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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
    17

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 5: Mar/Apr 1982



part 4/4



Figure Painting: This column moves onto the most complex thing you'll need to do regularly. Faces. The nuances of human skin and hair tones, and producing a decent facsimile of them on a tiny lump of plastic with a clumsy brush. You'll never manage all the detail a real face has, especially if you've got a whole army to do, so the trick is learning how to imply detail with shading and layering. Once again, this isn't my area of expertise, but it makes for good reading, and is easily understood, so I'll assume he knows what he's talking about and following that advice would be a good idea. This is still a good way to fill out the newszine with regular content.



Codebook: Another three messages hidden behind basic letter substitution cyphers here, along with hints on how to crack them. it's all a matter of basic maths, knowing the frequency of letters in a particular language. Which is why computers are better at it than humans. Even artistic subjects are still underpinned by maths and can be broken down into statistics in great detail, allowing us to understand them more deeply than the original creator did. (from a certain perspective) It's just how our universe works. This is still pretty basic, and not that interesting to me. I'd much rather leave this stuff to the automated systems, thank you very much.



Polyhedron Charter Members part 1: A-L: Here they list 384 of their first members who've made significant contributions towards the founding of the RPGA. As with many kickstarters these days, they put in their time and money not knowing if it was going to mean anything, and they fully deserve the credit for their support. Since they're listed alphabetically and stop at L, I'm guessing there'll be a similar amount in the next issue as well. It is a bit of a sausage-fest, with slightly less than 1 in 20 female, but that's no great surprise. If you were one of them and are still going and reading this, I salute you. Your contribution has not been forgotten.



More Conventions: Another 14 USA conventions and 1 Canadian one get listed here, some of them adding special guests to the basics of where, when and how expensive they are. Most of them seem fairly standard book or wargaming stuff, but Ambercon stands out. A convention devoted not just to a single author, but to a single series/setting of his. That is interesting. I didn't realise it was that popular, although since it got it's own very distinctive RPG that still has fanatical fans to this day, (upon googling, the convention is still going too) I'm not totally surprised either. What did they actually do/discuss in them, and how did they keep such a specialist niche going all those years?



NOR dismisses the crashed spaceship and heads onwards to adventure.



The growth from issue to issue is starting to slow down at this point, but it certainly hasn't stopped yet. It still feels like it's fresh and exciting for them as much as it was the players as they added new spells and classes, and experimented with ways of organising the rapidly increasing membership. It's still very much a fun ride, so on we go with all haste.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 6: May/Jun 1982



part 1/4



16 pages. A dramatic little Gangbusters confrontation takes the cover. They're still at the stage where they want to cover a wide variety of games, and this is one they would obviously be doing articles on if they could get someone to write them. But they're still relatively small, so no-one's biting. Let's see what they do manage to add this time around, and what gets sacrificed to make way for it.



Letters: Our first letter is from someone facing the satanic panic in their school. Just stay calm and don't let the idiots grind you down, you'll win in the end.

Second, they clarify that the UK roleplaying organisation Turnbull runs is not the same as the RPGA, but they are affiliated. It's good to have someone local with enough leeway to compensate for the cultural differences.

Finally, we have someone looking for a carrying case for their minis. They do have some, but stocks are low at the moment. Buy now, so we're motivated to reprint them! :teeth ting:



Where I'm Coming From: One of those reminders that TSR is growing meteorically at the moment, but they aren't going to take that for granted. Many a toy company has relied on one big breakout hit, only to find themselves on the scrapheap in a few years time when the fad is over. They're not only producing a whole range of different RPG's, they're buying out the competition and taking their toys too. Yup, it's time to see the TSR-SPI buyout from a third perspective. I wonder how much Dragonquest will appear in Polyhedron? Meanwhile, they're also planning their recruitment drive, to turn as many casual buyers as possible into more invested hardcore fans that'll stick with them through thick and thin. I guess it must have worked, because we're still here, aren't we?



Notes From HQ: Gangbusters may not be gaining any traction with their readers, but Top Secret is managing a little. They still need more GM's for it so they can run tournament games though. Apparently there's never enough to go around, which I didn't realise until I saw the player/DM ratios on Roll20, and seems odd considering you only need 1GM for up to a dozen or so players. I guess the proportion of people who have a driving urge to create fictional universes isn't actually that large. They're also stepping up the production of various kinds of RPGA memorabilia. Buy now, because the print runs are small, and they'll be collectors items later. They may have started this for fairly altruistic reasons, but the need to make money to survive is creeping in there. Ask not what your RPGA can do for you, ask what you can do for your RPGA!
 

