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TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 40: Mar/Apr 1993



part 4/5



Aerie Borne: Why not just get the giant eagles to drop you off at Mordor, many adventuring parties have asked. Even when they're intelligent, giant eagles are not something you can just casually order around, and are quite capable of expressing their displeasure painfully if you annoy them. But there's always someone who thinks they're smart enough to get round this. An evil wizard figures that if he gets hold of some eggs and raises them from birth, they'll make tractable mounts for his minions. However, instead of delegating to said minions (if they're that incompetent, can they really be trusted with the raising of an eagle?), he decides to hire an adventuring party to steal the eggs. However, he picked a heroic one who were rightly horrified by the idea. Instead of cutting his losses and finding a more morally flexible group, he petrifies one of them and blackmails the others into doing the job against their will. So now there's both pissed off eagles who want their eggs back, and a pissed off adventuring party who will turn on their blackmailer if they get a decent opportunity. Man, this plan just keeps on accumulating holes the longer it goes on. This is where the PC's come in. They get asked to track down the eggnappers. Just how much brains and how much brutality will they use in their own attempt at rescue? So this is one of those adventures where you're given a setting and a timeline of what will happen if the PC's don't interfere, then gives them free reign to mess it up in a way of their choosing. Like many adventures of this sort, it includes plenty of extraneous details about the area which make it useful as a bit of worldbuilding even after the current plot is resolved. It's amusing to see an evil plan that won't work out long term even if it isn't foiled, which is more realistic than your enemies always being smarter than the PC's but for one fatal flaw. This feels like a good palate cleanser to keep a campaign from getting too bogged down with grimdark apocalyptic plots. Villains have their day to day struggles as well even when the PC's aren't around. I'd definitely consider using this one.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 40: Mar/Apr 1993



part 5/5



The Draven Deeps' Menace: After a trip to the mountain peaks, the dive into the depths of the ocean has all the more contrast. It is another one where good and evil are a little more ambiguous than they first seem though. As the cover indicates, Koalinth are hassling the shipping off Palanthas. Dalamar gives the city rulers a large bomb that'll collapse the caves they live in. Now all they need is a suitable group of PC's to go down there and do the deed. Seems simple enough? There's also a colony of aquatic elves down there, and planting the bomb in the designated area will kill both sides. Do you say naughty word 'em and do it anyway, do you try to wipe out the hobgoblins the hard, but less ecologically devastating way, or do you merely refine the plan and find a better spot to detonate the big boom. On top of that, there's political stuff going on behind the scenes that a smarter party might spot and be able to interfere with. While the dungeon-crawling bits are fairly linear mapwise, there's still plenty of room for player choice to dramatically affect the course of the adventure, both in terms of moral decisions and various degrees of success or failure while still surviving. It's not so tied to the Dragonlance setting to be unusable in another one, and has the potential to have real long-term consequences if used in an ongoing campaign. Nothing groundbreaking at this point, but still very usable.



A fairly middling issue overall, without any adventures that are particularly great or particularly annoying. They're all well within the useful quality level, but diminishing returns are setting in as they're all familiar in terms of topics. Perils in ploughing through several issues every month rather than just one every 8 weeks. They need a few more special features or adventures in rare settings to break up the formulas. Let's see if next issue has any of those to offer.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 82: April 1993



part 1/5



32 pages. Ooh, a full colour cover. They step up their production values this issue, although looking ahead, it's an exception rather than the new normal. I wonder why, as it's not a big round number. Oh well, enjoy it while it's here, as it's back to black & white in the interior pages anyway.



Star Wars Equipment Contest: Even before we get to the contents, we kick off with this month's contest. West End Games wants to keep up good relations with the RPGA, so they invite you to send in your ideas for cool gadgets to put in the game. Don't expect any of them to make the future movies, although they might appear in the EU novels if you're very lucky. You might be allowed to play in their universe, but you'll never be allowed to make any kind of real impact.



Notes From HQ: Ah, so the full colour cover is a 12th anniversary thing, even though it's not a round number of issues due to their repeated schedule changes over the years. Fair enough. There's certainly plenty going on here to make it seem worthwhile. After half a year hyping it up, Winter Fantasy had several big events that really drew attention. The contest for Lord Speaker was hard fought, and eventually won by druid Mellisa Aldaren, which means Raven's Bluff should be avoiding any environmentally unfriendly expansion for the next couple of years. Since that was a success, they have competitions for treasurer and deputy mayor coming up later this year. Let's hope diminishing returns don't set in too soon, as it'll be hard to build up the same level of hype if you're holding elections several times every year at various conventions. Also of note was a particularly cool tournament where the writer folded over 300 origami minis to represent the people & creatures within, with participants able to take home the figures of their characters. If they reprinted that in the newszine it'd lose some of it's charm without the original figures, but what a setpiece to unveil on a big convention table. It's interesting to read about, but this does reinforce how region specific their material is. If you can't afford to travel, you're not going to get the best events and win many points, no matter how they try to increase their international coverage. Things might improve on this front over the years, but even ubiquitous online communication and the pandemic making conventions irrelevant for a year doesn't fix time zone and language issues. Like live music and movies on a big screen, sometime you've got to be there or the magic doesn't work.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 82: April 1993



part 2/5



Letters: First letter is from regular gaming writer Nicky Rea, delivering a mixed but mostly positive result for Winter Fantasy. Yes, it was a pain to get there and back in the winter, reminding us why the majority of conventions are done in the summer, but it made up for it in cheaper hotel prices and general level of consideration people showed each other. It's good to have at least a few conventions that don't follow the crowd and deliberately put themselves in unusual times & locations.

Second suggests people ought to send in their characters to a regular column. They've already had one of those for years! Pay attention! Just because it hasn't got any submissions in the past few months doesn't mean they've dropped the concept entirely, hint hint.

Finally, yet another reader who thinks that mixed age roleplaying groups are a good thing, and the RPGA ought to encourage it where possible. They have no problems with this consensus, so check out the classifieds if you're looking for a group.



After mentioning Winter Fantasy in both the editorial and the letters page, they unsurprisingly have a page of photos from the events as well. Lots of minis, game screens, paintings, and more than a few clunky old computers. Good luck cleaning up after all these events and not losing any of the pieces on the trips there and back.



The Living City: The shop this month is one of the shortest yet. The Sapient Sorcerer is another spell component shop run by a senile wizard who loves to gossip about anything and everything with his customers, with the endless conversation seemingly more important than making a sale. This is actually because he's not nearly as over the hill as he seems, and is secretly a Red Wizard spying on the city and feeding info back to Thay. One of his eyes has been replaced by an evil artifact that obscures his alignment, and will be much more trouble than it's worth to any good characters who kill him & take his stuff. So there's definitely some decent potential adventure material in here, but the worldbuilding is distinctly sub-par, with no effort at all put on the building layout, what defences it might have, etc, which is kinda important if you're creating a scenario where the players might want to sneak in and investigate. This definitely isn't something you can just use prefab, you'll need to develop his shop, his schemes and how the players become suspicious of him in your own campaign. Still, it's refreshing to have an unambiguous bad guy in here after all the nice shops we've built up over the years. What use are safe cosy homes in an RPG without something to threaten them long-term?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 82: April 1993



part 3/5



Magnificent Magic: They had two adventures last issue, so it's not that surprising that they're skipping that this issue for another centrepiece packed with new magic items, as submitted in one of their recent contests. Let's see just how inventive and potentially unbalancing this collection is.

