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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 79: January 1993



part 5/5



Into The Dark: Oooh. No mere mortal can resist the evil of a Vincent Price special. He might have been typecast as the villain in horror stories, but he actually had a pretty wide range as an actor, doing hundreds of films over his lifespan. Of course, many of them suuuuuucked, but even then, he was usually entertaining to watch. Which end of the quality spectrum will James go for?

The Witchfinder General gets the highest score of these, as it's not just supernatural schlock, but a serious story that lets Vincent really show his emotional range as the fanatical witchhunter. There's no heroes here, just various shades of grey, and everything ends tragically. Not really light popcorn entertainment, but still very worth watching.

Masque of the Red Death is similarly dark, but in a very different way, as it's mostly an excuse for Roger Corman to indulge his decadent imagination, before killing nearly everyone off brutally in the expected way at the end. You could just watch actual porn and skip the tragedy part, but then it probably wouldn't have the cool production values. Oh, the compromises life forces on us.

The Tingler is one of those 50's gimmick films that doesn't hold up that well in hindsight. Applying electric shocks to the cinema audience at appropriate points to make them scream? That would definitely fall foul of modern health & safety rules and quite right too! The pacing is also pretty slow even by 90's standards, so if James thinks it was too slow then, it would feel even moreso to a modern audience.

The Abominable Dr Phibes sees him playing the eponymous doctor, inflicting biblical retribution on the people who let his wife die. An inherently ridiculous premise, but rats, locusts and frogs can all be pretty scary. 80's slashers only wish they could kill people that inventively.

Theatre of Blood follows pretty much the same formula, only it's the unfavourable reviewers of his theatre productions that are meeting ironic ends stolen from various shakespeare plays. Just the thing to make real life reviewers think twice before giving it a negative review in turn. Thankfully, despite some moments where the melodrama slips into cheesiness, it manages to be an entertaining watch overall. It concludes what has been one of James's most positive columns overall. Proper acerbicness will resume next month.



Bloodmoose & Company try another tricky method to pay off their ever-mounting debts.



An issue that's interestingly heavy on the conflict between people who are only interested in D&D, and those who would like the RPGA to cater to a wide range of systems, some by companies other than TSR. There's still plenty of people who would like more non D&D stuff, but of course they're widely split on which specific games to cover, and financial pressures are gradually building. Even if the RPGA itself is still growing, being attached to a TSR which is shrinking in revenue overall is going to make that an increasing issue over the next few years. Let's see what responses next issue will have.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 39: Jan/Feb 1993



part 1/5



64 pages. Or 1992 again as it says on the header. Dungeon falls prey to one of the most basic mistakes any office can make, forgetting to update all the formatting with the new year. Let's hope the carelessness doesn't extend to the contents too much.



Editorial: They still haven't changed their mind on doing multi-part adventures in here, but it seems the pressure to try again is growing stronger. What they instead want to encourage, is adventures that are standalone, but can be connected to other ones to make a larger whole. Many existing adventures have hints at the end of other places to go, people to see, consequences that could happen, write a sequel building on one of those. Suggestions of sequences of adventures to take you from low to high would also be welcome additions to the letters pages, particularly if your group has actually gone through them and the levelling up math works out. Another fairly pleasing result of their general increase in love of settings. Unlike Polyhedron, they don't have a bit of world that would let them incorporate lots of adventures into one persistent setting, but more references in adventures that reward long-term readers is still an option. A fairly pleasing way to start off the year in terms of editorial direction, although as ever I suspect they may struggle getting the right kinds of submissions.



Letters: First letter is from Chris Perkins pointing out errata for his adventure in issue 37. No adventure survives contact with the rules lawyers! This is why they got rid of infravision and replaced it with the completely non-scientific Darkvision in 3e.

Second is from someone who loved Sea of Sorrow, and wants more spelljamming materiel. As usual when they print a request like this, it's tied into one of the things later on in the issue.

Third is the usual round of the opposing opinion. Nearly half of the issue being filled with an adventure for a niche setting is too much! Be a bit more boring in future! Can't take some people anywhere.

4th is from Italy, and asks how an ex-templar can cast spells? Changing employers. He worships a water elemental now. You've just got to show a little initiative instead of moping for the rest of your life when things don't work out with your previous one.

5th is one of the quiet majority that are satisfied with the magazine as it is. They need a reminder of that every now and then.