Hussar

Legend
Yeah, I think it's fair to say that Top Secret did far better than Gangbusters. A shame, I really liked Gangbusters.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 6: May/Jun 1982



part 2/4



White Rabbits: This column shrinks to tiny size, as they're finally caught up with their schedules. No longer do they need it as a regular. Until next time something goes wrong, anyway. How long can they defy the cruel whims of lady luck? We shall see. :steeples fingers:



RPGA Interview with Jake Jaquet pt 3: The final part of this interview shows how important little things can be. The presence or absence of a The in your title. The difference between a ™ and an ® symbol in terms of intellectual property. The difference good font and layout choices make in attracting and retaining readers. The number of stats and amount of record-keeping your game requires. Basically a reminder that the things that decide whether something succeeds or fails are often not what you think they are, but little cosmetic decisions you might not even think about. Too much complexity, particularly dumped on a newbie all in one go, is definitely one of them. An advanced player might think the more, the better, but you can't just present them with a complete edifice with millions of awesome options, you need to give them a logical entry point. Also on his mind is the growth of computers. They have the potential to make writing, editing and layout a much quicker and easier job. But they also have the potential to make solo gaming a little too easy and crowd out tabletop RPG's and boardgames. Yeah, both of those are true. It won't be long before computer gaming is many orders of magnitude larger than tabletop, and that shows no signs of changing. But there'll always be a few people who crave that open-ended experience only another human mind can provide. His mind has certainly proved a good source of entertainment for quite a while.



Notes for the Dungeon Master: This column continues to slide in both usefulness and sadism, devoting most of it's length to the tedious debate of realism in roleplaying. This was getting old even in 1982, but this particular magazine is new, so it might be fresh to some readers. For me though, it says nothing new, and offers nothing that would actually be of any use in improving my gaming. It's amazing how quickly they're running out of ideas. You need to get some more reader submissions in to spice things up mate.



Weapons of the Ancients: Jim Ward, on the other hand, is nowhere near running out of ideas, because he can steal them from the most mundane of sources and still make them interesting. Take perfectly ordinary household appliances people in the modern day would take for granted, make them a bit tougher and more futuristic looking to justify how they survived the apocalypse, and then think how they'd be useful in an adventuring context. They manage to fill thousand+ page mail-order catalogs with this stuff, so there's easily room to fill several whole RPG supplements before it gets repetitive. I thoroughly approve of this. Inspiration can be found all over the place, you just have to know how to look at the world from an interesting perspective to make it seem fresh to other people.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 6: May/Jun 1982



part 3/4



Spelling Bee: Sigh. It's that time again. ILLUSION ADJUDICATION TIME!!!! I knew it was coming as soon as this column started, and it remains as tiresome as ever. If anything, this is even more obnoxiously niggling than the previous times I covered it, as they not only try to interpret the rules as conservatively as possible, but go hard on the Illusionists and Magic-users use completely different kinds of magic idea, which was never brought up at all in Dragon, and I'm glad it never made it out into wider circulation. It's no wonder that people don't want to deal with that and regular wizards will outnumber them by several orders of magnitude. If you're going to not only make them weaker (which they already are anyway), but also chip away at what few flexibility advantages they have as well, what really is the point? BOOOORING!!!



Dispel Confusion: Can Thieves wear studded leather? (No, too shiny for proper sneaking.)

Why don't D&D dragons have weak spots? (We don't like no critical hit systems and called shot rules round these here parts boy. Get outta town before we change our minds and fill yo' ass with buckshot.)

Can a monk wear Bracers of Defence (Yes, but it'd be embarrassing for them to use magical crutches rather than pure skill. Their vows are almost as strict as Paladin's.)

Can a Bard use Fighter weapons when they're a Thief? (they're not a Bard yet, so no, normal dual classing rules apply if they want to gain XP for that encounter. )

How do you calculate unique creatures' attacks & saves? (divide hp by 4.5. You'd think they'd be luckier in their dice rolls when gaining levels, but apparently not.)