Amazing Mice are a quartet of brightly coloured mice that run a maze when activated, and then cast a different spell depending on which one wins. Interesting, but not very reliably useful in a combat situation. Wild mages will love them.

Amulets of Lathander give you autohealing when you drop to 0. This works particularly well when you're a priest of said god. Since keeping your cleric alive helps everyone else recover after the fight, one of these can be a big boost to the overall survivability of a party.

Arabel's Huggable Bear protects sleeping holders from possession, dream invasion and other nocturnal mental violations. That'll prevent several of the more annoying adventures I've seen along the way from ever getting started.

Armor of Underwater Action is obviously immensely handy if you have an underwater adventure, and no better than any other outside that. It's air supply only lasts 24 hours, so extended trips under the sea will still be a problem.

Arrows of Connection create a floating rope attached to whatever you hit. A classic bit of utility magic for the whole party to get across cliffs & chasms.

Arrows of Detonation can go boom, or harmlessly create light at the user's command. This is very handy in keeping them from being turned against their shooter, unlike a fireball in an enclosed space.

Arrows of Illumination are another handy utility one if your wizard didn't prepare for delving dark dungeons today.

Bags of the Woodland give a druid a near unlimited amount of seeds. Perfect both for feeding your mounts and increasing the biodiversity of an area.

Barding of Flight lets your mount grow wings. As with the underwater one, watch out for duration limits, otherwise you may crash abruptly while high. It's not a no effort solution to your travel needs for the whole party.

Barding of Missile Protection is very handy if you're planning to charge through lots of enemies with a lance. Perfect for the paladin who prefers aboveground adventures.

The Blade of Lightning is one of those powerful weapons that's almost as much of a hazard to the user as it is to enemies unless you have something else to give you electricity resistance. Don't draw it unless you have a lot of enemies to fry, for trying to hold the charge in is not pleasant.

Blood Swords are also a decidedly mixed blessing, as they need to taste blood before you can put them away again. Against constructs or incorporeal undead, you'll need a different weapon.

Bows of Neverending Arrows are your basic removal of resource tracking from the D&D cartoon, including the arrows disappearing so you can't create unlimited amounts of wood and break the construction economy. Important to remember those bits.

Bracers of Blasting make devastating sound waves when clashed together. Great for both destroying people and fortifications. So long, Jericho.

Bridles of Control mean you no longer have to worry about how you train & treat your mount. Just don't ignore their needs until it kills them, because that's terribly wasteful and will still make you unpopular with other adventurers.

Cans of Preserving are yet another one that removes tracking of basic resource issues like food spoiling. Presuming your DM bothers with those in the first place, which has grown increasingly rare over the years & editions.

The Censor gags naughty characters, keeping everything in your campaign family friendly. Can't be violating the code of conduct, can we?

A Chalice of Food-like Liquid gives you enough soup to keep three people decently fed per day, or slow resource depletion amongst your group accordingly if shared out between more. Another one that just makes extended adventuring that little bit more comfortable.

The Chess Pieces of Fextree are 6 typically themed types of chess piece that animate if you speak the correct command words. They have lots of utility tricks as well as the expected combat skills, with the king able to create an entire village temporarily to serve you, which seems very exploitable indeed. Good luck assembling the whole board.

Circlets of Psionic Enhancement double your PSP recovery, halve your cost to establish telepathic contact, and generally make your life much easier as a psionicist. If your group doesn't have one, they should probably fix that.

Cloaks of Strength are one of those weird items that permanently boost your stat then disappear. Who makes those and why? Why do they keep on showing up in treasure hoards instead of being used already by their owners? It's all very suspicious if you start examining it closely.

Cloaks of Weather remove worrying about penalties from another basic everyday thing we have to deal with frequently in the real world.

Collars of Protection make your pets & familiars a little less fragile. Always good to see wizards showing a bit of consideration for others.

Courtesan's Cream is your basic charisma booster, as we've seen quite a few times before. Yawn. At least they've mostly stopped trying to make Comeliness happen as a separate ability score, several years after the rest of the company.

Defender's Harps can shatter all nonmagical glass and metal in the vicinity, including your armor and weapons, making a fight seem much less viable while leaving spellcasters as dangerous as ever. Very humiliating for an army.

Dragon Cloaks protect you against breath weapons, but weirdly enough, not other examples of the same element. Only useful in very specialised situations then, and old dragons with spells will still have plenty of other ways to put the hurt on you.

Earrings of Understanding are your basic babel fish effect. Also generally handy if your adventures take you far and wide.

Familiar Protection Enhancement Bands let them go farther away from you while maintaining the bond. Specialised, but definitely not useless.

Gloves of the Feline obviously give you cat-like climbing, jumping & clawing abilities. A perennially popular idea.

Hefiz's Superb Shiny Shoes are cursed items that turn into massive garishly coloured glowing squeaky clown shoes when worn, and are near impossible to remove like most cursed items. The perfect way to make any thief's life a misery if you're a sadistic wizard.

The Helm of the Insect looks like a bug head, gives you 360 degree vision and nasty mandibles to bite with, plus insect summoning if you really want to annoy your enemies. Usefully thematic but not overpowering.

Honing Stones randomly increase or decrease the plus of any weapon sharpened by them. Best used on your currently nonmagical ones rather than trying to further boost already enchanted weapons, but you won't know that unless you properly analyze it.

Hugrin's Spice Shaker can produce any spice desired with the right command word. If you know of particularly high scoville rating ones, this seems very abusable.

Itzpix's Collapsible Water Barrel is obviously nowhere near as useful as a decanter of endless water, but still reduces your encumbrance when carrying large amounts of water considerably.

Kura, The Darkness is a sneaky extraplanar being trapped in a shard of onyx. It'll grant you a whole range of sneaky darkness based powers, and teach you the ways of the ninja, but also try to trick or persuade you into freeing it. You know the drill. Don't trust everything it says if you want to come out ahead.

Magic Mice can dig or gnaw through nearly anything. This makes them excellent for escaping bonds, spying on things, springing traps and all sorts of utility tricks with an inventive owner.

Mondasso's Automated Spell Scrolls give you 20 spell levels worth of extra storage. Much cheaper long-term than making one-shot scrolls.

Monocles of Magic mean you don't have to memorise read magic, freeing up yet more resource tracking. yay

Norval's Timely Portrait reflects the ageing and injury taken by it's subject, letting someone back home know if you're still alive and well. Halfway to the Dorian Grey trick, but the less useful half. I guess it gives any nonadventuring SO peace of mind.

Ohm's Black Box can safely trap nearly anything within it's 12 inch cube for up to 5 days. Perfect for transporting a prisoner back to more permanent accommodation.

