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TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 26: Nov/Dec 1990



part 5/5



Nine-Tenth's of the Law: Curiously, the cover adventure is not the longest one in the issue for a change. Thankfully, it breaks the streak of adventures that just dump the trouble in your lap for a nicely nonlinear detective story. You get hired by a priest to find a guy infected with lycanthropy who escaped in the middle of the ritual to cure him. Now he's cutting a bloody swathe through the townsfolk at night and refusing to turn himself in even when he's in human form for highly spoilerific reasons. Obviously you'll get paid better if you bring him in alive for curing, but after a few days of this, just killing him will be a satisfactory result to the locals. With several different layers of secrets going on, this is one with plenty of room for different degrees of success or failure without killing the players, with a similar variety of possibilities of different long-term consequences for your campaign depending on the choices you make. Willie Walsh has once again given us something quirky where the worldbuilding is almost as important as the plot, so there's plenty of room for reusing and building upon the things provided here for other adventures. As long as he can come up with new twists each time, I think there's room for plenty more of these without getting repetitive.



There's still plenty of variety in here, but there is also a definite increase in adventures that push the PC's into the action with a stick rather than a carrot. That's a change that could rapidly become obnoxious if it proves to be a trend. Guess I'd better head into the next year and see if my worst fears are justified, or it's all the manipulation of paranoia-inducing phantoms.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 57: Jan/Feb 1991



part 1/5



35 pages. In the year 2525! There are women with the will to survi-i-ive! Fighting to reclaim the earth! Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't see you come in. I was a little bit … distracted by the cover for this issue. It looks like we're in a cheesecake retro-futurism mood this issue. Of course, given their code of conduct, we can be pretty sure the contents inside won't get beyond PG rating, but that doesn't mean they can't be interesting. Time to start another year and see if there's anything fresh in here, or just the same old same old with a new coat of paint.



Notes From HQ: The editorial is extra large this issue, with sections aimed at both new and established members. First and most importantly, they're finally big enough and getting enough submissions to go monthly! While this does come with a price rise for membership, as they hinted might be coming a few months ago, it means twice the content for only a third more cost, and you don't have to pay extra until it's time to renew your subscription. Hopefully you went for the 2 year one then. :) Just like the Dragon run, the 90's is going to go by considerably slower than the 80's did for me. The other parts are more normal. An introduction to the staff with photos, for those of you who were wondering who's behind all this, and a reminder of their procedure for making your tournament games officially accredited so you can gain XP both as a player and a GM. Remember, you need to notify them a full 6 months in advance if you're running a convention, for the wheels of bureaucracy move slow and inscrutably. They're also getting ever more elaborate, because having instituted persistent Raven's Bluff characters that gain XP recently, they're now creating adventures that you can only play if you've worked your way up legally within the system. Seems to me that it'll be pretty hard to find enough players who are also high enough level to play the harder ones at all outside of Gen Con, but I guess that keeps people from advancing too quickly and outgrowing the system. It does seem like they're creating a lot of extra work for themselves, but I guess it's the struggles and dramas that'll keep this journey interesting in the long run. Let's hope we get some good responses to these changes in the letters page in an issue or two's time.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 57: Jan/Feb 1991



part 2/5



Letters: The first letter asks how hard it is to become a Gen Con tournament Judge. As long as you can fill in forms on time and know your way around a few RPG systems, not hard at all. There's never enough compared to the amount of players to go around, so step up now or forever hold your peace, because if you wait until a month or two before the convention it'll be too late.

Second asks them if they'll run more tournaments with non TSR games. They'd like too, but see the previous comment about needing more suitably qualified GM's. Just one person willing and able to run a system can make a big difference to what games will be available on the day.

Third is another person objecting to the idea that people should be able to run credited tournament adventures at their own homes. The RPGA staff would prefer any tournament adventures be open to the public, but it all depends on what facilities are available, so it once again is a matter of location, with more out of the way places getting a bit more leniency in terms of venue choice.

Fourth is from member of staff Sylvia Deering, who's recently retired from active duty at TSR to head for sunnier climes, but remains a member of the RPGA and carries fond memories. See you at the conventions.

Finally, thanks from last year's chosen charity. Sharing is, as ever, caring. Keep it up.



The Living City: Hrmm, continuity issues. A few issues ago, the PC's were sent to capture some dancing bears for Raven's Bluff's circus. If you followed the railroad successfully, you wound up capturing a werebear rather than mundane ones, who then decided to stay with the circus willingly because it seemed more fun than living alone in the wilderness. Now they've seen the sense in cutting out the animal cruelty entirely for a more fantastical approach, and managed to recruit a whole family of werebears, which makes for far better and more varied dance routines, plus they can help with the other parts of the show in their human forms. The only problem? They joined 7 years ago here, which makes the adventure a few months ago nonsensical, as the two articles can't both be true. This is an almighty editorial cock-up. I'm not amused at all. If you're running a shared world, you need to work extra hard to maintain consistency of timeline and locations, or the whole thing falls apart. Still, if you're forcing me to choose, I'll definitely go with this one, which actually has decent characterisation and descriptions of circus life, the tricks they get up to, and some of the more mundane human members of the circus. They also have an illusionist on staff to help with the theatrics, although she's not so high level that they can completely eschew more mundane prestidigitation in their show. (and it's always good to diversify your tricks anyway in case one performer falls sick or injures themselves in a stunt.) So overall, I have no objection to this article's quality in isolation, but it illustrates how lax their standards for continuity are, which is not a positive thing at all. The longer Raven's Bluff runs, the more this kind of thing will become an issue unless they up their game considerably.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 57: Jan/Feb 1991



