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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
Polyhedron Issue 66: December 1991



part 4/5



The Everwinking Eye: Ed once again reminds us that Mulmaster is an unpleasant place filled with untrustworthy folk from top to bottom. Neither the law nor the common folk are on your side as a wandering adventurer, and accepting missions from random patrons in taverns without any vetting will get you screwed over in multiple ways both long and short term. This is illustrated with two adventure outlines that like his Dungeon ones, you really do not want to follow as written, albeit this time that's intentional on his part. If you want to adventure here, keeping the majority of your cash hidden where the government can't get at it, being ready to skip town whenever the heat gets too high and come back with a new identity would be a very good idea. When the law is arbitrary and corrupt, following it is neither virtue or protection. Another reminder that the Realms isn't all nice, and there are plenty of challenges for even the highest level adventurers out there, including ones no amount of force will solve. If the majority of a country is evil, no amount of deposing the rulers will improve things much, but indiscriminate genocide is a quick path to your own alignment shifting to evil too. It'd take generations of subtle systematic changes to improve things. Do you have what it takes to go for immortality, then keep the ennui away long enough to accomplish something like that? Will you still wind up taking several missions from people in taverns along the way because you need some quick cash? Man, being a self-directed hero rather than some chosen one following a predestined path is hard work. It's no wonder most groups give up and go back to a new set of starting level characters even before the system breaks down from having too much XP.



Into The Dark: A second column in a row devoted to fantasy westerns?! That really does illustrate just how badly the genre has collapsed in the past 30 years, if once you could assemble this many from a niche subset of the genre, while now, you're hard pressed to find more than one or two examples a year as a whole, despite special effects being considerably better and cheaper to do. Time for another look at the distant past to see if any of it is worth having nostalgia over.

The Valley of Gwangi pits cowboys vs dinosaurs, which is a cool sounding pitch that instantly gets the attention. It has a lot in common with King Kong, including some of the production staff, although that includes the creatures being more interesting than the human elements. Overall, it gets a recommendation for the cool factor. I wonder if this one will ever get a remake like Kong has so many times.

Westworld has recently got another TV adaption, so it's tales of virtual reality western obviously still have resonance for modern day audiences, if more for the VR part than the western part. James gives it a so-so result, as Michael Crichton is a better novelist than director, so the ideas might be good, but the pacing doesn't really work when adapting his own work to the screen. If it seemed slow to him, it'd probably seem even more so to modern audiences used to films edited digitally. You can probably skip this and go straight to the newer version without regrets.

Outland also got reviewed by the ARES guys, who gave it a very positive review in issue 10. James also gives it a favourable result in terms of acting and special effects, but is not nearly so enamoured of the overall degree of bleakness and cynicism in the writing. Stories like this may be true to real life, where illegal drugs remain a hugely profitable business despite decades of fighting against them and plenty of casualties amongst both users & law enforcement, but do we really want to see that in our entertainment? The family friendly TSR upper management definitely do not.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 66: December 1991



part 5/5



The Living Galaxy: So far, most of what Roger has covered here has been topics that work better in sci-fi games than D&D. Not this time, as he's talking about treasure. Now that's definitely an area where D&D goes into more detail about what stuff you can get for beating each particular creature, how useful & valuable it is, and how much of it you can carry than pretty much all other RPG's put together. Without being linked to a magically enforced objective gold standard, what is considered valuable will vary widely in sci-fi campaigns, depending on tech level and hardness of the science. If you've got replicators, for instance, value of material things due to scarcity pretty much goes out of the window (until they come up with gold-pressed latinum or whatever that can't be replicated for handwavey reasons) and the most important thing becomes your energy reserves and information. Even in less advanced ones, the bulk of a thing and it's value can have very little correlation and fluctuate wildly from place to place. And no matter the tech level, some things will have sentimental value, so people will be willing to pay above the market value for the original even if a copy would be just as good in practical terms, or be illegal, so the extra cost is hazard pay for creating it and getting it to the buyer surreptitiously. It's a good reminder of how complex and largely illusory the economy actually is. Without an objective financial standard, what will your character choose to value once they have enough to survive comfortably indefinitely? (As any group capable of extended space travel pretty much has to have) That's going to affect what adventures you go on quite a bit.



The Ultimate Contest: They've been doing competitions a lot this year. They must be running out of ideas, because now they get meta and ask the readers to submit ideas for more types of competition that they could do next year. A lot of them will probably be repetitive variations on a theme, but hopefully there'll be enough good ones in there to keep variety up for another year or two before they have to either reuse ideas or scale back on competitions as a whole to focus on something else.



1992 Games Decathalon: While the previous competition and all the lesser competitions that will be created as a result of it are open to all members, the Decathlons are a little more exclusive, as you need to be part of a registered club to participate. Given how few clubs there still are worldwide, if yours is organised enough to participate in all 10 of these events over the course of the year, you've already got pretty decent odds of winning, so no excuses. (except possibly not wanting to participate in the latest obnoxious Fluffyquest instalments, now in both AD&D and Boot Hill flavours.) Will enough enter to make the competition genuinely competitive, or will one wind up dominating the whole year simply by default? Keep on tuning in to find out!



Another issue with a few good articles, a few bad ones, and a whole lot of formulaic average ones. Asking for competition ideas in particular feels like the people in the office are getting a little stuck in a rut and they know it. Will they be able to add any new members of staff or a particularly enthusiastic volunteer to shake things up next year? Tune in tomorrow for the next step towards completing this journey through history.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 67: January 1992



part 1/5



38 pages. Back to the bad old habits of demon summoning again? That's a lot of sigils inscribed, so i hope you got them all correct. Otherwise there may still be havoc caused, but it won't be the precise kind you were hoping for. Let's head inside, see how much mess there is for your PC's to clean up this time.



