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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
    42

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 53: May/Jun 1990



part 5/5



The ABC's of Acronyms: A short one that's focussed on Top Secret, but really is useful to any game, giving lots of suggestions for good words to fill out the acronyms of your alphabet soup agencies. Be they official government ones, or the secret villainous ones they're trying to foil, they still need a name, preferably one that's suitably catchy and symbolic. You probably don't have time to go through the whole dictionary, so this is a handy shortcut for those situations. Not bad, but there's probably something similar but better to be found on the internet these days so hardly indispensable.



A Magical Contest: Having just finished their third membership drive, time for another contest to encourage engagement. New magical items are one of the most popular kinds of articles, but Polyhedron doesn't do many of them. Want to change that? There are big prizes to be won! As ever, I look forward to seeing the results, and hope they'll be good.



The Living City: So we've finally reached the cover story. Before the invention of refrigeration, ice houses were big business for thousands of years, with an emphasis on the big, as you'd need to buy in serious bulk to take advantage of the square/cube effect on heat transference and have enough to last the whole summer, even with a heavily insulated storage space that's also built underground with a single vertical entrance to take advantage of convection effects for additional cooling. Pleasingly, this place shows that the writer has done their research, with a shaded entrance that leads to an underground cavern full of nooks and crannies. There's rumours that it contains a secret exit to deeper caverns with monsters and stuff, but it's not on the map, so that's probably false unless you really want to change it in your campaign. What might become an adventure though, is that one of the junior employees is also a thief, and his guild wants to use the place to secretly store stolen goods that are too hot to fence right now. He actually likes his employers and would rather not expose them to the liability, but once you're linked to organised crime, it's hard to say no to "requests" like that. It'll probably take the PC's involvement to cut the knot one way or another. Another fairly interesting entry that strikes the right balance between drawing on real world history and making the worldbuilding useful for a D&D game where you're expected to be adventurers passing through. The much greater number of submissions they get for this column continue to reap dividends in terms of quality compared to everything else here.



Bloodmoose & Company kill the monsters with several dramatic twists, then reveal that the whole series has been building towards a single terrible pun. And so this comic can conclude with us all making a hearty groan. Don't you just love a happy ending.



An issue that would definitely have read a lot better if I was reading it when it was released first time around, as it has a lot of riffs on themes that aren't terrible in themselves, but I've grown jaded on from decades of seeing variants of them. Once again, as they try to expand, they're catering more to newbies, leaving me a little bored. Oh well, I got through the last cycle of that approach. This too shall pass. Onward we go once again.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 23: May/Jun 1990



part 1/5



68 pages. Being a mighty-thewed minotaur is no impediment to having fabulous hair. In this edition though, the stat penalties are somewhat of an impediment to becoming a spellcaster. Is this one an exception to the rules binding the PC's, or is there a clever but entirely legal trick behind what we're seeing. Time to see what this one has to hold, and if it'll be entertaining, boring or annoying.



Editorial: The editorial is another round of things not to send them, because they won't publish it no matter how well written it is. This time it's not to overdo the extraneous setting details. Sure, stuff that establishes the personalities and motivations of the characters so we can roleplay them better is nice, but detailing their family tree a dozen generations back is a waste of your time and our limited page count. On the opposite extreme, a bunch of monsters sitting in their rooms that attack on sight and never surrender is just as bad. Basically, a little focus and self-editing goes a long way in making their jobs easier. Think what will actually be useful for other people's games, keep it in and chuck the rest. Help them tell good stories, rather than dictating a story to them, and they'll be most likely to come back for more. That kind of attitude is why I consistently prefer their module choices to Polyhedron's, which are much more often about forcing us to re-enact the story the writers wrote. Long may they retain it.



Letters: The first letter is from someone who's trying to put together a gaming forum on the infant internet. Any help would be appreciated. Good luck with that. There's definite advantages to getting in on the ground floor with these things.

Second is another person who wants more regular D&D material. That's pretty consistent across their publications, that writers prefer to submit AD&D material, but there's lots of quiet D&D players out there who feel ignored. Who will step up and be their champion?

Third, some praise of their high quality covers. Keep it up, and maybe do some more poster versions without any writing on them to put on our walls. No objection to that idea.