An Ace Against Odds: Dawn Patrol makes another appearance in the newszine with this little solitaire scenario. Take the role of a German ace trying to take out three bombers on his own. You have the element of surprise, but if not careful, you can still wind up permanently grounded. The bombers get a fairly detailed description of the tactics they'll use, but with some random elements thrown in to make sure this has some replay value. Seems decent enough, and it's a welcome bit of variety. Curious that aerial wargaming is seeing more action in here than ground-based stuff. I guess it's just one of those quirks of demographics, as all it takes is one enthusiastic writer in the right place at the right time to skew the amount of articles. I recall Divine Right had a regular column in Dragon around this time. I wonder if that'll show up here at all.
 


(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 6: May/Jun 1982



part 4/4



RPGA Charter Members: Unsurprisingly, this covers M-Z, another 360 early adopters who did their bit to build up the RPGA. The demographics remain the same as last issue, and there's still a fair few familiar names in there that're significant to gaming in general, but there's nothing much to say about this that I didn't say last time. On we go.



First Tournament Tips: With all these new people coming into the RPGA, it's inevitable that some of them are also new to going to conventions and unsure of how it goes. So here we have the experiences of a first-time organiser, showing us that it's not that scary or expensive to run tournament modules at your own convention, so give us a ring, write us a letter, and give it a go yourself. Just like starting a band, putting on a play, or organising a party, all it takes is a few interested people at first and who knows where it might lead. Well, they were coming out of the punk era, which was big on breaking down the barrier between performers and audience. What is roleplaying if not the same idea applied to fantasy stories? Everyone should have a chance to try things, to find out what they're good at.



NOR has to deal with a werewolf, and a lot of exposition in small font. Not sure which is scarier, really.



The first issue that really irritated me, as it features several of those tiresome topics that get repeated many times in Dragon and online forums, with little resolution or progression, all in one go. Probably just bad luck. What's not luck is that they're already reorienting themselves more toward beginners than experts, which is another reason fewer of the articles might be interesting to me. Oh well, Just got to get used to filtering and picking out the best bits again, because I'm sure there'll be a lot of that as the years go by. Just keep going in a regular rhythm and this too will be over before we know it.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 7: Jul/Aug 1982



part 1/4



16 Pages. Those adventurers look very cheerful. A roaring fire, a big chest full of treasure, what more do they need? Maybe a little help getting it home, for that stuff is heavy, but they can worry about that in the morning. If you're always thinking about the destination, not the journey you'll never be truly happy. Let's see what enjoyment can be derived from this particular step along the way.



Where I'm Coming From: After a couple of issues showing the new staff the ropes, the place is finally starting to feel like a smoothly running machine, with enough people to handle the workload and everyone properly specialised at their jobs. So this is Frank stepping back a little further from the day-to-day running of the newszine to concentrate on his promotion to Gary's right-hand man and chief architect of the new basic & expert sets. He'll still be contributing to some of the regular columns for the moment, but his baby is all grown up and eventually it'll have to fly or fall without him. This may actually be a relief to the other staff members. Does this mean they'll be sticking with his formula for a while, or putting their own stamp on things as soon as he's gone? More incentive for me to keep on reading.



Letters: Our first letter is from someone happily converted to playing Fight in the Skies. That's what they're here for.

Second, we have another person facing pushback from their parents for gaming too much. If your grades are suffering, they're quite right to be worried. Roleplaying should help you learn to do maths and get along with people, not become a substitute for human interaction.

Third, we have another complaint about the newszine's lateness. They're getting better, honest, but obviously some people are still slipping through the cracks.

Finally, they have that perennial problem of someone who wants to play, but can't find any other gamers in their area. Look forward to an article on play-by-mail games soon that may help.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 7: Jul/Aug 1982



part 2/4



Dispel Confusion: What use is the expert set? (If you want to venture into the wilderness, a hell of a lot.)

The Endless Quest books break the rules. (NPC's can do a lot of things you can't in any edition of the game. Deal with it. )

How powerful is a ranger's spellcasting? (1 at the first level they gain spells, so x-7 or 8 Best to use the slots for utility tricks, not combat.)

