TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 51: Jan/Feb 1995



part 1/5



65 pages. Unleash the Kraken! Or some kind of giant squid anyway, as it looks like we'll be adding to our portfolio of underwater adventures. Make sure you're well equipped, because drowning before you even get to the real challenges of the adventure is a very undignified way to go. Time to see what challenges this year's crop of adventures brings, and if they'll push at the limits of your player's capabilities in any way.



Editorial: Huh. Barbara winds up leaving Dungeon the same month Jean does Polyhedron. I wasn't expecting that. So in one fell swoop, their number of female-led magazines goes from two to zero. Equality isn't a straight line of progress. Just as with Polyhedron, the deputy editor moves up to the top, and Wolf Baur doesn't have any immediate plans to make drastic changes, but we shall see how long his tenure lasts and if he'll be content in this position for as long as his predecessor. Another reminder in quick succession that this is the year that TSR's long stable period draws to a close, as gradually declining sales and their own management issues catch up with them. There's still plenty of interesting and often quite experimental books to come, but finding them now in hardcopy is trickier than the ones of 5 years ago. Hopefully those stresses'll produce some things worth remembering in here.



Letters: First letter is from someone who runs games in Rolemaster, but still buys Dungeon for the ideas. As many many people have said before, they're the important thing, not the stats.

Second is from someone annoyed about them recycling an old adventure from Dragon in issue 49. This isn't the place for nostalgia. If they're going to do stuff like that they should be putting it in a dedicated Best Of. Just wait until a few editions later, when a substantial fraction of the adventures are just updates of old modules. That'll really get tiresome to review.

Third only started reading a couple of years ago, but has made extensive use of their adventures and gives us another list of which ones they went through. Linear advancement through ones of recommended character level does not appear to be on the agenda.

Finally, someone reminding all the stumped DM's out there that they hold ultimate power to make their campaign fun or not. They just need the will and imagination to use it. Be direct in asking your players what they want, then come up with a suitable response. It doesn't have to be more complicated than that.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 51: Jan/Feb 1995



part 2/5



Nbod's Room: Unusually, the cover story is also the first one. Even more unusually, it's a one-on-one adventure as well, which are normally among the smaller ones in here. Through a combination of a ghost and several portals, spooky stuff happens in a particular room in a particular seaside inn that was once frequented by a notorious pirate. Any PC staying there overnight is going to be sent on a Christmas Carol-esque trip without the rest of the party to a tropical island and have to figure out what they need to do to lay the angry spirit to rest and get home. Thankfully, there is plenty of treasure in it, and they don't pull the old "it was all a dream, or no-one will believe it happened because there's no evidence" tricks, which may work fine on TV, but fall flat in an RPG where everyone knows the supernatural is real. Unlike most solo adventures, it's actually a very open-ended experience as well, and while it works best if the PC uses their brains rather than hack & slashing their way through all the challenges, it doesn't rule it out either. So this is a quirky single session adventure that you pull out when the rest of the group doesn't show up, or you want a little extra time with a particular player between the usual sessions, as you can easily use it in many places without disrupting the regular continuity of a campaign. It stands out quite a bit from the average adventure in here stylistically, and is useful in difference places, so it's not a repetition of something they've done before. Good to see even after 8 years of doing this they can still find and include new variations on the basic adventuring formula.



Side Treks - Journey to the Center of the World: Now that's an ambitious title the players would have every right to get excited about when they see the DM breaking it out, hinting at epic underworld journeys, massive caverns, lava rivers and lost lands with dinosaurs & whatnot. The reality is a little underwhelming. Center-of-the-World turns out to be the native name for a really big mountain in some tropical country you're exploring, and there's rumors that it's an elephant graveyard as well. Elephants aren't that great at climbing, so that doesn't make much sense, but hopefully that'll just make the PC's even more curious to investigate. Turns out the crater at the top is actually a dragon graveyard instead, which could be even more profitable if you can get the old bones to someone looking to make magic items, but first you have to deal with a senile white dragon which isn't quite ready to depart this mortal coil, and still pretty dangerous in a fight. Trickery or bribery would probably be better options than a head-on battle. So I'm a little irritated at the bait and switch, but this is still a decent enough adventure idea that seems very expandable into a lengthy series of back and forth treks to get all the treasure out, with all the logistical challenges and dangers from potential rivals that entails. It can easily be connected to several other adventures mentioned from previous issues, which is an extra plus. Now where's a full book that takes the same title, and turns it into a proper adventure path spanning many levels?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 51: Jan/Feb 1995



part 3/5



Ailamere's Lair: A second adventure in a row featuring a dragon that you're not really supposed to fight. That is a curious theme. The PC's are hired by a bard to investigate sightings of a previously unknown type of dragon, preferably without killing it, but getting hold of as much information about it as possible either way, with pay determined by the number of specific questions they manage to answer. Basically, their assigned mission is to make a nature documentary. :) Let's hope the results of their adventures end up more like David Attenborough and less like Steve Irwin. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of reasons this probably won't go smoothly that the players will have to use their brains to solve. The big one is obviously that dragons are not only smart, but have superhuman senses as well, making any lengthy investigation without being spotted and investigated in turn very hard. The other is that once you get nearer, you'll find the dragon has been expanding it's territory into human lands, demanding tribute. Will you maintain journalistic detachment and continue to document the whole process from the shadows, or get involved and try to save the day by negotiation or violence. The bulk of the story XP awards definitely nudge the PC's towards a talky solution where the dragon and humans can learn to co-exist, but it doesn't railroad it, and in fact offers an unusual degree of flexibility to experiment with different solutions and try again if you fail, courtesy of a magical item that offers limited time rewinding powers. (that they don't get to keep after the adventure for obvious reasons) Another interesting adventure that tries hard to diverge from the basic formula of forming a party, then going out to kill things and take their stuff that D&D is built around. This is some of the good end of the 2e focus on roleplaying and experimenting with worldbuilding.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Ailamere's Lair: A second adventure in a row featuring a dragon that you're not really supposed to fight. That is a curious theme. The PC's are hired by a bard to investigate sightings of a previously unknown type of dragon, preferably without killing it, but getting hold of as much information about it as possible either way, with pay determined by the number of specific questions they manage to answer. Basically, their assigned mission is to make a nature documentary. :) Let's hope the results of their adventures end up more like David Attenborough and less like Steve Irwin. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of reasons this probably won't go smoothly that the players will have to use their brains to solve. The big one is obviously that dragons are not only smart, but have superhuman senses as well, making any lengthy investigation without being spotted and investigated in turn very hard. The other is that once you get nearer, you'll find the dragon has been expanding it's territory into human lands, demanding tribute. Will you maintain journalistic detachment and continue to document the whole process from the shadows, or get involved and try to save the day by negotiation or violence. The bulk of the story XP awards definitely nudge the PC's towards a talky solution where the dragon and humans can learn to co-exist, but it doesn't railroad it, and in fact offers an unusual degree of flexibility to experiment with different solutions and try again if you fail, courtesy of a magical item that offers limited time rewinding powers. (that they don't get to keep after the adventure for obvious reasons) Another interesting adventure that tries hard to diverge from the basic formula of forming a party, then going out to kill things and take their stuff that D&D is built around. This is some of the good end of the 2e focus on roleplaying and experimenting with worldbuilding.