4th, a complaint that they didn't properly value all their treasure recently. Since 2e no longer gives XP for treasure, they no longer feel bean-counting is essential to adventure design anymore. You can focus all the clearer on killing them, since taking their stuff is now optional. The future, everybody!

5th, someone complaining that some adventures require supplements to make sense. Trust me, there'd be just as many complaints if everything submitted had to be corebook only. No winning this one, and adventures can be more complex and varied this way around.

6th, an IC one from an orc king complaining that the map in Rank Amateurs is inconsistent with the one in GAZ10. Consistent cartography is just one of the many arts and sciences those humanoids have no grasp of.

7th, 8th and 9th continue the interminable debate on if every adventure should use boxed text, with one yes, one no and one maybe. Will they ever reach some kind of resolution on this? Or will the editors just get sick of it and stop publishing letters like the saga of Allycia and Scud.

Finally, someone pointing out that House of Cards would be an absolute slaughterfest for a regular-sized party of the expected level and many would give up after just one or two doors. Well, yes. I noticed that too. Like Tomb of Horrors, that's entirely intentional. Even at that level, there are still dangers that can casually humble you, so don't get cocky.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
you are getting close to the dungeon magazines we used back in the day, so I am looking forward to that.

I'm currently running an adventure from a 1995 dungeon magazine :D (third time!)
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
you are getting close to the dungeon magazines we used back in the day, so I am looking forward to that.

I'm currently running an adventure from a 1995 dungeon magazine :D (third time!)

Which one? I am pretty familiar with the whole run and love Dungeon as a source above all else!
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 23: May/Jun 1990



part 2/5



The Vinyard Vales: Lizard Men, locusts AND vinyards in the nordic inspired area of Mystara? It must be considerably warmer there than real world scandinavia. Straight away this first adventure trips my realism nitpicking in a way that purely fantastical things happening wouldn't. Still, regardless of what contortion of Immortal meddling got them there and keeps them alive in the first place, they're present and causing serious problems for the humble beverage farmers of the region. The PC's had better save them, or they'll be forced to meet mysterious strangers in taverns to get jobs while fully sober and where's the fun in that? You have to head into the swamps, wander around and deal with the usual set of random encounters, rescue travellers being attacked by lizard men, and eventually find their lair and face the brains behind the operation, which is quite an interesting twist so I won't spoil it for you. As usual for here, the starting adventure is probably the most generic, which means it's also the most likely to actually get played, but is less interesting to read than the more niche ones later on. And as I noted at the beginning, the worldbuilding is on somewhat shaky grounds. Still, although they make for a popular article series, who actually plays D&D for the ecologies? Overall, it's a solid but unexceptional opener.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 23: May/Jun 1990



part 3/5



The Pyramid of Jenkel: Willie Walsh is back once again, with a surprisingly normal dungeon crawl rather than his usual whimsy, although it does feature some very rarely used monsters. The city of Juncert was destroyed 500 years ago by mysterious magical apocalypse. Since cities are usually situated on prime real estate, the much smaller town of Jenkel grew up there as the legends faded and people were no longer terrified that they'd meet the same fate if they hung around. Now the same forces that caused devastation 500 years ago stir again and things get very interesting indeed for the townsfolk. An off-brand marilith from Tartarus (multi-armed snake ladies, like crabs, seem to be a body plan that evolves independently many times throughout the multiverse) comes through the unstable planar rift, decides this is a much nicer place to live than home, and gets to scamming and betraying people who don't know it's a scam and betray back casually and routinely. Pretend to be a god, start a cult, and then gradually push your followers into making increasingly extreme offerings until they're ready to engage in full-on human sacrifice, at which point even if they're not all evil, it's very hard to back out. Your typical fiendish scheme.