part 3/5



Mutations: The longest article in the issue is not the adventure, unusually, but a 7 page list of new Gamma World mutations. Dale Henson gives us 39 of them, presented in alphabetical order. They're a decidedly motley bunch, some useful, some mixed, and some just bizarre, like the one that makes you lose your sexual characteristics and instead become able to reproduce by parthogenesis, which has no real effect on your abilities, but seems designed to annoy the same people who hate the AD&D girdle of gender switching if acquired randomly mid-campaign. There's also mental illnesses as mutations, which I don't think passes modern standards of political correctness either. The powers are also not remotely balanced either of course, ranging from instant death ray twice/day, to super-acne that also just happens to give you poison resistance, and bioluminescence which is mainly just a pain in the ass. Most baffling of all, the stats are 2e ones, despite that being very old news indeed by now, and an acknowledgement of how badly 3e flopped by comparison. This is all a bit messy and uncomfortable on multiple levels. Not that I'm planning on playing Gamma World any time soon, but even if I were I don't think I'd be using this one.



The Everwinking Eye: Ed acknowledges that he may be overdoing it a bit in his detailing of Maskyr's Eye, as Elminster manages to waffle even himself to sleep by the end of this. In the meantime, we get to find out even more about their diet, unique breeds of farm animal, and system of government. The kind of thing that aren't so immediately useful for adventurers, but make the world more solid, and illustrate just how vast his stores of general knowledge are in all sorts of fields. (particularly the culinary arts.) It's ironic that his day job as a librarian actually allows him to be more prolific than most of the TSR staffers who spend all day in the office, and lets him be exposed to all sorts of books that you wouldn't think to buy (or these days, google) on your own. Who else here would note on the use of vinyards to make practical use of hilly terrain that doesn't support other crops and reduce erosion? It's the kind of thing that makes me fall in love with his writing all over again. No-one else manages the degree of depth he does over the long term, and it's these little seemingly extraneous details that make it all possible, far more than the ridiculously overpowered famous NPC's.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 57: Jan/Feb 1991



part 4/5



With Great Power: Steven Schend takes over this column from William Tracey, which leads to one of those instances where the new writer ignores all the stuff the previous one did, (just like certain actual comic arcs) treats it like a reset to square one, and starts off with some ultra-basic general gaming advice. Is your campaign going to stick as strictly to Marvel Earth-616 canon as possible, have the same basic sets of characters but put your own spin on them like their many what if one-shots, or go for all-originals in both PC's and NPC's? The kind of thing you've already thought about if you've ever played any game based on a licensed property. So this is only useful for complete noobs, and of no interest to me, like far too many of these reboots I've seen over the years. Wake me once he's settled in and starts building something of his own.



Rakshasa: The adventure this issue is short and completely self-explanatory. The PC's are sailing along the coast when they pass by the territory of a Rakshasa. It wrecks the ship, wears them down with summoned monsters and hit & run attacks, and will do it's best to intimidate them into being it's slaves, or failing that, have them for dinner. They give enough info on it's history and goals that if the PC's do get beaten and agree to serve, (for now at least) you actually have a mission to send them on, which can easily be expanded out into a whole campaign arc. So this is a pretty decent high level encounter against an enemy that uses it's powers intelligently, and isn't just lurking in a static location waiting for the PC's to come in and fight it, but actively working to accomplish it's goals and could be made into a recurring adversary, since Rakshasas are good at disguising themselves and pretty hard to kill if you don't know it is one & have blessed crossbow bolts on hand. Flexible encounters like this give you much more bang for your page count than their recent railroads, particularly in an established home campaign rather than a tournament environment.



The Living Galaxy: The last few instalments of this column were very specific not just to sci-fi games, but spacebound ones in particular. This one is far more generic and familiar. What makes a good villain? While there are some variations due to genre and game mechanics, there's a lot of things that remain constants in every form of fiction, because that's what human nature resonates with. Will you go for a cackling maniacal caricature, or a realistic and rational character who has good reasons for doing the things they do, but happens to be on the other side as the players? How powerful are they compared to the PC's, what makes them distinctive to roleplay as a villain, and what weaknesses & blind spots do they have that might enable them to be defeated? (as all villains should be eventually) As usual for Roger, it's pretty competently done, and gains a little extra by referencing recent articles both here and in Dragon, but there's nothing groundbreaking in here. If you're a less experienced GM, you can get something out of it, but it's not telling me anything new. The repetition that comes with periodical churn can get tiresome sometimes.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 57: Jan/Feb 1991



part 5/5



More To The Maze: Tom Wham! There's a name I haven't seen around here in many years, as most of his contributions went to Dragon instead. Plus he was laid off in the big purge of 1984 after TSR realised they were adding staff faster than they were growing revenue and managing to lose money despite their success. No hard feelings, huh. So he worked up Mertwig's Maze on his own time and submitted it as a freelancer. It got accepted, but the nature of a creative is that your work is never truly finished, so you're always thinking of new cool things to add to it, or finding mistakes even after it's been published. So here's a mix of corrections to mistakes, rebalances of details due to more playtesting, and a whole new area, the Tallest Tree in the Forest, to spice up your game if you've played it a few times and want more. It feels like a throwback to the days when they published full boardgames in Dragon and Ares, then followed it up a month or two later with commentary and expansion. It probably would have been better placed in Dragon anyway, where more people would see it, but oh well, at least it means I get an interesting surprise here that they don't normally do due to their small size. That's welcome to see. Maybe the move to monthly will let them be a bit more ambitious with their special features. I guess we'll find out soon enough.