Encumbrance is a pain to calculate (Yes. Yes it is. )

What level should a ranged cure spell be? (It should not. That's horrifically game-breaking and not supported by mythic sources. Away with you, vile twink! )



RPGA Interview with Mike Carr: Time for the plane fighting guy to get his turn in the hot seat. He's been part of the team since 1974, before the company was even fully incorporated and a full-time job for anyone. He's less interested in the RPG side of things, but has still wound up making some fairly significant contributions anyway. In fact, they specifically got him to write B1 because he'd bring a beginners perspective to the module intended for beginners. He's a particularly avid conventiongoer, which makes him a good fit for working on Polyhedron, and keeps up his perfect Gen Con attendance record long after leaving game design behind. Gaming is a fundamentally social activity, and that's what he seems to be most excited about, using both wargaming and roleplaying as a way to bring people together all over the world, and ensure that they'll never get bored due to the combination of random and tactical elements producing more interesting games with fewer duplications of results than either on their own. Another interesting perspective on the early years of gaming.



Notes from the DM: Gary responds to last issue's realism debate. He could easily have made AD&D much more detailed and realistic, but intentionally chose not too. The one attack a minute thing is an abstraction. As with the article he's responding too, this is all stuff I've seen before in greater detail, many many times. Do we really need to go over it again?



Spelling Bee: Having gone into great detail on one type of spell in the last issue, they go completely the other way this time, with a load of little comments on various cleric spells. Most of the interpretations are obvious, but a few are outright expansions of the rules, because they're the official designers, and they can. Collectively they reinforce that clerics are the class you need not only to heal the party after a fight, but also to buff them before (and good preparation goes a long way in keeping you from getting hurt in the first place. ) Without one, your team is a lot less resilient, especially if you have multiple encounters in quick succession. Even before tons of supplements blurred their niches, clerics were better than wizards until you got to ultra-high levels. Don't underestimate them.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 7: Jul/Aug 1982



part 3/4



Campaign Clues: This issue's Top Secret article tackles the concept of long-term campaigns. The problem with most gamers starting off with D&D is that they bring that mindset to other RPG's, resulting in site based adventures where the PC's go in, get the information by unsubtle means and blow stuff up when they leave with no regard for the long-term geopolitical consequences of their actions. While making it too much like real spying would be pretty tedious, there's definitely something to be said for long-term adventures where the characters grow and change, and face more nuanced challenges than some cackling villain's secret lair. To make this work, you need to do more preparation than just bunging a bunch of goons in an illogical building layout. But the results will be worth it. Looks like the big push to get players out of the dungeon has started a little early here. That's pretty interesting to see. The advice is pretty decent for any modern day real world game too, emphasising the importance of doing your research and planning ahead. There's tons of adventure material prebuilt for you if you just know where to look. Definitely approve of this one.



Ranch Encounters: Boot Hill gets an article. That's quite pleasing to see. They really didn't cover it very much in Dragon either, so every little helps. Despite the game change, this is very D&D, as it's a table of random encounters your ranchers might encounter while movin' steers across the plains. The law might be days or weeks away, so you'll have to be prepared to defend your livelihood. Well, that's what makes the game interesting despite the lack of supernatural elements. It's a wild frontier to be conquered, by personal strength and cunning. As long as you can accept that other humans'll be your primary adversaries and not feel guilty about killing them, there's plenty of fun to be had here.



Notes for the Dungeon Master: This column tackles the thorny subject of what to do when a character dies, especially at higher levels. Starting right from first level every time is a bit much, but if the new character is exactly the same level as the old one, then what sting does dying have, and what incentive do they have to learn to play well and keep their character alive? Given the exponential nature of D&D xp tables, they'll soon catch up anyway. So they're still thinking in the mould of old school competitiveness where surviving and getting to high level is winning, and there's no do-overs if you fuck up. Get that treasure, even if it involves a certain amount of deceiving the other players so you can get a bigger share, and therefore level up faster. The kind of thing that'll get gradually chipped away at over time, as other games become increasingly nonrandom in character generation, and save games get introduced to computer games, making people more concerned about "fairness" in terms of stats and encounter design, and less willing to start from scratch every time they lose. A long way to go on that front.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 7: Jul/Aug 1982



part 4/4



Notes from HQ: In growing rapidly, they've once again found that some of their addresses are wrong, be it due to poor spelling, typist error, or people moving. Once again they're forced to appeal to the readers to sort this out. And they thought they could get rid of the regular column for this stuff already. So much for that plan. You can reduce the errors by orders of magnitude, but you can never eliminate them entirely. Just another day at the office.