6th wants them to go monthly, and use the extra space to publish more experimental adventures and columns on GMing advice. People are less likely to complain about a multi-part adventure or niche setting taking up big chunks of an issue if the next helping is only 4 weeks away instead of 8.

7th also wants more multi-part adventures. Barbara repeats her opinion from the editorial. They'll stick to the episodic TV model for now, where any larger connections might be nice, but mustn't be essential to understand and participate in the adventure.

8th asks how international writers can get modules published without a SASE. There's these things called International Reply Coupons. Same thing, just more expensive. Still haven't figured out email in this side of the TSR offices then, despite Polyhedron having boards for years now.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 39: Jan/Feb 1993



part 2/5



Below Vulture Point: Oooh, they're doing a 0th level adventure in here. And while the enemies might not be that powerful statistically, it isn't a hand-holding railroad like the Polyhedron one. An Urd has taken over a kobold tribe, captured some vulture eggs, and trained the two to work together in their raiding parties. They steal from the wrong person and the PC's get hired to recover their stuff. Climb the ironically vulture shaped mountain they live on, explore the caves and save the day. You'd better have invested in both missile weapons and climbing gear if you want to survive, otherwise the bombardment of rocks from above will kill you or send you tumbling in the first half, while the second half is typically filled with traps for a kobold lair, punishing people who run in to fight without checking first. The mastermind will try to fly away if the PC's are winning, making it easy to turn him into a recurring enemy for the first few levels, until they have fly spells & fireballs, which'll make keeping up and finishing him off relatively simple. It's not that long, but it is pretty tricky, particularly if you're playing it as 0th level characters rather than regular 1st level ones, and sets you up decently for future adventures with both a potential recurring employer and nemesis. A much better start for the kind of campaign I like to play than Torrand's Tribulations.



Unlike Dragon, Dungeon has actually grown slightly this year, with the statement of ownership putting circulation at 38,000. If they keep this up, it'll pass half Dragon's size by the next time they publish the figures. Good to see the little guys thriving even as the company as a whole starts to decline.



Flowfire: Steve Kurtz demonstrates his range with a submission that's pretty much the opposite of his previous epic adventures of above average linearity. 9 little random Spelljammer encounters for when you're travelling through the phlogiston. Some are challenges, some are lost treasure, and many of them contain hints to other larger adventures somewhere out there in the void. A very welcome bit of expansion for one of their less popular settings, this has plenty of variety and atmosphere, with my main complaint being that it's too short. A table with only 9 random encounters is going to start repeating itself very quickly in an extended campaign, so you may want to keep track of which ones you've already used and mark them off, substituting something else if they come up again. Good, but badly needs to be expanded upon in turn. Who's going to take on that job?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 39: Jan/Feb 1993



part 3/5



Last of the Iron House: We follow up with another short adventure that probably won't last even a full session in itself, but is begging for expansion. A local cleric has been accused of engaging in bizarrely open banditry. He has an airtight alibi for at least one of the incidents, so it looks likely something supernatural is going on. Fortunately, a little wandering around the area while not looking like too dangerous a target will attract the impostor's attention. It turns out to be someone who co-incidentally looks very similar, being manipulated by a sahuguin priestess who's ultimate goal is to kill the original and use the patsy as a political pawn. Fortunately, her minions aren't very bright, and it's not too hard to foil them & trace things back to their base of operations. The main dungeon itself is more of a Polyhedron style adventure than a Dungeon one, short, linear and thoroughly unimpressive, and the only thing that distinguishes it stylistically is the greater attention paid to external plot hooks that running this adventure could lead too in the future, with the distinct possibility that the Sahuguin priestess behind it will escape and come up with further plots to harm and manipulate the landbound communities. So this is one that could be useful for low level parties, but you'll need to put in a fair bit of effort as a DM to really make the most of it. Maybe someone will save you the work and do a sequel adventure like the editorial encouraged them too. We'll just have to keep reading and see.