Wolff & Byrd engage in crossover with 80's slasher movie series Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy once again proves that he's not the smartest tool in the shed. I'm sure that even if he does get the electric chair, he'll be back in a few years.



As they said at the beginning, here's a 3 page form of the Gen Con and Origins events they'd rather like enough Judges to be able to run. Will there be someone capable of handling all these systems and settings, including Ravenloft, Spelljammer, Buck Rogers XXVc, Paranoia, Chill, and Timemaster? I'll wager they'll still be struggling on the Boot Hill & Buck Rogers ones at this rate. Watch out for the ones they conspicuously avoid talking about in 9 months time in the roundups.



A pretty interesting issue overall, with plentiful signs of their recent expansion, but as with the previous growth spurt, this has also resulted in an uptick of ultra-basic stuff aimed at the new arrivals as well, and distinctly erratic quality control on their article selection. Just how elaborate can they make Raven's Bluff and their tournament system without it collapsing under the weight of continuity and admin? I don't know, but I'm still very interested in finding out. Another step forward then, everyone?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 27: Jan/Feb 1991



part 1/5



76 pages. A dragon skeleton? Whether it's just a mindless thing raised by the necromancer, or a full-blown dracolich that's the dominant partner in the relationship, that's not an encounter to take lightly. Any sensible party should check their situation and work out tactics accordingly, because that looks like a tough fight to charge into. Time to head inside and see if the mechanics back up the visuals.



Editorial: Speaking of visuals, they've been asking people what they want to see in future adventures, and the most consistent replies concern stepping up their production values. More relevant illustrations to show your players, clearer division of IC and OOC text, making sure all the relevant stats for creatures are instantly accessible, it's all about the ergonomics. They can make the difference between going straight into an encounter and fumbling around for several minutes looking things up the the main rulebooks. Of course, adding more colour would require a bigger budget, so that may be slow in coming, but they're working on the other suggestions as we speak. After all, the easier adventures are to understand, the more likely people are to use them and want to subscribe for more. An instance where paying attention to your audience is a win-win process.



Letters: Our first letter reminds people complaining about advertising that it still results in a net positive on the amount of content you get. Until economic concerns are no longer an issue, and everyone is free to create anything they can imagine, they still need to earn money to be able to do this, and a few adverts is better than raising the cover price for us.

Second also has no issue with advertising, and asks if they ever plan to go monthly. Not until they have enough submissions that it wouldn't significantly affect their quality control standards to do so. If you want that to happen, recruit more readers.

Third praises the wacky inventiveness of the moonmelon adventure. It turned out pretty well for them in actual play, and that's what really counts.

Fourth is another person who thinks they're doing things pretty much right, and is annoyed at all the people complaining at them. The complainers are more likely to be published, because that's what makes for interesting reading. Just like the adventures, a certain degree of conflict is necessary for a magazine like this to function.

Fifth is more praise for non D&D adventures, and asks if they'll ever do a Star Frontiers one.

Sixth dashes those hopes, as it's another one complaining about non D&D adventures taking space away from D&D gamers, while not making lovers of other systems into subscribers, because any particular other system will only appear very sporadically in here at one non D&D adventure per issue. As the number of negative letters outnumbers the positive ones 2 to 1 on this subject, they concede defeat. Well, that sucks. Now they'll have to work extra hard to keep up variety in the D&D adventures to make sure they don't get repetitive.

Finally, on a lighter note, we have a letter from some marines stationed in Saudi Arabia without their gaming materials. If there's anyone else in the area who wants to run a game, you've got a captive audience ready to play. (at least, until they're sent somewhere else on short notice)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 27: Jan/Feb 1991



part 2/5



Tafil's Tomb: As usual, we start with something fairly straightforward, although not easy, an undead heavy basic D&D dungeon crawl that delights in using some of the few monsters that don't also appear in AD&D. Head to the tomb of the aforementioned Tafil and save him from being turned into the undead slave of an evil cleric. There's plenty of possibility for taking long-term damage, between energy draining by wraiths, ageing from a banshee, being infected with lycanthropy, plus the more binary problem of several other monsters with save or die on every hit. A large party with multiple clerics of your own would be a very tactically sensible decision, while even a 36th level character would struggle to solo this, and probably come out much lower level than they went in. AD&D 2e may be slightly more merciful when it comes to poison and the like, but it has yet to trickle back down to BD&D. So this is one I wouldn't recommend for every party, simply due to it's brutality; a group with the wrong composition would struggle with it even several levels higher than the recommended one. If you think they're 'ard enough, though, go for it.