Membership drive: They've been talking about this for several issues. Now it's time to put their money where their mouth is, and gamify the process of boosting their numbers, offering a whole bunch of rewards to people who manage to get other people to sign up, including getting to game with Gary himself for the top three recruiters. That should have some effect. I wonder if we'll find out later who the star recruiters were, and exactly how many they managed to persuade. Here's hoping.



Gift Catalogue: Along with all the various physical rewards for recruiters, they're also stepping up production of all sorts of RPGA exclusive merchandise. (including literal merchanDICE) A tote bag, baseball cap, belt buckle, and plenty of modules for your players to die horribly in. At least you'll look snappy through the slaughter. Given the small print runs, if you have one from that era in good condition, you can probably sell it now for a profit. Anyone reading buy some of these? Were they good quality, or shoddy stuff that fell apart far too soon?



Convention Wrapup: Convention season isn't quite over yet, but enough of them have been and gone for them to put this together. Time to see who won the big tournaments, what special guests attended, and what cool new stuff was premiered there. Not stuff that's particularly useful to gaming now, but still an interesting historical record, and the people involved can look back on it fondly and say they were there. If you were one of them, drop in and say hi. How did it feel to win, and how's gaming treated you since then?



NOR comes to nothing, with another episode full of exposition that will never be resolved, for it gets cancelled here. Another one on the "never even had a chance" pile with Pinsom. This probably wasn't the best place for it anyway. When you only have one page every two months to work with, serialised plots don't work very well. I suspect a more comedic replacement will be incoming soon.



Finally getting close to feeling like just another day at the office, but their efforts at expansion keep things from stabilising for a while longer, and when it does, it'll be with somewhat more resources than they have now. But then again, they'll also have to deal with a lot more letters and other noise trying to organise all their conventions and tournaments. Let's see how the balance shakes out in the next issue.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 8: Sep/Oct 1982



part 1/4



16 pages. In it's short history so far, Polyhedron has already done more gangster covers than Dragon did. But will the insides actually have anything to back that up this time around, or will it be more flights of fantasy and literal airplane flights. Let's see what fruits this particular autumn has to reap.



ESP: Mary Kirchoff takes her first editorial, and straight away, changes the title to an acronym that's also a pun. Well, that kind of thinking certainly has a long and wholesome future ahead of it in their publications. No interesting rants in the actual contents though, just your basic reiteration of what's in the rest of the magazine. Maybe once she's been in charge for a while, got a bit more confidence.



Letters: The first letter asks how you deal with problem players. Killing them is not an effective deterrent. Some will learn how to play nice with the others if properly guided, others you'll just have to kick out of the group. It's an eternal struggle. Best to just confront the issue, not be passive-aggressive and hope they get the hint.

Next we have a request for a classified section. This didn't go very well in Dragon, and that has a much larger circulation, so they're leery of trying again. It'll take a fair bit of pressure to change their mind.

Finally, someone grumbling that they haven't brought out their promised directory of gaming clubs. Wait until the membership drive is over, and they have more to actually report on that front. You have to do things in the proper order, even if that takes time.



White Rabbits: Money issues are the main complaint here. They keep on having to remind us that they only deal in USA dollars, not canadian ones, and if you send the wrong sort, forget your conversion rates, or the check bounces, it causes no end of hassle, and the result will be you having to pay all the bank surcharges or get nothing. Doublecheck your checks, get it right first time and everyone will be happier. They need to get more international branches going, reduce the international postage costs and currency conversion hassles. Fingers crossed I'll get to see them implementing that as it happens.
 



(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 8: Sep/Oct 1982



part 2/4



RPGA Interview with Mike Carr pt 2: Our interview series concludes here, as apparently the new editor isn't interested in continuing them, despite all the new staff members they could have spotlighted. A bit of a shame, since they're nowhere near wearing out their welcome, and the informal and digression filled style has kept them pretty interesting so far. The various wargaming clubs that precede roleplaying, and are still going now. The way games evolve during the design process, and then even moreseo between editions once released to the general public. The value of roleplaying as a way of teaching, math, social skills, history, geography, you can roll a whole bunch of topics in and make it more fun than a regular lesson. The importance of finding time to play for fun when designing games is your career. This is still pretty cool reading. Let's hope they have an equally good plan for it's replacement.