The Fountain of Health: The first basic D&D adventure in nearly a year does what usually happens after a break and goes right back to basics, a dungeon crawl for starting level adventurers with a magical fountain at the end. The PC's are trying to save the life of a dying villager, and being only 1st level, have no healing spells of their own. They need to negotiate the dangers of a ruined temple and get to the fountain in the middle to use it's healing water. Since the temple is crumbling, there are multiple entrances, several routes through, and you can gain even more nonlinearity by doing a little rubble climbing, although it'll be risky with your low skill levels. Most of the encounters are fair, but there's a golem that's probably too powerful to fight head-on, and is better avoided or tricked to it's demise, and a gargoyle at the end that'll slaughter you unless you've picked up the magical weapon from earlier on in the adventure. (or a previous one) It's challenging for the intended level, and you might well lose some of your PC's in the process, but there's always a trick given that you can use to solve things if you're smart, and if you make it to the end, the fountain will let you raise everyone. It's a little too merciful to be truly old school, and gets easier disproportionately quickly if you do have a few other adventures under your belt, but good at what it's intending to do, encouraging low level adventurers to use their brains and explore rather than hacking through every problem. It rewards caution and thinking outside the box, and seems like a pretty good way to start off a campaign overall, as once you've done it you can stock up on healing water that'll let you take on a tougher mission for your next adventure. (although they're smart enough to limit the fountain's output enough that it won't be gamebreaking) Now you just need to decide what that adventure might be, as unlike the previous ones this issue, it doesn't have any potential recurring antagonists or hints of other locations to develop into a future plot. Can't have everything every adventure I guess.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 39: Jan/Feb 1993



part 4/5



The Fire Giant's Daughter: Despite being a full-time editor now, Wolfgang Baur still finds time to write another adventure for the magazine as well. A teenage fire giant chafes against the rules of her strict father, who uses a geas to prevent her from straying far from home. Naturally, she pushes at the limits of that, and would like to find someone who can free her from it entirely. The PC's come across her going for a stroll in their planet's local equivalent of iceland and she leads them on a merry chase back to Jotunheim to meet her family. Hopefully the PC's won't attack on sight, despite fire giants having definite LE tendencies & pet hellhounds for guards and listen to her story. If they talk to her father, he's initially dismissive of them, and will only let her go if they win a series of contests. So this is basically intended to be the norse story where Thor & Loki meet Utgard-Loki, only hopefully it'll be your PC's using wits and magic to triumph in the various contests against much more physically powerful opponents. Alternately, it could turn into a heist story where the PC's sneak around their home, try to find the geas-rune binding her and destroy it, before all making a hasty escape, or devolve into a straightforward hack and slash dungeoncrawl where you kill everything and completely miss the plot xp rewards. These various options mean it's a fairly flexible scenario with plenty of opportunities for roleplaying, while still holding up if your players are bloodthirsty dumbasses. (although it definitely won't be an easy fight at the intended level) Plus it gains a few extra marks for good use of the rune magic system in the vikings sourcebook. I like this one.



The Ulrich Monastery: Oooh, we haven't had a solo adventure in a few years, and we haven't had one aimed at a cleric before at all. This is a welcome addition to our arsenal. For some reason, quite possibly a minor transgression that requires atonement, your PC is sent to a monastery in the mountains without the rest of the party. When you get there, you find everyone's dead, and it's getting dark & snowy so leaving straight away would be a very bad idea. Can you figure out the clues to what's responsible, search the place for helpful equipment and figure out appropriate countermeasures before it comes back? So what we have here is basically a murder mystery, with a single tough fight at the end. It could be over very quickly if you rush through or ignore the detective part, so you need a GM that can do the descriptions the right way and slowly build up the tension before the action finally arrives. It strongly rewards having some divination spells in your repertoire and knowing when to use them. It does demonstrate why you need a GM with a spellcaster, while fighty classes can be handled in the CYOA style, as it is quite open-ended in how you approach things. (and precisely what spheres you have access too if you're a specialty priest can make a big difference as well.) Not something for every group then, but a fairly interesting read that does something they haven't tried before. If the rest of the group flakes out, it's a handy one to have in the back of your pocket.
 

Richards

Legend
"The Ulrich Monastery" was the first Dungeon adventure I ran my two sons through after they had graduated from HeroQuest. I ignored the "solo adventure" aspect of it and let them each bring in two 1st-level PCs to get their feet wet in the AD&D 2E rules system. We had a lot of fun with it.

