TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
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.

Both of these sound great to me! I think the goofier elements can be downplayed while keeping a lighthearted spirit that can be a needed break from grimdark drudgery or vanilla treasure hunts.
 

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Richards

Legend
The Hurly-Burly 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.
That's exactly what I did when I ran this adventure, following it up with "Pakkalilir" from this same issue.

Johnathan
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Magazine Issue 52: Mar/Apr 1995



part 4/5



My Lady's Mirror: So we've reached our first sequel adventure since issue 17's return of Flame. Turns out we're returning to the scenario of secretive highlander style immortals amongst us from issue 42, whiling away the centuries with their machinations until it all goes a bit pear-shaped. You thought all of them had died in the last adventure, but there's always one who escaped notice, or drank the potion of immortality later than the others so it hasn't worn off yet, or some even more implausible plot contrivance to ensure there's always another story for adventurers to get involved with. Once again it's time to investigate a large castle filled with weirdness, some of which is hostile and some of which you shouldn't fight, but which is which is not always clear, as there's a lot of plot threads going on at once. Thankfully, making it a sequel means they can spend less time on the exposition text and more time on the actual meat of the adventure, so although they're about the same page count there's more rooms and more action in this one. So this turns out to be an improvement on the first in a similar way Wrath of Khan is to The Motion Picture, not losing the atmosphere entirely, but speeding up getting to the parts that are actually useful for the DM when running the adventure rather than wasting it on stuff that looks pretty, but will probably never be seen in actual play. From that perspective, if you've already got through the first one it would be a waste not to use this one with the same group as well. Even without the other one it still works decently as a stand-alone adventure. I have no problem with this, so the only big question is if there'll be any further follow-ups, and if so, will it be the odd-numbered ones that suck? :p
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Magazine Issue 52: Mar/Apr 1995



part 5/5



Laughing Man: The final short adventure sounds like it might be a comedy one as well, but turns out to be deadly serious for the players. A man was shot in the back of the head while laughing, and became a unique ghost who's laughter also has a banshee-like save or die effect. He's spent the past few years tormenting the man who killed him, who has also become a unique ghost unable to pass on until someone else takes ownership of the Fang of the Nosferatu, a deeply annoying magic item that should be familiar to Ravenloft players. Now the two are locked in a cycle of one trying to give the dagger away, and the other ruining it by ghostly mischief, or if that fails, just manifesting, laughing and making everyone save or die, which tends to sabotage the deal even if some of the potential customers survive. There's plenty of potential for interesting roleplaying in this encounter, but sooner or later, you're going to have to fight one of the two, and many of the group may die or wind up ageing several decades. Then if you win, you have the question of what to do with the dagger, because taking it is a bad idea, and just leaving it lying on the ground where anyone could pick it up even worse. Maybe you could build a dungeon full of traps and ominous warnings in every known language around it, defer the problem for a few generations. :p Or go on an epic quest to find out how to destroy it permanently. It's all pretty brutal, so don't use it unless you've got players which are emotionally prepared to deal with an encounter that doesn't pull it's punches and may leave them permanently weakened even if they survive, then screw with them further if they aren't careful when they win. Don't want them ragequitting because being several decades older or a slave to vampiric hungers messes up their character concept or something. :)



Some of these adventures are jokey and some aren't, but they're all quite plot-heavy and 2e feeling, with the plots more important than the mechanics and some very unbalanced stuff being allowed through as a result. People who take the ideas and use them in entirely different systems will probably get something out of this, but for ones that prefer the 1e or 3e ways of writing adventures, this'll be pretty unsatisfying. I guess D&D is a wide church. Let's move on and see which section of the choir the next issue is preaching too, and if the gods involved deserve to have been forgotten.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 106: April 1995



part 1/5



32 pages. Just some dwarves, forging some weapons. A pretty familiar scene to any long-term adventurer, particularly if you're of a race with a longer than human lifespan. Time to see if said weapon has any particularly interesting powers inside, or merely the normal benefits of reliable skilled craftsmanship.



Notes from HQ: Winter Fantasy continues to be a place where TSR tries out new things with slightly less pressure than the enormous crowds of Gen Con. The Living Jungle's first adventure did quite nicely here, contrasting with the outside weather. The Spellfire and Blood Wars CCG's also had plenty of players, reminding us that TSR did actually get decent sales of these, and only lost money on them by expecting them to be even bigger smashes and overprinting. They don't neglect the old school either, with events for Desperado, Allies & Axis and Dawn Patrol attracting more people that you'd expect. They gave out prizes for last years's decathlon, although obviously not all the winning teams involved attended. This one all seems to have gone pretty smoothly, with even the weather being unusually nice for the time of year. Another reminder that RPG's as a whole continued to grow over the 90's even as TSR started to struggle. If I'm lucky we'll even get to see some of that in here after the point where Dragon went all D&D.