This is where the PC's get entangled. They'll get approached by the cultists, love-bombed, and then manipulated into taking an initiation test which is really just sending them into the pyramid to become dinner. (or if they're suspicious of the whole thing and turn them down you then encourage them to investigate the pyramid sneakily of their own accord) So the dungeon crawl part of this is fairly standard, as you explore the pyramid and the caves underneath it while fighting a mixture of local and extra-planar creatures, but it's the roleplaying before and after that are distinctive and interesting, as you deal with the various cult members in the beginning, and then the fallout when you escape to tell your tale, the dupes amongst them find out what they've really been worshipping and turn on the leader. There's plenty of different ways it could go depending on how the PC's interact with them, and more than enough moral ambiguity that hopefully the PC's won't just slaughter everyone and let the gods sort it out. Definitely a better framing device than once again meeting a mysterious patron in a tavern for your missions.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 23: May/Jun 1990



part 4/5



Old Sea-dog: Ah, now this is a plot hook no party will pass up on. A dognapping? Trying to destroy the world is understandable, but what kind of dastardly fiend would stoop that low?! It turns out to be a supremely petty squabble between nobles over a dogfighting tournament, with the kidnapped hound this year's favourite to win. Since they're long-term rivals, the lord who hires you is already pretty certain who's responsible, it's just a question of how he did it, and finding where the dog is to rescue it, preferably in time to still compete in the tournament and win. Fortunately, there's an obvious window of opportunity when they move the dog to a ship about to set sail. (after which things will obviously become much much harder) So this turns out to be a Mission Impossible style espionage and heist adventure, where you have to scout out the area, sneak onboard, find the dog, and sneak off again, which is obviously much harder, for the dog is loud and recalcitrant, so unless you're both skilled and lucky you'll probably wind up fighting your way out. This is further complicated by an attempted pirate hijacking on the ship at the same time, which you might end up fighting against as well, or using the chaos to your advantage in escaping. There's no one right solution here, and any plans you make are unlikely to go smoothly, so a lot of the fun is in improvising and fast talking your way through the mess you wind up in. Dumb hack-and-slash players will definitely struggle with this one, but for people who like their scheming and social engineering, this has potential to be both fun and funny. A risk I think is worth taking.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 23: May/Jun 1990



part 5/5



Deception Pass: A cliffbound choke point controlled by illusion using creatures who use their powers cleverly to seem more dangerous than they are? Haven't we already had one of these? :checks: Yup, Phantasm Chasm in issue 14. Still, that was a 4 page filler encounter, while this is a 23 page cover story adventure and aimed at somewhat higher level, so I think there's room for the two to coexist. Tucker's kobolds have become a byword for weak creatures winning by sneakiness, but think how dangerous more powerful creatures can be if they go all-out and use the best tactics possible. That definitely applies to Ogre Mages, which can combine invisibility, shapeshifting, flight, mind control and gaseous form to quite impressive effect in sneaky hit-and-run tactics, and have pretty decent blasting effects when forced into direct combat as well. They'll do their best to beat the PC's without them ever knowing exactly what is even attacking them. This is further assisted by their control of the higher ground, using the eponymous pass (which you really ought to rename in your own campaign if you don't want to give the game away) to box the PC's in and make retreat difficult. If you do manage to beat their ambush they'll retreat to an old dwarven fortress where they're even better situated to wear you down with sneakiness and traps. This is one where PC's who take things at face value and just charge at the enemy will probably die quickly, even if they're even higher than the intended level. On the other hand, if you have a competent diviner or abjurer, figure out what you're up against, and realise that most of their minions are duped or mind-controlled & can be easily tricked back or turned against them, you'll do pretty well. Keep your magical shieldings up and don't trust anyone, because all it takes is one failed save to turn the party against each other. Definitely not one for inexperienced players or DM's, but both an interesting read and a fun challenge to run if you like this playstyle. Another good lead-up if you plan to run the likes of Tomb of Horrors and Dragon Mountain eventually and want them sufficiently paranoid to actually survive the experience.



Another pretty competent issue, with a lot of adventures that need you to actually exercise your brains and engage in social interaction if you want to solve them. They're focussing pretty strongly on the role-playing side of RPG's at the moment, and it looks like that's only to get stronger. Let's see how long it takes for people to get sick of that and look for something different in their adventures.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Dungeon Issue 23: May/Jun 1990