Johnathan
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 39: Jan/Feb 1993



part 5/5



Legerdemain: After an issue packed with lots of little adventures, even the cover story is a relatively short one. A theatre owner suspects the director of his current play is planning an assassination so he hires the PC's to work undercover disguised as stagehands and surreptitiously gather evidence. Explore the backstage areas, get to know the other actors & crew, and try to spot the plot twists before they happen. Unsurprisingly given the theme, it's easily the most scripted of the adventures this issue, but it does still offer some freedom in how you approach it, and has some very interesting and dramatic setpieces. Definitely not one for the hack and slash group though, but if you enjoy hamming up the acting side of roleplaying it could be pretty fun. If you're playing with White Wolf lovers and want to go back to D&D for a one-shot it seems ideal.



With lots of short adventures that are designed to invite expansion, this collection seems aimed at the slightly more experienced DM who're comfortable with doing that rather than just plopping the players down at the start of the dungeon and rolling the dice. It may be slightly more work, but it'll be nice to see your players faces when they realise something they did months or years ago actually had an impact on the campaign world. Definitely a sign we're well into the 2e era, and people want to engage in more worldbuilding despite the editorial mandate keeping everything episodic. Let's see if next issue manages to push that a little further, or they'll decide it's time for a few more bits of mindless violence to blow off steam instead.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 80: February 1993



part 1/5



32 pages. Is that a dragon on the cover? Or is it a humanoid? Is it a dragon-man. A bit early for something like that to be available as a PC. Could it be a relative of TROGDOR!!!!! The arms are definitely pretty beefy, and the shading approaching consummate. Let's see if this issue is worth throwing up the horns and headbanging over, or merely a swift burnination.



Take a Byte: Following directly on from the last instalment, they talk about the expansions to the Dark Sun computer game. The Grey Isles and The Ivory Triangle. Swap out your floppy disks, and you can take your character from one area to another with all their levels & equipment, and enjoy all new missions and places to explore. The kind of thing that would be handled as DLC these days, expanding the world overall without risking losing access to to them because a single disk out of several gets lost. (although you're still screwed if your computer as a whole breaks down) Googling, it looks like their ambition outstripped either their programming skills, or the first game sold poorly, as these two supplements never actually got released. A shame, because they made real effort to make these games not just hack and slash, giving NPC's different dialog if you talk to them repeatedly, and even some of the monsters negotiable. What price a few megabytes more of memory to fit more options in?



Notes From HQ: Jean delegates the editorial to Norm Richie, who uses it to remind us of their current standards for submitting modules and getting them approved for tournament use. They've cut the deadline for telling them about your convention and requesting suitable modules from six months to three, but that's a hard 3, no amount of pretty pleases will get you around it. (and it's still a good idea to book things even further in advance anyway) Modules themselves need to be sent 4 months in advance at least, and clearly noted in large type if you want to use them first at a specific convention, otherwise who knows where they might assign them. Make sure every page is numbered and has the name of the module at the top or bottom so if papers get shuffled around, they can easily doublecheck they have everything for ease of editing. If you can send it purely on computer, that's even better! (although the capacity of floppy disks means maps still look better sent on paper, and CD burners aren't commonly available yet to solve that bottleneck.) They're only an office of half a dozen people trying to service hundreds of conventions every year, not miracle workers. The way you present your submissions definitely makes a big difference in the ease which they can process them. Tedious business, but it's got to be said at least once a year or so, otherwise it'd be complete chaos, and that's no good for getting things done at all.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 80: February 1993



part 2/5



Letters: First letter is from a mum who finds RPG's useful both as education and family bonding time. Segregating gaming into age groups would remove that opportunity. If you want them to git gud, you start them young and guide them around the mistakes you made learning without any older generation to ask for help.

Second is one of those former underage gamers who's been judging tournaments since they were 15. Some people were suspicious of him at first, but after 4 hours together, they were mostly complementary. A fresh face is not a bad thing. The RPGA would not have survived the 80's if they excluded contributions by under 18's, given the general demographics of gamers back then. Raising the ladder behind us now would just be churlish.

Finally, a more general complaint from someone who had to deal with both a bad judge and players who were obviously cheating on their character sheets this Gen Con. With respect to the first, they remind him not to be afraid to leave a low score. If enough people do so, they will eventually be weeded out. As to the second, they're planning on unveiling new regulations very soon. How vaguely ominous. How will they try to keep things fair without too much alienating micromanaging this time?