Those australian co-ordinators are paying off, because the convention listing includes ones in both Sydney and Canberra. Since they're pretty close together, if you live in SW australia, it wouldn't be hard to visit both and get earn a bit more XP.



Notes From HQ: Apparently, this year it's the 25th anniversary of Gen Con. So they're going to go all out on competitions and prizes, with many of the winnings having a 25 theme like 25 months of subscription extension. Since they're expecting it to be busy, they once again recommend you get your game registrations and hotel bookings in now if you want to get your first picks of events. More judge registrations are also strongly encouraged, because then there'll also probably be fewer disappointed people not getting to play in the tournaments they'd prefer. Good to see them trying to avoid the mistakes of last year. What's somewhat less welcome is that it's also the 10th anniversary of the Fluffyquest series, so there's going to be a whole load of fluffy content coming up to irritate me. The popularity of these obnoxious gag adventures amongst the RPGA staff continues to be utterly baffling to me. What do they see in them? I guess that shows that this year will continue to be a very mixed bag in terms of quality, some of it due to editor tastes rather than limited submissions to choose from.



Letters: Steven Schend writes in to remind us that they don't know what's going to happen in Marvel comics next any more than you do. All they can do is read them when they come out and stat out any new arrivals accordingly, which means a delay time of several months before it appears in here or Dragon. So please stop asking us for spoilers! It's a pain being a small third party licensee. However, they're open for suggestions on any other kinds of Marvel articles and products they could add to the line. Don't hesitate to send them in.

The other letter is also from official staff, showing it must be a slow month for mail. The west coast regional co-ordinator shows off all the growth they've made in the last year, while also talking about areas that still need work, like doing any Buck Rogers articles or tournament adventures at all. (Ha, you'll be waiting in vain for a long time for that.) Join one of the clubs if there's already one in your area, or start your own, the company's great!
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 67: January 1992



part 2/5



The Living City: Raven's Bluff is nowhere near as genre-savvy as say, Ankh-Morpork, and so the thieves guild actually needs to work for their money instead of just collecting insurance. This is actually good for employment rates, as it means you have to employ guards to stop them and they also have to actually put in a decent night's work if you live in a high crime neighbourhood. The Sigil of the Silent Night are our example business this month, providing a wide range of home protection services to those with the means to pay for them. From basic fighters doing a beat that passes by each protected house several times a night, to exceedingly expensive bespoke magical protections that are cast every evening when you close up shop and then dispelled in the morning (they need to work on a way to automate that switching on and off, because it seems pretty labor intensive for their wizards) they have something to suit nearly any budget, with it easily costing several thousand GP per night if you go for all the magical mod-cons at once. Once again we see that while magic might be well-known in the realms, it's still not common enough for the lower classes to be able to afford it, leading to lots of inequality in terms of quality of life. The adage that it takes a thief to catch a thief holds true here, with the boss being a high level rogue gone straight who uses his sneaky skills to randomly check on his guards and make sure they're doing a good job. The staff wizards also get lengthy profiles detailing their histories and the various magical tricks they each bring to the company, making this considerably longer than most articles here. More than most, this definitely looks like you could get a lot of repeated use out of it both as an employer and antagonists, as what PC's don't have cause to steal stuff from rich people sometimes? It gives you a clear path of how they could upgrade their security in response to theft so repeated attempts scale with your PC's powers. And if the PC's need to protect their own belongings, you can get a good idea of how much it'll cost them. (which may drive them to find other methods, depending on how stingy they are) I give my full approval to this one.



Horse Play: Boot Hill gets another article that's relatively short and old-school in style. A single page table for randomly determining the stats and quirks of any horses you come across? Whether you're going shopping or trying to rope a wild mustang to tame yourself, this seems like a decent little time saver for the GM, so they can roll up several quickly and have the player choose between them. So much easier than having to come up with everything yourself in a point buy system. Don't know why they don't do more of them.
 
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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 67: January 1992



part 3/5



Monsters - by Network Members: Another of last year's many contests pays off. New monster submissions are the kind of thing they get a decent amount of anyway, so hopefully they had enough to be selective about the quality. Let's see how these hold up in terms of inventiveness and mechanical balance.

Telexian Vine has apparently escaped from Neelix's homeworld and infested yours. With hypnotic scent, dangerously addictive fruit, and the ability to absorb & use any spells known by people it eats, you can quite see why he'd prefer to be a cook on other planets instead.

Moss is the kind of thing that adventurers routinely underestimate, despite being common all around the world in many interesting forms. Not Greg Detwiler though, who gives us three different flavours of monstrous moss that are able to supplement their diet with meat by creating an organic pit and digesting anything that falls in. Yet another reason probing ahead with a ten foot pole can be a lifesaver.

Armor Boars are giant pigs with porcupine level thick spiky hair to boost their offence and defence capabilities even further. Missile weapons or polearms are strongly recommended, as non reach weapons will get you punctured with every strike. Hope you remembered to pack accordingly.

Death Ox (not to be confused with death sheep, which appeared in Dragon recently) are relatives of gorgons who simply kill you with their gaze instead of turning you to stone. Like many real things with extremely effective natural defences like skunks, they're actually pretty placid, and the trick is knowing not to mess with them rather than picking a fight you're really not equipped to deal with.