Juggernaut: Writing a mini-adventure that fits into 2 pages is harder than it seems. Roger Moore tried his hand at it, and it wound up 5 pages long! Oh well, better luck next time. He probably could have sliced it down, but then we'd lose all the amusing characterisation that turns the monsters from statistics into living characters. A goblin chief has got his hands on a Figurine of Wondrous Power that turns into a Mastodon. This makes for a pretty sweet mount that towers over the regular goblin's Worgs and makes for a cool setpiece when they're all charging at their enemies screaming and launching missile weapons. Against a powerful adventuring party, one well-placed fireball will fry the lot of them, as they're just regular goblins with single digit hit points, but if they attack at night with surprise, you won't get that chance before they're trampling right over you, and so far they've been lucky in their choice of targets. So this is an encounter built around the concept of looking awesome and terrifying your enemies. It's not the most challenging, but it's also not the easiest either. The important thing is that it's got style, and has a decent amount of potential to be expanded out if you go back and check out their lair, plus once you beat them, you'll get the figurine and be able to do the same in turn. It's not quite the game-changer getting hold of a spaceship is, but it's a lot cheaper to operate and easier to use in a regular campaign. This all seems like lots of fun. I strongly approve, and I'm thankful they didn't over-edit it to make it fit the format.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 27: Jan/Feb 1991



part 3/5



Courier Service: In this issue's instalment of "nice legal system you got there", the PC's are hired to trek a noble's taxes several hundred miles to the capital before a strict deadline, which just happens to be in the middle of winter when making that kind of journey is most difficult. This is what happens when you let bureaucrats who spend all their time behind a desk write the laws. They have to deal with the weather, random monsters, bandits, and not so random encounters instigated by rival nobles who would like to get one up on your employer. The kind of adventure that can be short-circuited very easily if the players have flight or teleportation powers in excess of what's expected for their level. Presuming they're not overqualified for the job, it looks like a decent mix of challenges, mostly environmental ones that would be suited to a party with a ranger or druid in, (or using the 2e nonweapon proficiency system, which is also recommended as a good idea here) but a few social ones as well. No particular objections here, although the relatively large area and specific timescale it covers means it may need adapting to your campaign world's geography and calendar.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 27: Jan/Feb 1991



part 4/5



Bride for a Fox: If the penalties for messing around with the human legal system are troublesome enough, you don't even want to think about welching on your obligations to the celestial bureaucracy. But there's always some idiot who thinks they can pull a fast one. Like the instigator of this little story, who promised his daughter to a fox spirit when she grew up, Rumpelstiltskin style, and is now trying to trick his way out of the deal. This isn't going so well, so the PC's get roped in at short notice and sent to help out with not enough information. Hijinks probably ensue. Like most of the OA adventures, it's of above average linearity, with several points where you could easily be left behind by the adventure by not going along with the NPC's even when it's obviously not the smartest course of action. So it's one that's a pretty decent read as a story, but not so great as an adventure when put up against a bunch of cautious genre savvy murderhobos. You'd probably have to do a load of extra work inventing stuff if they went out of bounds. Fairly far down on the list of ones I'd use, but not ruling it out altogether.



The statement of ownership sees them holding steady at 34 thousand, mildly up from last year, but not quite matching their peak so far. If they can't do that, It's no surprise they don't feel confident about going monthly yet.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 27: Jan/Feb 1991



part 5/5



The School of Nekros: Another author who would go on to be a mega seller for them makes their first tentative freelance contribution here. Lisa Smedman details a suitably gothic school of necromancy filled with plot potential. You could play the traditional band of heroic adventurers trying to kill them and take their stuff. You could run it as a more rogue-centric heist mission trying to swipe some of the plentiful magical items and get out alive without resorting to violence. You could even approach it more peacefully to become a student if your wizard is on the more morally flexible end of the spectrum. And if any of these go wrong you can play your characters as their reanimated slaves looking for a way to escape their control and get revenge rather than it simply being the end of the campaign. Like any well-developed evil organisation, the students, teachers, undead monstrosities and skeletal dragon who's status is a big spoiler all have agendas of their own, and many will backstab some of the others if you can manipulate the situation cleverly. There are several new spells with very interesting ramifications, and their creators use them intelligently for their own comfort, not just for killing things. It's a solid bit of worldbuilding both very usable as is in multiple ways, and plunderable for parts that could have long-term effects on your campaign. I can see why they'd be eager to see more from her.



Another fairly decent issue, if once again feeling the effects of a gradual increase in average adventure linearity. The temptation for writers to try and tell a specific story instead of giving you better tools to create your own is a persistent one. Thankfully at least some of the writers are managing it, with the familiar names doing better than the less frequent contributors. That shows that the overall editorial direction is still aiming at the right goal. Time to jump forward another couple of months, see what kind of jokes they've prepared for us this year, and if any of them will make for good actual play stories.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 58: Mar/Apr 1991



part 1/5



36 pages. Approximately a third of the way through this side of my journey, and just before the schedule changes hit. Once again the balance of what I'm reading will shift, and we'll be seeing twice as many Polyhedrons as we do Dungeons for quite a few years. Now the guy on the cover, he may have an excellent sense of physical balance, but it's pretty obvious his mental equilibrium is somewhat lacking. Also, he may be related to Jareth the Goblin King, which bodes ill for any well-informed PC's. Let's see if it takes more or less than 13 hours to deal with his powers and move onto the next chapter of our overarching metaplot.



Notes From HQ: Another round of their attempts to expand and keep on top of everything here. More tournaments at all sorts of levels, over more conventions! But make sure you fill out the paperwork properly afterwards, or you won't gain any points for doing so. It may be tedious, but we are not mind-readers. They're also adding several new companies to the list of things that offer a 10% to members, including the newly formed White Wolf, who hope to maintain the good relationship their Lion Rampant predecessors shared with the RPGA. Since they wound up having to form their own organisation for large scale LARP play, that may not work out. Oh well. there's always the possibility of some drama in the process. More incentive to keep on heading towards the future and see what it brings.