The Everwinking Eye: Ed continues talking about the popularity of Selune in Thentia. Her worshippers include several high level wizards as well as the priests, so they've no shortage of magical resources, and being mostly chaotic good, the will to use them in mischievous ways to protect the temple. Anyone trying to rob the temple should definitely take that into account. There are plenty of challenges you are intended to beat as well though. Biggest, and weirdest, is an intelligent magical sword that has gone rogue, and now tries to liberate and animate other magical items from human tyranny. Any well-equipped adventurer had best keep their guard up, particularly if venturing into the sewers, or you may find your most valuable equipment going on strike and striking back. There's also plenty of humanoids & dungeons out in the wilderness, and a bit of mundane ecological detail, because Ed isn't going to neglect that even with all the magical stuff going on. Another pleasingly well rounded entry that gives DM's plenty to think about, and players plenty to do if they come here. Where will he head next, and how will he make it distinct from all the previous locations?



With Great Power: Dale looks at the idea of solo superhero campaigns this issue. Unlike dungeon crawls, where you really do need a team if you want to survive long term, and most of the literature reflects this, there are plenty of examples of superheroes who primarily work solo, and are powerful & skilled enough to have long healthy comic runs doing so. In fact for those kinds of stories, solo heroes work better than group ones, as you can really concentrate on their relationships with the regular people in their life, and how they balance keeping a secret identity going with the desire to do good in the world. Team-ups tend to lose sight of that, especially once you have at least one member with super-wealth, so you can support the rest not having to bother with day jobs, paying rent, etc. You can also do more interesting things with the villains, with recurring ones reflecting the psyche of the hero in some way. You do still have to be a bit more careful in designing encounters for characters, with multiple weak enemies on one often not going the way it does in the books, but FASERIP is more forgiving than D&D as a system. A good reminder that roleplaying is not one size fits all, and system matters. Some games bog down quickly with a large group, while others will get you killed easily with a small one, and if you know which ones are good for which sizes, you'll have a much better time of things. Do your research and don't try to shoehorn it into the most popular system just because it's popular.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 80: February 1993



part 3/5



Guarded Wagon: Another caravan guard mission? They do seem to like those in here. I guess it's a good way to make the adventure completely linear in a way that doesn't feel unnatural, as you need to get to the goal to get paid, and there's one obvious quickest route to get from A to B. So here's another of your basic 8 encounters in order, no choices or alternate routes, designed to fit neatly into a 4 hour tournament slot with time to spare, only this time for Dark Sun. A corrupt templar who wants a bribe before you can even set off. Two different tribes of humanoid raiders in quick succession. A merchant that gives you the chance to buy some metal weapons if you're carrying enough money. (or wiling to slaughter him for the lot) An unexpected wagon breakdown near a small ruin that you'll have to explore to get the parts to continue. And an extra large elven raid to finish things off. It's not filled with bad jokes, and it doesn't look like a cakewalk or meatgrinder for the intended party level. The monsters are nonstandard, and use their various psionic abilities intelligently, making it feel suitably Dark Sunish. It's still much more formulaic and linear than I'd prefer, but it's above average for what it is, a way to spend 4 hours at a convention and earn varying amounts of RPGA xp depending on how well you handle the various challenges. Besides, looking at the linearity of most published Dark Sun adventures, it's in the right sort of company.



Bestiary gives us a bunch of athasian monsters submitted by readers, as they requested a while ago in one of their many contests.

Conashellae are shellfish that have adapted to athas's increasing desiccation by becoming burrowers. Like many arthropods, their digestion is partially external, spitting acid on you to soften you up before slurping up the liquified remains. They're not particularly dangerous by athasian standards, but would give 1st level adventurers from another world a hard time, especially in the large numbers they tend to appear in. Still, if you beat them, that's food sorted for the next few days.

Sable Sandcrawlers appear to be cute and friendly caterpillars with enormous anime eyes, turning up at your campfire and begging for food. If you fall for the ruse, they'll snuggle up and lay their eggs in you while everyone's asleep and be gone before the morning. Wham bam thank you maam. The birthing process is typically unpleasant. You'll definitely think twice before cuddling strange caterpillars next time.

Sandworms are your basic Dune reference, hundreds of feet long, with hit dice & damage outputs to match. Completely immune to psionics and able to swallow you whole, you do not want to hunt them without a big team and a plan. If you can take them down, that's the whole village sorted for food for weeks. That's a good way to be treated as heroes, at least until the next famine hits and they'll be asking what have you done for me lately?