The Oyori of the Unknown Warrior transforms into armor of any shape, with any heraldic crest you desire, which is quite handy for disguise as long as you want to look like a noble warrior in heavy armor. Careful not to give the game away, because other knights or samurai tend to respond with large amounts of violence when they find out they've been tricked or you've been doing dishonourable things while pretending to be them.

Padriac's Portable Purveyor of Parfait Potions produces one of 24 different kinds of potion per day depending on what sequence of buttons you push. Some are booby prizes, so if you don't have the key it can be dangerous to experiment with.

Parchment of Spell Stealing absorbs the first spell cast near it, ruining your wizard's day. They often come in rolls of multiple sheets, which would be very useful for a fighter who expects magical trouble and wants to use straightforward violence to get through it.

The Pegleg of Immurk the Invincible instantly gives you all the skills of a powerful pirate when attached, both mundane and fighting, including automatically summoning a parrot to sit on your shoulder and being able to magically open any treasure chest. Not that you're planning on losing a leg, but at least this is much less of a risk to your self-control and sanity than Vecna's body parts.

Potions of Curing Lycanthropy do exactly what it says on the vial. If you're not already sick, the side effects are pretty unpleasant so taking recreationally is a bad idea, like many a medicine.

Potions of Poison Negation, on the other hand, need to be taken as a precautionary measure. If you've already been bitten by a random snake in the woods they won't be of any use.

Pouches of Duplication do exactly what they say, although they only work on nonliving, nonmagical items small enough to fit, and only have limited charges. Duplicating coins is not the best way to use them, find a particularly valuable gem first and sell it several times in different places if you want maximum profit.

Puppy Putty needs to be rolled into a cute little ball and stuck on your nose to activate it's powers. How many adventurers are going to figure that one out on their own?

Quills of Pyrophilius transcribe everything you say as long as there's something around to write on. Perfect for the wizard who likes to ramble and sort out organisation of their papers later in the edit.

Razors of Close Shaving are guaranteed to get you ultrasmooth with no nasty little cuts. This does not boost your charisma as much as the female equivalent, but definitely doesn't hurt.

Rings of Keys come in groups of 10. Each has a 10% chance of opening any lock. For those that don't understand combinatoric math, that gives you about a 65% chance of success, which isn't terrible, but you'll still sometimes need a dedicated rogue to get places.

Rings of Lighting are convenient for the habitual smoker, and anyone else who likes to start fires. Direct damage in combat isn't great, but burning down a house and killing them in their sleep without a fight will make up for that.

Rings of the Phoenix put paid to that plan. If you die from fire while wearing one, you're reborn as a half-phoenix with a whole load of spell-like powers. Another one where the chances of you getting full use out of it by dumb luck seems pretty small.

Rings of the Valiant can be turned into any weapon you're proficient with, and are near impossible to remove without killing you, ensuring you can always summon a weapon to hand even if otherwise completely stripped of your gear. No matter what happens, you can always go down fighting with dignity.

Roses of Ravenloft turn you into an immortal goth engine of destruction as long as you touch them, but you'll rapidly wither and die as soon as you let go. This makes life very inconvenient, because being unable to touch things without them crumbling to dust as soon as you stop is a very obvious tell that will make people want to kill you. (somewhat hindered by their weapons disintegrating after one successful strike. ) This definitely wasn't properly examined for all the awkward edge cases.

Saddles of Taming are very similar to bridles of control, only slightly nicer. Having both in the same collection seems kinda redundant.

Scrollcases of Document Transmission are magical fax machines, sending anything put in one to the other. Handy, but not as useful as real life due to lack of scalable network externalities.

Shakuhachi of Peace are bamboo flutes that cast spells when you play the correct tunes on them. Unsurprisingly, said spells strongly lean on the defensive side.

Slack's Seamless Spellbook makes sure no-one can peek at your spells without knowing the command word. If you find one of these in a treasure hoard, better hope they were absent-minded enough to need to write it down. At least it won't have numbers, symbols and uppercase letter strewn randomly throughout.

Spectral Swords have an incorporeal blade that only hurts undead. Extra handy in Ravenloft, where detect evil spells don't work, and the undead often come in disguise.

Staves of Conjuration can cast any spell in the monster summoning series for the same number of charges. This makes it very flexible in how you increase your action economy for a fight. Lots of little disposable minions or a few more powerful ones.

Swords of the Avoreen are halfling swords that are extra dangerous when you're defending your home. Not that useful for most PC's, but it'll make sure they treat the NPC's a bit more seriously.

Talking Skulls let you speak with dead by feeding them bits of bone, but they're picky eaters and prone to sulking. Another of those things you really need an instruction manual if you want it to be more boon than bane.

Thieves Tools of Stealth are more effective than mundane ones, and can merge into your body and then be extruded again at will, ensuring you're never without a lockpick if you find yourself in prison.

Trap-Springers are remote controllable slinkys. They can pretend to be all sorts of heights & weights when sproinging down a corridor. Much more flexible and reusable than sending in zombies to trigger suspicious areas.

Troll's Bane is an intelligent magical sword with the expected favored enemy. Regenerators beware, because wounds from this won't heal as quickly as you're used too.

Vladium's Fabulous Equine Brush is another utility timesaver, letting you groom any furred creature extra clean and glossy in a fraction of the normal time.

Wands of Arc Lightning come in pairs and electrocute everything in between them when commanded. This will probably require careful tracking of movement on a battlemat to properly adjudicate and use to best effect.

Wands of Cluny write misspelled graffiti on command. The perils of enchantment when you're a dyslexic wizard.

Wands of Feathers have various duster related powers, both cleaning and tickling. Comedic, but still useful.

Weapons of Adaption turn into any weapon you want on command. Another one that seems kinda redundant with the earlier, more powerful one just a few pages ago. They really should have been a bit more selective with this collection.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 82: April 1993



part 4/5



The Everwinking Eye: After a particularly small settlement last issue, Ed decides to compensate by going to the one we really wanted to see ever since he started talking about the Moonsea. Zhentil Keep, home of the eponymously named Zhentarim. Out of the big Realms villains, they have one of the most obvious goals. Spreading their domination through whatever means. Their ancestors have been doing it for the past 700 years, which is long enough that even their powerful wizards who attained lichdom have had lots of turnover. This is why Manshoon invested in clone tech instead. (which doesn't work out great for him either, but that's a whole other saga) Basically, they have a long proud tradition of being imperialistic fuckwads, and killing one ruler won't deter them as a group. This just tells you a little more about how they've been foiled in the past, and the kind of defences the city has if you're thinking of venturing there. The way it cuts off makes it clear he has plenty more to say next month. Still, this already makes it clear that they're dangerous, but definitely not unbeatable, which is what you want to see in a group of recurring antagonists. You can see why they'd wind up appearing in so many stories, even if it does gradually dilute your ability to take them seriously after the Harpers beat them yet again. I guess if you want to make them seem more threatening, you can always say your Realms has a much lower proportion of adventurers than the canon one. That way no-one's coming to save you if you fail and get captured.