Phase Jelly is another goopy old school dungeon filler. It'll reach out of the wall, change your phase as well, and pull you in to be digested. Unless you have constant magical detection active or a large party, this is very unlikely to be spotted and escaped. Another reason to have a whole load of hirelings or mindless undead and send them ahead to trigger the dangers if you suspect you're facing that sort of place.

Skum are the only one of these that'll make it into general circulation long-term. Aboleth's amphibious minions created by mutating humans, they're not that bright, but opposable thumbs and the ability to walk on land make them useful servants for the psychic fishies nonetheless, and the ability to alter you so any kids you have will be more skum adds extra lovecraftian horror to their depiction. Can you reverse engineer the genetic manipulation to give them a chance at a better life, or will you resort to the solution the US government applied to Innsmouth?

Dawnspirits are glowy balls of light from the upper planes. They're generically stalwart and true and will help anyone of similar alignment who asks nicely. Yeah, like we haven't seen that before many times with different stats. They really need to get some better creature designs if they want to make those regions adventurable.

Dragites are small mole-like humanoids that are general dragon fanboys, dying their fur to the color of any dragon in the vicinity and generally obeying their every whim. They're terrible in a fight, but decent at mining, creating traps and generally being helpful to their masters. Kobolds will take all their stuff in the 3e changeover.

Giant Mosquitos are another fairly mundane monster that comes in several interesting variants given their gender dimorphism and very different life cycle stages. As in reality, the females of the species are considerably more deadly than the male, so leave your petty human prejudices and sense of chivalry at home unless you want to suffer terminal dehydration from their proboscis.
 


(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 67: January 1992



part 4/5



In another of their attempts to avoid last year's judge shortage, the central two pages give a clear form detailing the Gen Con tournament schedule as it currently stands and encouraging you to apply. Which out of these 27 adventure options will you try with your 12 potential timeslots? (A)D&D has more than everything else put together, and WEG & GDW are TSR's closest competitors in popularity with the RPGA. Let's hope they continue to post something like this each year so I can analyse how other games come in & fall out of fashion.



Everwinking Eye shortens it's title, as many columns do after a while. This time, Ed talks about the places you can have fun in Mulmaster. Being dominated by evil doesn't mean people don't need to blow off steam, merely that the ways they do so are a little more … extreme. The low class places are plagued by outbursts of brawling, while the more salubrious ones are well-hidden and invite only. In the middle, there's a moderate number of dancehalls where you're free to wear your most outrageous outfits and dance to music that's as loud as they can get without electronic amplification. While there's a fair number of establishments talked about, details on each one are pretty cursory, and I get the feeling that this is one where he's constrained by the TSR code of conduct in describing precisely what kind of festivities take place within them. You'll have to use your own imagination if you want things to get beyond PG rating in your own campaign. It's somewhat disappointing, as is the fact that they don't reveal what the creature on the cover was, or what it's plans might be now it's killed the wizard who summoned it and escaped. You could dial back the vagueness a little more while still leaving us with plenty of freedom on how to use these adventure seeds.



Into The Dark: James doesn't have a particularly strong theme this month, choosing things more by the absence of dungeons or dragons. They might be easy to write adventures for, but they do get repetitive as stories, so you can understand why he might need a break. Let's find out what replaces them, and if they're worthy of building an entire game around in turn.

Edward Scissorhands is one of the most timely films James has covered yet. It's a Tim Burton film. If you like what he does, you'll love it. If you don't you won't. Plenty of people will find the fairytale atmosphere where the person who initially seems like a monster is actually kind and gentle, while the suburban people he has to deal with are distinctly less so very relatable. Now if only he wasn't recycling the same tricks with diminishing returns and working with exactly the same actors 30 years later.

Biggles does that annoying thing where the movie creators think a pure WW1 pulp adventure wouldn't be relatable to modern audiences, so they introduce a time-travelling PoV character from the 80's. This does not improve matters, and the extremely 80's soundtrack even further hurts it's case. The kind of thing that feels dated even before fashions actually change, and much more now than contemporaries like Indiana Jones which did play their pulp adventure revival theme completely straight. Stick to the original comics.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen manages to be meta far more effectively, blurring the boundary between story and reality with the Baron's exaggerations in the retelling. It apparently had a troubled production, which is visible in some of the joins, but it's still an entertaining ride. Hopefully you can replicate the atmosphere in your own game without the lengthy grinds to a halt, overspending and bickering behind the scenes.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 67: January 1992



part 5/5



Broken Photocopiers: The promotional article this time is surprisingly interesting, as it covers something they never mentioned in Dragon. In part of Gamma World 4e's attempts to make the system more balanced and functional for a long term game, they've turned identifying ancient tech from something largely determined by GM fiat and player descriptive ability to it's own minigame where you make rolls and move around a flowchart until you either figure it out, give up due to time constraints or break it with your tinkering. Certain classes obviously gain bonuses on these rolls as they level up, letting them figure out increasingly tricky tech like computers more quickly and effectively. Making things other than combat more complex than basic pass/fail rolls to emphasise that they're important to the game and it's themes is the kind of thing I strongly approve of, and I'm just slightly irritated that I didn't find out about this first time around. Maybe I should give the various editions of gamma world a deeper delve at some point, see what I think about them in detail.



The Living Galaxy: Roger rounds out his talk on treasure with lots of examples and reference works. Top Secret, Gamma World & Star Frontiers all have supplements devoted to equipment/treasure, and of course AD&D has multiple. You could play for years without exhausting the things on those random tables. If that's not enough, there are vast numbers of sci-fi novels where the high tech stuff is critical to the plot and would be very desirable in reality. Plus no matter what the tech level, social rewards are always going to be relevant, if possibly more ephemeral than cold hard cash. As with many previous instalments, this is a message that can be boiled down into a single sentence, and then a whole lot of padding. It's not bad, but it does outstay it's welcome. The flaw in being senior editor for their periodicals is that when he writes for them, the other ones aren't editing him as strictly as they could. This page count could definitely be used in a more efficient way.