part 2/5

The Vinyard Vales: Lizard Men, locusts AND vinyards in the nordic inspired area of Mystara? It must be considerably warmer there than real world scandinavia. Straight away this first adventure trips my realism nitpicking in a way that purely fantastical things happening wouldn't. Still, regardless of what contortion of Immortal meddling got them there and keeps them alive in the first place, they're present and causing serious problems for the humble beverage farmers of the region. The PC's had better save them, or they'll be forced to meet mysterious strangers in taverns to get jobs while fully sober and where's the fun in that? You have to head into the swamps, wander around and deal with the usual set of random encounters, rescue travellers being attacked by lizard men, and eventually find their lair and face the brains behind the operation, which is quite an interesting twist so I won't spoil it for you. As usual for here, the starting adventure is probably the most generic, which means it's also the most likely to actually get played, but is less interesting to read than the more niche ones later on. And as I noted at the beginning, the worldbuilding is on somewhat shaky grounds. Still, although they make for a popular article series, who actually plays D&D for the ecologies? Overall, it's a solid but unexceptional opener.

I have run this module (heavily modified) in a past campaign and placed it for possible running in my current campaign. For me the nitpicking stuff doesn't matter, b/c I use Dungeon as a mix n' match source for locations, plots, and NPCs.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 54: Jul/Aug 1990



part 1/5



36 pages. Once again it seems they're trying to expand their sci-fi side, with a dark and presumably massive set of floating vehicles gliding through the sky on the cover. Do they have any ideas to actually bring the Living Galaxy to life in a shared setting yet, or will it just be more ideas to use in your own game. Let's find out inside.



Bookwyrms: This column is once again in pure promotional mode, working hard to sell us their not just one, but two planned Buck Rogers trilogies. Yet another reminder that they massively overestimated the demand for this gameline, made worse by the whole Dille family nepotism business, resulting in a whole load of time and effort by the writers going mostly to waste and no-one coming out of it particularly well, leaving a glut of unsold supplements in the warehouses that were still there when TSR died and WotC took over. It was one of their most irritating chapters when I was going through Dragon, and it's pretty much the same from this perspective too. Not a very pleasing way to start things off.



Notes From HQ: Convention season is in full swing, so they're both talking about ones they've recently been too, and looking forward to ones yet to come. ConnCon takes advantage of it's Connecticut location to make a lame joke of it's name, and it attracted a fittingly playful but somewhat rowdy clientele. Plenty of fun was had, but the hotel staff were not so amused, making it clear that they'd prefer somewhat classier clientele. Let's hope they can keep on going, produce more good adventures and file the rough edges off in future years. In other news, they introduce a new convention advisor, so if you want to set up a new one and were wondering who to call for advice, now you know. Finally, there's the usual last minute call for more GM's to run their Gen Con tournaments. Boot Hill in particular has already been cancelled due to lack of interest, and several other systems are still in the danger zone if no-one steps up to champion them. If you want to keep things from being all D&D, all the time, you need to step up and provide an alternative. Don't default to a system that isn't the best tool for running the games you want, just because it's the most popular and easiest to find players for.



Letters: The first letter is a fairly lengthy one from the guy who organised the first ever gaming convention in Austria. It took a whole load of work and promotion to get it together, but with a little advice from the RPGA they pulled it off nicely, and as a plus, made him the regional director for the country. Now he'll be doing it again every year for the foreseeable future. Hooray! Lots more working for free! No good deed goes unpunished, eh?

The second complains that their messing around with adding various types of combined membership plans is getting confusing. What they can offer changes as the economics underneath it shift. You'll actually have to put some mental effort into figuring out what the best deal for you is. It's only a decision you have to make every few years, nothing to get too worked up over.

The final one complains that the membership cards themselves have gone downhill in material quality and clarity of numbering in recent years. Partly cost-cutting, but also partly to make them compatible with their computer scanning equipment, so they can just quickly check if you're a real member or not and link all the tournaments you participate in to your account automatically instead of having to manually type everything into their database, which meant they were often behind by many months in their admin work. These are the sacrifices you have to make for progress.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 54: Jul/Aug 1990