The Living Galaxy: Roger returns to the very familiar topic of how to be a good gamemaster. He's written about it before, and published many articles on it in his tenure as Dragon's editor, so he has a lot of references to cite. When you're operating on his level, the problem is not coming up with ideas, as you've already seen thousands of them from books, TV and reader submissions, but keeping track of them in an organised manner so you can pick the right one for a situation out fairly quickly and customise it for the group at hand. Get the hang of looking at a long thing and boiling it down to a few sentences (as I've been demonstrating for many years :p ) then putting it in a file so you can grab them, and then know where to find the more detailed information. Props and handouts may take time to make, but they can save a lot of time at the table - just showing a photo or drawing has more impact than several minutes of exposition. If you really are burnt out despite all this help, then better to admit it openly and rotate GM's or take a break than struggle on with an uninspired game. All very familiar stuff by this point, but he phrases it better than most.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 82: April 1993



part 5/5



Into The Dark: Doctor doctor, gimme the news! I've got a bad case of themed column about you! No pill's gonna cure my ills, just pushing on through the sickness and getting to the next month. Let's see what kind of conflicts the darker side of the medical profession can provide to make a good film plot.

Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde is the 1932 one. It's not the very first screen adaption of the story, but it's easily the most acclaimed from that era. The same actor plays both Jekyll & Hyde with relatively little makeup, yet makes them massively different with good acting so you completely buy the other people who interact with them don't realise they're the same. The camerawork is also unusually clever for the era and adds to the atmosphere. If you're going to go ultra-retro, might as well pick a good option.

Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde (not to be confused with Dr Jekyll & Ms Hyde, because spicing this story up with gender-bending is one of the first things people think of) has the doctor looking for immortality rather than transformation, which is just a side-effect. As usual, things spiral out of control, albeit in a relatively lighthearted and humorous way this time. Pretty middle of the road in terms of overall quality.

The Doctor and the Devils doesn't actually have any supernatural elements, but is about a corpse-stealing 19th century anatomist. Lofty goals of advancing medical science and saving lives, but distinctly dubious methods, particularly when they move from merely exhuming fresh corpses to killing people to have even fresher bodies to dissect. The cast is excellent, but the fact that the script was written in the 1940s means it's annoyingly slow for a 90's audience. The kind of thing that's easily drowned out by more flashy camerawork and special effects, but still worth a watch if you set your expectations accordingly.

Doctor Mordrid is another one where the actors do their best with a mediocre script. Jeffery Combs plays the hero, which is unusual for him, an obvious expy of Doctor Strange trying his best to protect the world from extradimensional weirdness while dealing with the obligatory romance subplot on top. It's very direct to video, complete with gratuitous swearing & nudity that could easily have been cut out if they'd decided to aim for a classier market in the edit. It ends with never to be fulfilled sequel-bait. Meh. I think I'll stick with the actual Marvel, which does let it's characters grow through multiple movies.

Doctor Death, Seeker of Souls is a boringly bad bit of horror. The only noteworthy thing in it for James is one of the Three Stooges in a rare serious role, and even that's only a short appearance. Definitely not worth it for that alone.



One of those issues where the special feature completely dominates the issue, but the rest of it was fairly interesting as well, with the rollout of letting players hold public office in Raven's Bluff looking particularly significant long term. Will they actually have any influence on the metaplot, or will these positions turn out to be mostly symbolic? Let's see if next issue elaborates any further on the topic, or they'll give it a few months of other things before returning to that idea.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 83: May 1993



part 1/5



36 pages. Who is this well-dressed dandy and the unfortunate cutpurse who tried to get hold of some of his wealth? Apprehended without even disturbing his monocle. Will he live to regret picking the wrong target, or will he get about as much mercy as the average PC would grant? I'm sure there'll be some clues inside, should we care to investigate and find out a little more about Raven's Bluff law enforcement.



The Man Behind Drizzt: It's been 31 issues since they last interviewed R. A. Salvatore in here. In that time, he's been very busy indeed, completing several more Drizzt novels (with him firmly as the protagonist now it's obvious he's the most popular character) and a bunch of other projects as well. Like many writers, it seems he has half a dozen book ideas on the go at once, so when he gets stuck on one he can switch to another and get more written overall than trying to work in a purely linear way. It must be working, because he's become TSR's biggest author, winning fans beyond just players of D&D. Having got this far, he's doing his best to maintain it by answering all his fan mail and remembering to find time to actually roleplay, sometimes using the games as inspiration for fight choreography and character banter. What's the point of gaming-based fiction if the writers don't play, and it doesn't resemble the things you can do in the game? It'd be just a cheap cash grab with a licensed name slapped on it. Once again, they're selling him as a decent guy who's kept in touch with his roots. Hopefully it's even the truth. We're not going to get any shocking tabloid exposes here.



Notes From HQ: Along with the usual grumbling about trying to get people to follow procedure and submit enough publishable material, we have two new developments. First is this month's competition, with the fairly quirky topic of sidekicks. Personality more important than statistics, no secret traitors please, we want ones the PC's would genuinely appreciate having follow them around. Since hirelings as a concept have been in long term decline over the editions, this is quite interesting to see. Less obviously interesting, but probably more significant long-term, is that they're now working next door to the rest of the TSR periodicals, instead of having to negotiate the rambling offices if they want to borrow something or one of the printers breaks down. This means crossovers are more likely in the future. If they hadn't done that, the future merger with Dungeon seems much less likely. Another example of how much proximity matters. Hopefully they'll also take a little more inspiration in how to write good adventures from Dungeon in the meantime.



Letters: Only one letter this time, a lengthy one from Keith Polster, one of the Gen Con organisers, telling us about all the ways he's trying to improve it this year, and encouraging people on the fence to come, be it as judges or just regular members. They've rearranged things so hopefully there'll be less running around between events trying to make the next one on time, and hoping they'll be able to squeeze in more tournaments than ever. Presuming they can get a high enough judge to player ratio, which as we've seen from previous years is a persistent struggle. Will they have to cancel some this time? They've given up on Buck Rogers already, but they're still trying to make Boot Hill happen. This seems fairly familiar. One person willing to give up their day can make a real difference, but how many will actually take up that mantle? It'll take another 6 months or so to find out, and then they'll start all over again with promoting the next year. Just another iteration of the great circle of life.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 83: May 1993



part 2/5



Take A Byte: This column switches campaign worlds, to talk about their upcoming Ravenloft game. It's actually really early in development, so they don't have a huge number of details for it, or even a name, so they're mostly trying to sell it on it's improved tech specs over previous computer RPG's, and on it being more family friendly than unlicensed horror games, any scares coming from atmosphere rather than overt displays of gore. Doesn't sound like much of a selling point to me, but I guess that's working under the TSR code of conduct for you. Doing a bit of googling, this was eventually called Strahd's Posession, and gets decent reviews, but more than a few complaints about various bugs and a clunky interface. Moving from 2D to 3D was a steep learning curve for games of all genres, and the early 3D ones often aged worse and are more annoying to play than the polished 16 bit 2D ones. Does anyone have any memories of playing this one?



