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TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


  • Total voters
    28

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 12: May/Jun 1983



part 3/6



Two Cents: With notes for the dungeon master entirely transitioned to essays, it falls to the readers to send in their own bite sized chunks of sadism to throw at players. As usual when they open it up to the floor, the suggestions are considerably more varied than when it was coming from the minds of a few staff writers, but also of lower average quality. There's a lot of people out there, playing D&D in different ways, and coming up with their own monsters and house rules. Some are good, some are bad, and some are silly. Hopefully we can take the good ones, and leave the many bad critical hit systems and other nonsense in the past where they belong.



Encounters: The trouble with dragons is that one hit from their breath weapon will completely ruin the day of an unprepared creature. Fortunately, a lancer with charge bonuses can also inflict some pretty hefty damage. So this battle essentially boils down to who can get the first hit in, as even if they don't kill the other one straight away, they'll do enough to ground them, leaving them easy pickings for further flyby attacks. It's going to be a short and tense battle unless some allies (ie, the PC's) intervene. This is considerably less open-ended than most of their cover scenarios, but is a good demonstration of AD&D maths, and how to exploit some of the less commonly used rules to your advantage. So it scratches a different itch, but it's still a valuable use of their space that teaches you more about the game. They have all these rules for situations that might come up, but don't happen that often. Make sure you remember to use them.



Convention Update: The biggest conventions may happen in the summer, but there's ones happening all year round now. So we get to find out who won at Gen Con South in Florida (sounds more southeast than south to me, but they can argue things like when they have even more spinoffs) and the Emperor's Birthday convention in Indiana. Both used the same tournament module, and members got the appropriate amount of points added to their RPGA profiles. If they step up the schedule a bit more they could make this into a column they do every issue. That would give us lots of data on who's turning up frequently and winning these things that we could use to create statistics later.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 12: May/Jun 1983



part 4/6



Dispel Confusion stretches to a full 3 pages, although the increase in font and margin size means that isn't quite a 50% increase in number of questions. Still shows they're getting a lot of interest in this aspect of the newszine though.

D&D

Shouldn't a lance do more damage than an axe (Only on a horseback charge. I'll steal that rule from AD&D next edition.)

Shouldn't a dragon turtle give more XP? (oh yes)

Doesn't a strength modifier make it harder to open doors (only if you apply it to the wrong end of the roll)

Should monsters get bonuses on their initiative rolls for high dexterity if players do? (Probably. We'll use movement speed instead for now, and get round to that several editions later)

We keep getting into fights over treasure division (Muahaha. Just as intended :steeples fingers:)

How bright does detect evil glow? (bright enough to see, but not bright enough to see by.)

What's the point of a battle axe? (It's much lighter than a two-handed sword)

My players kept on getting crap rolls for NPC recruitment (If you really want something to happen, ignore the dice. You're the DM, you can do anything you want.)

AD&D

How big a creature can disintegrate disintegrate? (any size, as long as it's one singular creature. Ridiculously huge ones like Unicron probably have saves of all 2 though.)

Can henchmen gain levels? (Yes! You should encourage this. It's to your benefit too to give them enough pay and leave to upgrade themselves. Otherwise they might quit or try to unionise.)

What happens if two surprise modifiers conflict? turn them into additions on the base number, and add all the bonuses and penalties together. )

Why can druids use scimitars but not longswords when both are metal? (It's not the metal they object too, it's the straightness. We support our LGBTQ animals in this edition!)

Can dispel magic affect things in an extradimensional space? (Only if you're in the same extradimensional space)

How long does a druid take to shapechange? (A matter of seconds.)

How does magic resistance affect magical walls (A lot more dangerously than next edition. You can keep on making checks each round until you bring it down.)

How do I interpret a wish to exceed someone's level limits (Sadistically, like any wish)

How do I repair a flying carpet (Ooh, that's gonna cost ya guvner. :sucks teeth: It's the patterns, you see, Can't get the thread or the dyes round here. We're gonna have to send it all the way to the elemental plane of air to be properly serviced. )

Can a red dragon breathe fire for full damage while polymorphed? (Not officially, but outside tournament games, the DM is god.)

Can a low level character use an artifact (If they can handle the side effects)

Do you need to write down both the regular and reversed versions of a spell (No)

Why is there no weather in my game? (Your DM is being lazy.)

What is burning hands range (three actual feet, not minis scale feet)

Boot Hill

How do stats work (Put the modified result in to speed up play)

Dawn Patrol

How did you decide which planes to put in the game? (Ones that made for a fair fight)

Can you try and clear two jammed guns at once? (Yes)

Gangbusters

What do I do if players are getting too rich? (They might be able to beat the police and rival gangs, but the IRS? That's a different kettle of fish entirely.)

Gamma World

Why do lasers hurt unarmored things less (they punch straight through, while with a bit of resistance, a larger area gets burned.)

Gamma World is too deadly! (That's intentional. Player skill is more important than stats here. Git Gud, n00b)

Does a Mark V put a hole in anything? (If you fire it enough times)

Star Frontiers

Why can't I make my own alien races (You can. Just don't expect them to appear in the official books)

Can I mount a machine gun on a vehicle (Sure. Just watch out for local laws. A lot of places don't like that.)

Top Secret

What's the difference between fame and fortune points? (they're mechanically identical, you just earn them differently)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 12: May/Jun 1983



part 5/6



Basically Speaking: This column reminds us that a big part of Basic D&D, which AD&D does less of, weirdly enough, is becoming a domain ruler at Name Level, and getting to command armies. It's somewhat of a problem, then, that they don't have a native system for mass combat yet, and won't until the Companion set is released next year. So they suggest you use the Swords & Spells miniatures combat rules (Also by TSR :teeth ting:) and build your army in that if you really want to do larger scale battles. If not, just abstract most of the NPC's, and use the battle as a backdrop for the actions of the characters. So this illustrates that the rules really aren't there to support some of the things they want to do yet, and also that you shouldn't use the game rules as physics of the universe, because they're not designed with enough rigour and flexibility, and will throw up stupid results or break. Give it a few more editions. They will get better, honest guv!