Amazing Stories gets a completely straight advert of the sort they'd do in their bigger magazines, not even a promotional article. That's slightly jarring to see in here, and another sign of gradual creeping commercialism. Will that disqualify them from entering as best amateur magazine this year, or can they skate by because it's still one TSR department promoting another for free?



An issue where the system specific crunchy stuff is quite interesting, but the generic articles are once again pretty dull and familiar, not telling me anything I haven't heard before. The foreshadowing of more incoming Fluffyquest material over the year also fills me with trepidation. It leaves me with the definite impression that many of the articles this year will be a slog. Oh well, back over to the adventures part of this journey, which increasingly feel like a vacation given the higher quality and lower frequency I'm seeing them at the moment. Where will they be taking us this year?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 33: Jan/Feb 1992



part 1/5



80 pages. We haven't had any oriental adventures for over a year, but it looks like they're going to make up for that by putting this one on the cover, with a quite impressive dual-wielding oni guarding the way to an island. Let's find out why you want to get past him, and if there's a way to do it without fighting inside.


Editorial: Barbara is on holiday, so she delegates the editorial to new assistant Wolfgang Baur. Now there's a very familiar name who won't be staying at entry level for long, After several years as a freelancer, this is his first experience of the TSR offices in person, and he's finding out just how weird they all are. Don't worry, after several years of working in a full-time creative job that encourages you to indulge rather than repress your eccentricities, you'll look just as weird to the newbies too. Like any fresh newbie who's been working towards this for years, he's got a whole load of pet ideas that he'd very much like to see turned into actual published adventures. Send in more seafaring adventures that don't involve going underwater, more specific setting adventures, more stuff featuring gnomes, and fewer of overused cliches like railroading prophecies, absent-minded alchemists, and drow in general, both heroic & villainous. That's an interesting set of preferences. I note that it doesn't include his special love for ghouls, which is obviously important enough to him that he wants to do all the writing himself. Roger increasingly left the editorials to Dale in his later years, so I wonder if we'll see the same pattern here. In any case, this is another interesting little landmark along the road of gaming history.



Letters: The first letter wants more cardstock inserts, both creatures and structures, even if they aren't tied to any specific adventure. You never know when something might come in handy in a long-running campaign.

Second praises them for introducing him to lots of cool new worlds, and asks how interested they are in him returning the favor. As long as you can do so in self-contained, bite-sized chunks, they can also provide hints to your own campaign world. After all, it worked for Ed.

Third is from the author of The Wayward Wood, who's quite pleased to see his adventure in print, but as usual, spots a few errors too late to fix, some his and some the editor's. Perfection is an elusive goal, and grows moreso the more people are involved.

4th, 5th & 6th continue the debate on how many adventures should be in specific settings, with one wanting more, one less, and the third a good balance of both. A never ending battle with a lot of repetition on both sides.

Finally, someone who specifically loved their recent Ravenloft adventure, and wants more. Horror is a very popular genre. Maybe they should make an RPG that supports it better on a mechanical level, as it's very hard to keep D&D scary once you have a bit of XP built up.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 33: Jan/Feb 1992



part 2/5



That Island Charm: Ah yes, time for another shipwreck adventure. Always an easy way to keep people from wandering away from the plot, at least until flight, water breathing and teleportation become routinely usable powers by the whole party. A morkoth has mind-controlled a marid into patrolling the seas near it's lair and wrecking any ships that pass nearby, ensuring it has a steady supply of food. It keeps them all regularly charmed in a makeshift village until needed. You'll be washed up on the island and introduced to a friendly group of castaways, then need to figure out that something is very wrong and escape before it's too late. The way the people describe their surroundings doesn't match up to appearances, they're far too happy considering their situation, and if you just go along with everything they say, you'll soon find yourself taken to meet their boss and become a happy little drone as well. Better hope some of your PC's have high int scores so they can roll to break the charm frequently and then free the others before it's too late. This is one that won't go well for people used to following recent tournament railroads, in other words. For more paranoid ones who are used to looking every gift horse in the mouth and keeping their 10 foot poles at the ready, it doesn't look too hard, with plenty of opportunities to get away into the jungle and strike back at a time and place of their own choosing, and a couple of other escapees around the island that will be hostile and scared of the PC's at first, but can be won around if you can make it obvious you're in the same boat and not more mind-controlled minions. If you have enough countermagic to go around, you could resolve this in an entirely combat-free manner apart from the final boss, which is quite refreshing to see. (and since morkoths are purely aquatic, once you've freed the marid, you could skip even that fight altogether and just leave if you really wanted.) That's the kind of thing I approve of in adventures and don't see nearly enough of, particularly in D&D ones where combat is often the first and only option. Definitely wouldn't mind giving this one a spin.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 33: Jan/Feb 1992



part 3/5



The Siege of Kratys Freehold: Ooh, another mass combat adventure. Good to see them at least trying to push that subsystem more. (while also offering a simplified system for people who don't own the needed supplement) They also thank playtesters in the intro, which is also a good sign. Also pleasing is the writer connecting it to a previous adventure of his from a few issues ago. As they said in the letters page, you're welcome to use bits of worldbuilding from your own campaigns and see if you can get people intrigued enough that they send in letters asking for more. If a writer builds that kind of fanbase, they're much more likely to be hired officially like Wolf just was.