Forgotten Deities: Like last issue, the god this time is dead, but someone else has stepped into the empty space and started granting the spells to keep the cult going. Ibrandul, also known as the skulking god or lord of the dry depths. (which implies another god of the underground seas where aboleth and the like lurk) Both underdark monsters and more morally ambiguous adventurers worshipped him, but unfortunately not enough of either, which meant he was weak enough that Shar could kill him and take his stuff during the Time of Troubles. Since she's a full-powered god rather than some rando marilith, this does not end tragically for her, and her new worshippers get gradually integrated with her orthodox church over the next few decades. Their unique tricks include general abilities to navigate and survive underground, creating fire lizard servants, and becoming increasingly scaly themselves as they gain levels, which also explains why they never became a particularly mainstream church, because it's hard to proselytise when you avoid the light and get all innsmouth lookish. Another interesting little story of the Realms' past that might still play a part in adventures today, albeit with a different flavour to Ed's own writing, more concerned with the big picture than all the little flavour details. Gods are far less regional than adventure hooks for every specific village, so they're more likely to get used in actual play.



Letters: Our first letter is from the charity CARC, their latest recipient of a benefit fundraiser. The mentally handicapped of Chicago's carers can relax that their support network isn't going to just disappear, this year at least. Looking them up, I'm mildly surprised that they're still going and their name hasn't been changed by the turning of the euphemism treadmill in the intervening decades.

The second letter is another newbie who wants to start playing in the Living City but isn't sure of the rules. Just make a character that sticks to the point buy rules and turn up, we'll put it in the database afterwards. No, you can't have any psionics though, not even in a special auction, as that would be favouritism. They do have a map, but it's rather out of date now, so they're going to do a new one with much more detail giving locations to the many places that have appeared in the newszine over recent years. Don't touch that dial!
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 106: April 1995



part 2/5



Elminster's Everwinking Eye: Ed takes his alphabetical tour of Turmish villages from M-O, indicating that there's still several more columns to come on this topic. The very Tolkienesque Merrydell, filled with toy-making demihumans and houses covered with ornate decorations. Somewhere amongst this chocolate box of ornamentation is a key that opens the box containing the spellbooks of Meldarth the Mighty. Openly parkouring over people's houses in search of it will probably not be viewed kindly though. The hillside town of Moonhunt Down, home of the tomb of the Lord of Rubies. Bringing out all the rubies he's supposed to have amassed in one go would destabilise the economy and crash their price, so probably best not to do that. The town of Nonafel, another one founded by a wizard who's treasure cache remains unlooted because it's packed with teleportation traps, so one false step means months getting back here even if you survive the dangers wherever you're sent, and what adventurer has that much patience? Finally, the relatively easy Obelner's Well, where all you need to do is find the hidden tunnels leading off from said well. Better pick a time when the water level is low to try or be able to breathe it if you want to find everything. While individually these are still good, they're definitely starting to get repetitive, with different wizards using basically the same tricks in different places. You can have too much of a good thing, and I think I'm hitting that point here.



In a Strange Land: We take a break from the Realms to go back to a literary source of adventure hooks. Gulliver's Travels has already inspired many a giant or tiny creature based adventure, even if the size differential is usually toned down for the sake of mechanical balance. Here we look at the second half instead, and what interesting adventures could be had in the lands of the Laputans or Hounyhnhnms. A flying city where the inhabitants have grown decadent and lazy, obsessed with abstract philosophy and scientific experiments, forgetting how the technology that brought them supremacy was created? There's a lot of adventure potential in that, even if you remove the specific parody elements where Swift pokes fun at english culture, university academics and colonialism. A land full of sentient horses and dumb humans also has it's adventure hooks, as even though they might consider themselves superior beings to any biped, there are still things hands can do that hooves and mouths can't, so they might have to trade with outsiders if it's too complex to train the Yahoos to do them. A breath of fresh air against the background of recent issues that are nearly all Living setting material and regular columns by regular writers. They still don't get that many reader submissions compared to Dragon or Dungeon do they. So while this may still be humorous, it's a better pedigree of whimsy than most of their adventures, and a better implementation than Dungeon trying to do Shakespeare. A few more like it would not go amiss.
 

