sugar mines instead to clear out the monsters that have moved in and restore the proper supply of confectionaries to the surrounding country. As with the previous stuff I've seen from him, this is both very linear and extremely silly. A river of chocolate, a marshmallow-addicted harpy, an annoying grandpa in the middle of the dungeon who has somehow miraculously avoided the monsters, jinsu orcs, and the final boss is a snack dragon who's breath weapon encases you in a delicious (but immobilising) candy coating. It's pretty short and not particularly challenging, so it probably won't even last you a single session. Really, this fails on all levels, challenge, funniness, and most importantly meaningful choice. Would it have killed him to write a few more jokes so we could at least have had branching paths, secret doors, variability in the order you do things and amount of treasure you get, so players could feel some degree of choice and achievement for exploring and discovering things or not. Instead of treating them like people to roleplay with, it treats them like a passive audience for him to tell his comedy routine too, going straight from the start of the script to the end with their only contribution being rolling the dice at the appropriate points. It misses the whole point of a roleplaying game, and I'm both annoyed at him for writing it, and insulted that the editors think it's remotely what we want from our gaming and let it through. I mean, really?! Ugh!!! Minus E406 stars for you.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 51: January 1990



part 4/5



The Living City: The Raven's Bluff material is also culinary themed, although considerably less sickly sweet than the adventure. The Downunda Patisserie provides fresh bread and cakes for a significant proportion of the populace, and is so popular that the shelves are nearly always cleared out by the end of each day, ready for a new set hot and fresh out the kitchen the next morning. As with many of the more popular establishments, they have magical protections against robbery, plus anyone who succeeds despite that will find themselves with a lot of enemies if word gets around, so only the dumbest PC's will try violence in here. As usual, it's the relationships between the family that run it that provide the real opportunities for conflict, with two of the kids wanting to become adventurers while the mum and oldest son try to keep them from going off and getting killed. Will your party be the bad influence that leads to them actually gaining class levels? Or will it be one of the kids from previous articles that have similar ambitions? It's getting to the point where you could make a whole team just out of the kids in these articles. I guess it's indicative of how cool and frequent adventurers are as a career in the Realms. At least it's consistent, even if it is losing impact somewhat with repetition.



Do You Speak Togo?: Um, No? Why would I speak a made-up language I've never heard of before? Especially as it isn't actually made-up, but a simplified mishmash of chinese and japanese words. Actually, given the quantity of anime I've watched, that means I probably could speak it if I wanted, complete with atrocious grammar and near-incomprehensibility to native speakers due to not doing the tonal inflections properly. Basically, this is a primer in weeaboo speak for Oriental Adventures fans, for the people who think that ninjas are kewl but are too lazy to buy an actual book on the basics of another language. (or these days, just do a bit of googling) The kind of thing that's shallow, stereotypical and hasn't aged well. Doing "me so solly" jokes, even ironically, will not go down well in most company these days. I think I'll pass.



The New Rogues Gallery: Just one character here this issue. Sandor the Smasher, King of Shalimar (You'll definitely have a night to remember with him with those Con and Cha scores) and his intelligent magical warhammer Havoc. A dwarven fighter with near maximum in all his stats, he lost his original family to orc marauders and became a wandering adventurer. After a few years of this he was recruited and put through a series of tests by a mysterious mentor, and eventually rewarded with the aforementioned hammer and transparent super tough (yet still nonmagical) plate armor. It definitely has the scent of extruded fantasy product, being absolutely packed full of cliches. Best to mine it for the interesting new items and discard the somewhat tiresome story parts, which are not to my taste at all. Diminishing returns is definitely setting in for this column after several years.
 

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