Silt Weirds are what happens to water weirds when they hang around these parts too long. As usual, they're much bigger, and have psionic powers along with the physical ones in case you're immune to suffocation. Probably not very good at coping with undead, but trying to attack them with regular weaponry is a futile task. A poorly equipped party will definitely struggle even at high level. Higher ability scores mean nothing if you can't adapt your tactics to the situation at hand and this collection are a good reminder of that.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 80: February 1993



part 4/5



The Living Galaxy: Roger decides to take a more lengthy look at a specific topic. What happens when your PC's land on a less technologically advanced planet? If you're playing it anything like D&D, a whole load of killing and taking of stuff. But there are a whole lot of subtleties that could come into play. They could be spiritually advanced beings who've evolved past the need for obvious technology, quite capable of crushing you psychically if you step out of line. They could be smarter than you, but limited by the resources on their planet or their own physiology - an underwater civilisation is never going to unlock the fire tech tree, for example, but they can take advantage of visitors to leapfrog the bits they can't do alone. Even if they came from the stars, a civilisation might slip back to barbarism due to lacking crucial resources or war; a newly terraformed planet in particular is going to be short on oil, coal and similar nonrenewable power sources, and even missing certain rare earth elements could make computers irreplaceable when they break down and cause a long term decline & loss of knowledge. There's also the weirder scenarios where they're kept in a state of artificial technological stasis by some other force like a zoo, and interfering with the planet will make those overlords angry. Basically, watch lots of Star Trek, as it has examples of all of these, and the protagonists usually try to engage in an ethical manner rather than rapacious violence, even if the right course of action isn't always clear. If they can keep on finding new worlds to explore and new ethical dilemmas to struggle with over more than 50 years now, you can definitely do the same with your own campaign, particularly if you aren't limited to wrapping each challenge up in 45 minutes, but can make it an arc for a whole season. This is all pretty useful stuff. Sometimes, the obvious sources are the best, as that's how they got big and lasted. Trying to be more hipster than thou all the time can be a serious impediment to actually getting things done.



Hey Rocky: As is often the case, we have a bit of basic roleplaying advice, this time aimed at judges for their tournament games. Read the modules before you play them! Check the stats, think about what tactics the NPC's would use, how to roleplay them, which bits are important and which are merely flavour. Don't just turn up on the day and read each individual encounter as the players get to it, making each scene completely disconnected and without any kind of intelligent interaction between the PC's and NPC's. That just creates a vicious cycle where the tournament writers intentionally make their adventures even more short and linear to make sure they're idiot proof, on the premise that consistently mediocre gaming is better than an adventure that could be good or bad depending on which GM you get this time, and is definitely much easier to score for. This must be a fairly common problem for them, and shows why their adventures have wound up the way they have, with the desire for standardisation being more important than actually having fun, and downplaying the open-ended improvisational element that really distinguishes RPG's from computer or board games. It's a good reminder of why tournament gaming is really not my scene. I want that detailed consistent worldbuilding and long-term progression they just can't provide, try as they might with the Raven's Bluff articles.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 80: February 1993



part 5/5



Into The Dark: Ooh, James decides to go big this month, with a set of kaiju movies. Rubber suits, stop-motion and budding CGI, oh my. What combination of monsters will he choose, and how cheesy will the plots & effects be?

Godzilla Raids Again gets a medium score, that's mainly an excuse to rant about how dumbed down the english dub/ edit is compared to watching the original japanese with subtitles. Hollywood ought to have a bit more respect for their audience. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Godzilla vs Megalon does not do nearly so well. By this point the series had become very formulaic indeed, with dumb writing and bad comedy like the kaiju hi-fiving each other. How do you maintain any sense of tension about the outcome under conditions like that?

Gamera vs Guiron gets an even worse score. It wants to be light-hearted family friendly entertainment, but some of the jokes are weirdly dark, and seem designed to give your kids nightmares. Whether it's different cultural standards or merely being written by someone who doesn't get the finer details of human interaction, it leaves James unsettled and only interested in watching it with a little MST3K help.

Yongary - Monster from the Deep is a Korean knock-off of the giant monster formula. The acting isn't too bad, but the special effects are very obviously fake and it's very formulaically written indeed. It did not do well enough to get slews of sequels, so you can visit Seoul and feel much safer than you would in Tokyo.

Ultraman: Towards the Future sees James tackle a TV series rather than a film for a change. It's actually rather good. There's a reason this franchise has lasted as long as it has, and the human element is as important as the giant monsters he fights. Well worth having a dig through his various incarnations across the decades.