part 2/5



The New Rogues Gallery: For the first time, this column takes advantages of the 2e changes to give us a full party of Bards, which would have been thoroughly unfeasible when you needed at least 11 levels before you could even start as one. Adagio Jones and the Goodwinds are a five-piece group of travelling troubadours with a strong sense of social justice (apart from the horn player, who's a bit of a dick and likely to wind up splitting over artistic differences eventually), singing about protecting animals and plants, the fight for legal rights for humanoids, mocking the powerful, and maybe a few love songs too for good measure. That'll give them plenty of reasons to come into conflict with pompous authoritarians and get involved in adventures with your PC's. They all have both clearly defined personalities and varying skillsets that give them different functions in the band, while not being one-trick ponies either. The writer has done their research not only on real world music, but also the unique instruments of the Forgotten Realms, referencing several different Dragon articles and combining them in a way that makes sense and produces more adventure hooks along the way. And to top it off, there's two new spells that allow them to amplify and distort sounds, letting them play to bigger audiences and with different textures that would be familiar to modern audiences, but still relatively novel in the Realms. It's mildly 4th wall breaking, but that's hardly new here, and the references are the right level of humorous rather than groan-inducing. This performance can have a hearty round of applause and a few cries of encore into the bargain.



Bring Your Game To Life: Time to return to another familiar topic, with some more advice on painting miniatures. As usual when it's been several years, they start from scratch, advising you of all the things you need to get going, and how much they cost at current prices. It's actually very precise, talking about specific gauges of knife and brush that'll serve you best working with things of this size, the pros and cons of different kind of paint, and various other peripherals that you otherwise wouldn't think of until you're halfway through and suddenly realise you need. Obviously there's a fair bit of repetition from previous takes, but taken in isolation, this is pretty good, being both technical and easy to understand, which is always a tricky needle to thread. I have no objections to this.



The Art of Magic: Another Ars Magica article? That clinches it, it's definitely more popular here than it was amongst Dragon readers. How interesting. Unfortunately, on looking closer, it turns out that this is also their second game material free promotional article for the issue, telling you about the game and why it's cool & worth buying rather than showing through IC fiction and cool new crunchy bits. The one in issue 40 actually got this right, so it's extra disappointing to see them defaulting back to straight promotion that's of no use once you buy the products. It is longer and more detailed than most of their promotional articles, and shows that they must be doing pretty well given the number of supplements they've released in the past couple of years and are planning to release in the near future, but ultimately, this is pretty dull. Wake me when you include an actual adventure for the system in here or something else worth actually reviewing properly.
 



(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 54: Jul/Aug 1990



part 3/5



The Everwinking Eye: Ed Greenwood has been regularly submitting to Dragon for well over a decade, and has accumulated quite a reputation for himself as both prolific and inventive. But he's only made one distinctly subpar appearance in Dungeon, and none at all in here. Until now, that is! His ideas are too many to be confined to one article a month, and the Realms are pretty popular with RPGA readers too, so here's the start of another regular column.

We start things off with a look at the history of the village of Maskyr's Eye, so called because a wizard plucked out his own eye to gain the trust of the dwarves who owned the location before him. After several centuries living there, he disappeared mysteriously, and his tower was a location for adventurers to investigate for several centuries more before it was mysteriously destroyed by a dragon who's colour has been forgotten. A village grew up nearby, but the remains of the tower remain, and bad things tend to happen to people who try to spend the night there. It's full of atmosphere and plot hooks, but still vague enough that you can pretty much do what you want with it in your own campaign, which is what you really want to see from him. So it looks like this'll be more of the kind if stuff that we're familiar with from many years of Dragon. I look forward to seeing what bits he decided to deal more in here, and if there's any pattern to them.

Even more interestingly, along with the big bit of writing on a single topic, there's a section of much smaller plot ideas called The Current Clack. Those of you who followed Dragon closely will know that like Bookwyrms, this is another title that gets promoted and retooled to appear in there in several years time. That's a cool little bit of continuity to uncover. What other things originate here that'll later go on to see wider use?