Knight Hawks - A New Dimension: A couple of issues ago, we had someone complaining that there were no rules for ship-to-ship combat in Star Frontiers. They said then there was a supplement coming for that, and here it is! Interestingly, it's not just a supplement, but a standalone minis game as well, that can combine with the RPG to create a greater whole, as presumably they think it'll sell better marketed that way. As usual for their core products, it's a boxed set with dice, counters, mapsheet, introductory adventure, and everything else you need to get going in one package. A fairly standard bit of promotion. They may not have paid averts in here, but this serves essentially the same purpose.



Mapping from Square One pt 3: The final part in this series is somewhat of a postscript, not giving us any new symbols for our maps, but serving to remind us that the map is not the territory. While you need to get the angles right, especially if it doesn't follow the grid precisely, you don't need to include every tiny knobbly bit in a cave system. As long as you describe things accurately enough to map, it's the players fault if they fail to do so and get lost later because they weren't paying attention. A DM should be fair, but not nice. Nothing essential here, unlike the first two, you can skip it without feeling you're missing anything.



Notes for the Dungeon Master: Gary takes this column over from Frank, and changes the topic completely. In the old days, he used to design things starting with a big dungeon, and then gradually going outwards as the players levelled up and needed new challenges. Now, he finds things work better long-term if you start with basic postulates, and then zoom in, creating details about the universe, solar system, world, continent, country, and then the first town & dungeon. It takes a bit longer that way around, but you're less likely to paint yourself into a corner and make something that falls apart when PC's start poking the physics, economics, demographics, weather patterns, etc. As with his last bit of advice, this is actually pretty good, if somewhat padded out by the verbosity of his distinctive writing style. Think big and shoot for the stars, because even if you fail you'll still get further than if you'd set a small goal in the first place.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 12: May/Jun 1983



part 6/6



Roles: In Top Secret, as in many games, there are a bunch of secondary roles orthogonal to the basic character classes. Who your loyalties are too is independent of what skills you have, and can change a lot more in game. Sometimes this is willing choice by the player, sometimes they'll be blackmailed, or caught and faced with the choice of becoming a double agent or facing death & imprisonment, and sometimes the government will betray them or send them on a suicide mission, and they have to figure out how to get out alive and whether to go independent or find some other employer. All good plot hooks for an espionage game, in other words. While they might start out episodic, at some point you'll probably lose your stable paycheck and have to go on the run, or deal with some players betraying the others and splitting into multiple groups operating in the same world. Just got to figure out how to make those transitions in a way that doesn't kill the campaign. Definitely approve of this one, as it helps both the DM and players think of new ways they might play the game long-term.



White Rabbits: While the number of members is growing exponentially worldwide at the moment, getting enough of them together in one place to form an official club remains tricky. Only 5 places have managed the organisational feats needed to apply for a club membership, and only one of those is big enough to be a guild. There are none at all at the society tier yet. If more people don't take these offers up they might wind up dropping them. That would be a shame. Hopefully network externalities will work more in their favour as they grow, and hopefully I'll get to see what progress they make on this in future issues.



Tournament Scoring System pt 3: This part of setting up a tournament is less forms and regulations and more about the soft skills of social organising. You still need to gather enough groups to make multiple round tournaments feasible, and enough DM's to put the groups through their paces, a place for them to meet, what the rules for internal scoring are, and what prizes the winners get. They're still allowing you a fair bit of leeway in exactly how you run your games and still have it count for their ranking systems, which is nice. Let's hope they don't have to add too many more petty rules because people are abusing that freedom in quick succession.



Miniature Open: Another amusing single page advert here, as they try to get more entries to their minis competition. Who can paint the most impressive single figure, who can assemble the best military unit, and who can put together the best diorama? If you think you've got what it takes, here's the rules. Get your ass to Gen Con, and figure out how to transport your painstakingly created stuff there and back without it getting damaged. I strongly suspect we'll be seeing the winners of this in a few issues time.



The basicness of the last few issues continues to ebb, and the many small format changes this issue keep it interesting to read, even if they are slightly reducing the amount of content. Have they got all the format changes out of their system now? Guess I'd better see what they put in the next one.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 13: Jul/Aug 1983



part 1/6



34 pages. Oooh, a big transdimensional crossover on the cover. That should be interesting in the Encounters column. What, they're skipping that this time? Well, that sucks. Obviously not ready to go full Avengers on us. They need to set their ambitions a little higher. Oh well, let's see what they've actually included instead, and if it's any good.



From the publisher: This is again used as a Coming Soon. A fair number of modules, but few outright classics, they appear to be hitting the point of diminishing returns on some of these series. Gary's not just one, but two riffs on Alice in Wonderland, the one-on-one gamebooks, the Tomb of Martek? Meh. Six endless quest books, more than any of the other lines is getting. Huh. They barely talk about those in Dragon or Polyhedron. They must actually be quite big sellers to get that many releases. X5, the first basic D&D module that has any continuity with previous ones? Now that's a bit more exciting. As is their first non-module bit of setting building, World of Greyhawk, courtesy of Elminster's distant relation Pluffet Smedger. They can't resist building up a little depth, even if it is still pretty silly. It is nice to have choices.



From the editor: Looks like my intuition was right. The rules questions are one of the most demanded things in the newszine. They're so important to them in fact that they're putting just those pages on tougher cardstock so they last longer. Bold of you to assume they won't be invalidated by edition changes in a few years. I guess that shows just how important a good system actually is to gaming. I guess it's like saying being rich won't make you happy. No, but it sure does remove a lot of the more obvious impediments.



Letters: As with last issue, we have someone wanting to submit their stuff. Another thing they get a lot, but your odds of success are not great. Here's the new address if you want to try anyway.