Davies

Legend
The town of Nonafel, another one founded by a wizard who's treasure cache remains unlooted because it's packed with teleportation traps, so one false step means months getting back here even if you survive the dangers wherever you're sent, and what adventurer has that much patience?
... one who routinely preps a teleportation spell of their own for just that eventuality?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
... one who routinely preps a teleportation spell of their own for just that eventuality?
That's still a pretty effective form of level gating on a dungeon, going from every false move meaning a massive trek just to try again to just needing a day's break to rememorize your teleport spell.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 106: April 1995



part 3/5



Bugging the Hunters: Greg Detwiler isn't quite as prolific as Ed, but then again who is. He's still made many contributions over the years, and here's another interesting one. More Bughunters monsters for the Amazing Engine? Probably won't see any more of those so this is very welcome.

Anglers are basically a more serious wolf in sheep's clothing, shaping their tentacles into something people are likely to pick up, which then turns out to be sticky, so they can pull you in and eat you. Nothing an experienced dungeon-crawler will be surprised by.

Danglers stick inconspicuously to ceilings, and then grab you with their arms and eat you. Another one who's effectiveness is heavily dependent on surprise and the right kind of terrain, because with low ceilings and good light, you'll have no trouble fighting them, but in caves where they can reach you but you can only attack their arms they can put a real crimp in your day.

Gulpers are giant salamanders that lurk in swamps and swallow you whole. More mundane than the last two, but still nothing to take lightly, particularly if you're heavily armored and can't float, limiting your manoeuvrability in that terrain.

Hexapod Horrors are more overt battle forces, combining the worst aspects of beetles and praying mantises in a three meter long, heavily armored package. If you don't break out the heavy artillery, odds of survival seem slim.

Killer Stars are massive starfish with vicious maws. They can operate in air or water, but are deadlier underwater. Even if your forces pacify the land on a new planet, dealing with stealth attacks from the seas will be a problem for a long time.

Musties are intelligent bipedal weasels with powerful spike guns that don't work with human fingers. The first of these things that could theoretically be persuaded to switch sides, they're still bloodthirsty carnivores and hyperactive annoying ones at that, which would try the patience of most PC's trying to keep them pointed in the right direction. At least Kender only steal stuff due to their alien mindsets.

Nukers are massive, three-turreted intelligent tank robots that are some of the Shaper's biggest guns. The kind of challenge it takes tactics and a whole platoon to fight, as they're fast, smart and have long range blasting attacks. Your odds as a clone in the trenches don't look good.

Rauisuchid unsurprisingly resemble the earthly dinosaur, only bigger and nastier, able to swallow man-sized things whole. The Shapers might not be able to violate the laws of physics enough to create Godzilla, but they're going to give it a good college try.

Sharkskippers combine sharks and mudskippers, creating a vicious leaping fish that's good at jumping onto boats and nomming on the sailors. If you aren't prepared to shoot them out of the air first jump you can rapidly find yourself swarmed and skeletonised.

Sirens use psychic powers to hypnotise and draw people in range of their tentacles, so blocking out sight or hearing won't protect you from their call. There's no counter developed by the military yet, so you'll have to do your best to figure one out yourself or lose a lot of clones in the process. This game is a lot more brutal than D&D became over the years.

Giant Tardigrades aren't very fast, but their claws are pretty nasty and they're nearly impossible to kill by force, temperature based attacks or starvation. If there's lots of them in an area it's best to retreat and wait for them to go into hibernation again then seal it up.

UFO's turn out to be more Shaper creations in this system, floating sky jellyfish things that drain anything electrical and making fighting other beasties even harder without your high-tech gear. Lasers will just make them stronger so you'd better have some actual missiles available to have a chance at fighting them.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 106: April 1995



part 4/5



Video Drone: Another attempt at a video review column? Interesting. As usual when it's an entirely new set of people, they do it all differently, a different title, a four point scoring system instead of the old 5 star one, and a different format where two people give their contrasting opinions on the same film. TSR's fiction editor Brian Thomsen and his wife Donna will be your Siskel & Ebert on this journey. Will they be covering ground James did already, and if so, how different will their opinions be?

The Puppetmasters is a recent adaption of the Heinlein story, basically invasion of the body snatchers, only a secret government organisation is aware of the aliens and figuring out how to strike back, with Donald Sutherland getting a little typecast in the lead role. It's shot more like a spy/action thriller than a horror movie, while Brian likes, but Donna is ambivalent about. I guess hunting evil with the help of cool technology is a fairly male power fantasy.