Isn't this the one with the "save point" magic device?
I played in this back in 2E days and it was the adventure that broke up our (already contentious) gaming group. Basically, the dragon killed a PC and the group was split between revenge on the dragon and going on our way because the PC brought it on himself by doing something way too risky (I don't remember now exactly what it was). Unfortunately, back then "buT tHaT's WhAT My cHArAcTeR WOuLd do!" was the height of our role-playing mantra and everyone refused to take an OOC moment to discuss a way forward.

The game kinda fizzled out from there.
 
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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 51: Jan/Feb 1995



part 4/5



Side Treks - The Witch of Windcrag: Our second side-trek this issue is somewhat less expandable. Your basic Basic D&D mini dungeon crawl where you hear any one of a tableful of rumours and go investigate. From the name, you're probably expecting some kind of cackling crone, maybe with a penchant for eating children? Surprise! It's just a single harpy. Double Surprise! She has some wizard class levels, adding spellcasting on top of her natural charming and flight powers! If she rolls well on casting a sleep spell she could take out a whole low level party, reminding us why you bring hirelings along at this level to act as meat shields. So this isn't an impossible challenge at the expected level, but does look very swingy, with success or failure largely dependent on who gets the drop on who and how well they roll in the first round. The kind of thing they'd actively work to eliminate from the rules in later editions. Whether this will work for you or not depends on if that kind of old-school unfairness is a feature or a bug in your campaign. Nothing exceptional, but a good palate-cleanser after the last three adventures being very 2e feeling and heavy on encouraging noncombat approaches.



The Bandits of Bunglewood: Another alliterative title in quick succession, and another set of monsters who are enjoying the increasing permissiveness of the rules when it comes to gaining class levels. Chris Perkins takes us back to Tucker's Kobolds territory, a place that should be familiar to long-term readers, but never fails to annoy no matter how high level you are, because they use tricks that bypass your AC & HP to be effective at any level unless you have specific countermeasures prepared. Say hello to The Seven Jekks. Urto, Irki, Blepp, Snog, Zark, Neglu & Liklik. They may seem like your typical puny comedic annoyances, but each is fully statted up like a PC with various class levels, nonweapon proficiencies and preferred tricks. They've strewn various tricks & traps throughout the bunglewood, so anyone just blundering through it will have a very bad time. If you can stand up to them regardless, they'll retreat to their lair, which is cramped enough that full-sized PC's suffer penalties the whole way through on top of the various defences. So this is one of the most formulaic scenarios ever, repeated in various iterations so many times over the years, mainly notable because it treats every monster with the same complexity as a PC rather than being interchangable mooks. It feels like a precursor to the design philosophy of 3e, where they actively embrace stacking class levels and templates on everything so you can never take a monster's capabilities for granted, no matter how many of them you encounter. I guess he's one of the people you can thank (or blame) for that, since he'll be sticking around throughout the whole process. Not terrible, but more interesting as a part of overall trends to analyse than as it's own thing.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Isn't this the one with the "save point" magic device?
I played in this back in 2E days and it was the adventure that broke up our (already contentious) gaming group. Basically, the dragon killed a PC and the group was split between revenge on the dragon and going on our way because the PC brought it on himself by doing something way too risky (I don't remember now exactly what it was). Unfortunately, back then "buT tHaT's WhAT My cHArAcTeR WOuLd do!" was the height of our role-playing mantra back then and everyone refused take an OOC moment to discuss a way forward.

The game kinda fizzled out from there.
Yup. Not an idea you'd want to see in every adventure, but it makes for a pretty interesting twist in this one.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 51: Jan/Feb 1995



part 5/5



The Last Oasis: After an issue full of adventures that offer a decent amount of freedom in how you wander and react to the things you encounter, they can't resist putting one irritating railroad in where the PC's actions to a lot of the events are presumed rather than giving you a proper choice, and others will have basically the same thing happen next regardless of their choices so they feel kinda pointless. The PC's are hired as guards for a desert caravan in Al-Qadim or any similar area, as they've been having a lot of bandit trouble lately. A sandstorm sweeps up, and the PC's are buried in it regardless of what they do. Instead of just dying, their spirits leave their bodies and they get to explore the borderlands between life and death. (which is basically just another desert, only spookier) They have to realise what's going on, and then get back to their bodies before their shadows disappear completely, indicating that they've died for good. Some of the dead denizens will be helpful, others try to trick you or have you for dinner, and figuring out which can be trusted will make subsequent encounters easier or harder, but not affect their overall order, which eschews any mapping for purely narrative logic. The kind of adventure that feels like it's based on a specific story, and is going to push you into playing something like that story even if it has to completely disregard the established AD&D cosmology as well as player agency to do so. As usual when Dungeon tries this kind of adventure, the writing is still of higher average quality than Polyhedron's railroads, but that still doesn't leave me with any actual desire to run this. It just doesn't feel like it was meant to be a D&D adventure in the first place, and is being shoehorned into the system awkwardly. No thanks.