But enough context. Tarran Kratys is a soldier who's been fighting orcs for quite a few years, working his way up the ranks and making many enemies in the process. It's been a bad summer, with lots of wildfires, disease, crop failure, etc, so the orc tribes decide it's a perfect time to gang up and get revenge. The PC's happen to be passing by shortly before things get serious and get hired as extra protection. This sets you up for a weeklong timeline of things that'll happen unless the PC's do something to change it, culminating in the full on assault of orcs & ogres that will result in the keep's downfall. As with the last adventure, this will not go well for players who've got into the habit of sitting around waiting for the next plot beat on the railroad to come to them, and will strongly reward using the time you have between events to come up with all sorts of inventive defences or scout the area and take the fight to them. They have the numbers, but you should have the magical advantage, so make sure you use it. A well placed sleep spell can not only take out the dozen or so orcs it affects, but more, say, if you cast it when they're just reaching the top of the siege ladders so they fall on the ones below. This should not only provide a couple of session's worth of fun, but also has plenty of reusable setting material, although like the previous one by the same author, some of the specific details may well need changing to fit the geography of your campaign due to the size of area covered. Definitely going to be watching out to see if there's any more adventures set in Volkrad in the future.



This is one time Bill Cosby doesn't want high ratings, a message by the American Heart Association? Ooookay. There'll definitely be more times in the future when he'll wish fewer people were paying attention. :p
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 33: Jan/Feb 1992



part 4/5



Dark Days in Welldale: Willie Walsh has been doing this long and successfully enough that apparently he now has imitators, as we once again head off to a whimsical halfling village beset by small-scale but still dangerous foes. The well of Welldale used to grant wishes, but it dried up recently, one of their number disappeared mysteriously, and now they think they've been cursed for being too greedy with their wishes. They've actually got completely the wrong end of the stick, but the danger they're in is very real, as instead of a trickster leprechaun, they've got an infestation of meenlocks settling in and expanding their tunnel network underneath the village. You'll need to put up with all the comic relief NPC's with very silly alliterative names long enough to either trap them when they emerge, or figure out how to shrink yourselves down to hunt them in their lair. You might or might not be aided in this by the original "wish-granter", a particularly powerful variant faerie dragon which was granting the halfling's requests for his own amusement, but wandered off when he got bored. Whether he even shows up is heavily based on random roll, so the difficulty of this adventure can vary widely from one group to another by luck and if they're the kind of over-serious adventurers he'd rather prank than help.

This all seems somewhat irritating, as it overplays the comedy and hinges on the people you're helping being ignorant, superstitious and lacking in common sense. If you help them once you'll wind up having to help them again, because apparently they're just too dumb to survive on their own. To be honest, I'd really rather not. I can see what they're trying to do here, trying to make a small-scale adventure that's also a re-usable setting like several others we've seen before, but it takes a much better hand than this to thread the needle between humour and playability successfully, plus definite diminishing returns due to the derivative elements. I'm going to pass this time.



Alicorn: The short adventure to make up page count this issue is still a 4 pager, which means it doesn't get the side treks header. A goblin chief delved the wrong dungeon and picked up some cursed treasure that infected him with a wasting disease. His second in command actually shows some loyalty and initiative, (unusual for goblins, admittedly) and decided to hunt for a unicorn horn to cure him. They shot it with an arrow of wounding, but it got away. Now you need to find it before they do and save it. Since it's losing HP by the hour, this is one where you can't afford to pull 15 minute workdays if you want to win. It also means you can lose the adventure but still survive in several different ways, by being too slow, going in completely the wrong direction, or by killing all the goblins without bothering to listen to them, thus missing the initial exposition and not finding out about the unicorn part of the adventure in the first place. Seems like a decent little low level adventure for if you want to keep your players from getting too cocky, but don't want to TPK them straight away if they mess up, forcing you to roll up a whole new set of characters. It probably won't last you a full session, so best to use it when travelling between larger missions, and have something to do next already prepared in your head if you want the campaign as a whole to keep running smoothly.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 33: Jan/Feb 1992



part 5/5



Mad Gyoji: When this magazine started, you got an OA adventure nearly every issue, but the quantity rapidly dropped off once we hit the 90's and this is the first we've had in a full year, and the final one until the 3e era revival. How quickly fashions change. Unfortunately one unwelcome way they're changing in which the OA modules were ahead of their time is the average degree of of linearity. This is not an exception, as while it's not a complete railroad like most current Polyhedron ones, it definitely feels like it was written as a story first, and an adventure second, with a plot heavily based on asian folklore that you'll only find out all the backstory too if you do things in the specific way the author intended. The eponymous Mad Gyoji is a Wu Jen who's cursed a village elder with a wasting disease. He has perfectly good reasons for this in his own mind, but is not inclined to explain them to anyone, so the PC's are asked for help in curing it and hopefully finding out why this whole mess started in the first place. This does indeed involve taking the rather rickety bridge on the cover, as trying to take the water route will conveniently seriously piss off the local nature spirits and get you in a fight above your ECL, making it much more likely you'll do the encounters on the island in the right order. If you pay attention to the little details that you're supposed too, the backstory is actually pretty interesting and tragic, reminding us of the complicated problems fantastical racism can result in, with some neat looking setpieces and a dramatic redemption arc if you do all the right things in response. The problem is that all of this lining up properly seems …… not great with the average group of murderhobos without a lot of DM prompting. So this is pretty good as a story to read, but only mediocre as an actual adventure, due to having a lot of baked in assumptions of what the players should be doing without spelling it out to them. If they don't think like the writer, it'll be a bit of a damp squib for all involved.