Bodysnatchers: The Invasion remakes the old classic, but with a very 90's naming convention to make it more edgy and contemporary sounding. This time, they're on a military base instead of a small or large town, which changes things in a fairly interesting way. A pretty decent updating to modern (at the time) production values. Now all we need is a white wolf licence. (or just hack Demon: the Fallen to do the job.)

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1956) was covered by James in the old review column just a year ago, so I'm slightly surprised to see them rehashing it. Brian mildly prefers the two new versions of the story, while Donna thinks nothing tops the B&W ambience of the original for inspiring nightmares.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) also gets re-reviewed here. While not a complete loss, both Thomsens agree that this is the weakest of these four movies, mainly of interest for people who like to compare & contrast like them. You can probably skip it without feeling you're missing much.



Gothic Heroes: In the World of Darkness, most famous people are not vampires, wizards, or stalwart heroes fighting against the forces of darkness, but remain ignorant, although they might be mind-controlled behind the scenes by memory erasure or posthypnotic suggestions. Gothic Earth has none of that tasteful restraint. Harry Houdini? He has genuine magical talent. Tesla? A descendent of Frankenstein using the same techniques for the cause of good. Edison? A powerful mind devoted to the betterment of mankind and totally not a plagiarist. Meanwhile Fahreda Mahzar, aka Little Egypt, an exotic dancer at the same trade fair as these three? A succubus, there to lure men to their doom and trap their souls for all eternity to power her magic. So this not only shows the dated attitudes of the 1890's, but the 1990's as well, being extremely pro scientist and anti sex worker and not afraid to blatantly alter history to fit that agenda. I guess I shouldn't be surprised with the TSR code of conduct in force, but it is a reminder just how much attitudes have changed since the rise of the internet and the increase in diverse voices having large platforms that followed. It's interesting reading to see what they've done with the people, and how it differs from other real world with hidden supernatural settings, but also comes off as both cheesy and overly conservative by modern standards. Even back in the 90's, there were better alternatives, and TSR was chasing trends rather than setting them in this field.



Weasel Games: What is this, bring your wife to work month? Having mentioned her several times in previous columns, Lester gets his wife Jennifer to give her perspective on his behaviour and why she sticks around anyway. Initially she tried to be the straight woman and play things fairly, but after a while of putting up with him she snapped. Not having any hope of actually beating the more experienced weasel, she instead goes for the kamikaze approach, doing something that isn't optimal for winning, but sabotages the play of someone else. (often him :) ) and enjoying the chaos that causes. Sometimes, doing the suboptimal but unexpected thing even wins the game as a whole. Another demonstration of game theory where the lesson part is pretty small, and most of the entertainment is in the actual play stories. Having fun is more important than winning in a game, and if one person wins all the time, other people will either change their standards of success or stop playing. Best not to make them lower their standards so far that it stops being fun for you as well.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 106: April 1995



part 5/5



The Living Galaxy: Roger finishes off his current set of lengthy lists with several more types of TV show and how they force a party to stay together and focus on a particular objective. Military ones, which are pretty much the easiest as you just have all the PC's assigned to the same unit and openly given a mission, then your only concern is if it's so suicidal or repugnant that they all decide to go AWOL at once. The opposing perspective of a decentralised resistance movement, where you have a bit more freedom of who you associate with and how you attack the enemy, but the fact that they're actively invading your country means inaction is not an option. The more unambiguously heroic missions of the medical or fire services. Another look at various castaway scenarios, whether in space, time or both, where if you don't work together and figure out a way of securing basic resources you'll starve soon enough. The much more open-ended scenario of a mobile business, where sometimes people will call you up with cases, but you may also have to do some advertising and investigative legwork of your own to get enough jobs to make a living. One where you're a politician, trying to do the best to juggle all the competing demands from your constituents, … or not bothering and fending off the flak for your corruption. The unique roleplaying opportunities and constraints of being prisoners, probably better suited to a smaller group. Another reminder that even though we complain about too many shows these days being remakes, there are lots of shows from the past that haven't been remade and might be worth investigating, see if they're worth reappraisal. For every one that went into syndication there are dozens that were cancelled after a single season and hundreds that only made it to the pilot stage. Find one with a particularly unique premise and see if you can do it better.



slade's corners: As part of the creation of the Encyclopedia Magica, they asked us to submit some new magical items. Here's a collection of the various one-use items they received, that might save the day once, but won't change the whole tone of your campaign long-term. Good luck getting your PC's to actually use them instead of hoarding them in the inventory until the very final boss of the campaign.