Encounters: So we do finally have a Gangbusters article. This is the kind of thing that makes going back and doing this trek all over again worth it. They take the characters on the cover of the issue, give them all stats, and a bunch of options on how the scene might play out if the players stumble across it but don't intervene. That's pretty neat, and adaptable to any modern day game. It finally lets me get a look at the game stats as well, which seem to be mostly on a percentile scale like BRP, but with a D&D style class/level system for the various character types. Those struggle to reflect the complexity of the skillsets real humans wind up with, so it probably contributed it the system's lack of success. Well, that and prohibition era gangster media being a relatively niche subgenre, even compared to Westerns. At least they tried. And it will be interesting seeing if they can repeat this for their future covers.



Notes for the Dungeon Master: After several issues in which they've been getting soft, this column goes back to full sadism mode. Any tricks the players can use, monsters can do better. Even at high level, you can always have the advantage of numbers. They'll always fail saves at least 1 in 20 times, so hit them with enough save or sucks and you can always get them killed or captured. Basically, never let them forget that the DM is the boss, and can "win" any time they choose. Any successes they may enjoy are purely through your magnanimity. Charming. If a DM is going to be a bastard, they're going to be a bastard no matter how good the advice you give is. You really don't need to encourage them. I mildly disapprove.



Figure Painting: This column is another one on the chopping block, so it doesn't stretch out it's advice too much. Instead, it cuts to the chase, advising you about how to blend paints for subtle shades, apply highlights to make it look like it's in the right sort of lighting, and then properly varnish it afterwards so it lasts and doesn't wind up with smudgy fingerprints from regular handling in your games. (you were actually planning on wargaming with it, right?) Unlike the interviews, I think this is about the right length, neither wearing out it's welcome or leaving me wanting more. Almost as if they planned it that way. Now go and put it into practice, as no matter how much advice you read, you'll still need to put the time in yourself to get good.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 8: Sep/Oct 1982



part 3/4



Nerd's Quest: Looks like they've decided to add a bit of Dragonmirth style humor, with a silly little half page story that builds up to a multilayered groan inducing pun. The terrible things people can do to the english language. I really don't know if I approve or not. It's a bit more variety, so I think I can live with a page or two of this per issue.


Rune Scry: We apply the lessons they taught in Top Secret about codes and cyphers to fantasy games here, giving us a message in a fictional alphabet to figure out. As with the previous code stuff, it's not something I'm particularly interested in, but it's a perfectly valid use of their space. Like putting crosswords and sudoku in the newspaper, it gives you something to exercise your brain when you don't have time for a full game.



Spelling Bee: Rather than tackling specific spells this time, this column instead devotes a little time to reminding DM's to track spell components. If you don't, your spellcasters will be vastly more powerful than your muggles. Some of them are expensive, some are bulky, some of them are fragile, and some require whole quests in themselves to get hold of. So this is a reminder that the balance of the game was originally predicated on strict tracking of the passage of time and all the little possessions each character has, and if you don't do that, but instead prefer a looser, more narratively focussed game, the balance of the system rapidly falls apart, as those were thought of as important parts of the overall system. This highlights one of the disconnects between the original designers and later players who learnt from the books without all the context. The troubles with being hugely successful, and people wanting to use your system as a generic roleplaying game instead of the dungeoncrawling simulator it was originally designed as.



Getting started in the Gangbusters game: Following on from the scenario, we have this one-page primer that confirms what I inferred about the system earlier, and reveals a few more details as well. It's a pretty light one, not bothering to give characters mental stats, so how smart they are is purely how smart the player plays them as, and the only fully defined skill is your driving ability, which I suspect will come up a lot in conflicts. So even more than D&D, it's a game where you can roll up characters quickly, and you'll need too, because one good spray with a tommy gun'll kill them. This makes long-term campaigns tricky, and I suspect contributed to it's demise. It's designed for short, lighthearted games, and doesn't have the advancement potential needed to keep people playing the same characters for years and growing without breaking the system or running out of ways to improve. Even if it sold decently at first, it would never have supported the vast array of supplements D&D accumulated over the years.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 8: Sep/Oct 1982



part 4/4



Dispel Confusion: Can you double haste yourself? (no, but you can be double slowed. Life ain't fair. )

Can you advance multiple levels in one go? (No. The DM must strictly enforce training times and costs or you are not playing the Official AD&D™ game! If they get too much experience without advancing a level it goes to waste.)