Bud's Holiday Scrapbook: Unusually, we finish off with a bunch of photos from their christmas party, giving us a rare glimpse at the Dragon & Dungeon (but not Polyhedron, which seems to be a slightly more distant department) staff at repose. They're not getting up to any particularly wild hijinks, but when your day job is gaming, what exactly is cutting loose anyway? Work, play, it's all sitting at the computer typing either way. The hairstyles are already noticeably less dated than the 80's ones, but still distinguishable from the modern day. Slightly surprised it went in here rather than Dragon, but I guess they needed to make the page counts line up or something.



This time, it seems like the contrast is between adventures that work best if you look past the obvious route and do your own thing, and ones that fall apart if you don't follow the paths. Using both types interchangeably with the same group seems likely to confuse and irritate, so it's a reminder that you need to curate the adventures you choose to fit your playstyle. On I press again, to see if the next one will have anything worth adding to my repertoire.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 68: February 1992



part 1/5



30 pages. When travelling through the voids of space, every pound of encumbrance makes a difference, so miniaturising your weapons and then making up the power difference with hypertech or magic makes a lot of sense. Robes make slightly less sense in zero g, but many settings have artificial gravity anyway, so you don't have to constantly worry about awkward little day-to-day differences from reality like how to cook or go to the toilet when everything is floating. Let's find out if what's inside makes sense and is fun to use.



Fresh Air: We start off with a bit of basic generic advice reminding us just how many plot hooks festivals have to offer. There's a lot of logistics that goes into creating them, and that means lots of jobs available if you're looking for some quick cash. If you're an unscrupulous type, it's also a perfect opportunity for larceny, between large things being moved around between people who might not know each other, and lots of punters who might well be drunk or otherwise chemically impaired. Guarding against this of course adds more jobs, and is also something PC's are likely to have the skillset for. Even clerics get involved, as most of the more popular religions actually have whole cycles of holy days which are really just excuses for different types of party. Decent enough in quality of writing, but nothing groundbreaking. Still, after a year of lockdown where nearly all the usual deviations from the days passing have been missing, the importance of festivals and why we need them seems more obvious than ever. Coming up with a few for your own campaign world would definitely add to their verisimilitude.



Notes From HQ: The emphasis on contests continues, with another one straight away. This time it's Torg that you're being encouraged to get into and come up with cool new magic items for. Which genre will they draw upon and how will they be useful to storm knights trying to stabilise the world? Could be interesting, and it's good to see them trying to get RPGA'ers to experiment with more new systems and settings. The rest of the editorial is another tedious reminder of their bureaucratic procedures. If you want TSR staff to attend your convention as special guests, you need to notify them well in advance, and be willing to pay for accommodation & expenses at the very least. They're not made of money, and have their regular jobs to do, so any particular person can only do so many conventions in a year. Facilitating other people's fun is a serious business. Oh for immortality and a time machine so you can do everything you want without worrying about rushing to fit it all in.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 68: February 1992



part 2/5



Bestiary: Hearth Fiends are our only monster this month. William W. Connors reminds us that nearly anything can be corrupted by Ravenloft, and that includes the safety of a warm fireplace. They'll whisper from the flames and promise you nearly anything if you'll just keep on feeding them, Seymour. This usually ends tragically in the long run, as they lie liberally and they'll welch on the deal as soon as it's amusing and they secure another patsy. They're completely immune to nonmagical attacks, including normal water, so they're an out of context problem for the superstitious and ignorant peasants of most domains. Even adventurers might be tricked by their ability to jump into another fire and think they've killed it, only for the cycle to start all over again. Unless you have the logistic power to give every home a continual light spell and central heating, this is one recurring villain that'll be very hard to stamp out permanently. Both mechanically interesting and nicely atmospheric, this is one monster that definitely gets my approval.



Iron Hands, Captive Hearts: We haven't had a rogues gallery in a few months. They take a break from Raven's Bluff material for a little adventure in a galaxy far far away. Zhen Mirat is a force sensitive albino pirate captain who uses his mental powers to reinforce his dominance over his crew, have a good time and pluck info that'll lead to new scores from the minds of other cantina patrons. He seems thoroughly despicable and a decent challenge for your heroes to take down. Like any pirate captain worth their salt, he has several similarly unpleasant, but not quite as bright lackeys to order around, a nice ship called the Fatal Vision to travel the spaceways in, and an angry nemesis that he's blackmailing, who will be very eager to get revenge if the PC's can free his kidnapped wife & kids. This is all quite entertainingly written and filled with plot hooks, and the main question on if you'll want to use it is whether using villains who are both mind & literal rapists will add to the satisfaction of your players beating them, or be triggering for them and something they want to avoid entirely in their escapism. Vaguely surprised they can include that openly here as well given the TSR code of conduct, but I guess Star Wars already gets away with rather more incest and gruesome amputations than most family friendly franchises, so what's a little more unpleasantness to drive you to more dramatic roleplaying scenes?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 68: February 1992