Cloaks of Damage Absorption add an extra buffer of short term HP until they fall apart. They probably won't last high level adventurers very long.

Dust to Dust finishes off anything that's been reduced to 0 hit points but refuses to die, or destroys the body of dead things to prevent resurrection. Exceedingly handy against trolls and other powerful regenerators when you can't be bothered to research their specific weakness.*
*(probably will not work against the Tarrasque)

Instant Door Seeds create a convenient means of escape thrown against any wall. Elminster is smart enough to take inspiration from looney tunes cartoons and make them selective in who they admit as well for extra convenience.

Combat Rations keep you fully fed for three days on one meal. At 1,000gp per pop, investing in mundane rations and a bag of holding will probably be cheaper in the long run for a really extended trip.

Wings of the Mayfly give you flight for 24 hours before shrivelling and dropping off. Longer than a potion or spell, so use that time well and save sleep for later.

Copy Paper is basically just real life carbon paper, only better. Meh. Not the most impressive way to end proceedings.



An issue with lots of laundry lists of stuff and regular columns plugging away in a formulaic way, making it rather a slog to get through. Quite a bit of it would be useful in actual play, but we're once again hitting the point where 2e was too much of the same old same old for me, and it would read better to people who haven't been through this before repeatedly. Let's see if next issue has any of their esoteric setting delves that do still hold interest for me.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 107: May 1995



part 1/5



32 pages. Initially, this could be any old elf from a generic fantasy setting on the cover, but look a little closer and more clues become apparent. How many elves have a walkman? And the shape of the skull on that staff, that's the real giveaway for connoisseurs of physiognomy. It's time for a bit of shadowrunning, chummers. Time to hit the streets, get the job done while taking precautions against the inevitable treachery of Mr Johnson to earn another day's living.



Notes From HQ: After years of the staff staying fairly stable, they have a second big changeover just a few months after the first. Dave Gross moves up to Dungeon. Wolfgang moves up to Dragon, where we already know he won't stay for more than a few months. And complete newbie Duane Maxwell, who I can't find much info on by googling, takes the editor slot here. He has some credits on 3e books, particularly the Forgotten Realms ones, so he obviously sticks around with the company for a while, but whether he'll stay with Polyhedron for any length of time or bring in any particularly interesting changes remains to be seen. Another reminder that things were becoming increasingly turbulent behind the scenes back then. Many old guard will wind up leaving, many new faces will come in, only a few of which will have the constitution for the long hours and low pay of working on RPG's long term. Who'll be next to crack or jump ship for a better offer?



Forgotten Deities: Our god this month is a relatively familiar one, as he's already been the big bad of multiple novels and a computer game. Moander the rotlord, killer of plants and spawner of weird fungal hybrids. Now there's a god you'd have to be a real idiot to serve, as not only is the spell selection he grants priests extremely limited, the transformations he forces them to undergo are even more extreme than Ibrandul. Instead of just scaly skin, his seeds completely replace your internal organs, letting him control your body or kill you by accelerated rotting at any time. Since he only grants powers to chaotic evil people, who generally do not react well to this kind of obsessive micromanagement, you can see why he wound up losing repeatedly and dying to heroes like Alias & co. Anyone attracted to his credo while he slumbers will rapidly develop buyers remorse when he awakens and they find themselves forced to obey his every whim, probably in a suboptimal manner, because even if they can't betray him at this point, they won't be rewarded for using their own initiative either. Any well-informed diabolical power seeker would pick a god that appreciates them as a minion a little better.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 107: May 1995



part 2/5



slade's corners: We finish off the disposable magic item contest winners with a much smaller second half. Obviously one of those instances where they had to shift stuff around and use little articles like this to make the overall amount of content & page count line up.

Cat Talismans of Nine Lives are another of those items that save your life, but don't heal any damage beyond that, which means you can burn through all 9 uses in a few rounds if up against enemies with multiple attacks. It's not the best way to implement the concept mechanically.

Self-Attaching Buttons do exactly what it says on the tin, so you don't waste time replacing them in a dungeon situation where light is limited and wandering monsters are checked for every turn. Trying to run away with your pants falling down is a particularly humiliating way to end an adventure.