A mixed bag of relatively short experiments that mostly manage to be interesting whether I'd want to use them or not. They still have far more good submissions than they need, which means that there's room for a new editorial direction in a few months while not hurting overall quality. Let's see if the new management will have the courage to try stepping away from the purely episodic, or it'll continue being business as usual for a while longer.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 104: February 1995



part 1/5



32 pages. When you're fairy size, your basic farmyard animals like sheep or cows are a massive terrifying challenge if you tried to fight them head-on, which is obviously why they work on their magic and trickery skills instead. We've seen one adventure in Dungeon where you're shrunk to tiny size. Will Polyhedron be getting in on the act too, or will the PC's have to face some more annoying whimsy while remaining regular size themselves? Time to explore the undergrowth of TSR's most obscure products again.



Notes from HQ: Another round of trying to solve common problems with their Living settings here. The number of players continues to grow, but keeping things accessible with the amount of lore accumulated over years is an increasing challenge as well. They're creating primer packets with character sheets and all the info you need to get started, at a very reasonable price. :teeth ting: Make sure you fill them out carefully the first time, or make a photocopy before starting to fill it in, otherwise you'll have to pay to order some more character sheets, because they're not made of money. They also have to nag us to fill out the scoring sheets properly as well, because if your writing is illegible, you miss out crucial details, or don't use your full name as it appears on your membership card, you won't get the points added to your account. Finally, they still have the persistent problem with judge/player ratio, made worse by some people saying they're going to judge at the start of the convention and flaking. If more people don't judge they'll have to run ridiculously large parties and the adventures'll be too easy, or cancel some slots altogether. Maybe if the RPGA adventures were less linear and allowed more DM agency to improvise they'd attract more judges. But then that raises questions of fairness in scoring so there's going to be problems either way. This is all the kind of stuff they might be able to reduce, but can never be solved entirely, so I have no doubt we'll be seeing it's like again next year. Bureaucracy is the most eternal battle of all.



Forgotten Deities: The second of these is much shorter than the first, a mere half a page on Karsus, an ancient nature god with a particular focus on reincarnation. This means his specialty priests get access to the appropriate spell at considerably lower level than regular clerics, but can't cast raise dead. Like many a neutral nature god, he has no objection to bloody sacrifices, as death isn't considered a big deal when the spirit is just going to come back again, and some of his clerics may select the specific sacrifices for not so neutral reasons. This makes him an interesting choice for both PC's and potential antagonists to worship, with the possibility of intra-faith conflict without either side losing their powers. This seems nicely usable both mechanically and flavourwise, if very inconsistent with future mentions of Karsus in other books. I guess that's the problem with worshipping forgotten gods. When they actually show up and you find out about the man behind the god it may turn out they're very different people and most of your theology was made up by priests who've never had any personal contact with them. What happens to your faith then? Do you obey the personal commands, or stay faithful to the ideology you've known for years even if it means losing your powers? There's a lot of adventure possibilities to be found in that scenario.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 104: February 1995



part 2/5



Barely finished a second Living setting and they're already working on the third? That's a serious acceleration of schedule. The Living Death will fittingly launch this halloween, giving you plenty of time to register for the first events and build anticipation. How will they manage to make character generation even more restrictive than the already pretty heavily nerfed rules in the Masque of the Red Death boxed set?



Letters: Unsurprisingly when a long-running member of staff moves on, the letters pages are extra long and full of tribute from co-workers and regular members. First up is her co-conspirator Skip Williams. She proved she could stand up to his abuse and give as good as she got, so they had plenty of mutual respect by the end. The RPGA grew enormously during her tenure and released new issues on time consistently, so she was definitely doing something right.

Second is from one of the big convention organisers praising her endurance. 80+ hour a week workloads with lots of unpaid overtime? Would you do that if you didn't genuinely love and believe in what you do?

Third is someone from her hometown who knew her before she got the job and moved to Lake Geneva. Even then, she was known for her organisational ability and willingness to teach new gamers the ropes. There'd be a lot fewer people sticking with it if she hadn't helped them through those awkward first sessions.

Fourth is regular writer Nicky Rea, also praising her ability to remain friendly and engage with people for ridiculously long periods at conventions where others would long since have succumbed to grouchiness. Never skimp on your Con score whatever your character concept as it's always useful.

Fifth is even more frequent writer Ed Greenwood, also praising her general friendliness and her ability to give good hugs in particular. Couldn't get away with doing that to strangers these days between pandemic social distancing and accusations of sexual harassment.


After all the eulogies, they still have a bunch of letters hashing out oversights for the Living Jungle. Shapeshifters gain AC bonuses for dexterity in human form only. Wizards get some choice of new spells after adventures, but the selections will remain pretty limited. Saru's racial bonuses to unarmed combat and the tumbling proficiency do indeed stack. Everyone except for Saru share a common language. Tribal bonus proficiencies do not bypass your usual class restrictions on weapons & armor, so they'll be useless to some classes. Keep sending them in, we'll keep on patching those loopholes.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 104: February 1995



part 3/5



Elminster's Everwinking Eye: Ed continues to have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of little plot hooks to make all the little villages of Turmish interesting places to visit. The buried treasure of Banthar, another former bandit stronghold where people stashed away their ill-gotten gains and died before actually getting to use them. The comically named Bistal's Bottom, favored by worshippers of Oghma because of a cave that imparts hidden lore at the cost of being teleported somewhere random on the planet. This just means more opportunity for adventure as long as you're decently prepared. Centaur Bridge, which has a nearby abandoned mansion full of ghostly monsters, so make sure you're equipped to deal with the incorporeal. The hilltop village of Dauntshield, another place that's seen better times, and probably has some brigand treasure buried nearby. The prosperous town of Gildenglade, where the elves carefully maintain a carbon neutral policy that ensures the health of the forest despite their main export being woodcarving. And finally, the small hamlet of Holdensword, built around an improbably large castle now only inhabited by Helmed Horrors. Clearing them out would give Name level characters a nice base to settle down in. Any of these could easily be expanded out to fill multiple sessions of exploration, and that's not counting the wandering monsters just getting between each of them. He continues to be able to pack in a ridiculous density of ideas in a couple of pages, with Bruce Heard's Mystara work in Dragon the only other writer coming close.