part 3/5



Hero: The adventure this issue is weirdly also a little bit … rapey. The evil wizard Rahn Dom ( :groans: ) has kidnapped Princess Michelle of the Skittledom kingdom, and is going to force her to marry him. As extra insurance, he's cursed her so if she isn't married by her 21st birthday, the whole kingdom will be destroyed in a massive volcanic eruption. This is tomorrow, so you have to not only fight through his evil minions and free her while still fresh from the fight before the end of the night, :Bonnie Tyler intensifies: but also engage in a shotgun wedding with one of the PC's to save the day. ( So both the cleric and at least one other male PC need to survive to the end, as they specifically make the point that only het pairings count. ) This is an adventure that once again indulges in some of the worst habits of current tournament adventures, being both linear and jokey, and using the jokes to slip a load of old-fashioned sexist bollocks in. A lot of the encounters are 80's pop song references, the naming conventions are puntacular, and the whole thing looks like it would be rather disruptive if run in a regular campaign where you have to deal with the long-term consequences of a sudden unexpected marriage. About the only good thing about it is that at least the challenges are genuinely difficult, with quite interesting combats, enemies that use decent tactics and a real emphasis on tracking how much time each encounter takes, so the time limit aspect of the adventure feels like a genuine issue. In that respect it's closer to the early 80's meatgrinders where most groups won't make it all the way through than the 90's railroads where they spoonfeed you all the solutions. It doesn't overtake the dancing bear one as the absolute worst thing they've ever done, but it's still very dated and well below the mark that I'd consider using.



The Living Galaxy: Roger reminds us that sci-fi should be at least somewhat rooted in actual science, and gives us a ton of reading to do, spending a full 4 pages on recommending various non-fiction books that try to present the science in an engaging way. Stephen Hawking, Issac Asimov, Ben Bova, William Corliss, there are a fair few recognisable names here, some of which have also done good fiction, but also plenty more I have no idea about. Many of them are somewhat dated at the time of writing, which means they'll likely be even moreso now, and quite possibly out of print as well, as hard science books need to go through a lot more editions and revisions to stay relevant and useful than fiction. That makes this not particularly useful now, as knowledge of extrasolar planets in particular has advanced enormously in the past 30 years, and mainly interesting as a curiosity, revealing the state of his personal knowledge and influences at the time. Another one you can probably skip without feeling you've missed anything unless you're very specifically a Roger Moore fanboy.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 68: February 1992



part 4/5



Everwinking Eye: Ed gives another couple of Mulmaster adventure ideas that serve to illustrate the degree of constant paranoia you need to live in if you want to flourish there. There's a constant churn of both "legitimate" traders and organised crime jockeying for money & influence, and the boundaries between them are pretty blurry since the laws are so bad & inconsistently enforced that you pretty much have to break them to get ahead. You'd think such a high stakes environment would be bad for the mental health, but there's always a few people who actually find the thrill addictive, and can't deal with the boredom of living elsewhere. Plus leaving can also be difficult because once you've made a few allies and enemies, things can snowball and you keep on being threatened or offered large amounts of money for one more job, which turns out to not be the last one after all. They'll even attempt to make the rest of the world as unpleasant and dangerous as their home, as one of the other plot ideas shows them doing with Cormyr. The right kind of abusive relationship can not only be sustainable over many decades, but also get passed on down the generations, as the real world has shown many times. That becomes even more true when you can add magical mind control to your list of tools. This is why you actually need heroes to foil evil, because staying away and waiting for them to collapse from their own counterproductive decisions can be a long wait with a lot of collateral damage. Hopefully some of you will get something from these complicated and intractable challenges.



With Great Power: Dale talks about a problem very specific to the FASERIP system. Since it was released 8 years ago, there's been a distinct rise in superheroes that don't fit it's mold, that have much darker adventures and no problem with killing their enemies. What we to do with all this grim and gritty realism? Do we ignore it and keep playing the same we always have, and see sales drop as we fall ever further behind the times? Or do we change the system so a murder doesn't drain all your karma and make character advancement near impossible? Since he's feeling in a nice mood, he'll give you several different options so you can dial the amount of punishment for killing up and down to suit your campaign. None of them are as permissive as D&D, where you're actually rewarded for it instead. :p They may be adding a lot more boxes for you to play in, but they still don't really want you to think out of the box entirely and throw in everything from any genre at once. That would be messy. This is mainly interesting as another historical landmark. The whole grim and gritty thing is going to get a lot bigger over the next couple of decades, and things only start going back in a more optimistic direction once the MCU comes along. (and even now it's still a far cry from the old 4 color antics.) We probably won't be seeing much of it here because they lose the licence and stop covering non D&D stuff long before then, but that's a whole other dissertations worth of reading and analysis for someone to do if they feel like it.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 68: February 1992



part 5/5



Into The Dark: James decides to take a trip into our collective subconsciouses with a bunch of dream themed movies. Since nearly everyone does that every night, there's no shortage of material to draw upon for inspiration. This is one theme that could easily be dragged out over several months if he felt like it. But this is also a theme which can be a particular struggle to transform into a good story, between the abrupt and sometimes nonsensical transitions and the need for good special effects to evoke the proper atmosphere. I have no doubt there'll be some turkeys in this collection.

Dreamscape sees government agents venturing into other people's dreams to save the USA from nuclear apocalypse. It was decent enough when it came out, but now seems very dated with the fall of the soviet union and dramatic change in geopolitics.

Nightwish gets a mediocre result overall. It at least manages to be surprising, throwing a full kitchen sink of weirdness from various genres at our dreaming protagonists, but it fails to stick the ending.

Project: Nightmare is only successfully dreamlike in that it bored James to sleep repeatedly trying to sit through it. The kind of flop the studios sat on for years and then pushed out on home video in an attempt to at least make a little money. It could have stayed in the vaults and no-one would have particularly cared.

A Nightmare of Elm Street sees James baffled as to why this became a household name franchise. The first one is cheap and shoddy in writing, acting, editing & special effects and the sequels rapidly turn Freddie from frightening a into wise-cracking pantomime villain. I suspect that, counterintuitively is the reason. After all, look at the competition. Neither Vorhees or Myers are nearly as distinctive or fun to play, and who else has the staying power to join their ranks?