Then we have to deal with a particularly arcane little bureaucratic fuck-up. Human error will always creep in somewhere.

Someone asking why they haven't done a D&D movie. They're trying. Hollywood is a tough market to sell too. They have managed to do a cartoon, which will be starting shortly. Watch it when it comes out, increase the odds of more multimedia licences in the future.

Someone asking why the new Gamma World modules don't have map co-ordinates. Do you really want your setting tied down that much? Put them where it makes sense in your campaign.

Someone wondering why they gave us stats for deities if they're just going to turn around and tell us not to use them. Let's just say opinions within the company are divided and ever-evolving.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 13: Jul/Aug 1983



part 2/6



Dispel Confusion:

D&D

What is finger of death (the reverse of raise dead. It has a longer range, because it's much easier to kill things than bring them back. )

What are the most important parts of D&D ( That the players have free will, and that they face logical consequences for their choices. The story is something that happens in play, not something the DM writes before and railroads the party through.)

What do I do with a player carrying 200 torches (figure out how much that weighs, and apply encumbrance, duh!)

What happens if a lightning bolt bounces and hits the same thing twice? (They have to save multiple times or take full damage.)

Do you have to start again when you switch to AD&D? (Yes. Maybe. Depends how nice your DM is. It's a lot easier to convert that way than the other way around.)

How much XP does a minotaur need to advance levels? (Oh, we won't have rules for that for many years. You're outta luck for the moment.)

How many spells should a magic-user have in their book? (not much more than they can cast unless they really work at it)

How do I keep players interested? (variety is the spice of life. Mix up your combat, exploration, and roleplaying and don't go too slow)

When do characters eat? (unless you're in a state of constant emergency, assume they found time to do it offscreen)

AD&D

Why do demihumans have lower level limits. (To balance out their being more powerful when they started out. )

Can a magic-user memorise the same spell twice (yes, but it's generally a better idea to have variety. You never know when an enemy is going to be immune to an energy type.)

I just found out elves can't be raised when mine already has been repeatedly (We'll let you off this time. Don't do it again.)

Can I have more than one familiar? (Not without custom spells from Dragon that haven't been published yet)

Can a ranger have a familiar (Effectively, although they'd prefer different types of animals)

Can a ranger cast spells in metal armor (yes)

Does wishing people back to life need a resurrection check? (no)

Can you wish people back to life if you tried to raise them the regular way and failed (yes)

Your indian mythos sucks! (You obviously read different primary sources to us. We did our best to keep it accurate to the ones we read, but reality is under no obligation to be consistent.)

Boot Hill

If you hit someone twice in the same hit location, are penalties cumulative (no, but overall damage is)

Why do rifles have a faster rate of fire than other guns (That's just how good they could make them back then)

Dawn Patrol

What happens if multiple pilots go into the same square at different altitudes? (It can get messy. Remember there's no air-to-air radio in WWI, so people on the same side have to guess how best to co-operate without direct communication)

Gamma World

Where did you get all those weird names for things from? (partly pure imagination, partly terrible puns)

How do I use the weirder Cryptic Alliances? (even the strangest ones will help members out with basic needs like food and plot hooks. They'll just be strange missions and meals.)

Gangbusters

How much does a camera cost (about the same as today, which means much more expensive in real terms)

How do I stop my player's characters from arresting and interrogating everyone? (If they mess with the wrong people, their higher-ups will get pressure put on them over police brutality. This seems like a good plot hook. )

Star Frontiers

How do gas masks work for aliens? (Often very differently. This may also make them more expensive, especially where they're a minority.)

Once again you've listed the same equipment twice in the same book with different prices! Which is right? (the cheaper one)

Can I make a jack-of-all-trades? (yes, but they'll be weaker than a specialised class until very high experience)

Top Secret

Which table do I use for improvised weapons? (the closest shape to an actual weapon. )

Are poison penalties are flat subtraction, or a percentage of your stats? (a percentage)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 13: Jul/Aug 1983



part 3/6



Under Construction: This article is a sequel, showing what happens next if you take the obvious route out of the room of roses in issue 10. As with that, it's the kind of puzzle where your stats are meaningless, and the obvious solution is the wrong one, which will only get you in further trouble. The kind of thing tailor made to piss players off, in other words. For those of you who want prefab bits for your very own tomb of horrors, which is a pretty small part of the gaming market these days. Definitely not my favourite kind of sample encounter, and hopefully we won't have more sequels to it.



Gods, Demigods and DMs: Roger Moore weighs in on the debate about if you should use gods in your game. While somewhat more diplomatic in his phrasing than Frank, the ultimate upshot is much the same. Use them with caution, and remember they are ridiculously more powerful than the PC's, and can do whatever they like to them, so players should tread carefully, and not even use their name in vain. If they think they can put one over them, they're wrong, and if it looks like they did, you can let the other shoe drop in sadistic fashion somewhere down the line and reveal their efforts were futile or all part of a larger scheme. It's all somewhat disempowering. That they're devoting so much page count to saying no repeatedly in multitudinous and verbose ways irritates me. As with the last article, I have to conclude that this is an attitude that should be left in the past, since we do now have better rules technology that can handle this stuff decently. I hope they don't keep on repeating themselves on this for years to come.