The Living City: While last issue's instalment was nastier than most, giving you something to foil rather than merely interact with & buy from, it was relatively small-scale and easy to ignore. This one is much more significant. Zeb Cook shows that in house writers can do things freelance submitters can't or wouldn't think to do, and moves the meta forward by introducing a significant villain socially entrenched in the city's power structure, so exposing & defeating him will not be easy. Anton Paere (the dashing fellow with the monocle on the cover) is the head of the Office of Lost Property. If you suffer a robbery, you can go there and post a reward for the return of your stuff, and there's pretty good odds you'll get it back in a few days. Of course, there's a catch. The reason he's so successful in his day job is that he's also a crime kingpin who knows most of the thieves in town, and actively orchestrates the flow of crime in the city. Smart criminals will make a deal with him to return the stuff anonymously and split the reward money. Anyone who doesn't have the right connections will face the full force of both official and thieves guild justice if they get caught. (which they will if they try to fence the stolen goods in town) Anyone else who gets on his wrong side will also find themselves arrested, on trumped up charges if necessary, and put through a corrupt and rigged court system. Even if you find out about his dark side, you can't just go to the guards. You'll need to either build up your own political power before taking him on legally or be prepared for the consequences if you do the traditional adventurer thing of killing him & taking his stuff regardless, which will not be easy, as he has plenty of minions, and if you haven't done your homework first, you'll just wind up changing the name at the head of the organisation and missing most of the best treasure stashed in various safehouses around the city. So this is an expose on the things that can go wrong with for profit law enforcement, drawing heavily on real world history of systems that were tried before the establishment of police forces. You had a mix of private guards and mercenary thief-takers, neither incentivised to follow the letter of the law and honestly investigate crimes rather than do what would make them money. Compared to that, even the more corrupt and racist modern police forces are an improvement. It's the kind of structural evil even the highest level heroes will struggle to fix, particularly in a shared setting where the impact regular players can make on history is limited. This is an interesting development, particularly if they ever follow up on it in future books or adventures. Will he ever get his comeuppance, or will Raven's Bluff remain riddled by corruption? Or will we see another take on their underworld that completely ignores it in a year or two's time, since their editorial continuity has never been the strongest? Who knows.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 83: May 1993



part 3/5



Milk Run: Last issue they set up a Star Wars contest. This time, we have an adventure in a galaxy far away and a long time ago. The PC's are rebels sent by their commander on a smuggling run for various useful but restricted equipment. Deal with a pirate hijacking while en route, then when you do get there you find your contact has been arrested. You're then specifically ordered not to bust him out, but to sneak into the warehouses where the stuff is being stored and leave with it. Once you do that and blast off again, you suffer a computer malfunction that will probably result in you crashlanding. You then have to stick around and survive the local challenges until the rescue team can arrive and get you & your cargo to it's final destination.
So it's pretty typical in both structure and quality for the tournament adventures in here, only for a different system. It has an irritating mix of expecting them to act like courageous heroes at some points, and comply with the authorities at other points, and if the PC's guess wrong, they'll die abruptly or go out of bounds, forcing the DM to improvise. The overall result definitely doesn't feel much like the movies, turning the PC's into minor lackeys following orders and running around after other people, not making any real difference to the overall course of the rebellion. If you like being led by the nose and rolling dice at appropriate moments you'll enjoy it. For anyone else, it'll need a good bit more work to allow PC's to go down the other routes that are obvious options, but arbitrarily closed off for page count/runtime reasons here.



The Living Galaxy: Roger gives us another load of little bits & pieces of GMing advice here. Stretching before and after exercise helps with your mental muscles as well, making sure you're in the right mood to get into character and remember what happened in previous sessions. An interesting way to save effort as a long-term GM is using PC's from a previous campaign as NPC's in a new one. Remember this isn't a wargame, and don't just give all the info on what's going on away in a scenario freely. Hell, even most modern wargames don't do that, particularly computer ones that can show only what each side's units can see automatically. Extraneous worldbuilding details make it easier to slip a few red herrings in. A cliched plot can be made a lot less cliched by combining it with another idea, and once several are interacting chaotically it's much easier to wind up with a unique story, as the number of possible combinations increases exponentially with the number of interacting elements. Another column where none of the ideas are new to me, but I guess it helps to be reminded of the basics sometimes, and hopefully they were useful to some group.



The New Rogues Gallery: In comparison with the other Raven's Bluff material, this is intentionally very small scale indeed, as it talks about a rat-catching business. Jedderk Aldo is a crude and grumpy man who drinks heavily and doesn't scrub up very well even when not down in the sewers. He has a couple of kobolds as assistants to help hunt down vermin in tight spaces. He's not above rooting through people's garbage for whatever he can sell, and if he finds anything incriminating, using it for blackmail. How delightful. Fortunately he's only a 0th level character and the kobolds are even wimpier, so if he tries that on PC's, they'll have no trouble kicking his ass. So this is one they're more likely to have an antagonistic relationship with than a friendly one, but it's not set in stone, and he could appear in several different roles depending on the events of your campaign. It's definitely much more usable than yet another heroic well-balanced adventuring party, which thankfully they've been cutting down on lately.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 40: Mar/Apr 1993]

Song of the Fens:
I had a lot of fun running this for our family game. My niece (playing a bard) and my siister-in-law (a real life school speech therapist) had a lot of fun interacting with the troll singer. Didn’t work out with the daughter of the innkeepe, but they prevented any combat.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 83: May 1993



part 4/5



Playing By Mail: We've seen more mention of the internet in Polyhedron than we had in Dragon at this time. So it's mildly surprising that we have another article promoting PbM games, soon to be one of the big casualties of the internet doing it both faster & cheaper. Who's going to keep on spending several dollars per move on games that update monthly, or fortnightly at best when you can just send an email, or do things in real time with a MU* client? Strangely enough, many of the PbM's back then were increasingly relying on computers to adjudicate them, particularly the ones that fall more on the wargame end of the spectrum than RPG, and have strictly proscribed options of what you can do per turn. This did at least mean you could have hundreds of participants in the same campaign at once, but your ability to communicate was limited unless you spent a load more money on letters or phone calls to other individual participants to discuss & co-ordinate your actions. It shows that they were making incremental improvements in running them over the years, but like digital vs film cameras, they couldn't compete with something that changed the paradigm. As with previous times they've covered this, it's interesting to look back, but a good reminder of just how much more money and hassle gaming at a distance was back then. I wouldn't want to go back to that.



Into The Dark: No introduction this month, as we continue on with more medically themed movies, in the loosest of senses, as these doctors definitely do not adhere to the hippocratic oath.

Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon is a mexican film based on an Edgar Allen Poe story. As might be expected, the doctor is insane, the inmates are mostly running the asylum unchecked, and the reporter who investigates becomes another victim of the madness. There's plenty of trippy imagery and interesting setpieces if you like that sort of thing, but not too much in the way of plot. Sounds very much a product of the psychedelic era and the impact is probably improved if you partake a little while watching.