Dangers from the Dark Side: Vampires get everywhere, including Star Wars. Only here they drain your Force points rather than your blood. Yup, we're going into schlock horror territory as the PC's encounter something that mysteriously kills it's victims and leaves them spiritual voids. Will they jump to the right conclusion and be prepared to fight it, or cling to foolish rationality like Han Solo and believe they're still in a sci-fi setting until it's too late? Don't waste your time with garlic or crosses, because they do nothing against this galaxy's superpredator. If your GM's tastes run more to slasher movies, beware Warkin, a wookie that has embraced the Dark Side and can meld with shadows to disappear and then pop up again in improbable places. Without any moral compunctions to hold him back, his wookie strength and claws are easily able to rip a normal human to shreds. If there are any wookie PC's in the group, they'll have heard of him and feel honorbound to foil his depredations. To finish this off, they then detail three new force powers exclusively for dark siders. The ability to create and command force wraiths, so you can have insubstantial spies and assassins anywhere. The ability to rip a hole in the fabric of space and teleport, which you wouldn't think is inherently evil, but apparently star wars teleportation works on Event Horizon logic. And the ability to taint an object so light-siders suffer pain just from being near it and damage from touching it. This is why a group needs at least one non magic user to be a balanced team, so they can handle problems like this. This all feels like it should have been in the october issue, as it feels like a completely different genre to regular Star Wars material. Not unplayable, but the kind of thing you want to consider carefully before using if you want to maintain a consistent tone for your campaign and not turn it into a kitchen sink of fantasy stuff with a Star Wars veneer.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 104: February 1995



part 4/5



Poised for War: When Raven's Bluff has a problem, it usually winds up being solved by some group of adventurers that happen to be passing by. But some problems are too big for any one party, and every country needs some degree of standing army to deter invasions, even if they hope they never have to use it. So here we have a chunky 7 page article on their army, navy, and very small (but also very prestigious) air force of 20 griffon riders. War nerdery can fill massive books, so this is unusually dense and statistic heavy, giving specific numbers of types of troops, their levels, equipment, command structure, etc. The numbers look improbably high as a percentage of the overall population of the city, but many of them are reservists or private guards in their day job rather than full time members. While fighters make up the bulk of the forces, they do mention some wizard & priest units to buff and support the mundane ones, plus the aforementioned griffon riders and navy seals who are literal wereseals. The example NPC's are all firmly on the heroic side, showing that the command structure as a whole is not corrupt or a target for high level adventurers to earn more XP by slaughtering everyone, and PC's that try it will be railroaded into failure to preserve the Living City status quo. Another of those articles that shows the big problem with a shared setting like this. The bigger it gets, the harder it is to allow the PC's any kind of real influence on the setting, or to give the supposed dangers they face in the adventures any weight. The proportion of NPC's with class levels is so high that the city as a whole is never in any real danger and sooner or later you start to wonder why you're bothering. Basically, it's all too safe and cosy, which is a problem that shows up repeatedly in the Forgotten Realms material. Ed can make things interesting despite that filling his entries with flavour and plot hooks even in the safe zones, but many other contributors fall at that hurdle, and this is one of those, that makes the setting as a whole duller and less inviting to play in by closing off avenues rather than opening them as it adds detail.



Uninhabited 2 - The Barracks: A full year after the last one, we finally get a second competition to fill up an empty map in whatever way you choose. As the name says, it's a barracks, or possibly a prison, lots and lots of little square rooms with individual doors leading off long corridors. There are a fair number of secret tunnels underneath the main floor though, connecting places with much more windy, cramped secondary routes. Whether they're for defence or secret attempts at escape is up to you, but either way they make invading this place much more interesting for an adventuring party. We never got to see the winner of the previous competition, so I'm not particularly optimistic that we'll see this one fully statted out either, but that doesn't mean you can't use it yourself, so this still has some value.



Spath Investigations: The second Living City article this issue is also fairly long, showing that the new coolness of the Living Jungle isn't going to be displacing it in popularity and number of submissions any time soon. Put on your fedora and start narrating your actions in the third person, because it's time to learn about a detective agency. As with the army, they're firmly in the mould of heroic detectives, so while they might do some minor breaking and entering in their pursuit of evidence for a case, they'll never take the law into their own hands or blackmail you with the threat of revealing your secrets, and will be flexible with prices depending on how rich the client is and how desperate their need. Unlike the army one, there's lots of jumping on points for getting involved in an adventure with them, as they always need new employees, so roguish PC's might want to seek employment there, or they might find themselves in the middle of revenge plots by a slighted thieves guild or the Zhentarim, save the day and wind up employed that way. A decent enough read that doesn't neglect the precautions they have against being robbed themselves, this is one I wouldn't mind seeing referenced again by future instalments. Now they just need to figure out how to fit mystery adventures into 4 hour slots without making them too easy or railroaded, as that's still a big problem.
 
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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 104: February 1995



part 5/5



Weasel Games: Having regaled us with plenty of stories of his own treachery, Lester tells one where he was the target in turn. A Fantasy Trip game where another player was constantly trying to hit him with his boomerang, only to have it go past and hit the enemies instead. Once again this is really about how to maintain friendly relationships with other players even as your characters do all kinds of comedically horrible things to one-another, in true looney tunes style. No new lessons though, so I think this is starting to hit diminishing returns, as I can't think of anything else to say about it.