Spelling Bee: This column turns it's attention to a very D&D specific spell. Continual Light. Not the most obviously impressive of spells, but easily the most world-changing simply because it's the lowest level spell that you can cast once, and then it works indefinitely. Even if wizards are rare in your campaign world, all it takes is one 3rd level+ caster casting it once a day to make a huge difference to the surrounding civilisation over the years. It's reverse has a ton of cool uses as well, working as a good adjunct to other tricks to make them harder to spot and counter. Having them in your arsenal makes dungeon-delving a lot easier, as you no longer have to worry about torch supplies, and you can make a comfortable living between adventures. It's just a great all-rounder that any spellcaster with a brain will add to their list as soon as possible. Yeah, this is one that a lot of people figured out on their own, and it's not at all surprising they'd comment on it here. Definitely one worth referring back too every now and then to help you find nonobvious solutions to problems with common spells.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 13: Jul/Aug 1983



part 4/6



The Hive Master: Our largest article this month is a 4 page adventure for Gangbusters, which kinda puts the lie to their statement a few issues back that they don't have the page count for it. Push the envelope a little more, and you'll be able to squeeze a full-sized scenario in. This pushes the envelope in another way as well, stretching the setting from straight historical crime drama to pulp mad science. Someone's been genetically engineering bees - TO COMMIT CRIME!!! Your players need to investigate, find out who's responsible, and foil them. Sounds like an entertaining premise. Unfortunately, it's designed as a complete railroad, simply giving a list of scenes, and expecting you to go from one to the next with no regard for what happens if the players make different choices or the dice don't co-operate. This is the problem with trying to game in a modern day or historical setting. It's harder to write good adventures where the players have free will than site-based dungeons, and there's so much less you can do before stretching the bounds of credulity. It's not surprising that they don't sell as much.



Ecosystem: The Ecology series has made it's debut in Dragon Magazine recently, and proved quite the breakout hit, rapidly getting enough submissions to keep them going for years. Even Jim Ward seems to approve of the idea, and sets out to incorporate it into Gamma World, even though it's not very well suited to it. But despite all the gonzo things thrown into the books with no thought their relative frequencies or how they interact with one another, you can still generate plot hooks by thinking about the motivations of creatures and what might happen when they're put together in your own campaign. Some of those combinations will produce very silly results. So this hasn't completely abandoned the ridiculous and humorous spirit of the 1st edition, but like the anti-god article this issue, it shows the designers are starting to regret their youthful excesses and think about how they can walk things back a bit, set a good example for the next generation of gamers, and create longer-term campaigns. We'll definitely be seeing more of this stuff in the near future.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 13: Jul/Aug 1983



part 5/6



Go West, Young Gamer: Boot Hill's article this issue is easily the most dramatic one ruleswise. Sometimes articles have introduced a new stat or class before, but 4 in one go? That's nearly doubling the mechanical complexity of characters. I guess the system as it is doesn't handle noncombat stuff very well, so they want to make it more comprehensive and able to handle long-term campaigns. So say hello to Co-ordination, for running, climbing, jumping, etc; Observation, for perception stuff, obviously; Stature, basically charisma and reputation rolled into one; and Luck, which makes trick shots more viable and gives you better odds of surviving when dropped to 0 strength. Basically, the kind of overhaul that really ought to be a new edition of the game, given how extensively it changes things. Are they planning a new edition? :checks: Not until 1990, although it did include some of the ideas introduced here. I guess that makes this a lost gem, and one of the most significant things I've seen in the newszine so far in the overall scheme of things. Very interesting indeed. Did any of you actually play the game with these add-ons, and just how big a difference did it make?



Raid on Theseus: Like Dawn Patrol, Knight Hawks scenarios require relatively little space to describe mechanically, so they can easily fit one into a single page, and still sprinkle a little setting-building in there too. The war between the UPF and the Sathar has kicked up a gear, and things aren't going well for the humans. They're outnumbered and outgunned, and their only chance of winning is to take advantage of their superior maneuverability and use hit and run tactics. Since this is a game, the odds are actually more even than they seem at first, but one side will have to think a little harder for their victory. Fairly interesting, even if it's one I'm unlikely to ever get the chance to use. At least they're keeping the wargaming stuff alive a little longer than they did in Dragon.



Psionic Pspells: Not content with one article on the ramifications of magic, they decide to do one on psionic powers that have obvious or not so obvious analogs with spells, to see how they compare, and which is better. This takes a lot longer than analyzing a single spell, and stretches over 4 pages, yet somehow is a lot less useful in terms of actual play. Taxonomy certainly has it's value, but it doesn't usually give you clever ways to use your powers and break the game. Like the lengthy lists of how spells work differently on another plane, it can be a pain to keep in your head and remember to apply it all. I think they might be overdoing it a bit on this topic. Hopefully they'll have got it out of their system and move onto something else next issue.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 13: Jul/Aug 1983



part 6/6



The Knight-Error gets things right for a change, pointing out that stethoscopes are great both for hearing noise on the other side of a door, and avoiding ear seekers burrowing into your brain. Anachronate to win.



The Condor Assignment: Our Top Secret article this month is a grab-bag of little bits and pieces. A brief review of the new James Bond novel Icebreaker (which still hasn't got a cinematic adaption, despite evidently being written with that in mind). Some slightly longer commentary on the recent TV movie Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. It's rather cheesy, but still has some fun elements to it. And some errata for their latest module. Basic map labelling error anyone could have made. All much more current events focussed than most articles, this reminds us that the spy genre was very much alive and developing back then. (unlike westerns, which were already well into decline by the start of the 80's) It's not until the end of the Cold War that it'll really start to run into problems. In the meantime, we get to enjoy the RPG's based on it changing to fit with the fashions in the same way.



Treasure Chest: Three new RPGA exclusive modules are added to this section. These are all parts of larger series, as they compile multiple tournament rounds into one module, to create something that'll last the players more than one session. Black Opal Eye, the somewhat less well-known sequel to Rahasia. And from the UK branch, the first four instalments of the Prophecy of Brie. Just how cheesy will the plot get over those missions, and how many groups will survive that far?



With plenty of continuity with previous issues, and easily the most material that's actually useful for gaming with now, rather than just interesting as a matter of historical record, this sets another high point for the newszine. They've got over their first round of growing pains and are now going full steam ahead. Let's hope they can keep it up for a good long while. To the next issue!
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 14: Sep/Oct 1983



part 1/6



32 pages A ranger and his bear face a lich and his gargoyle. It's nice that everyone gets to have pets, even if it seems like a somewhat uneven matchup powerwise. Let's hope there are some more PC's to help him out, otherwise one save or suck is going to send them to an unpleasant end. I guess it's up to your group. Let's see how much in here is still useful to groups today, and how much is merely of historical curiosity.