Elminster's Everwinking Eye: This column continues to crawl through the alphabetical list of Turmish towns, getting from P-R this month. Peldrathan's Pool, protected by priests of Eldath who attack looters with high speed spinning wheels of bones. Many a more gothic priesthood would like the details of that particular spell. The gnomish town of Quorngar, where there might be treasure buried somewhere beneath the roads or cellars, but the owners will charge any wandering adventurers trying to dig on their property through the nose. The rough and tumble mining town of Ravilar's Cloak, haunted by an intelligent magical helm that seems to be more benign than Thentia's revolutionary sword, but still has it's own mysterious agenda that it can't share simply because it can't talk or write. And finally, the fittingly named village of Regalia, which is the place for any royal of refinement across the Realms to have their items of office crafted. This obviously means lots of opportunity for escort missions, as there's lots of valuable stuff coming and going from here in various states of completion, plus the fees to pay for it, which are also pretty high. So this collection is pretty high on thinking about the logistics of a world where adventurers are common, and how the people trying to live in the places they're passing through would react to that, not always positively. For every one that's cheering the heroes on, there's several who want to make a profit off them, or would just prefer the quiet life. The trick is to make those obstacles further interesting adventures in themselves rather than boring roadblocks.



Dispel Confusion: Only a single question for them this month, asking which official settings have psionics in. At this rate the column'll be dead again soon. Mystara & Krynn don't have any psionic natives, but alien visitors or their descendants may have out of context tricks. They used to be unknown in the Forgotten Realms, but are rapidly growing more common since the Time of Troubles. They have a long rich history on Greyhawk, albeit not quite as common or well understood as magic. They are surprisingly well-studied in some Ravenloft domains though, within the limits of anything planar travel related simply not working, and other powers inviting madness or corruption. Athas of course has them far more common and accepted than magic. And Spelljammer & Planescape are big places all over the place in psionic frequency, but don't expect them to shock or confound people in a cosmopolitan place like Sigil. Pretty wide variety. Now if only they could increase the variety of what other other classes are allowed and how they're handled in different settings as well.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 107: May 1995



part 3/5



Virtual Seattle: A third new Living setting this year?! They really are stepping the pace up. Unlike the Living Jungle, we have heard a few rumblings about Virtual Seattle in previous months, as they hashed out the details behind the scenes and persuaded the RPGA heads that it was worth supporting officially, but here's where they're making the big push to get players. It does have to be said that Shadowrun is particularly well suited to the linear mission-based style of adventures that they prefer in here. All your PC's have to be SINless shadowrunners living in Seattle, unable to get an above-board job because you don't have a legal ID. This means you do literally need to stick to the shadows if you want to survive, and keep on scrabbling for your next job, even if you do have some cool big guns stashed away for missions, because if the police stop you they can be as brutal as they like. On the plus side, you all know Ms Claudia Tyger, a prominent fixer who will be your agent, giving a good IC reason why you're assembled into different teams every mission with people you don't know and hopefully filtering out the worst of the treacherous Mr Johnson problem. So this is all much more tightly written than any of the D&D Living settings in terms of spelling out expectations for what you'll be doing, how you'll be doing it and making sure your characters have a clear reason to be going on adventures. It's also much stricter in terms of looking at all the material from the supplements so far and telling you which bits are allowed at character generation, which may be allowed later on if you discover it in an adventure, and which definitely will not be. It seems like this is a case where the passionate amateurs are doing better than the people for whom this is a full time job because they genuinely care about the details of what they're making. A very interesting development that I'm much more optimistic will get further follow-ups than the Living Jungle.



Born To Run: Having spelled out the general details of the setting and how it'll differ from a home game, they go into more detail about character generation here. Everyone starts with decent competency in computer skills and street smarts, to ensure that people can engage with the basics of finding jobs without blundering around like a dumbass in seedy bars and getting shanked or falling for a basic sting operation. They're also more generous than usual with languages, obviously not wanting the hassle of PC's not being able to communicate with one-another. They do intend to be quite strict with tracking lifestyle costs and need for medical treatment if injured though, which will eat into your ability to hoard your nuyen. So this actually makes characters better in some ways than going strictly by the book, rather than just slapping on restrictions to the more broken gear & magic, and seems to have a clear idea of what kind of game they want to encourage. This is actually quite exciting to read about. Hopefully that extra care at the start'll pay off and they won't need to add on more restrictions later, apart from as a response to new supplements.