Bloodmoose & Company manage to get the time machine working with a decent amount of precision for a change.



A mildly above average issue overall, with the regular columns in particular being quite useful in their advice and managing to pick topics that aren't completely played out. Will they continue to delve into specific campaign worlds and themes next issue, or will it be another one aimed at welcoming newbies? Let's head into another springtime and see if the reception is bright or gloomy.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 81: March 1993



part 1/5



32 pages. Giant cyborg space fish! That seems like an interesting combination for an adventure, whether it's a spelljammer one, or an excursion to some other RPG. Will your characters get to pilot these odd conveyances, or risk becoming their dinner? Maybe both! Let's boldly go where only approximately 10,000 people have gone before.



The Third Degree: The reviews go fairly obscure this month, introducing us to the world of Hahlmabrea. A historically accurate world where … adventurers are licensed? :edgar allan poe squinting.jpg: Okay then. Sounds very fantasy heartbreaker to me. Character generation takes over an hour? Any race can be any class? Play is "simplified" by lots of derived stats calculated from the basic ones. Sounds very fantasy heartbreaker made by someone who's only played D&D indeed. Jeff likes it, but a quick google search shows that is not a common opinion, with others around here who absolutely hate it and rip the naughty word out of it. Despite his attempts to sell it, I think I'd pass if I did come across it second hand. All sounds very dated to me and it's not as if you can't do the licensed adventurers concept in another system.



Notes From HQ: Another issue, another round of grumbles and procedural changes. The main one is to think before calling their hotline for help. They have a lot to get done, and lots of distracting phone calls mean many of the things you're worried about will actually get finished slower. Errors in tournament scoring are better handled with letter or email than phone call, as a paper trail makes for easier bureaucracy than trying to understand accents from all over the world through a crackly phone line. Changes of address are important, don't hesitate to call with them ASAP though, as you don't want several months of stuff sent to your old one. On a more positive note, they're introducing a service for gamers to find other gamers in their area if they haven't got a group. Send them a token fee and they'll give you contact details for the 8 other RPGA members closest to you. Please do not abuse this privilege for purposes of stalking & sexual harassment, or it'll be taken away again. Another of those things that's considerably easier now, both finding people close to you with common interests on social media, and being able to bypass the problem of distance altogether and play online. It's good to see slow incremental progress, knowing it's going to stick and eventually be taken for granted. Makes you think that maybe the world isn't so bad after all.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 81: March 1993



part 2/5



Mess With Their Minds!: Roger Moore is extra busy and writes two articles this month, on top of still editing Dragon. Where does he get the energy? To make a horror game truly scary, you need to go above and beyond the rules, mess with the player's perceptions of reality. Make an abrupt time skip to reflect memory erasure, and then they have to find out what the hell they did in the intervening time & deal with the consequences. Have them find out they're not who they thought they were, but clones, robots or transformed animals created for some creepy purpose. Kill them horribly, and then they wake up and find out it was all just a dream…… OR WAS IT?! It's an interesting read, but also a reminder that TSR are rapidly increasing the amount of railroading in their adventures, transforming PC's into puppets, animals, undead, etc or making broad swathes of class features stop working without a chance to resist in the service of metaplot heavy stories that give you little freedom of choice, with Ravenloft being a particularly egregious offender. Consent and trigger warnings? In our horror gaming? I don't think so. This is dated in that very 90's way you'll either love or hate, and I wasn't a fan of even at the time. Use with caution, for too much jerking around and your group will simply stop playing with you altogether.



The Everwinking Eye: The last few issues have been flitting between the various cities of the moonsea. This time, Ed decides to show us what the small town life is like up there with a visit to Glister. One of the furthest north outposts of civilisation, even the nonevil people need to pay tribute to Auril to reduce their odds of being frozen to death, making her temple easily the largest & wealthiest. Tymora & Tempus are the only competitors, which lets you know exactly what overall flavour the average personality is around here - violent and living for the day rather than planning for the future. Well, when you're surrounded by ruins of fallen civilisations and marauding monsters of many races could sweep through any time, it does concentrate the mind somewhat, you get your pleasures while you can. Definitely a place in need of a few more adventurers if you think you've got the right stuff. There are still a fair few trading caravans crossing the area, but they tend to be large and heavily armed, which is another employment opportunity for adventurers. If you get to the point where even the challenges here seem mundane, the Bloodstone lands and their ridiculous epic level modules await, or maybe you could delve beneath Anauroch's sands and face the Phaerimm. Even in places hostile to humanity, there's definitely plenty of life in the Realms. If only they could learn to get along with each other despite their differences and each occupy terrains that are optimal for their physiology. Nah, then there'd be no game. Ed continues to be the person best at balancing worldbuilding with gameability. No change here then.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 81: March 1993