The Living Galaxy: Roger tackles another issue that appears in RPG's of all genres. How do you get the party to bond and stay together? What is their IC reason for knowing each other and choosing to engage in adventures? He's seen many a campaign grind to a boring halt because the players have no interest in the plot hooks dangled in front of them, have realistic levels of paranoia in the face of danger rather than acting like heroes or someone overdoes the whole brooding loner thing. To counteract this, his examples this time are all drawn from TV series ensembles. There's ones like Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica where your homebase moves, possibly pursued by enemies so you have to keep on adventuring just to survive. Community based ones like DS9 or Twin Peaks where there's a big melting pot of inhabitants and even weirder visitors, so even if you don't want to be a group you'll keep on encountering each other and having interesting events happen to you. Family-centric ones that neatly bypass the whole question of how they met and why they care about each other even if they're very different in other ways. Pretty basic stuff, reminding you that if you're having problems with this, you've probably already seen the solutions on TV, you just need to formalise the lessons and apply them. (and if the players continue to refuse to work together, just tell them outright to get their naughty word together OOC or there's not going to be a game. ) Just as with Lester's column, you need clear communication OOC to keep the group together even if your characters conflict in some ways. You wouldn't think that'd be such a hard lesson to learn, but with constant churn in the readerbase they do have to keep on repeating it.



The Raven's Bluff Trumpeter: We finish off with three very brief missives informing us of the latest adventures you'll be facing if you attend upcoming conventions. An attack of giant slugs, best faced by the fleet of foot rather than fighters in heavy plate that'd only get dissolved anyway. A plague of frogs, for those who like their biblical references. And most shudder inducing of all, Jack Mooney's circus wants you to capture carnivorous apes to entertain the crowd with. Since the dancing bear hunting scenario still holds the dubious honor of the no 1 spot for most all-round stupid, offensive and badly-written adventure published in here, I'm not eager to see them going back to that well. Just because Jean has left the editor's chair, doesn't mean she can't inflict some more cheesy railroads upon us.



Another issue that feels mostly like business as usual despite the changes at the top, because there are still a lot of regular columns using the same writers that haven't changed at all. Unless they choose to abruptly alienate all of those at once, there should be no problem maintaining continuity over the next few months. Let's see if next issue has any new additions, and if so, what they'll bump off to make room.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 105: March 1995



part 1/5



36 pages. Exploring a mansion by gaslight is a little more comfortable than a dungeon by torch, but that doesn't mean it's any safer if there's undead around. It looks like they're continuing to build up anticipation for the release of the Living Death campaign, so hopefully there'll be some spooky victorian material inside as well to increase the variety. Let's see if they can make horror an all year round thing, not just for october.



Notes from HQ: Well, it looks like there are some concrete changes coming with the new management after all, as they spell them out here. They're going to push hard for the idea that brevity is a virtue. On the plus side, that means no more adventures published in here, which is a relief for me. On the negative side, shorter articles in general, which means shallowness and the resulting boredom from feeling deja vu is a definite worry. Reader submissions in particular will be more likely to be published if they're shorter, as that makes it easier to fit in the precise amount of content their page count needs. On the weird side, they're eliminating multi-round adventures entirely, as they got played disproportionately little for the amount of effort it takes to write and sanction them. That seems like the kind of thing people may complain about and force them to walk back. But in the meantime, it looks like the newszine is going to be having more, smaller, and more episodic articles. It'll take a lot of personnel change before they're ready to try the epic adventure paths of the Paizo years.



Forgotten Deities: This column decides to cover another bloody deity who's worship was probably superseded because they cause too much trouble for civilised society. Garagos the Reaver, a many armed war god of rampaging destruction, who was killed and replaced by the somewhat smarter Tempus using his berserker rage against him. But now secret cults to him are popping up again, causing trouble. This is not actually caused by Garagos, but a marilith using polymorphing to pretend to be him and gain power. She can only grant 1st & 2nd level spells in three spheres at the moment, but given a few more worshippers the sky is the limit. Another fairly interesting plot setup for PC's to get involved in, that becomes more interesting when you look ahead, and find out that while his nature doesn't get completely retconned like Karsus, it does turn out he's not dead after all, and comes back, kills the marilith & resumes active deitying in future supplements. Of course if you get there first, it could turn out differently in your campaign. This column is definitely giving me some more interesting angles on forgotten realms lore I didn't know about before. Let's hope it can keep on doing that for a good year or two longer.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 105: March 1995



part 2/5



Letters: First letter is one of the many over the years that wants more sci-fi stuff. They have no objection to that, but need both more submissions, and evidence that there's a market for them. Same old song and dance that'll probably wind up with us in the same place at the end.

Second is from West End Games concerning the competition they ran in Polyhedron for Fantastic Technology. Here are the winners, who's entries will be appearing in the final book. You can feel proud about being a tiny part of official Star Wars history until contradicted by a more primary source.

Third switches us over to more Living Jungle questions, asking us how big Katanga animal forms are. The usual size category for that animal. You can customise your own character appearance within that limit, as long as you don't expect it to have any mechanical effects.

Fourth asks about the missing multiclass options for Korobokuru. Fighter/thief or fighter/priest, nothing too complicated.



Dispel Confusion: Not content with fielding the number of rules questions the Living Jungle has provoked, they also go for a nostalgic revival of this old column. Skip can't do all the rules lawyering in the entire company, so Harold Johnson is the one taking the reins this time. Let's see how familiar the questions are.

The first one is the ultra-familiar one of how to adjudicate disbelief of illusions. Ones that create actual light & sound remain there to affect others even if you disbelieve them, while ones that are only in your mind are broken entirely if you save.

It gets a little less repetitive after that thankfully. Second asks if you can be infected with more than one type of lycanthropy at once. Not usually, but in Ravenloft, all bets are off as the dark powers love to screw you in convoluted and unique ways.