Odder than Odd: The adventure this issue is a Call of Cthulhu one. There's weirdness happening in Boston, and if the PC's are at all known for investigating these things from previous adventures, they'll get the call to action. The local police chief has been committing people to the local asylum with higher frequency than usual, and then they've been disappearing. What's going on? Turns out it's a magical ring that turns it's wearer into a Cthulhu cultist, sacrificing people to the deep ones whenever they think they can get away with it. Of course, finding that out and stopping it, maybe even in a nonlethal way is much easier said than done, particularly as this adventure is short to the point where it feels underwritten. It's nice that it's not a railroad like most of their previous attempts at detective stories, but it's flawed in the other direction, where the DM will have to improvise big chunks of connective tissue to make this into a decent length scenario that'll keep you going for a full session or more. So this is interesting as another attempt to cover a wider range of systems, but not substantial enough to be satisfying in itself. Don't let it discourage you from trying again.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 54: Jul/Aug 1990



part 4/5



GEnie in a Computer: We've already seen them talking about the technological advances in their membership cards. Now the RPGA has it's own messageboard. Call this number and you can play-by-post with people from all around the world, find out about and order new products direct from TSR, or simply exchange messages like any forum. Call now, and get some traffic going! Good luck. After all, the internet is still tiny and expensive, and the RPGA is only about 10,000 people in total. Is the intersection between these groups enough to sustain critical mass of interactions or will it languish with days or weeks between posts? Are the communications from this era still out there archived somewhere on the internet? If they are, I'd very much like to know where, to get a better picture of what's changed and what's stayed the same over the past 30 years.



A Haunting Contest: Scary season will be on us again soon, so the next competition is to design rooms for a haunted house. Send in your ideas with either AD&D or Call of Cthulhu stats, and the best ones will be put together into a full home which hopefully we'll get all the details on and be able to play through ourselves. Another thing to look forward too and hope the contestants come up with something inventive the regular writers wouldn't think of.



The Living Galaxy: Roger has done the large scale details now, so he's free to concentrate on more unique specifics. So here's a look at what artificial satellites a world might have circling it. Why are they there, who put them there, what do they look like and how do they interact with one-another? In a peaceful, civilised world there'd be a whole load of infrastructure up there supporting day-to-day communication, and they'd all be in nice neat orbits catalogued so there's no risk of collisions. This is boring, of course, so there's plenty of potential for a more dynamic system, with tiny satellites latching onto larger ones, stealing their data, taking over their systems or destroying them. It's a field of conflict that would work very differently to ground wars, with stealth only possible by being very small and making no course changes for long periods of time unless you have technology so advanced it's indistinguishable from magic. It's all very interesting stuff, only marred by still being completely system free when something like this really needs custom designed mechanics to make it playable. What game would handle this kind of LEO manoeuvring in a way that's fun and not too complex? Any suggestions?



The Living City: This column delves into increasingly niche retail establishments to keep from repeating itself. A shop devoted entirely to cloaks? I guess the Realms does have a lot of maniacally cackling villains who need a suitably dramatic outfit to monologue in, so you're never going to be short of trade if you've got the skills and reputation. Not that the proprietors themselves are villains, quite the opposite, being reliable, conscientious and charitable as well, taking in old worn out cloaks, trimming them down & patching them up and giving them to poor kids for free. There's no real conflict between father and son in how they should be running the operation here, so any adventure seeds will stem from their proactive niceness instead and how that might spark envy from less pleasant competitors, or adventurers needing to obtain rare and valuable materials so they can craft custom magical cloaks for them. Theres definitely some use to be got out of this, but it's unlikely to be somewhere you go back too between every adventure unless your adventurer is a dedicated fashionista who's constantly blowing all their loot on upgraded outfits. (Carrie's the Bard, Miranda's the Wizard, Charlotte's the Cleric and Samantha's the Barbarian)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 54: Jul/Aug 1990



part 5/5



Wolff & Byrd: One comic ends, and a new one moves in to occupy the same page. More oddly, it's not a Polyhedron exclusive, but a long-running one that's been syndicated in multiple publications as well as it's own comic and compilation books and is still going today despite the death of it's original creator. Alanna Wolff & Jeff Byrd are attorneys for the legal issues of various supernatural creatures. In this instalment they're arguing for the legal rights of Frankenstein's Monster, which is of course a term they thoroughly disapprove of. Call him a Reanimated-American, or some other more respectful euphemism. Will they manage to win, and how will they collect their legal fees if he's not a responsible citizen with a job yet? Let's see how long this one sticks around, and if it'll be an ongoing story or a different standalone gag each time.