Dr. Cyclops sees a myopic doctor subject snoopers in his laboratory to an experimental shrinking process. They have to escape the now terrifying mundane hazards of the area, survive and figure out how to get back to normal. The special effects are actually really good, particularly for 1940. It might actually be worth checking out.

Doctor Butcher, M.D. on the other hand is just gross cannibalsploitation. Explorers in the southeastern asian jungle have to deal with savage tribes which are probably mostly just white people in makeup. James finds it thoroughly stupid and gratuitous even then, and I dread to think how badly it's aged. Hard miss.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 83: May 1993



part 5/5



The Third Degree: Jeff gives us a negative review this time, as he examines Millennium's End and finds it somewhat wanting. The art is amateurish, the crunch heavy and clunky, and the writing tone smug and condescendingly superior. Take the role of paramilitary mercenaries in the war-torn future of 1999 and meddle in global politics for fun and profit. No pretences at heroism, just good old fashioned killing and exploitation for money & power without the veneer of alignments and nonhuman species to soften things. A classic example of teenage attempt at grimdark maturity, thinking you can do better than D&D by making things more realistic. If Zack Snyder wanted to make a film based on an RPG, this'd be the one he'd pick. Ouch. If he disliked it that much at the time, imagine how cringy it looks in hindsight, now all that premillennial tension stuff is well and truly over. I think we can safely leave this in the past, there's better systems around if modern day action is your thing and the setting's not much to write about either.



The Everwinking Eye: As is often the case, Ed follows on directly from last issue, bringing the history of Zhentil Keep up to the present. it took several decades for the Zhentarim to worm their way into the power structures and do their big takeover, but when they did it was quite the bloodbath, purging the people in power while the majority of the loyal soldiers were out fighting orcs, then sealing the gates so the remnants got massacred. Amazingly enough, this did not make them popular with the neighbours, or leave them with a strong military capable of projecting conquering power, so their expansionist ambitions were soon curtailed for another generation. Things were shaken up when Manshoon seized power from the lord who killed his father, with the aid of Fzoul Chembryl and some beholder allies, bringing in a new generation of hungry young Zhentarim that rely more on magic than massed physical force as a power source. Now he, Fzoul and Lord Chess have a … complicated power sharing relationship, which will be elaborated upon in other books. It's a paranoid life, being an evil overlord. Unless you get rid of the human element and rely entirely on undead & constructs, you still need to keep key people on your side and delegate certain tasks to keep the lights on, food, housing, etc. Neglect the logistics in favour of maniacal cackling and you rapidly wind up poor and hemmed in with the country decaying and common people plotting rebellion. While not brilliant at that, they're definitely doing better than Gilgeam, who despite being a literal god is laughably inept at governing and expanding rulership beyond what he can conquer personally, and saw his personal power deteriorate over the centuries along with his number of worshippers. Once again, this paints a picture of them as dangerous, but not unbeatable, and prone to weakening their position long-term due to their own cruelty. It also reminds us that the amount of magic in the Realms varies quite a bit in different countries and eras, as it's useful, but also dangerous and unreliable. When a bunch of dead & wild magic zones pop up, the reliable fighters wind up in charge, while other times turn into full-on magocracy. You have plenty of choice as a DM to adjust the tone of your game without departing from canon simply by when and where the PC's go adventuring.



Bloodmoose & Company can't resist making a Rocky & Bullwinkle reference.



With both the Raven's Bluff and wider Forgotten Realms material focussing more on antagonists than general worldbuilding, this issue is fairly interesting, but shows their need to escalate after more than 5 years adding things onto the same world. It's the same boredom that led to the elections in the RPGA, and the general increase in big metaplot events in the books. When will the need to keep things interesting for the hardcore start confusing and driving away the casuals? Onto the next issues, to see if they get any letters praising or criticising these articles.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 41: May/Jun 1993



part 1/5



80 pages. Definitely looks like we're in a comical mood this issue, as an unfeasibly large alligator tiptoes behind an old man and his collection of singing mushrooms. At least he's planning on using proper table manners, as he's brought a knife and fork. Let's see if we can judge this book by it's cover, or the contents will be distinctly less amusing.



Editorial: Dungeon catches up with Polyhedron by letting you propose adventure ideas to them online, rather than spending several weeks for messages to go back and forth through the postal system and having to remember to include a SASE. Still probably not a huge saving in money at internet rates then, but at least it's good for the planet. Smart writers will write anything lengthy out before logging on and then copy/paste it into the submissions form. Now that brings back memories.
The rest is your basic thanks for the fact-checkers and playtesters who volunteered their time to improve the adventures this issue. Also a promising sign that the contents will be good this issue. Definitely looks like they're working on improving their organisation at the moment.



Wooly Mammoth Games advertise mammoth dungeons in the obvious place. If you've got an itch for those massive sprawling old school complexes that the magazine doesn't really scratch anymore, this is who you want to call. 4500 rooms per level in the largest version?! You could spend a whole campaign exploring that, and I mean an AD&D one, not a 3e+ one where you max out your levels within a couple of years if you do xp by the book.



Letters: First letter is generalised praise, with particular attention to The Ghost of Mistmoor. A bit late to be talking about that one, but he is writing from Australia, so it's to be expected.

Second is considerably grumpier, complaining about the increasing rise of adventures that tell a specific story rather than just giving you a location and letting your PC's attack it however they please. Dungeon may have been affected less by that than Polyhedron, but even here, adventures are much more linear and plot based than early issues. What a co-incidence they have one solution to that just a couple of pages ago, and another plot free adventure coming up later on in the magazine.

Third expounds on the need to be a responsible gamer when playing with kids. There's still a fair number of parents who've bought into the satanic panic. We need to show them that killing things and taking their stuff is a wholesome family activity that improves vocabulary, math and teamwork skills, not something that'll turn them into lazy degenerates who smoke pot and confuse fantasy & reality.

Fourth is one of the many people who wants psionics kept out of their generic fantasy. It's fine in Dark Sun where people know what they're dealing with, but in a regular game most creatures have no defence and it short-circuits a lot of plots with easy low-level mind-reading, teleportation, etc. How are you supposed to run a mystery plot under those conditions?

Fifth is another example of how to string adventures from the magazine together into a coherent campaign. Good to see plenty of people are actually getting some use out of these.

Finally, someone who's submitted a lot of adventure ideas, all rejected so far, and is getting a bit irritated by the formulaicness of the rejection letters. I know you have a lot of adventures to look through, but a little feedback would be nice, otherwise how can I improve? At least you're actually getting rejections. Far too often, both job hunting & dating seem like just screaming into the void these days.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 41: May/Jun 1993



part 2/5



Pleasing all of the People, Some of the Time: The complete results of the survey are pretty similar to the early results, just in greater detail. Some D&D worlds are more popular than others, but nearly all of them are more popular than the idea of adventures featuring other real world cultures. There's a lot of quiet racists who play D&D, and the surveys don't get censored like any obviously vitriolic letters. Another potential conflict is that their younger readers are much more favourable to the idea of trading cards than older ones, which will only be exacerbated in a few years time when trading card games become big business and start to cut into the RPG section of game shops. Curiously enough, younger players are more likely to find their attempts at comedy more cringe than funny. Completely unsurprisingly, humans are the most popular race by a modest margin, but there's no strong class preference apart from the people who think psionics doesn't fit their idea of fantasy. Like any survey involving lots of people, the answers average out fairly conservative, and so they're not planning on making any big changes as a result. They'd need to expand their international readerbase if they wanted more people voting for multicultural representation.