part 3/5



In His Majesty's Spacial Service: Not to be confused with For Faerie, Queen & Country, which I seem to recall is coming out soon and will hopefully get at least a bit of coverage in here. As you could probably guess from the name, the adventure this issue is a typically lighthearted Spelljammer one. You accept an assignment from the Korvadan empire to protect a small mining outpost which recently hit Mithril. You get your own ship, helmed by a navigator called Noda (with a speech pattern I'm sure you've already figured out.) When they get there, they find they're already too late, everyone is gone or killed. A little investigation will reveal one of the corpses has had it's brain eaten. It was Willbender the mindflayer, (Aka Willy the Squid :groans: ) a well known pirate in these parts. When you track down his base and kick the ass of his minions, (he'll plane shift away as soon as it looks like they're losing) you find he's already sold all the surviving slaves to Neogi. Track them down, with several other space encounters along the way and defeat them, hopefully quickly enough that they can't kill their prisoners out of sheer spite when it becomes obvious they're losing and save the day. While this is still both linear and jokey, it does offer several genuine challenges, gives you opportunities for roleplaying and room for degrees of success or failure, as the enemies use intelligent tactics and the scenarios aren't just white room hacking until one side or the other is all dead. It's also not so short that fitting it all into one session seems trivial, which puts it up on the last few adventures in here as well. Tom Prusa seems to be a writer to watch, managing to slip some interesting things in while sticking to their current formulas. Hopefully we'll be seeing more of him in future issues.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 81: March 1993



part 4/5



Of Mechs And Manga: The gap between roleplayers and anime fans was never particularly wide, but it definitely got a lot narrower over the course of the 90's. Karen Boomgarden does her part to promote cultural crossover by talking about some of the popular giant mecha series out at the time. The perennially popular Gundam series in it's many incarnations. The slightly less successful, but still well-remembered Bubblegum Crisis. Plus Project Hades Zeroymer and Shurato: Legend of the Heavenly Sphere, which I've never heard of before, but she describes them interestingly enough that I'm definitely inclined to check them out. This replaces the usual movie reviews, which are absent this month for whatever reason. Another curious little look at the wider world surrounding them, reminding us that you can draw inspiration from all sorts of places. Giant mecha might not fit too well in D&D, but there are plenty of other RPGs that do support them mechanically and in setting, and you might want to try some of them out, maybe even in a tournament adventure, as it's a perfect situation for breaking out the battlemap & minis so you can see just how big and devastating your mecha (probably represented by a Transformer) is compared to the regular 15 or 25mm scale minis. Letting players go really big has all the more impact after a few meatgrinder dungeon crawls where one dumb move costs you your PC.



The Living Galaxy: Roger devotes another lengthy column to the idea of advanced spacefaring cultures coming into contact with less developed ones. Unsurprisingly, this involves exploitation more often than not. There's no point in crossing the vast voids of space unless there's something out there you want, or you're in love with the idea of endless expansion on an ideological level. Whether it's resources, cheap labor, freedom from all those inconvenient laws, taxes and health & safety regulations, strategic position in conflict with another interstellar power, or genuine desire to make the universe a better place and uplift everyone to being equals in the galactic federation, you're probably going to break a few eggs and cause a few extinctions in the pursuit of your goals. Things become more interesting if they aren't completely lopsided. There are plenty of stories where sci-fi meets magic, including some D&D adventures, or they could have made different advances along independent tech trees like in The High Crusade. As usual, he cites a wide range of sources, both RPG and literary, many of which I haven't heard of and really ought to check out sometime. Even 30 years later, it's surprising how many once popular books have fallen out of being regularly referenced. It's a vast world and an even vaster universe, and there are people out there who've forgotten more than you've ever learned. If you're arriving in a new place, it would make sense to pay attention to the people already there instead of stomping everywhere trying to impose your values & technology without checking if it'll work as expected & without messing the surroundings up. Even from a purely mercenary point of view it's not the way to maximum long-term profits.
 

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