From the Editor: Mary gives her perspective on the Gen Con experience. Like many attendees, it was all a bit of a blur, as there was so much to do and see, especially when you also have your newszine deadlines nagging at the back of your mind. Despite the usual hassle by a few twats who believe girls can't be gamers, she still managed to have a fair bit of fun, and get a fair bit of useful feedback on how they're running Polyhedron and TSR in general. It's good to connect with the fans personally. At least, until twitter makes sending low content vitriol to writers every time they do something slightly not to your liking a little too easy. If only there was a way to reach a happy medium between the past and the present in that respect.



1983 Scholarship Winner: Looks like the scholarships are going to be a regular thing each year. This year's 1st place is David Lee Griffith, who's going to the university of Chicago to study Physics. I wonder if he's still around and in the hobby. Well done to you if you are. That's some serious beating of the odds.



Letters: Our first letter sees someone confused about the changing membership options. Sorry, you snooze, you lose, miss out on the special offer goodies and now have to resub at the new higher rate. Inflation's a bitch.

We are reminded that TSR recently swallowed SPI, and our next letter wonders what they'll be doing with it. You'll see a fair few DragonQuest articles in Dragon before it dies altogether.

Our next letter concerns the average age of roleplayers again. Just convert other generations of your family. Most people will try a game at least once because it's fun to do things together as a family unless it's an exceedingly dysfunctional one.

Then we have someone wondering why they don't list a precise date for each newszine. They were late for long enough that they got out of the habit. It's just embarrassing to give a precise month under those circumstances.

And we finish with yet another person asking about group memberships. As long as it's a group of 7 or over, you can. Technically it's called a club membership, but semantics schemantics. Just get on with it and pay the fee.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 14: Sep/Oct 1983



part 2/6



Two Cents: Our reader submission this month is one of those old canards that shows up again and again, that of roleplaying vs rollplaying. Learning the statistical side of gaming, and the acting skills of creating and inhabiting a personality different from your own are two entirely orthagonal skills. So many people these days have only learned the first one and are treating their characters as interchangeable meat puppets for the killing of monsters. Same as it ever was. Either extreme of play and everything in between are valid, it's just a matter of finding a group who's playstyle is compatible with yours. I hope this isn't going to spark another extended debate dragging the same old points out over years worth of issues. I had more than enough of that from Dragon.



Encounters: Turns out that ranger on the cover is actually just a fighter. (although that's probably due to 1e's very strict ability score and alignment requirements, and under a later edition he'd be built as a ranger. ) But that gargoyle is actually a nycadaemon, which makes it a lot more scary, and entirely capable of soloing both the fighter and bear without the help of it's master. He'll definitely need the help of some doughty adventurers to get that lich off the Throne of the Gods, which further boosts it's power, and kill it for good. If you do succeed, think very carefully before sitting on the throne yourself, as it's the kind of artifact that may grant you great power, but may also drive you mad and ultimately lead to your downfall. Might be best to just collapse the dungeon entrance when you leave, sealing the whole place off to be someone else's problem a few centuries later. Definitely an interesting adventure seed that you can expand upon a lot, or use it's various components separately in your campaign. Just the right combination of interesting details and room to develop them and put your own spin on them. I like this one a lot.



White Rabbits adds three new fellowships to the number of officially registered clubs, bringing the total up to 8. Still a tiny number in the overall scheme of things, but hopefully building up to a critical mass.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 14: Sep/Oct 1983



part 3/6



Dispel Confusion shrinks it's font size slightly, and grows to 4 pages as well. They evidently can't keep up with the sheer volume of rules questions they're getting, try as they might.

D&D

Can you turn undead more than once? (If you succeed you can try to turn some more next round. If you fail, that's your lot for that particular encounter)

What use is a holy symbol? (Mostly a focus for your belief. It has no intrinsic power without you unless specifically enchanted. )

If you fail to find a secret door, how long until you can recheck? (at least a day, possibly more)

How long does a full waterskin last? (only a few days. That stuff is heavy and you need a lot more of it than you think.

Can you see invisible things with infravision? (No. the lightbending effects extend throughout the visual spectrum.)

What monsters have infravision? (anything that lives underground)

Is torch damage affected by strength? (no)

Do you need training to go up a level? (only in AD&D. It's one of the big advantages basic characters have in terms of bookkeeping.)

Can you dispel magic items? (No)

When a magic missile spell produces multiple missiles, do they use up multiple slots? (no)

Can you memorise the same spell three times? (If you have the slots)

Does dying and coming back cure diseases? (No, but if you have a powerful enough cleric for that, it shouldn't be a problem anyway.)

Can you raise your ability scores by training? (No. What you rolled is what you're stuck with. This is why you start with lots of characters.)

Does anti-magic shell bounce spells back? (no)

Can classes not listed become mercenaries? (Yes, but they'll probably charge more. Supply & Demand. )

Does passwall work on bushes? (No, but much lower druid spells will)

AD&D

Why can't a thief use a bow? (too big and obvious. The guilds don't like that.)

Can a magic mouth sing or scream? (within the given word limit, yes.)

Can you wish a soul back from a deck of many things? (No. Some items are stronger than even 9th level spells)

Can Dwarves become clerics? (Yes, but PC's can't. At least not without serious protest to get us to change the rules in the future)

Can only Heal cure damage from a Clay Golem? (No, any healing spell by a high enough level cleric.)

Can you Raise someone killed by a clay golem (yes)

Can Move Earth affect lava (yes)

Can you distil Mantrap scent and use it later (yes, but the saves are easier)

Can weresharks survive in fresh water (yes)

Can PC's become Swnamays (yes, but it aint easy. Like many things, we'll loosen those requirements with the passing of editions)

Can PC's become a Knight of Quality (again, yes, but don't expect it to be easy. You gotta earn that round table place with serious heroism. )

Boot Hill

How does stunning work (you do nothing next turn, and half effect the turn after that. It doesn't last long.)