Letters: There's only one letter this issue, a long one complaining about the accessibility of the Gamers Decathalon events. Why are none of them near me?! They get an even longer answer that boils down to "It's where people we know live". Even within the continental USA, roleplaying is unevenly spread and communication between groups is not great. The RPGA is doing their best, but there's still tons of gamers who aren't on their radar at all because they only play in their own little groups and don't go to tournaments. You want to fix that, put in the effort to travel a bit, meet new people, and maintain connections with them. Sounds exhausting. It's all so much easier now we've got social media, and you can broadcast to everyone who's ever been interested in you anywhere in the world with a single post.



The New Rogues Gallery: They've been running a lot of competitions lately. Now they're finally giving us the rewards. Pairs of NPC's for various systems on the general theme of rider & mount. That's a fairly unusual one with plenty of promise. Let's see if the results were any good.

Tser Katrina & Falbis Tyen are a mutant wolf & boar in Gamma World. Katrina has psychic powers and brains, Falbis has hands and can speak, and so pretends to be the one in charge, but is really getting telepathic instructions on the smart things to say. So they have a pretty interesting codependent dynamic in their efforts to gain mutant followers and become a force to be reckoned with in the area, and could make for excellent adversaries.

Merrgsh & Armmegh are an orcish god and his half-dragon demigod mount. They don't appear to have any particular portfolio other than worship me because I'm bigger and stronger than you, which kinda limits his ability to advance beyond a lesser god and grant any interesting powers to his clerics. They're still a formidable team for high level parties to fight though, with serious ability to deliver and absorb damage.

Glutton & Manslaughter are a pair of mutant wolves in the TMNT system. As goes with the theme, one is more humanoid than the other and functions as the rider and mouthpiece of the team. They can be hired as bounty hunters if you know where to look and have the cash, so they might be on the opposing side as the PC's but it's nothing personal. May they not die in the first battle so you can actually build a decent rivalry with them.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 58: Mar/Apr 1991



part 2/5



Radiating Magic: Straight from one set of competition winners to the next. Unsurprisingly, they got a lot of magical item submissions, some of them quite good. These definitely seem worth including in a game if you need a break from more plusses of their stats.

Mist Boats are one of those handy figurines that grows to full size on command. They can't stay big for more than 24 hours at a time though, so long sea voyages aren't an option. Maybe they just need a bit of magical viagra to pep them up.

Rock Robes let you play tanuki mario and become briefly invulnerable & immobile. It's also handy in freeing petrified people, although it has certain caveats. If you're up against a medusa, it'll massively reduce the amount of hassle you have to deal with.

Tattoo scrolls put items on your skin that you can take off and put back at any time. Very handy if you expect to be imprisoned at some point in the future.

Holy Shields make good matching pairs with holy swords for paladins, obviously. If you're of the wrong alignment, you need not apply.

The Warstar of the Manticore shoots it's spikes and grows new ones on command. Excellent for the kind of fighter who wears full plate armour and a helm with glowing red eyes, that a bow wouldn't accessorise well with.

Lenses of Subtitles write down everything the people around are saying across the bottom of your vision. It may seem comical, but it's immensely useful if you have hearing problems or they're speaking another language. If you're expecting to face a monster that uses sonic attacks, there are also definite merits to this. Yay for accessibility.

Folding Moats are the obvious place to put your Folding Boat. Turn any house into a serious fortification and back again with something you can put in your pocket and take with you. Maybe you could have a Folding Goat as well to eat all the junk you generate on your voyages, and a folding coat for when it starts to rain. Is there a god of Origami? Seems like a flexible powerset to have.

Scrolls of Mapping, like bags of holding, are the kind of convenience items that rapidly become indispensable once you have them. Who can go back to having to manually drawing the map for the dungeon to ensure you don't get lost once you have a Sheikah tablet?

Epox's Iron Rations are also generally handy self-replenishing things that reduce the need to worry about logistics, although you can't survive entirely off them forever.

Gloves of the Octopus turn each of your fingers into individually attacking 10' tentacles. That's a serious boost to your action economy, but remember you still only have one set of hit points, and are making yourself a big target showing off powers like that. It's not an I win button for every combat.

Magic Matches light with a command word, so you never need to worry about burning your fingers. An improvement that would probably be possible in the real world now if the matches were enables with microchips and Alexa compatibility.

The Endless Stair wraps it's steps around underneath you so you can climb upwards at a 45 degree angle indefinitely. Unfortunately, it doesn't go downwards, so a feather fall or similar is essential if you don't want to get trapped into awkward situations and have to choose between jumping, starving or keep on going up and eventually suffocating. Not as handy as a Levitate or Fly spell, but not a complete booby prize either.

Merchant's Cloth makes all your items look pristine and twice as valuable as they really are, letting you make money on any old junk. Probably best to stick to selling things like jewelery where the value is purely a matter of opinion anyway rather than making cheap practical items look like higher quality ones and dealing with pissed off customers when they break after a few days.

Pins of Communication are another easy translation device, albeit only between two specific people at a time. Be careful to retrieve the second one when you're done talking with someone, as they lose their powers permanently if separated by too far.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 58: Mar/Apr 1991



part 3/5



Gaming Down Under: A little while ago, they opened up a branch in europe, so they could reduce the logistic hassles of international mail by sending all the subscriptions in one big package and then splitting them out to their final destinations locally, which also let them lower the prices a bit. Now Australia and New Zealand also have a local office and enjoy the same benefits. But they still need to work to link things up better. Even more than the USA, there's ridiculous amounts of barely populated land between the cities, and the east and west coasts are completely different scenes that barely know each other, with their own playstyle quirks in the way they run games. New Zealand may be in the same administrative territory, but it's even more of a mystery. Are there any conventions there at all?! If not, what can we do about it? This all feels much more like a beginning than a conclusion. Even after a decade, there are still many places where they've barely started reaching all their potential members. Let's hope it's not a false start, and there'll be more contributions of all sorts from their international members in the future to spice things up.