How do multiple attacks for high level and RoF rules combine? (They don't. One or the other.)

Is Sage Advice official? (Not as official as my column! I'm Frank Mentzer! I'm far more important than Jean or Skip or whoever's running it this month!)

What happens if your ability scores are drained below the minimum for your class? (You lose it until they're restored. It may be easier to just retire the character altogether)

What do I do after winning against Lolth (Your DM is on his own there, that's the highest level module we've got a the moment. Wait a few years, some more'll be along eventually)



The Knight-Error: As I predicted, the exposition heavy high fantasy of NOR gets replaced by a four panel newspaper style comedy strip. The kind of thing that can run for years without the characters evolving in any way, as they're painted in broad enough strokes that they're always accessible to new readers. A dumbass knight who doesn't know how to pick his battles? There's plenty of possibilities in that. Will they do them to death, or will his tenure be just as short as his predecessor's?



Notes from HQ: While Mary's taken over the editorial and the day-to-day running of the newszine, this column goes to Kim Eastland, who's job is co-ordinating between the various departments of the RPGA now it's too big for one person to handle. As is often the case when a new person takes over, this article is about repeating the basics. If you want to contribute, make sure all the legal stuff is sorted, include an SASE so they can reply, and check that what you're sending is in their remit. They're not Dragon, so they're not interested in general purpose gaming material, but they are interested in ways they can further organise and grow the roleplaying community. Remember that and we'll get on famously. Seems pretty standard. Whatever you want to do, the same basic logistical and human wrangling issues apply. Just got to keep repeating yourself until at least the majority get the message.



Gift Catalogue: This is identical to the last issue. Nothing to say here.

Membership Drive: This is also identical to the last issue. So it goes. Promotion takes a lot of repetition to reach everyone who might be receptive to it.


With the new bosses making substantial changes as soon as they were put in charge, this already feels like another fresh start for the newszine, improving the layout and artwork, and adding some more lighthearted humour to the mix. They might be taking organising the RPGA and getting everything running on time seriously, but they haven't forgotten that the whole point of the organisation is having fun. As long as that remains the case, hopefully these will remain fun to read as well.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 9: Nov/Dec 1982



part 1/6



32 pages. Last christmas they doubled in size as a special gift. This time around, they do so and it sticks. Soon it'll be the new norm that people take for granted. (and it's still only a fraction of the size of Dragon through most of it's lifespan) Let's see if they've got enough material in the slush pile to keep up quality control, or if it'll turn this into a filler heavy slog.



ESP: The editorial confirms that not only have they doubled the size of the newszine, the number of members has also more than doubled compared to the same time last year. Which means they have somewhat more money to work with, but still not enough to do everything they want, so buy from their gift catalogue now! :teeth ting: Got to make sure those whales have things they can spend their money on, so they can exploit them to their fullest, especially in a club which already tends towards the hardcore gamer. On a less cynical note, Star Frontiers arrives! That got a fair few articles in Dragon, so I suspect there'll be a fair few in here as well. Other than that, it's the usual introduction reiterating the contents page. On we go to the articles.



Holiday Greetings: Gary pops in again to deliver a State of the Union address. Much of this is stuff we already heard in the last issue, like Frank being moved up the ladder, and Mary & Kim taking over different parts of his job. He's happy with how much they've grown in the past year, but still has plenty of plans to get bigger and provide more varied types of gaming in the future. They've got a solid partnership going with their UK counterparts, now they're trying to do the same with their French ones. Hopefully in the future they'll have branches in every country, all able to work under the same tournament scoring system and send the best of the best to compete in the international grand finales like pro sports leagues. An ambitious dream, but not an impossible one. We shall see what kind of progress they make towards it over the years.