Does dispel magic cast on a polymorphed person turn them back? (yes)

Can you tattoo spells on yourself so you never have to worry about losing your spellbook? (a few, but humans only have so much skin, and writing can only be so small, plus there's the risk of infection if you use a disreputable parlor. It'll get much safer and more effective in future editions once the technology improves and alternate methods of learning spells become more common in general.)



Elminster's Everwinking Eye: Ed continues to dispense little adventure hooks in a way that makes it obvious he wrote much of this stuff years ago and has plenty still in the archives to distribute whenever he finds a good place for it, as it's all neatly organised in alphabetical order. The mysterious Illowwood, filled with dryads and other fae creatures, rumoured to have multiple gates into faerie realms where time flows differently. Not in this edition mate. Jarthrin's Jump, another smugglers town which gets our most detailed entry. Beware the tomb of Aragrath, an undead priest of Talos with multiple powerful golem servants, detailed tactics, and a penchant for casting Quest on people who enter. You'll likely have to deal with a whole other annoying mission even if you are strong enough to beat him in combat, and like many undead, he'll just reform anyway, making him a very intractable problem. Karthoon, another small town with a crystal statue of a horse as a centrepiece. Since it's worth a good 400,000gp just in raw materials and is very suitable for enchanting it's a prime target for theft. Will the PC's go for that heist or be the ones foiling it? And finally, the lost village of Lanthalal, home of a magic school that went disastrously wrong, destroying the whole village and filling the area with wild & dead magic zones. Since some of those have the power to permanently drain your spellcasting ability, this is one adventurers are more cautious about seeking than most. Will your party be able to get any treasure from here where most others failed and paid a heavy price? This collection all seem particularly well suited for higher level adventurers, with big weird challenges that remain an issue no matter how high your stats are. Can your DM expand them out into full adventures without making them railroady?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 105: March 1995



part 3/5



Weapons of Reality: Between TORG and Star Wars, WEG continue to be the second biggest gaming company involved in the RPGA. Here's another collection of weird items from Greg Detwiler that might help your Storm Knights or be an almighty pain in the butt, depending on who has them and if they know how to use them properly.

Portranta Plants impose the primitive reality of the Living Land wherever they're planted, making high tech items fail anywhere near them unless you actively counter it with your own reality bubble. Regular army members who can't do that will have a very tough time invading.

Limpet Missiles are similar but more offensively oriented, sticking to anything they hit and forcing the victim to stick to the axioms of the person who created them. You could of course apply one preemptively to yourself if you know you're going into an unpredictable situation as well, so they're pretty flexible.

Stelae Rockets take the same idea and expand it to nuke levels, imposing a forced reality zone everywhere within a mile of where it hits for several hours. Unsurprisingly, like actual nukes, they're very rare and well-guarded. Good luck stealing them or convincing their owners that an emergency is bad enough to break them out.

Reality Chambers are a bit of weird science that can make reality bombs for any cosm with just a sample of soil. Fittingly, it has a bunch of weird limitations on it's use that'll probably catch out PC's who get hold of one in a treasure haul.

Weapon Transformers turn your weapons or vehicles into something similar from another reality, which is very handy for countering the previous items as long as you know how to use devices of that tech type. You need to be pretty flexible to function at full power in any reality.

The Necklace of False Power pretends to offer you cool powers for a minor sacrifice, and if you do what it says, all you get is tightly bonded to the laws of Orrorsh, which is pretty much the last thing any sensible person wants, as operating on horror movie logic means you're unlikely to survive a single adventure. Like any cursed item, it's near impossible to get rid of, so beware.

Vrilquito are robot mosquitos that drain your possibilities and then take them back to their techno-demon masters. Not a very pleasant way to go. Good luck swatting them because they have high dodge scores as well.

Reality Dust is yet another way of imposing your reality on other places, this time with an even larger area but a shorter duration.

Time Talismans are small reality bombs with settable timers for detonation, easily smuggled somewhere and then giving you enough time to get out of there. Particularly deadly on aeroplanes, which fail if the tech level is even slightly too low, but as usual, ingenuity will allow other uses of a sudden genre shift going off when your enemy least expects it. So this set of items are interesting, but all very specific to this game, and wouldn't be of any use converted to D&D or other less meta games. That limits their mainstream appeal somewhat.



The Living City: This column directly repeats itself, putting a second pawnshop in Raven's Bluff. (see issue 50 for the 1st) Like that, it's actually a front for organised crime, but the tone of the two is quite different. The Galogar's was all about the comedy of errors between the honest one and the crooked one. Misti's Moonlight Pawnshop is a hive of scum & villainy and nearly everyone knows it. If you're ever expecting to get the items you pawned back, the interest rates on repayments are orders of magnitude higher here. On the other hand, they'll accept nearly anything, and won't ask any questions about it's provenance, so if you're fencing stolen goods, it's a much safer bet than hoping you've got the right twin. So comparing the two, this is longer, more detailed, and considerably more serious in tone, showing that the newszine has gradually trended in that direction in general over the years. (which is obviously why they consciously want to encourage shorter articles now) With a detailed map, details of the shop's defences and 6 fully statted NPC's, this one definitely seems superior for use in most campaigns. One campaign can only take so much comedy, and Raven's Bluff already has more than enough of that stored up by now.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 105: March 1995



part 4/5



Gothic Heroes: As they build up to the launch of the Living Death campaign, it looks like they'll actually be making an effort to give us a decent amount of teaser material. First up is a full set of stats for the heroes of Dracula. Jonathan & Mina Harker, Van Helsing, John Seward, Arthur Holmwood and Quincy Morris. Their ability scores are mostly average or above, but nowhere near the twinkery of the old Giants in the Earth columns, as this is supposed to be a more grounded story. They've all managed to gain a few levels, but only Van Helsing has any kind of real supernatural power. All the survivors except Arthur continue to be active fighters against supernatural evil who could serve as allies in your own game. Of course, if you've got the Masque boxed set, you'll know that they didn't actually finish Dracula off, because you get to fight him in one of the example adventures. This all shows that victoriana is an easier sell to the average gamer than an entirely new lost land setting because there's lots of familiar stories that you can just convert directly, using that nostalgia as a promotional tool. There are enough famous victorian horror stories to easily tide us over to october, quite possibly beyond if it proves popular enough to get regular submissions from ordinary members. I would prefer good original material personally, but this is still an interesting development expanding their ambitions beyond dungeon crawling. Let's see where it leads once the biggest, most obvious bits of source material are exhausted.