The Legacy: The adventure this issue is a Greyhawk branded one, which is even more unusual here than in Dungeon. Not that there's anything particularly Greyhawk specific about it apart from the pun names, but at least it's a token effort at inclusion. The PC's get hired to be the executors of a will. But first they have to find the gnome who's uncle died. This is a lot harder than it seems. Initially, it seems like you have a clear trail, but following it will lead you into one bit of trouble after another, some of them quite goofy. A re-enactment of the Black Knight from Monty Python, a comic relief talking toad, a village where everyone has a big secret, a wizard with a wand of wonder and the will to wield it, it's not pure comedy railroad, but it is both quite linear and with many silly moments. As usual, the Polyhedron selection criteria is far less concerned with consistent worldbuilding & long-term consequences of including certain things in your campaign, and more in setpiece action scenes, hurrying people along and making sure everything is neatly wrapped up in 4 hours. It's not utterly infuriating like some of the worst adventures they've published, but falls on the low end of the mediocre spectrum. Not one I have any interest in using.



The Living Galaxy: Roger continues with worldbuilding and roleplaying advice that is pretty general and familiar, despite the topic trying to accomplish the precise opposite. How do you make alien worlds feel properly alien? What in it is impossible on earth, and how does that affect the evolution of the creatures that live there? Then, once you have the big logical bits down, what weird cultural stuff do they have? (which can of course vary widely between nations on the same planet) These usually have a reason for starting, but it might not be a good or clear reason, especially after centuries of gradual evolution. As in the previous times he's covered this, he reminds us that a little real world travel is crucial to broadening the mind, showing you that things you've always taken for granted don't have to be that way, and it's the little details that can really catch you out. This continues to be competent, but not groundbreaking in any way. Oh well, I'm sure it was useful to someone else.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 58: Mar/Apr 1991



part 4/5



With Great Power: Turns out the cover star is a Marvel one, and the only thing in the issue that's strictly April Fool themed. The Joker is fine as a Batman adversary, but in a shared world full of genuinely superhuman superheroes, he'll fall pretty quickly without the aid of serious narrative fiat or an explicit dramatic editing system that lets competent normals operate on the same scale as powered ones via greater luck and retconned planning. The solution? Say hello to …… (drum roll) The Harlequin! All the insanity of a regular name-brand Joker, plus superhuman acrobatics and the ability to materialise mind-warping pies at his fingertips that'll really ruin your day if they hit you! Like his DC inspiration, he spends most of his time in an asylum, but only because he likes the decor, and can break out again pretty much whenever he feels like it no matter what clever new restraints they try to implement. In the meantime, there's plenty of fun to be had gradually driving the psychiatrists who try to treat him to insanity as well, while giving just enough hints that his old personality is in there somewhere that they don't give up entirely. Even if this wasn't still a superhero universe where heroes don't usually kill even the worst villains, he has a healing factor on top of his other superhuman abilities. Well, he seems like an almighty pain in the butt to deal with. So this is obviously derivative and goofy, but at least it's in a way that's solid rules-wise, patches the flaws with the original character and makes it more usable in game, particularly if your players aren't as rigidly virtuous as Batman & Superman in never killing their adversaries no matter how annoying they get. I think this falls within the bounds of usability.



The Everwinking Eye: Ed thought he was finished with Maskyr's Eye last issue, but no, turns out he still has more to tell. Two mini-adventures set in the vicinity, each about half a page long, plus several more adventure seeds where you'll have to fill in the details yourself. These reveal a few of the secrets he's spent the past half a year teasing, but not all of them, and as usual, raise more questions than they answer. Yet again, he packs more game-useful information into half a page than many of Dungeon's 2-3 page mini adventures. With all this detail, you could start off a campaign there even without owning the main Realms corebook, although you'd probably get tired of the size of your sandbox and want to venture into the wider world eventually. Still, it's an excellent demonstration how individual parts of the Realms like Raven's Bluff, Neverwinter or Baldur's Gate wind up more detailed and popular than most other entire campaign worlds. Every part manages to be fractally interesting, with each entry somehow creating more room for adding further details instead of closing them off. Dragonlance could never.



The Living City: This column makes a somewhat goofy side turn, giving us a logic puzzle. Which 2 out of these 5 wizards are also thieves? Each lives in a different color house, has a different type of familiar, smokes a different kind of pipeweed and prefers a different beverage to drink. Can you eliminate all the impossible combinations from these clues and figure out the culprits? The kind of thing I'm very familiar with from easter treasure hunts, so I guess this is seasonal, just not the particular festival they usually celebrate in here. Amusing as a diversion, but not the kind of thing they could run every month without hitting diminishing returns rapidly. I wonder if any of the wizards named will actually show up again with proper stats in future columns, or tying this into Raven's Bluff was merely a branding thing with no thought to continuity.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 58: Mar/Apr 1991



part 5/5



Into The Dark: In the 10 years the RPGA has been going, the wider world of media has been growing as well. While the degree of choice is still nowhere near what's at your fingertips nowadays with streaming, most homes had a VCR by the early 90's, and video rental was big business, so you were no longer a slave to what the TV channels wanted to show you. But the amount of choice could get overwhelming, especially if all you have to go on is the blurb on the boxes. Plus cassettes took up a lot more shelf space than DVD's or hard drives, so it was trickier to buy everything you wanted and keep it. So James Lowder starts up another (hopefully) regular review column. Let's find out what he recommends and what he pans.