Which system do you use for first shot determination (the simple one for big battles, the complex one for smaller duels)

Do you heal damage from each wound separately (yes. Lots of little ones are easier to deal with than one big one.)

Dawn Patrol

Do you have to decide the size of a loop the loop blind. (Yup. Otherwise it'd be easy to follow and a waste of time.

Can you have more than one balloon in a scenario (yes)

What happens if you have 0% odds of landing successfully from penalties ( A natural 5% or less is still a success)

If you take two hits in a turn, do you risk 2 crits (no)

If your wing is shot off, how many rolls does it take to survive? (usually, just the one)

Gamma World

I have 10 questions in one letter! (that's a bit unusual, but we'll do our best to answer them all anyway. )

Can I submit Gamma World modules? (You can try, as we've said to the many other people who ask this question over the years.)

Aren't swords a bit weedy under this system (Only the toughest survive in the radioactive future where mutations happen at great speed. )

Gangbusters

What are the odds of random things happening? (Do ya feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?!)

Are there other types of shotgun? (yes. Do a bit of historical research to see what was available at the time.)

How often can you roll a luck check to survive? (every time you get hit at 1hp)

Star Frontiers

Is Tornadium 50 credits per KG? (No, it's much more expensive. )

Where can I get more ideas? (Steal from real world sources and exaggerate them)

Can humans & yazirians crossbreed? (No! You've definitely been playing too much fantasy.)

Can I play a genetically engineered superhuman? (No. Again, Star frontiers just isn't that kind of game.

Why are people so bad at swimming in this system? ( For the sake of drama)

Top Secret

Is there any difference in skills for different bureaus? (Not yet. Maybe next edition)

Do you get double xp for two kills in a mission? (Only if you had to do it. Collateral damage is frowned upon by spies.)

Does damage in non-head regions make you unconscious? (Only if it nearly kills you anyway)

How much do you get for fencing stolen goods (it's very unpredictable, and often worth a sideplot in itself. Such are the dangers of the black market.)

10 gauge shotguns are too powerful! (Yes, but we can change that any time we want.)

What does the Quick Reference chart refer too? (Pages 21-23)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 14: Sep/Oct 1983



part 4/6



The Lone Wolf: Oh dear. Jim Ward has fallen under the spell of the badass brooding loner archetype. So he encourages you to include them in your Gamma World game; handsome solitary purebloods who have higher stats and better equipment than the PC's, show them up, give them cryptic advice, beat them to the best loot on missions, and are generally irritating. This kind of GMPC nonsense is not likely to go down well with most groups, who will rapidly develop a loathing for anyone who rivals them and delight in getting revenge. So this falls into the category of interestingly bad advice, that should be used with great caution, for what seems cool when you write it as a GM is not so pleasant to deal with from the other side of the screen. I think he's getting to the rank where people don't tell him no enough anymore. Dear oh dear. :shakes head:



D&D name means more than just modules: In their first big wave of expansion, TSR would licence the D&D name out to any old crap that looked like it might make a buck. Here's a comprehensive list of them, in case you felt you'd gotta collect 'em all. Candy, beach towels, a coloring book, candle-making kits, there sure is a lot of things I'd never have thought of, and which have no real use in actual gaming. Another of those promotional articles that's basically just an advert for their own products, and lies somewhere between vaguely amusing and vaguely irritating to read. It might be useful to reference at some point, but at the moment I have no strong feelings on it either way.



Artifacts, Relics, and DM Headaches: Fresh from telling us to be careful and nonrandom in our handling of deities, Roger does the same for magical Artifacts. If you put them in your game, you should have a plan and consider if they're the right level and kind of players to handle it. If they can't make the requirements or handle the drawbacks, they could wind up destroying themselves. If they can, consider what ambitions they'll use those powers to fulfil and make sure you have adventure material ready in that direction, but also who else wants that artifact and will do their best to take it from them by stealth or force. So it's somewhat more permissive than their handling of gods, but still fundamentally an article full of negativity, telling you what not to do in considerable detail. They really are hitting that phase where they want to be more sensible and think about worldbuilding and long term campaigns hard. This definitely won't be the last article jam-packed with no's trying to discipline their playerbase.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 14: Sep/Oct 1983



part 5/6



Convention Report I: Another article with a fair bit of negativity in, although this time it's not their fault. CWI-Con and East Con turn into a study in contrasting problems. The first attracted the wrong sort of audience, focussing on boardgames, so there were very few RPGers in attendance, and they didn't have enough for a full sized tournament. The second had more than enough gamers, but was poorly organised and didn't allot nearly enough space, so they had to cut their booked 300 person tournament down to 80 and turn all the rest away. They're definitely going to think more carefully about which conventions they attend in the future to avoid repeating these mistakes. This is why established companies wind up putting checks and balances in in the first place. No point making rules against problems that never happen, but plenty of reason to make ones covering situations that have happened before, and will likely happen again if not fixed. I guess we'll have to keep reading and see if they manage to reduce incidents like this in the future.



Convention Report II: We've already had Mary's perspective on Gen Con. Now, unsurprisingly, it's Kim's turn. He also found it pretty exhausting, but is able to recall a bit more of the fine detail for us. It was substantially bigger than last year, with a load of extra events added on last minute to meet the extra demand. Which meant things were pretty jam-packed, but people took it fairly well. While D&D was obviously the biggest game there, their smaller ones still all have large enough fanbases to run multi-team tournaments, and the winners are listed here. While they had their own problems, it does seem like the bigger a convention is, the more likely it is to be well run. All about having the right team, just like in the games.