Confessions of a Greenhorn Gamer: One of the big changes as TSR expanded was going from hiring friends of friends because they're enthusiastic gamers, to recruiting people because they're properly qualified for a specific job, even if they aren't gamers. Mary Kirchoff is one of those, and still getting the hang of the odd combination of mathematical equations and creative writing skills that make up playing D&D. It seemed pretty weird at first, but now she can see why people find it fun, as it scratches an itch other forms of recreation just can't touch. Obviously she gets the hang of it eventually, otherwise she wouldn't stick around in the industry for over 20 years when she could get a better paid job elsewhere. So this illustrates the changes that take place in a company when it goes from a hobby to a big operation, and how the best way to recruit new people to gaming is by regular exposure, showing it's not some weird cult but a normal form of entertainment people of any age, sex, race etc can do. Hiding it will be counterproductive in the long run, so don't bother.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 9: Nov/Dec 1982



part 2/6



Star Frontiers: As we saw on both the cover and editorial, it's time to add a somewhat more serious Sci-Fi game than Gamma World to their roster. With playable aliens that aren't just humans with latex foreheads, a starting setting area that's kept to a manageable size, and an introductory module to get you going quickly, it does seem like they're learning from experience and applying it to their new games. While this is billed as a review, it's really just a promotional piece, telling us what's in the boxed set and trying to sell us on it. Mildly interesting as it allows us to pinpoint when it was released, but nothing useful for gaming once you've actually bought it. Oh well, I suppose that's in theme for a holiday issue, where quantity of presents is usually more important than quality.



Christmas Crossword: In a sign that they didn't actually have quite enough material for this expanded edition, they recycle some from their other publications. A crossword in the shape of a christmas tree, filled with gaming related words? You could easily have whipped up a new variant on the theme yourself. I'm not particularly impressed, nor am I challenged by it. I return a resounding meh to this!



Reiga Nerd: Looks like the gag page is indeed going to be a regular thing from now on, with two more short stories that are just buildups to really awful puns. It's an interesting variant on the mostly visual jokes in Dragonmirth, and I suppose it is slightly more highbrow, as this is a more specialist publication. I could get used to this. As I said several times in the last years of Dragon, all serious all the time gets boring all too quickly.



Encounters: Somewhat more useful Star Frontiers material here, as they give us another scenario based on the cover art. Not just a basic monster battle either, but a complex moral dilemma that could go many different ways depending on how it's played. An alien that looks scary, but just wants to go home. A dumbass human hero who might shoot first and ask questions later. This packs a lot of usefulness and implied setting into a single page, and is definitely one of the bits of the newszine I might want to go back too and take inspiration from for my own games. I hope they keep this column going for a while.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Polyhedron Issue 9: Nov/Dec 1982



part 3/6



Dispel Confusion is bumper sized, and covers Top Secret and Gamma World as well as the usual D&D questions. Every system has it's problems, but not every system gets it's solutions.

Poison is too deadly! (Yeah, we get a that a lot. We're gradually toning it down, but it'll take a few editions to filter through)

What effect does a neutral cleric have on undead (depends who they worship)

Can I heat darts I threw at a creature (yes, but if it has hands free it'll probably remove them pronto)


Do all agents have a licence to kill? (no)

What happens if you stack Tracers? (diminishing returns does eventually set in, but it takes a while)

Can I get a bionic limb to replace one I lost in the course of play? (Not yet. We may add them in a supplement though.)


What equipment do gamma world characters start with? (Buy the next edition to find out! :teeth ting:)

Can Robots get mutated? (No, but they can be indirectly affected by the mutations of others.)



Top Secret Gadget Contest Results: Another thing they set up earlier finally bears fruit. 10 of the best spy gadgets human ingenuity could come up with. More than half of them would work in reality, and 2 or 3 of them not only exist, but are both cheaper and better than the prices and specs given here due to the advances in miniaturised computer technology. It's always amusing when you see sci-fi that was too conservative in it's predictions of the future. One of the runners-up is an extremely young Matt Forbeck, who didn't become an official WotC employee until 2005, and is still working with them at the time I write this. So this article is not only good reading, but historically significant as well. You never know when something is going to pay off, way down the line. Keep sending those submissions in, even if they get rejected.



Dawn Patrol: As with Star Frontiers, this is a straight promotional article for the new edition, aimed at new readers of the newszine with no experience of wargaming. They're playing up the campaign side of things, with advancement for the pilots, and possibly even recurring enemies if you don't shoot them all down. They've also stepped up the general quality of the production values as well, as TSR is now bigger, and can hire better artists and printing presses. If you weren't into it before, now is the perfect time to start! It does feel like they're fighting against the tide somewhat, trying to keep their wargames alive by adding more RPG elements because the RPG's are selling many orders of magnitude more. Still, at least they're going out swinging in a way that's interesting to see, even if I know it's futile in the long run.
 

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