Miracle Mile gets a pretty positive review. It didn't do too well in the box office, probably because it wasn't flashy enough, but examining what people will do when they think it's the end of the world in a few hours remains eternally relevant, even if the cause (nuclear apocalypse) seems dated.

Fade to Black gets a more mixed review. A slasher movie where the killer is a rejected nerd who various uses pop culture personae during his murders. Is this supposed to be a celebration or an indictment of hollywood's love of violence and sensationalism? So basically, this is the Ready Player One of it's day. Now I'm very interested in seeing how it's held up, and how many of the references in it have long since faded from common knowledge.

Moontrap gets an outright slating. Bruce Campbell and Walter Koenig are wasted on a formulaic bit of alien invasion sci-fi with distinctly patchy special effects and a lame script. This'll never make for a long-running franchise.

Evil Dead 2, on the other hand, reminds us that Bruce Campbell can turn in pretty awesome performances when the script and effects back him up. Continuity-wise, it's more of a remake than a sequel to the first film, and the tone is a lot lighter and more comedic, but the special effects are considerably improved. Of these 4, this is easily the one that's most well remembered today, given the further sequel movie and TV series.


All of these movies were at least a couple of years old then, so this definitely seems aimed at the home video buyers and renters, rather than cinemaphiles who really want to see things when they first come out. Whether that will continue, or it'll gradually become more up to date, like many reviewers who started out as nostalgia marketed, we shall see. An interesting development, in any case.



Regional Directors: Another list of these guys, as we're up to 24 now, including separate ones for northern and southern australia, and one dedicated specifically to internet gaming activities. May they soon get to the point where other countries merit being divided into regions as well.



Wolff & Byrd remind us that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, and of the two, taxes come more frequently and are harder to evade. Unless you're earning no money, of course, which is relatively easy to prove when you're dead.



We finish off with a listing of the official RPGA clubs. For many years this feature was virtually unused despite the well-plugged benefits, the number of clubs languishing in the single digits. Now they're up to 39, which is still an average of less than 1 per state, but definite progress nonetheless. Internationally it's still pretty much a wash though, those regional co-ordinators are still working with very small numbers. They'll need to do some more promoting if they want to have anything to actually co-ordinate.



A lot going on in this issue, much of it pretty good. They've succeeded in some of their ambitions, but still have many clear goals still to aim for. Will the transition to monthly allow them to do twice as much, or will things seem to progress more slowly once they have? Let's see how long it takes the greater quantity of stuff to be taken for granted, and what new things they'll add with the extra room.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 28: Mar/Apr 1991



part 1/5



76 pages. A particularly sinister looking nautilus spaceship soars above a planet on the cover. There could be all kinds of terrifying alien invaders inside! Let's find out if it's a genuinely world-threatening invasion that'll need high level characters to foil, or merely a local disturbance.



Editorial: Unsurprisingly, the editorial is about the competition to find a name for their regular short features. After much deliberation, they chose one sent in independently by three different people and called them Side Treks. The rest is just padding by telling us some of the better rejected ideas, many of them culinary themed or double entendres. I guess when so much of our life is built around pursuing one of the other, there's going to be a lot of different terms for them. And now back to your regular daily dose of escapism.



Letters: The first letter complains about NPC's in their adventures with illegal spells. Barbara brushes that off with an insouciance towards strict adherence to the RAW that's typical for the era. They can break the rules PC's are bound too any time the DM feels like it, so nyah.

Second thinks many of the complainers use ridiculously hyperbolic language to describe minor complaints about the magazine. Squeaky wheel gets the grease. That said, fewer adventures where the PC's are hired to do a job would be nice. Whatever happened to proactively setting your own goals?

Third wants them to bring back non D&D adventures. It's not as if it's that hard to convert them, and we could do with the change of pace.

Fourth very specifically praises The Inheritance and A Rose for Talakara. May we see more from their writers in the future.

Fifth also praises their diversion into gothic drama. It worked perfectly when they put it in Krynn and substituted Soth for the skeleton warrior. Muahaha. Don't encourage them too much, or everyone'll start producing sub-par imitations.

Sixth thinks new spells in here really ought to have a saving throw. But then how could they arbitrarily ensure you have to follow the plot with them? :p

Seventh is a reply from the Saudi stationed army guys. They got more than enough responses, and are now well set up for gaming opportunities. We love to see a happy ending around here.

Eighth thinks bimonthly is about the right schedule for them. They also want to know what age you need to be to submit adventures. Unlike last time this was asked a few years ago, where it was a free-for-all, you now need the consent of your legal guardian if you're under 18. I suspect someone got their knuckles rapped over that.