1983 RPGA Member Ranking: As with the clubs, the number of members who've scored significant amounts in tournaments is increasing, but slow enough that they can still list everyone on less than a page. Unsurprisingly, it's a pretty steep pyramid, with the top two miles ahead of everyone else, and then a load at the bottom. Can Kelly Foote and Dave Axler keep up their dominance of the tournament scene, or will some young turk overtake them next year? Tune in in 6 issues time or so to find out!
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 14: Sep/Oct 1983



part 6/6



Ambush on Lossend: Another little adventure scenario that you can easily expand upon, this time for Star Frontiers. In very cyberpunk style, the PC's are hired as patsies for a mission they'll probably fail at, so they can serve as stalking horses for the authorities to catch the bad guys. So surviving this means being willing to surrender rather than fight to the death and being captured by the bad guys, then surviving the chaos of the subsequent raid by the authorities, who will just throw everyone in jail unless it's very obvious you were hostages, in which case you've then got to avoid being shanked by your former captors until you finally get processed and they figure out you're the good guys. It's all very cynical and dystopian about the ethics and competence of law enforcement indeed. Running your players through this will likely wind up with them becoming bitter, cynical and increasingly paranoid about screening future potential missions. Good training for real life then. :p



Membership Drive Winners: As with the tournament rankings, the membership drive had a fairly small pool of entrants, but the top three places were fiercely fought, and miles ahead of the rest. Sonny Scott, Randy Solo (now there's a name that motivates you to prove it wrong), and Steve Lierly were the guys with the hustle and charm to bring in the most new people to the hobby, and win a chance to game with Gary. Given how much gaming grows by friend of a friend and word of mouth, a lot of people can probably trace connections back to them now. If you're them, or one of the people recruited by them, I'd love to hear your perspective on those days.



Contest of Contests!: Having just concluded the membership drive, they immediately start up another competition. This one's a little easier, as it doesn't involve interacting with other human beings. (which means the competition is likely to be fiercer. ) Send in your ideas for new items (the vast majority of which are likely to be magic ones, if I know their playerbase. ) and the best will get them published, plus several year free extensions to their membership. Should fill another few pages in the magazine interestingly in a few months.



An issue that's full of negative and bad articles, but they're negative and bad in interesting ways, rather than bland and boring ones, so this was still a fun issue to review, dragging up mistakes they've since learned from, and annoying gaming trends that are thankfully mostly dead now. Let's see if christmas is a little cheerier, or they'll still be making the same mistakes there.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 15: Nov/Dec 1983



part 1/6



34 pages. Randy Solo continues to have to live with the name his parents gave him, contributing an image for the cover that's, er, definitely one for the spank bank. I hope that chainmail swimwear is enchanted, otherwise she'll fall to the first monster that goes for the legs. (An enchanted blow-drier will probably also be necessary to touch up that hair mid dungeon crawl.) Let's see if the insides are a little more practical and useful for creating and surviving actual adventures.



From the Editor: While they doubled the size of the newszine a year ago, nearly half of that increase has been taken up every issue by the same gift catalog with only minor changes as they add new things in. This was …… inefficient, and so that's the first thing to go when they considered what to change next year. This means more space for both new articles, and a few of their most demanded reprints as well. The life of a periodical writer is one of endless incremental tweaks, for staying exactly the same will soon result in diminishing returns. I look forward to having an extra 20% or so more content per issue to consume. It'll still never get anywhere near the size of Dragon, but every little helps stave off the conclusion for a little while longer.



From the Publisher: Barely here a year, and like Frank, Kim is already being reshuffled into another position in the company. Not leaving the RPGA entirely, but he'll no longer be working on the newszine on a day-to-day basis. So as usual, he has the mixture of happiness and sadness that comes from leaving your friends behind because you have to start a new adventure. Fare thee well, and let's hope his absence doesn't make everything go downhill again. We shall have to wait until next time to see who replaces him, and what changes they bring.



The New Deal Deal: After the two editorials hinted at it, this spells out their plans for the next year in greater detail. More columns, less space wasted advertising exclusive stuff, a discount on regular TSR products for RPGA members, and a separate catalog for mail-ordering all these goodies. Bypass that supply chain and reap the rewards of direct ordering. Sensible enough on their part, as even with a 10% discount they're still making more than if the shops were taking their cut. Plus there's the worries of places boycotting them due to the satanic panic. It's always good to have a backup plan in these situations.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 15: Nov/Dec 1983



part 2/6



Letters: Our first letter is from someone who wants to send in articles, but doesn't want to surrender the rights to their intellectual property. You need to allow a certain amount of sublicencing otherwise others can't use or build upon what you created. It's one of the basic tensions in collaborative creativity that you have to learn to live with.

Connected to this the second letter is irritated that they always put those ®, © and ™ symbols after naming products. They're just defending their intellectual property. If you ain't got respect, you ain't got nuthin'. Capiche?

We then get a letter asking how two modules can be connected if they're aimed at different levels. Characters gain experience and levels in play, duh. If the designer is good at math they may even have calculated how much xp you gain from the module on average, and calibrated future instalments appropriately.

Someone irritated that the cover isn't actually the cover, but the third page. Just basic protection for transit. If they polybagged and bubble-wrapped every issue they'd have to charge a lot more for postage.

Someone confused about how much the new editions of the corebooks have changed. They've just given them new trade dress. They're going to use the same spine color and font on all their hardbacks for the rest of the edition to make them easy to spot on the shelves. Hope you like orange.

Someone requesting they talk more about minis. They did do a column on painting them in their first year. It didn't get much response, so they dropped it. If you want these things, you've gotta push for them.

Yet again we have a request for submission guidelines. Type it out neatly, don't forget your SASE, and don't expect to get paid. It's not rocket science.

And finally we have a request for larger prints of artwork. As with the minis, they're not planning on doing that any time soon, and it'd take a fair bit of public demand to make it viable The squeaky bird gets the greasy worm.