Deadly Treasure: As they said in the letters page, the first adventure is a good old trap-based dungeon-crawl where you try to deal with the sadistic imagination of the wizard who created it and get out wealthier than you came in. (although the backstory is still considerably lengthier than Acererak's in the original ToH.) Upon feeling death approaching, Zathis the Insightful spent all his accumulated wealth & magical items setting up an adventure that would challenge the hardiest of souls. Said treasure isn't simply waiting at the end of the dungeon, but actively incorporated into the traps, their powers set to be triggered by the PC's actions. This means getting the maximum profit out of this adventure involves not merely brute-forcing or bypassing the puzzles, but deconstructing them so you can take the valuable magical items home. (while avoiding the cursed ones, as of course there's a few of those thrown in as well) If the players don't realise that, they'll only get a fraction of the possible reward even if they get through it alive. While sadistic, this adventure plays fair in that all the items stick by their regular rules, and there's no effects that the PC's couldn't replicate if they had access to the same spells & items. This makes it a good example of a rules as physics based challenge, that rewards players who have lots of supplements and a mind that can recall obscure details from them to figure out what they're up against and how to deal with it. If you're designing your own deathtrap dungeon on a budget, this is much better inspiration than the arbitrariness of the truly old school, even if it is pretty linear in layout. Given the limit on word count and detail they go into for each room, I can forgive them not making it larger and more mazy.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 41: May/Jun 1993



part 3/5



Side Treks - The Well of Lord Barcus: The short adventure is also on the whimsical end of the old school spectrum, as it's one of those magical wells that gives you a random blessing or curse if you toss a coin into it. Some are temporary, some are permanent, many are comedic, such as gaining the ability to fly, but only at a speed of 1, or making you taste bad so monsters won't use their bite attacks on you more than once. To spice things up a little more, the area is also haunted by a guy who stole from the well, and got cursed to never rest until he returned the treasure. If they hang around after nightfall his ghost will try to possess a player to return the treasure, or failing that simply beg them to do it for him. Will they be nice enough to help him find eternal rest, or just use magic weapons to kick his ass and be on their way, leaving him to reform later, trapped there until wiser adventurers come along? So this is one where there might be a best solution to the scenario, but it won't ruin the campaign if the PC's get it wrong or get an unlucky roll on the offering table, as the penalties for doing so are fairly mild. Unless they make the same mistake and try to scoop up the well's offerings, which will lead to a much trickier adventure trying to get the curse removed. But either way, this one is very unlikely to be a campaign-ender no matter how poorly they roll, and even a failure will still make for an interesting story. That makes it very usable in a wide range of campaigns as a bit of light relief between more dangerous missions.



A Way With Words: After two adventures that are intentionally playing to the old school crowd, they flip round and do one that's comedic and whimsical, but a very new school way. A gnome wants his stolen book of poetry back. He thinks it was the snake owning mopey goth girl who attended one of his readings. He's technically correct, but when they go to get it back, they find out it was stolen from her by kobolds who thought it was a book of spells. Now they're reciting poetry badly thinking they'll produce magic effects some day soon if they can just improve their pronunciation a little. Make your way through several other minor encounters to get to them, endure their mid-combat poetry, retrieve the book, and have a poetry reading to celebrate. Barf. Barf on a raft while wearing a scarf, while half the party tries not to laugh. This is short, twee and linear on the same scale as the very worst polyhedron adventures, which is even more annoying to see in here because I expect better of them. Nul naughty word points.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 41: May/Jun 1993



part 4/5



Mammoth Problems: Seeing that this was a spelljammer adventure, I was justly afraid it'd be a 4th whimsical adventure in a row. But thankfully, apart from some mildly goofy names it's entirely serious. The PC's come across a rotting ship floating abandoned in the void. What horrible things happened to it, and what lurks within? Not too surprisingly, it's haunted by the ghosts of it's crew, killed in the elf-ogre war. That they're ogre magi is a little unusual though, and gives them quite a few extra tricks up their sleeve compared to regular ghosts. Each of them has distinct personalities and methods of attack that they'll use to get rid of any intruders and go back to their eternal brooding. Except for one, who's a little less moribund than the rest, and will try to secretly possess one of the PC's and use them to get away until they next encounter another living ogre mage for him to jump into. It's entertainingly written, could easily be turned into a regular waterbourne adventure, and has the potential to introduce an interesting long-term antagonist for future adventures. That's much more the kind of thing I'm likely to use in a campaign. Good luck building a suitable place for it.



Hopeful Dawn: This adventure returns to the somewhat comedic theme, as this is basically a Scooby-Doo story in Greyhawk, complete with very hungry dog encounter. The thieves guild in Veluna decide to disguise themselves as Tanar'ri to discourage the population from interfering with their larcenous activities. This backfires, because now they have the priesthood of Rao on their case and hiring adventurers to deal with the problem, not just the regular guardsmen. Will you be able to see through their costumes in the dark of night, and if so, will you bother capturing them for punishment by the legitimate authorities, so they can explain their plan and complain they'd have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for you pesky adventurers, or will you think you're dealing with extraplanar monsters right up to the point after using excessive force to keep them from teleporting away and killing them? Although the basic concept is a little silly, the adventure itself is still fully usable in a serious game, has plenty of flexibility in how you solve it, and includes a decent amount of worldbuilding for the city of Veluna that could be useful in your campaign long-term. After all, there's several other modules already set in the same area, and it wouldn't be hard to turn them into an adventure path. Expose them to the idea of demons and Tharizdun cultists early on the campaign as a fakeout, and it'll have more impact when they run across the real thing a few levels later. Once again, this is a degree of lightheartedness that's still well within the bounds of usability.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 41: May/Jun 1993



part 5/5



Old man Katan and the Mushroom Band: After an issue that's been very heavy indeed on various kinds of humour, the cover story is by far the weirdest and most whimsical of the lot. Old man Katan lives in a swamp and is plagued by Campestri, mobile mushrooms with terrible singing voices. The PC's happen to be passing while he's having a bath, and the Campestri steal his clothes. This leads you on a Rube Goldberg contraption of an adventure through the Glitchegumee swamp, discovering how the most unexpected of things can have complex knock-on effects on an ecology. Can you uncover what's behind the sudden influx of giant mosquitos and rebalance nature, preferably not by killing everything and restarting the whole ecosystem from scratch? Despite it's lighthearted exterior, there's actually a fair bit of clever thinking going on under the hood to connect things up, so the events you have to deal with aren't just wackiness for wackiness' sake. If the PC's are willing to use their brains and engage with the puzzles it'll actually reward them, rather than just stalling like the tournament adventures that break if you think even slightly outside the box. Obviously it won't work with the grimdark or hack & slash crowd, but this does look like fun if you have a suitable party, and it's an entertaining read regardless. I can see why they'd pick it out of the slush pile, as it stands out even in this issue.