Primed Runners: If you don't have the patience for all that point juggling and just want to get down to the action, here's five pregens for you to use as is or engage in minor ability shuffling to make your own. Sorcerer, Shaman, Physical Adept, Samurai and Rigger. Just pick a race, add on the appropriate modifiers and you're good to go. In the process they remind us that magic-using characters need a lot more XP to reach their full power than muggles in this system. Let's hope they'll be running enough adventures that you can make some progress and they won't put an artificial cap and force you to make a new one if you survive more than a few years.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 107: May 1995



part 4/5



Gothic Heroes: From heroes of Science!!!, to heroes of … baseball? I guess if you're a bunch of everymen who've just realised you're in a horror story, someone who's good at throwing balls and whacking things with a bat would be good to have in a pinch. So here's stats for Adrian Constantine Anson, Denton True Young, Wee Willie Keeler and Ed Delhanty. All are statted as mid level tradesmen with Lawful Good alignments, ignoring whatever personal flaws they had like being racist, alcoholics, cheaters, etc. There's very little variation in their selection of weapon or nonweapon proficiencies either; surely at least one of them had an interesting hobby beyond their baseball playing that research would have turned up? There are some mentions of how each could be tied into the supernatural, but unlike the last two entries, they feel pretty shoehorned in. So this series continues to present a weirdly whitewashed view of the past, particularly for a horror game, where delving into the darkness of human nature and then further exaggerating it is the point. Not very impressive on either the historical or the mechanical accuracy fronts.



Weasel Games: Lester turns his attention to the weasel possibilities in the latest craze - Collectible Card Games. Since they're usually one on one fights, the more obvious weasel possibilities of making alliances with other players then betraying them at opportune moments is less of an issue. But there are more subtle possibilities. The first one is the psychology of mystery, intimidation and bluffing. You can reveal some aspects of your deck to show the other players just how many badass rare cards you've collected. You can keep your cards close to your chest so they've got no idea what they're up against until they start. You can hint at what kind of deck you'll be playing then pull a bait and switch, bringing more than you can use in one go and varying things each round of a tournament. The other big one is really getting into the trading part of the metagame experience, haggling for the best deal with friends and conventiongoers. How do you convince people to part with something that'll be a big upgrade for you when combined with other cards, while giving away stuff that's of no use? Whatever the rules of the game, the skills needed to do that are universally applicable once you've mastered them. This shows he's still learning new things, and didn't just write these columns all in one go and trickle them out later. When you're a game designer, it's important to stay knowledgable about the competition, even in related fields, see what you could use to improve your own games. D&D 3e will definitely show CCG influence with the emphasis on character builds, for better or worse, so we know he's not the only person in the office thinking like that.



The Living Galaxy: Roger's advice this month is very fitting with TSR's current policy of putting metaplot in all their settings. Don't make your own settings too static. Both ones where everything is safe and utopian and ones where evil is ubiquitous and apparently unbeatable give the players little room to actually do anything. Without that, the campaign is unlikely to last. Look at real world history. There have been plenty of evil dictatorships, but they usually have some form of resistance movement and always wind up falling apart in the end. Sparta seemed to have the most badass warriors in the ancient world, but without the logistics to back it up, they got their asses kicked by the persians. Not too controversial a statement. The trick, as ever is sticking the landing so it makes sense with what came before and doesn't ruin the setting for further adventures, which TSR had decidedly mixed results with when changing their settings. I guess it's much easier with a home campaign where you know all the players personally than an official one where thousands of people are playing it differently in different places, so you don't know what changes will screw up their game and a small percentage is going to whine whatever you do.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 107: May 1995



part 5/5



A Few Good Rangers: New Kits? In this newszine? I know that kind of crunch is more a Dragon thing, but I'm still surprised we've got halfway through 2e with only a single lacklustre one so far. I guess that's probably due to the changes in management. Dave's time in Dragon is noticeably higher on little crunchy articles filled with new monsters, spells, etc than the first half of the 90's as well. Let's see how these turn out in terms of flavour and mechanical balance.

Deep Rangers are explorers and protectors of cave ecosystems. This gives them a perfect toolkit for a dungeon delving adventurer, at the cost of all but one of their nonweapon proficiency slots. They're still probably coming out ahead overall powerwise, but it's not a complete no-brainer, especially if the DM baits & switches and most of your adventures turn out to be overland or urban ones.

Desert Rangers, on the other hand are all bonus, getting a boosted spell selection, stealth skills, and obviously desert survival abilities handy for the whole group, with the supposed penalty of attracting assassins irked by their do-gooding ways just more opportunities for XP. Like Swashbucklers or Bladesingers, they're strictly for cheesy high power campaigns that don't care about balance and just want fast-paced action.