Living City Tournament: Ooh. Here's where the Living City really starts becoming properly live and interactive, as they set the rules for creating persistent characters that you can use and advance from one tournament adventure to the next. Since they can't trust you to roll characters unsupervised and want to keep things fair, they're going entirely point-buy with the stats, with a pool of 84 to distribute as you choose. This seems pretty decent, but remember they're keeping Comeliness when most home games have dropped it or never even included it in the first place, which means you'll have an average of 12 across the board, and subclasses with high requirements will be very limited in how they arrange their other stats. HP are max at 1st level and half for each die after that. No evil alignments allowed, and magic items restricted to a small set of bland plus adders that make sure you can't ruin their railroads with a cheap trick like turning gaseous. So there's some interestingly forward thinking stuff here, as completely eliminating the randomness in character generation will still take quite a few years to become the default in RPG's, but also a fair bit of irritating restrictiveness and weird legacy cruft as well. Hopefully they won't have to pile on even more restrictions to counter rules lawyering crap from players too quickly, and some people will make it to decent levels through a whole load of adventures over the next decade before the edition change sweeps everything away.



With multiple new things being introduced this issue, including a couple of very interesting long-term technological advancements, this issue feels pretty significant historically. They're making more steps to make the RPGA a club with plenty of ways for people to get involved, and allowing you to play modules with persistent characters rather than pregens really rewards putting the effort in and making tournament-going a regular part of your social life. If they can pull it off, it means the 90's are going to be a lot busier for them than the 80's were. Let's keep on going and hope that process of increasing connectedness and interactivity is interesting to watch in hindsight.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 24: Jul/Aug 1990



part 1/5



68 pages. That Illithid does not look happy about the state of his home. Will this be due to the actions of the players, or will we be facing some threat so nasty that the brain-eaters seem like the lesser evil and the PC's have to team up with them to save the world? Plus I recall there being a big feature on them in Dragon issue 150 around this time. Will there be any co-ordinated writing with that to make them both a little deeper? Definitely seems worth investigating to me.



Editorial: Polyhedron has just gone through some fairly significant advances, assisted by the progress in technology. Dungeon's changes are more subtle, but they're not nonexistent either. They'll be increasing both their size and the amount of colour in the near future, as printing changes make this more economically feasible. They're not even increasing the price, although they don't rule it out in the future, so subscribe now if you want to be locked in a the lower price, hint hint. Some of the page count increase will also be taken up with more adverts, but overall, this still means more content each issue. Overall, i think this is a positive thing. Let's hope they use it to make the adventures that little bit bigger and more ambitious.



Letters: The first letter is from a DM who's managed to use every adventure in issue 1 with the same group. That's an efficient use of your purchasing power. But will you be able to sustain it with subsequent issues?

Second is Tracy Hickman complaining about the cover of issue 22, and generally wanting everything bland and inoffensive. A good reminder that he was one of the biggest pushers of right wing christian moral majority stuff back in the 80's. Ironic that now he's the one being cancelled by left-wing forumites for being problematic. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Third is someone who wants fewer, more deadly monsters in adventures that you need to use specific weaknesses to defeat like in horror stories. I think you may want to switch to a different system, as that interacts messily with D&D's HP system, encounter rules and XP economy. The PC's need to be able to realise they're losing and escape rather than going from fully able to fight to dead in quick order.

Fourth is someone who wants more adventures that force the PC's into action instead of giving them a choice to accept the mission or not. You'd probably be happier with Polyhedron's ones then, as Dungeon's current editorial actively avoids railroads and expects DM's to customise adventures for their own group. Better to be slightly too lenient than too strict if you want to keep a group happy and together in the long run.

Fifth, another complaint that they don't even do a few token adventures aimed evil PC's. It's a lot easer to put evil PC's in an adventure where they're expected to be heroic and watch how they exploit and naughty word over everyone than the reverse. As long as Barbara is in charge, there'll be no adventures that force you to make evil or no-win choices in here, so don't bother submitting them.