Finally, praise with a few minor quibbles for the school of Nekros. You should know by now they don't sweat the small mathematical details too much. Just make them up as you see fit for your own campaign.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 28: Mar/Apr 1991



part 2/5



The Pipes of Doom: Ooh, a Battlesystem mass combat scenario! Like adventures set in non-generic worlds, that's a thing that they don't do nearly enough of. An army from Hellgate Keep have been devastating everything in their path with the aid of evil Bagpipes (a tautology, surely) that summon stormclouds, destroy buildings, and drive listeners to insanity when various tunes are played upon them. If you can get hold of them, Loudwater's armies have a chance against the foul fiends. If not, doom seems inevitable and they'll continue their rampage across Faerun until they manage to irritate Elminster or something. Fortunately, you get a break as a group of Korred decide to steal the pipes when they're travelling through the forest. Now you just have to find them before the enemy does and get them to stop being annoying tricksters long enough to realise the larger ramifications of what's going on. So there's several different phases to this adventure, each quite different. The mass combat bits where you take on the role of the town defenders. The forest exploration bit where you're dealing with various tricksy encounters and environmental hazards. And the fight with the main enemies without their army in the forest, which is designed as a rival team of PC's with every character having detailed individual stats, items and powers that they'll use tactically together in the same way that the players should. It's both considerably more varied and more ambitious than the average adventure, with plenty of possibilities for follow-ups if you leave any loose ends. (you'll want to destroy the evil bagpipes once you get your hands on them, which as usual for an artifact is a whole other quest in itself) You could even send them off to attack the source, as Hellgate Keep is now a full module. (although it wouldn't be for another 7 years at the time of this adventure's writing) Like many of the more specific adventures, this might require a bit of effort to adapt to your campaign, or not fit at all if it's particularly divergent, but it's a good one, so it's probably worth it.



Side Treks - Manden's Meathooks: The first official side trek follows pretty much the same formula as last issue, only it manages to stick within page count. A group of brigands get their hands on a single cool magical item, this time a hurricane lamp, and decide to use it cleverly to aid in their highway robberies. While the PC's are disoriented from the abrupt hurricane out of nowhere, they swoop in, grab everything that's unsecured and run for it. If the PC's give chase, it leads them into a trap, which gives the brigands a chance to take the rest of your stuff as well. They're not that dangerous in a straight fight, so this is an encounter where keeping your cool and using your own magical tricks to even the playing field will work much better than getting angry and charging after them like a dumbass. Like the many kobold encounters over the years, this is a reminder that even basic tactics make an enemy much more dangerous than just charging in and attacking, and also that the enemies you're facing are people too, and most people want to get out of encounters alive and make a profit rather than kill just for the fun of it. Even a little bit of backstory and characterisation go a long way to making the game less mindlessly hack & slashy. Decent enough, but nothing groundbreaking, and yeah, you can very much see the formulas at work despite this being a new feature. Let's hope they can mix it up a bit more in future instalments.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 28: Mar/Apr 1991



part 3/5



Sleepless: Ah yes, the Constantine gambit. Selling your soul to infernal forces is a mug's game, because short-term mortal advantage for eternal torment/servitude is a bad deal however you slice it. However, selling your soul to multiple extraplanar parties at once gives you multiple times the benefit, at no worse consequences, (what more can they do to you, send you to double hell?) maybe better if you can get them all fighting over you and manage to wriggle out entirely in the chaos. Of course, anyone else caught in the vicinity of a pissed off demon, earth elemental, lich and alien wizard all bickering over who gets to keep the soul is likely to have an unpleasant time of it. Such a pity if an adventuring party happened to be passing by at the time, and their actions were critical to how it's resolved. Oh, this looks like lots of fun. You have a typical wizard's castle, with several apprentices, plenty of wards and traps to keep out do-gooders, bound monsters guarding areas, etc. The difference from usual is that there's a big messy power vacuum that's just been created, and several other invaders at the same time as you. This gives you plenty of opportunities for negotiation and short-term alliances of convenience, (just make sure you betray them first) but also means turtling and pulling 15 minute workdays will cause the whole adventure to pass you by and all the good treasure'll be gone before you get to it. To top it off, there's a real danger of the soul of the dead wizard possessing the body of one of the PC's and doing a runner, which is a problem that definitely can't be solved with hack and slash tactics. This all seems like a pleasingly chaotic situation that could be resolved many different ways depending on the choices the PC's make, which groups of NPC's they encounter first (quite a bit of which will be decided with random roll) and who they believe and side with in an extremely multisided conflict. You could run it multiple times and it'd remain interesting for quite a few iterations. I thoroughly approve.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 28: Mar/Apr 1991



part 4/5



Night of Fear: this adventure is also one where events overtake you, and opportunities to rest and recharge are lacking. A doppleganger is trying to take over an inn and settle down. Unfortunately, the innkeepers dog could smell that wasn't his real owner, so he had to kill it and hide it in a hurry. It wasn't a very good hiding place, the body was found, and now everyone in the inn is on edge, while it goes into panic mode and tries to kill all the witnesses and use their identities to get the others alone and kill them too. Basically, John Carpenter's The Thing as a D&D scenario, as the monster could be anyone, anytime, and even if you identify and catch it once, all it takes is a moment out of sight and it could be someone else instead. It works best if it's set in an isolated stop along a road rather than in the middle of a city, so everyone involved has nowhere to go if they try to leave in the middle of the night, especially if the weather is bad. If you manage to keep people from wandering off alone and putting themselves in positions where they can be killed and impersonated for the rest of the night, but don't catch & kill it, it'll develop a grudge against you, and turn up again in future adventures under different disguises. This is all quite effectively scary both as a one-shot and as something that might have long-term ramifications on your campaign. The other people you're staying with are suitably detailed (and frequently idiotic) enough for a horror scenario, giving you plenty to roleplay over the course of the night. This seems like something I wouldn't mind turning the lights down for and getting stuck into.
 

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