The complete book of gnomes & halflings is the back-page advert, which sets off the contents of this issue perfectly.



Not sure if this is one of the best issues overall, but it's definitely one of the most interesting, with it's unusually high quantity and variety of humorous ideas making it very memorable. Not sure why they couldn't have done it in april, but I guess the ways of publishing are mysterious and prone to things being delayed due to someone not getting revisions in quick enough. Oh well. Back over to Polyhedron to see if their sense of humour and selection of submissions to choose from has improved at all.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 84: June 1993



part 1/5



32 pages. That woman looks altogether too enthusiastic jumping off the top of the castle. I hope there's a safety net underneath, someone to cast feather fall, or some other method of ensuring health & safety is maintained. Given Raven's Bluff's level of technological inconsistency, I wouldn't count on it though. Let's find out how sensationalised and misleading this cover is inside.



Take a Byte: This column isn't just promotion this time, (although there's still a fair bit of that) as it talks about the intersection of Wargaming and RPG's on computer. In the tabletop scene, the two are long connected, although the number of roleplayers has outstripped the number of wargamers for over a decade now. On computers, the boundaries between large scale abstracted wargames where you move units without ever seeing them as individuals and real time action adventure games like Zelda or Faxanadu are much more solid, partly because you simply can't have enough moving sprites on screen without slowdown and flicker to make a war scenario convincing. But computers get better every year, and SSI are trying to bridge the gap from both ends. Upcoming releases like Clash of Steel and War in Russia are primarily strategic games, but they hope to put in more RPG elements like cutscenes and advancable units. Meanwhile, they're doing a conquest game in Mystara where you might control individual PC's, but they're engaging in large scale schemes rather than dungeon delving. In hindsight, we know that eventually these two threads will merge into things like the Dynasty Warriors series, where you have wargame scenarios and RPG storylines, but any pretence of historical realism is abandoned for super awesome PC's that can mow down thousands of enemies in a single scenario. Even the highest level D&D characters can't come close in DPS output or staying power, and if you tried to have that many combatants at once, it'd take hours to run every single round under most tabletop systems. An interesting example of how trends in playstyle follow changes in technology, as new things become possible or new ways of abstracting things make a playstyle fun for a mass audience where most people would have found it tedious before. System matters. What else will it be possible to make fun in the future that doesn't quite work now?



Notes From HQ: This is another round of complaints about people not following procedure. Not every tournament at a convention is approved by the RPGA, and only the ones that are will earn you points, so double check before you enrol and don't complain to us about anything that happens in one that has nothing to do with us. They're particularly peeved about a particular convention which lied and said an adventure was approved when it wasn't, as that means all the people who participated won't be getting points through no fault of their own. To make verification easier, they've set up an online database, so you can easily check if an adventure has jumped all the bureaucratic hoops and is sanctioned for this particular convention anywhere you've got internet access. They continue to be ahead of the rest of TSR on this front because necessity drives innovation, and it's obvious this is a persistent problem. Now if only the general price of the internet would come down so their boards were even more accessible. Still, every person encouraged to log on for the first time by reading things like this accelerates the expansion of the internet as a whole a little further. Maybe next year. Or even this september. ;)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 84: June 1993



part 2/5



Letters: The first letter suggests that twinning with a club in another country and exchanging letters & things that are hard to get hold of in the other place is a good way to build international understanding and make the world a better place in a small way. Another thing the internet will make massively quicker and cheaper over the next few years.

Second is that depressingly common tale of a girl who had a few bad experiences at cons and now just buys RPG books to read not play. Jean assures her that not all gaming groups are that bad, after all, she made it to the top of the RPGA. Just use the classifieds section here or the bulletin board in your local game shop to hunt for a new one and take care when screening your responses.

Third asks what the hell service points are. You get them for helping with RPGA organisation & admin stuff and running charity events. Don't be surprised if you have fewer of them than you do player or judge points. You'd have to specifically go out of your way to earn many of them.

Finally, someone giving a list of their likes and dislikes, some of which seem to miss the point of what polyhedron is for as a facilitator of organised play. Not every subscriber also buys Dragon, so they kinda need to keep the convention stuff in here, even if that does result in some redundancy if you read both.



The New Rogues Gallery: A couple of months ago they reported on Mellisa Eldaren's election to the role of Lord Speaker. Now we get full stats. It seems a little odd for a 22 year old to get into one of the highest offices in the city, but I guess D&D adventurers do regularly go from nothing to terrifyingly powerful quite quickly, and in that respect Raven's Bluff is still a little more restrained than most home campaigns, as it's taken her 3 real and in game years to reach 7th level. (ignoring that the FR timeline advances 2 years per real year in the supplements at this point, because they were never that good at interdepartmental co-ordination.) As she's worked her way up through the tournament adventures in game, she doesn't have any particularly interesting magic items, but apparently the promotion to public office came with ability score boosts, as her total is considerably higher than the standard 84 points regular PC's are stuck with. Another demonstration that when it comes to hard crunch and continuity, their editorial standards aren't the greatest, and they're entirely willing to deliberately make exceptions to the RAW for their favourites, which further reinforces the feeling that it's a stacked deck where there's different rules for normal PC's and NPC's or admin's pets. Now that's one area they improved immensely after WotC took over. (at least until 4e) So this is a reminder that linking your metaplot to the result of tournaments regularly throws up weird results, and continuity in a shared world is an almighty headache to deal with, regularly disrupting people's attempts to give their characters some kind of arc whenever a big crossover happens. I'm glad I don't have to deal with that, either as a player or an admin.



The Living City 1: Yet another modern day thing Raven's Bluff lacks is any kind of socialised medicine system. Magical healing is still strictly cleric only(unless you manage to steal The Symbul's Synostodweomer), so you need to be either in with a specific deity or pay through the nose if you need any serious medical attention. But there are enough genuinely nice gods that you can find some places that'll treat anyone and only worry about payment afterwards. The Bandaged Wound is one of those. It's main administrator is actually a wizard, which neatly solves questions of ecumenical dominance and lets him employ priests of any religion with useful spheres. The other two highest level clerics both belong to Mystra, which isn't an obvious choice if you primarily wanted to be a healer, but I guess she's less strict than most gods and has a really good sphere selection so it's a good one if you weren't really certain what you wanted to do when you started adventuring, but really don't want to wind up in the wall of the faithless. They're all solidly united in their desire to help the needy, so there's no politics or dark underbelly here to provide adventure hooks. So this'll mainly be useful as a stop between other adventures rather than a source of them, particularly at the levels where you can't cure diseases, curses and other more esoteric maladies yourself. Spending a few hundred gold pieces is a much better idea than labouring under a persistent penalty for several levels, particularly if it's severe enough that you probably wouldn't survive the fights needed to gain enough XP. Useful, but a little bit dull.
 

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