Weasel Games: Lester talks about some more subtle ways you can antagonise your group. One interesting one is when a character has inherent danger to their companions built into their mechanics. Berserkers who can't switch off their rage automatically once it's started and keep on attacking even when all the enemies are dead. Wild Mages who's every spell has a chance of going haywire. Conan Wizards who accumulate weird disadvantages with every spell learnt. White Wolf characters who nearly all have some kind of self-control issues of varying degrees. If you should wind up hurting your companions it's not your fault, but that of the dice. (the fact that you chose to play a character like that is irrelevant :) ) There's also the more subtle conflicts built into settings with proliferation of splats, once again exemplified by White Wolf and now copied by Planescape factions. You have a bunch of stereotypes and goals from your inherent splat, another set from your social splat, and lots of places where you get pushed in different directions by the two and have to choose where your loyalties lie. Having a party in those systems is pretty much guaranteed to turn into self-perpetuating internal dramas if played by the RAW, which is great fun as long as everyone expects it and is on board with that playstyle. This is taken to it's ultimate extreme in Amber diceless, where the bidding system for stats makes your group the most powerful thing in the universe right from the start, and nearly all the significant conflicts will inevitably be PvP ones. A reminder that system matters, and that there are lots of RPG's out there now that are much more amenable to PvP conflict than D&D. One area where the 90's really came into their own and a good reason to explore those games if the D&D formula is growing boring.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 105: March 1995



part 5/5



The Living Galaxy: Roger goes into depth on another way to make sure your characters engage with the adventure at hand. Make them part of an organisation, then you can give them direct orders and have it make perfect sense in setting. They also are hopefully getting paid by said organisation, so searching every nook and cranny of a dungeon for loot so you can afford to continue adventuring rather than getting a day job is no longer a concern. Whether they're an open organisation like the police, or a secret one devoted to solving more esoteric problems, there are a vast number of examples of this kind of TV show. So this is another one where the advice isn't telling me anything new, but there's a lot of reference material, much of which I haven't seen, that I could check out at some future date if I ever have the free time. Presuming I can find it, because some of these examples go back to the 1950's and what are the odds that streaming services have bothered to licence them even if the original film stock hasn't degraded or been lost in the archives? Hunting down a complete collection could be almost as much of a quest as issues of this newszine.



Talon's Tattoo Parlor: Fresh from having a question about using tattoos to scribe spells, we have another variant on the idea. Talon Darkoak is a half-ogre who's human side of the family is actually of noble blood. This meant that while he still had to deal with a fair bit of bullying as a kid, he did get a decent education and a comfortable start in life, and has turned his artistic talents into a lucrative career as a tattoo artist. If you're willing to pay extra, he'll use magical pigments that let you extract the item depicted on command, which has all sorts of applications for sneaky sorts. He does only have a limited supply of the magical pigments though, and the formula for creating more has been lost, so he'd pay handsomely if anyone did recover or recreate it and make providing this service sustainable. That's both a decent short and long term plot hook for players to get involved with, probably by first seeing someone else do the tattoo item trick and investigating further. To top things off, once you've known him for a while and used his services repeatedly, there's also the question of succession when his father dies, as he has a fully human younger half-brother and certain other members of the family would not be happy about some halfbreed getting to be a lord. Whether this comes in the form of legal machinations, assassination attempts or both is up to you, but there's definitely a good fantastical racism story to be had in there somewhere. This packs a pretty good density of useful ideas into it's short page count, so it has my approval.



Uninhabited 3 - The Deep Trove: A much quicker follow-up between the second and third of these. This time we have a 24x8 gridded, three level dungeon with lots of little rooms and secret doors. The layout doesn't seem particularly logical, so this is for those of you who like the old school dungeon crawls filled with monsters placed without any consideration for why they're there, what they eat, where they go to the toilet and how they relate to one-another. Have fun trying to make any sense out of this one.



The Raven's Bluff Trumpeter: The newspaper makes another attempt at a big metaplot event. Chemcheaux is destroyed in a freak thunderstorm! Genuine accident, act of spiteful god, or sabotage by the Mage's Guild for undercutting their prices with cheap extraplanar labor?! Does this mean the end of magic marts in the Living City as the new head tries to make things a little grittier, or will it stick about as well as Ambassador Carrague's death and status quo will be restored in a few month's time? Will the answers appear in here, or some adventure where the PC's investigate the case at an upcoming tournament? I'm very interested in seeing how they'll follow this up and if it'll be an anticlimax in the end.



In contrast with the previous issue, this one does feel like things are changing at a decent pace, as they add on new settings and make changes to the existing one. Seeing that the new editors are going to be including fewer railroading adventures and bits of annoying comedy is also a relief. Whether they'll wind up getting too serious and boring at some point remains to be seen, but at the moment, they seem to be moving closer to my tastes, unlike Dragon, which was increasingly becoming more of a slog around this era. Let's head onwards and see if it'll make enough of a difference to the rate I get through these to shift my posting schedule this time around.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Magazine Issue 52: Mar/Apr 1995



part 1/5



69 pages. A little S&M beefcake on the cover for the ladies this time. Good to see the magazine continuing to be more female friendly despite the change in editors :p. Will the contents also push at the limits of the code of conduct, and if so will it be in an entertaining way to actually play, or will the urge to tell a story get in the way of actual player participation? Time to see if this crop of adventures are ones I'd freely and knowingly consent to being involved in.