Finally, a procedural request. Should you write a module before asking if Dungeon is interested in buying it, or save your energy and just send the outline? Your choice, but most of the best modules needed playtesting to get as good as they are, so better to concentrate on writing good adventures for your own group and only think about turning them into something sellable after they've already passed trial by fire and you know they're solidly constructed. Trying to make a full-time living out of writing RPG adventures was a fool's dream then, and even moreso now.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 24: Jul/Aug 1990



part 2/5



In the Dread of Night: We start off with a basic D&D adventure that's intended to be exceedingly challenging, but possible to a starting party as long as they play it smart, or a regular difficulty challenge once you've got a couple of levels under your belt. A wizard recently moved into the small town of Sisak, and since then, mysterious disappearances of animals and people are way up. They suspect he's responsible, but can't prove it, and doing the torches and pitchfork mob thing around his tower is a bad idea anyway, as it just means you present an easy target for AoE blasty spells. Which means they'll ask expendable adventurers to sneak into his tower and get proof one way or another instead. Fortunately, while it turns out he is evil, he's the sort that'll paralyse his victims and capture them for future experimentation or sacrifices to dark powers rather than killing intruders straight away, which makes this adventure much more survivable and means you might actually be able to rescue the people that disappeared. (plus you might get to do some gloating monologuing to the captured PC's, which is surprisingly rare in D&D adventures and always fun.) It's a mix of the old school adventures like Hommlet or Borderlands where they put as much emphasis on the neighbouring settlement as the dungeoncrawl, combined with an adventure that tries to be more plot heavy and less lethal, which is still a struggle because the ruleset remains the same, so it's much harder to beat a party without killing them, especially at this level where they have single digit hit points and not even a negative threshold like AD&D. A laudable goal, but not sure how well it's going to work in practice. Might be easier if you wait until they're strong enough to do this the regular way rather than fighting the system to tell a good story.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 24: Jul/Aug 1990



part 3/5



Torg advertises in Dungeon as well. The possibility wars reach into many different fronts, and we'll have to fight all of them if we ever want to return to normality again.



A Hitch in Time: Willie Walsh is back once again, with a particularly perverse variant on a Groundhog Day scenario. A tomb has had a time elemental bound to it, and ordered to reset everything in it any time someone leaves the place, which means what seems like a fairly short and straightforward dungeoncrawl ends with all the items just disappearing from your possession and all the traps & monsters reappearing as if the whole thing never happened. This will of course seriously annoy the players, and hopefully motivate them either to figure out how to destroy or nullify the effect entirely, or work out the precise rules it operates by through repeated experimentation and eventually lawyer their way around it to keep the treasure. So this is all about the perverse fun of messing with your player's expectations, aimed at experienced players who expect their dungeons to be weird and won't give up just because things seem unfair. It gives you plenty of different options for solving the problem, while not making any of them easy. It's rather more old-school than most adventures they're publishing these days and all the better for it. Definitely worth at least a mild muahahahaha.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 24: Jul/Aug 1990



part 4/5



Thunder Under Needlespire: While the previous adventure gave you infinite retries to figure things out and get it right, the big finale is a suitably apocalyptic one where you're on the clock, so you can't afford to mess up nearly as much. A previously stable mountain has recently started having increasingly severe earthquakes. The dwarves and deep gnomes blame the mind flayers, and hire the PC's to go kick their slimy asses. When they reach the Illithid caverns, they'll say it's not them, but a huge heat-eating creature that's immune to mind-affecting powers, rendering them just as useless against it, and point the adventurers in the right direction if they'll hold off hostilities long enough to listen. They're actually telling the truth, but the adventure accounts for the fact that many adventurers won't believe them, and fully stats up everything there so you can fight them. (which you may decide to do anyway after defeating the greater threat even if you believe them, because they're still brain-eating monsters that enslave other intelligent creatures casually and routinely, and there's lots of things there that need rescuing. ) If you do kill them without listening, decide mission accomplished and go home, or dawdle too long while exploring the caverns the mountain will be turned into a volcano, and everything around and underneath it for quite a few miles destroyed in the eruption a few weeks later. Even if you have some means of magical escape to survive, you definitely won't be getting paid if you wind up at that ending. There's a fair few other incidental encounters detailed throughout the caves as well, with plenty of room for expansion if you want to make this adventure bigger, more mazy and likely to distract them from the main plotline. It's a dungeon crawl, but with enough moral ambiguity and opportunities for roleplaying to keep it from being just another boring slaughterfest, as well as a reminder that there are much bigger creatures out there in the multiverse that normal parties don't usually fight because they're an out of context problem to all but the highest level characters. All seems nicely usable without being too cliched to me.
 

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