Dreams (now there's an ungoogleable title in the modern era) is a collection of short films by Akira Kurosawa, all inspired by his own dreams, obviously. The quality of the stories is pretty variable, but they're all beautifully shot, and packing 8 into 2 hours means even the boring bits don't outstay their welcome. It's easily both the highest quality and most authentically dreamlike of this selection.



A lot of very dated stuff this issue, be it the attitudes, the science, or the systems. It is at least dated in fairly interesting ways this time around, but still, there's not much stuff here I'd actually consider reviving and using. Once again, let's move onto issue 69. Nice. Lets see if there's any sexy stuff within, and preferably not in a rapey way.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 69: March 1992



part 1/5



36 pages. A scantily clad warrior maiden riding a … giant cyborg squirrel? That's a new combination for me. I strongly suspect Gamma World is involved, as that's their only current game that really supports this character concept, although Spelljammer might manage at a squeeze. (though giant hamsters are more their thing) Let's see if this issue manages to scale the heights, or falls at the first hurdle.



Gaming at Game Stores: A little while back, they had letters about the ethics of officially registered clubs being able to run tournament adventures and get points. Now they're giving game stores the opportunity to run accredited games too if they jump through the right hoops, so you can play even more frequently as long as there's a few dozen enthusiastic people regularly attending your FLGS. You could run a new one every week if you really wanted, and that would really speed advancement along. A very interesting development that could have substantial long term effects if taken up. Who has fond memories of not only shopping, but also gaming at a store like this?



Notes From HQ: Ah yes, the AD&D trading cards. They were quite popular for a couple of years in the early 90's. It's no surprise that people in the RPGA would actually want to … trade them. So they're setting up a section specifically for that. Which probably means several pages an issue that give me nothing much to comment on, so that's mildly irritating. Somewhat more exciting is that they're going to try making a Living Gamma World setting, set in postapocalyptic Door County, Winconsin. After several years of Living Galaxy being a purely generic false start, I'm very much hoping they can get the submissions to pull that off. So straight away, it's not just business as usual here, but actively trying out new stuff and seeing if it'll catch on. Whether or not they succeed, that still makes things considerably more interesting for me than keeping the same columns every month, year in year out.



Letters: First letter is from someone who was sent a schedule that assumed they'd be judging at Gen Con when they weren't. They cancelled as soon as they got it and hope that won't stop them from judging in the future when they feel ready. Jean is inclined to be forgiving. Bureaucracy is an endless struggle so of course mistakes are going to be made.

Second letter wants the magazine bigger, and wonders why they only review movies that have been out for years. They doubled their output just last year. They'll need a few more readers before they can afford to expand again. As for Into the Dark, it was specifically billed as a video review column, not a general movie one. You don't like that, tough luck. Plenty of other publications you could buy to scratch that itch.

Third complains that the mail treats their front covers poorly. Yup. This is a persistent problem they can't do much about apart from making sure the outside 4 pages are mostly blank of critical info.

Finally, one complaining that much of the Living City stuff is cartoony, implausible and contradictory. How are we supposed to run a serious campaign using this?! Yup. I've complained about that too. It being generally quite lighthearted and full of high level characters is merely a matter of taste, a certain number of high level NPC's are needed to make sure that bloodthirsty hack and slashers don't ruin the shared world for everyone else, and it's obvious lots of readers do run their campaigns in quite a silly way, but lack of attention to continuity is a serious issue that they need to tighten up on if they want it to not fall apart long term. There's definite room for improvement in their current policies.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 69: March 1992



part 2/5



The Well of Dreams: Mmm. Time for a callback to old school ways with a magical well that has random effects on anyone who throws a coin into it, including some quite game-changing bonuses and penalties. More are good than bad, but there's enough annoying ones and distinctly mixed blessings that some of the party will regret it if they all have a go. (apart from the Wild Mage, as this is precisely the sort of item their power to control randomness will help with) Thankfully it only affects any particular individual once per year, so it won't lead to the kind of compound effects or temptation to keep drawing until you get a terrible result and die the deck of many things does. This seems like you could use it in a campaign without destroying it outright, and I would have absolutely no problem with doing so.



Sea of Fire: We recently had the final Oriental Adventure in Dungeon for this edition, showing how that gameline has hit diminishing returns after a decent number of sourcebooks & adventures and gradually faded away. But Polyhedron still has one last big two-parter to offer us before it too moves onto their profusion of newer settings. It's also mongolian influenced rather than the more familiar pseudo-chinese or japanese, which makes for a nice change. An evil Wu Jen steals a river, turning hundreds of miles downstream into a rapidly drying wasteland and threatening all the nomadic tribes in the area. They converge on the one remaining lake within a few hundred miles, speeding it's disappearance even further. The PC's are obviously among the many people traveling in the area and caught up, and get volunteered to trace the river to it's source and find out what happened. The result is a surprisingly epic adventure spanning weeks of in-game time which involves a fair bit of tracking food and water, because if you run out of supplies and don't have a cleric capable of conjuring more, you'll be in trouble. While the order of the encounters is pretty linear, you at least have a reasonable amount of freedom in how you solve them without ruining the overall plot - as long as you keep heading upriver you'll get to the goal eventually. So this is above average for a Polyhedron adventure because it's neither obnoxiously jokey or so railroaded it falls apart if the DM doesn't spoonfeed the correct solutions, as well as being a decent challenge both combat and wilderness wise, with real but not world-ending stakes for failure or giving up if used in an established campaign. This is once I actually wouldn't mind using if my players were headed in the right direction at the right level range.
 

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