Editorial: Polyhedron is moving away from multi-part adventures with their new staff, but pleasingly, Wolfgang is more willing to try increasing the amount of continuity than Barbara. Will the sequel adventure included in here prove popular enough to do some more, or will it be another flop that puts them off for years at a time? A reminder that even within TSR, different members of staff had different tastes and different departments were producing very different products. It's not just the top of the mast that's changed either. They've got a new assistant editor and a new cartographer, who'll obviously be putting their own spin on production values soon enough. Whether overall quality goes up or down, at least it's a change. That gives me more to think about than every issue blurring into the next one.



Letters: First letter thinks that in addition to full adventures, they should include paragraph length synopses of plots & places for you to develop yourself. Have you looked over in Polyhedron? Ed's been doing quite a few of those recently.

Second is an 11 year old who's obviously just watched The Mask, because he's very enthusiastic about just how smokin' the magazine is. The kind of attempt to be cool that'll make you cringe when you're a bit older looking back.

Third wants to know if they accept electronic submissions. You can send proposals and they'll tell you if they like them or not, but full adventures with art and everything still need to go through physical mail. Maybe in a few years they'll have the bandwidth to cut out the middleman entirely and make everything quicker & cheaper.

Fourth wants them to go monthly and do more specific settings, more old school puzzle based adventures, more side treks, just more in general! As usual, it all comes down to money and demand. If sales and submissions pick up enough, they'll do it.

Fifth wants more Athasian adventures. They have been pretty thin on the ground and it's one of the hardest settings to convert more generic ones too. It's a nuisance.

Finally, a dutch reader sends some traditional festive sweets with his letter, and wishes they'd go back to fewer longer adventures per issue. More shorter ones are easier to edit to fit a page count, but they have no objection to you trying something big. The more submissions, the better the final product overall.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Magazine Issue 52: Mar/Apr 1995



part 2/5



Spirits of the Tempest: Another adventure that's specifically based on a specific story and is particularly blatant about it. Those do seem to be getting more common. This time it's Shakespeare's The Tempest that gets converted to D&D stats, making Prospero considerably more ruthless than the original play and trapping the PC's on the island with him. He'll use mind control spells and his various summoned minions to mess with the PC's, separate Ferdinand & Antonio from them, and get his revenge and/or freedom. You'll need to get through several weird setpieces to reach him, inspired by, but not sticking strictly to the details of the play. Then to get out, you'll need to abandon all your memorised spells and magical items at the end, which most players will balk at, or figure out the extremely tricky to perform loophole to that clause. This isn't a complete railroad, with most of the scenes having several outcomes, but it is very plot driven and you'll have to be very powerful or clever to not be sucked back to the main path in the end, as it's definitely not balanced to be a fair challenge for the expected character level. So this is for groups who want to get into the theatrical roleplaying, not ones that are attached to their characters stats and equipment, making it very 2e indeed. Definitely not for every group.



Side Treks - Pakkililir:

Confidence is a preference for the habitual invader of unfamiliar planets
Breaking connection to the hive-mind should be avoided when taking a trek through potentially hostile terrain
Pakkililir's got too much free will, he gets intimidated by the other Grell, they love tearing apart traitors
So he decides to do a little less marching, stick around here where there's no overlord

All the space Grell, so many space Grell
And they all fly round and round, leaving behind their friend, Pakkililir

I get up when I want, except on wednesdays when I get rudely awakened by the merchant caravan
I set some traps, eat some leftovers and think about leaving the cave.
I eat the pigeons, I sometimes eat the humans too, it gives me a sense of enormous well-being.
Then i hide the bones, happy that this'll make sure no hunters are devoted to catching me.

All the space Grell, so many space Grell
And they all fly round and round, leaving behind their friend, Pakkililir

It's got nothing to do with your illithid empire, you know.
And it's not about your giant space hamster wheels, which just go round and round and round.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Magazine Issue 52: Mar/Apr 1995



part 3/5



Welcome to the Krypthome: :sighs heavily: I guess it is april. Time for one of those comedy adventures filled with whimsical NPC's seemingly designed to test your patience to the limit because you can't just slaughter them all without taking an alignment hit. A wild mage has set up home in a forest, and his experiments are racking up an increasing number of oddities in the surrounding area. A pair of goblins found the secret entrance to his treasure room while he was out and have stolen a bunch of magical items. They've then used them to kidnap a dwarf and send a ransom note. His friends obviously don't want to pay that, and ask the next set of wandering adventurers for help. If you accept, you have to deal with the comic relief prattling of the dwarves along the way, the tricks and traps of the goblins when they get there, an upside-down waterfall, moss that honks when you touch it, multiple jump scares that have no real danger at the end, and if you get through all that and stick around afterwards, the eccentricities of the wizard when he does finally come home. Basically, nearly every single thing in this is saccharinely whimsical to the point where I can feel my teeth ache just looking at it. It's not a railroad, so that puts it above either incarnation of the caves of confection, but it still makes me roll my eyes repeatedly. Only for using with very little kids who'll still be amused by this kind of comedy.



The Hurly-Burly Brothers: As should instantly be apparent from the title, this one also has definite comedic elements. A pair of ogres have found themselves in possession of a Quaal's feather token that turns into a Roc, a crumbling tower, and a giant scorpion. They've put the scorpion at the bottom, rigged up a net and rope mechanism to slowly lower people into the scorpion pit, and are now going to grab some passers-by in the Roc's claws and put them in said deathtrap, then watch and laugh as their victims die horribly. Basically, a Batman '66 or James Bond scenario where one of the PC's gets captured and has to figure out how to escape the deathtrap, or at least stall proceedings enough for their friends to catch up, only unlike in the movies your last-minute escape isn't a foregone conclusion. Less irritating than the previous adventure, but still only one for the more theatrical DM who can get the players into the right spirit by going full ham with the roleplaying of the ogre brothers. It's also only a single encounter, so don't use it thinking it'll last the whole session and have other stuff prepared for afterwards. Since it's the kind of thing that you can use nearly anywhere when they're travelling between more intentional adventures, that shouldn't be too hard. Overall, neither good nor terrible.
 
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