1983 RPGA Network Judges Ranking: We had the ranking of the top scoring players last issue. Now it's time to find out which judges were the most and least generous with their scoring. It's not actually that wide a spread, with the highest averaging 66% and the lowest 45, which shows the system is rigorous enough to average out the worst of human personality swings. AD&D games outnumbered all the others put together, which isn't that surprising, with Top Secret a distant second, which also isn't surprising from the number of supplements the various games get over the years. Penny Petticord was by far the most industrious GM, judging 36 different players over 3 different systems in multiple conventions over the course of the year. So lots of interesting statistics here, and appearances by several people who haven't written for TSR yet, but are going to do so in the future, moving up in the ranks by hard work and making themselves indispensable. There are definite advantages to getting in on the ground floor.



Encounters: Our cover scenario is one of those ones that seems simple at first, and then just gets weirder and weirder. Fight 4 living statues and loot a tomb? Not an insurmountable challenge for an 8th level character, even on their own. But then you find out what they're guarding, and some of the things that happen if you try various ways to solve the encounter without danger to yourself. Which shows the designer has probably already run this encounter against annoying rules lawyers and redesigned it accordingly. They will not be denied! You WILL be thrown into a parallel universe and spend a whole plot arc just trying to get back home! This is a bit irritating. One of the less impressive and more railroady examples in this series.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 15: Nov/Dec 1983



part 3/6



Dispel Confusion goes back to 3 pages. Have they finally worked the obvious questions down?

D&D

Can a floating disc help you get out of a pit trap (Quite possibly, if it's not too deep)

Can detect invisibility detect secret doors? (Depends if they're actually invisible, or just well hidden in plain sight)

Does a halfling know if they've hidden successfully or not? (no)

Can I increase my chances of listening at doors? (Not in this edition)

Do I have to use the monster reaction chart every time? (only if you don't have a better idea for a specific encounter)

What use is saving vs becoming undead when you're already dead? (It may not matter to you, but it's very important to your surviving friends. )

AD&D

Does a Lyre of building need raw materials? (Yes)

Can you stack gauntlets and gloves? (No, same body slot. They won't fit.)

Can an Ioun stone boost your stats above racial max (yes)

Can I force my hirelings to choose particular spells (No. Spellcasters of any level are valuable specialists. If you make unreasonable demands like that, they'll just find another employer.)

Do I have to display my Medallion when I activate it. (Not by RAW, but if your DM insists.)

Boot Hill

Should I have a penalty to shooting in darkness? (yes, but so will your opponents. )

Why can't I buy a cannon when I know they exist in that era? (Because your DM isn't a complete pushover.)

Dawn Patrol

How do I determine where balloon fights take place? (50/50 each side.)

Can you use overdrive on any manoeuvre (No. Only diving)

When can you make a rotary turn (after moving at least 1 square)

Can you give your parachute to your co-pilot (no)

Gamma World

It should be obvious to everyone how a bit of technology works! Why do my characters have to figure it out?! (There are lots of people who've grown up with computers and still need basic functions explained to them. You vastly overestimate human inductive capability.)

Why do surprised characters automatically get hit (So the GM can kill them any time they feel like it, no matter how powerful they get. )

My GM isn't rolling for NPC reactions! Is this allowed? (Not only allowed, but encouraged.)

What damage should these new weapons do? (here ya go)

What AC should a mutant bear have? (I'll go for 4 for now.)

Gangbusters

How can I get to use the fistfight system more? Put them in situations where they want to keep their opponents alive and/or avoid collateral damage)

Tell me who the killer was in the module i'm playing (Nope! Your GM might have changed it anyway just in case.)

Star Frontiers

Can a planet have green sky? (Yes, but it's not very likely, for complex reasons of which chemicals are that color, how frequent they are, and the way the human eye works. )

Can planets be totally covered in water or not at all? (Yes, and the more we understand the universe, the more obvious it is that either extreme is much more common than ones that are partially covered in both.)

Can spores survive in vacuum? (if your referee says they can. This is hardly a fantastical occurence.)

Top Secret

If it takes two shots to snipe a victim, is that still an ultraclean assassination? (definitely not!)

Aren't some of the areas of knowledge pretty useless (Only if your GM never makes them relevant. You never know when a bit of trivia will be crucial to a particular mystery. )

Crossbows take too long to reload! Modern ones can be much quicker than that! (Yes, but can you keep that speed up under the stress of real combat? The final decision, as ever, is your GM's.)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 15: Nov/Dec 1983



part 4/6



The AD&D game exam: This time last year, we had a crossword to test our knowledge of obscure gaming trivia. This year, they're dropping the festive trappings and giving you an outright exam. More than half of them are true or false, and a big chunk of the rest are multiple choice, so even if you just guess you'll still get a moderate percentage right, but the last few are real stinkers that you'll really need to know the rules to solve. Good luck remembering the bits that are 1st edition exclusive, and not getting mixed up with the math in the many other editions of D&D you've learned since then.



Do it Yourself: One of the biggest obstacles to playing RPG's is the social aspect, getting enough friends in the same place at the same time to play. Some of them also work fine one-on-one or entirely solo, played against randomly generated challenges. D&D most definitely does not. Even if you have a smaller group with the same number of total levels, the action economy makes one-on-many battles work in different ways, and a solo character has no leeway against save or suck effects where a group would be able to cover for each other and remove them before they're fatal. So this is some fairly solid advice on what you should do differently in solo adventures if you don't want your characters to die quickly and unpleasantly. Even if you let the dice fall as they may in play, you still have to adjust the way you design to get a fair challenge. Don't be too hard on yourself, or you'll wind up putting yourself off gaming. ;)



Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn & Knight Hawks game aids: The centrefold of the issue is a card foldout that looks like it's meant to be used as a GM screen. Like any GM screen, it's filled with some of the most commonly used bits of crunchy stuff for quick reference. But due to budget, it's just blank on the other side, so you'll need to draw your own artwork if you want it to look like a proper GM screen. Mildly disappointing there.
 

Halloween Horror For 5E

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