Testing the Mettle: We finish things off with a surprisingly ambitious new set of optional rules for those of you who want more horror focussed games. Ravenloft already has Fear & Horror checks, but they don't last long. What if you want a more Call of Cthulhu situation where people acquire permanent phobias and tics as a result of the horrible stuff they encounter? Well, here you go then. This definitely wouldn't have appeared in here under the old management because that kind of optional rule isn't allowed in tournament adventures, so it's of no use to their core audience, but they seem to be diversifying into more general gaming material lately, as the kits in the last article also show. The kind of thing that works better in systems built around it rather than trying to shoehorn it into D&D, where you naturally increase exponentially in power over a campaign and go through lots of enemies in the process without any permanent harm, but is still interesting to see here as a change of pace. I'm very unlikely to use it myself, but I have no objection to it being here.



One of those issues where the special feature dominates the issue, expanding what the RPGA does for it's users once again and hoping enough of them take up the offer to make it sustainable. The other features are also interesting, showing a definite shift in the kind of articles they're accepting and publishing. Time to move on and see what sticks, and what falls by the wayside in the next few issues as the staff responsible come and go.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 53: May/Jun 1995



part 1/5



80 pages. Polyhedron is making big plans, venturing off to both the victorian era and the cyberpunk future, but Dungeon is still firmly down in the … well, dungeon, fighting another load of mouldering undead. You could have just left them there and they probably wouldn't have bothered anyone, but no, gotta get those grave goods back into economic circulation and prevent deflation. Let's see where this crop of adventures falls on the greed/heroics spectrum, and if they'll attempt anything more ambitious involving any kind of continuity.



Editorial: Willie Walsh celebrates his 20th adventure published in here. Despite being fairly well known and getting fanmail from people who've played his adventures and want more, he still gets more than half the adventures he submits rejected, which means there's enough other ones in his archive to make a pretty big book now. (which would probably sell quite decently if he were to update them to a more recent edition or an OSR retroclone and publish it as an OGL product) Some of them were serious, some were comedic, and many fell somewhere in the middle, but they were mostly of above average memorability. So this is a reminder that becoming the most prolific adventure writer here was not easy work, and the editors still expect him to put the effort in when coming up with new ones, not coast on his reputation. This means you're still in with a chance as a completely unknown writer, you just have to send in a good enough idea to get the editor's attention. Will anyone ever manage to catch up to him, or is his lead too great, like Ed's in their other two magazines? Let's hope it's fun finding out.



Letters: First letter is one in support of Dungeon reusing adventures already published in older editions, particularly if they're updated and expanded. It can be pretty difficult to get hold of them in these pre .pdf times and many players would still appreciate them.

Second wonders what happened to their collectible trading cards? They stopped doing them after 1993 because the last batch didn't sell that well, and new lines which actually have games attached to them like Magic: the Gathering and Spellfire are superseding their place in the gaming ecosystem.

Third is the usual round of mistakes spotted in recent adventures and the resulting errata.

Fourth wonders what to do with unbalanced parties. If you track XP strictly they'll even out pretty quickly due to the exponential level requirements. They also have a fair few solo adventures by now, so run the lower level ones through those on their own to help them catch up.

Fifth wants more Forgotten Realms and Council of Wyrms material. The first, you'll get plenty more of over the years. The second, not so much.

Sixth is particularly in love with Al-Qadim at the moment, and obviously wants more adventures set there. I think they might just about be able to manage that.

Seventh also wants lots of setting specific material, particularly Forgotten Realms again and Planescape. Maybe they do have enough generic adventures by now and can afford to specialise a little more.

Eighth has their name redacted, and is from someone who's had two adventure submissions rejected and thinks they're a bunch of unfair nepots. Just polish up your writing style, try to come up with slightly less overdone ideas and try again. As they said in the editorial, even the most frequently published regulars are still batting less than 50% acceptance rate. A thick skin is the most important thing to success in this field, far more than natural talent.

Ninth praises them for putting their own twist on Shakespeare. Even if it's not original, it makes for a more memorable adventure than ones that supposedly are.

Tenth is from someone excited to see his childhood friend finally get into print here. How many knockbacks did it take before he finally pulled it off?

11th praises Bandits of Bunglewood for taking a gang of common monsters and making them all fleshed out individuals you can roleplay. You'll be seeing more of that in the future.

12th asks what happened to Castle Hart in the Greyhawk Wars. It sustained some damage when attacked by Iuz's troops, but still remains in heroic hands … for now. It sure could use the help of some heroes to make sure it stays that way, hint hint.

13th is from David Howery, also praising them for taking inspiration from Shakespeare, and talking about other sources he's used to create adventures from. Even the best artists steal, they just hide it better.

14th wants more Dark Sun adventures, which they badly need. Probably not going to be impressed with their future output then, as they wind up with fewer than Spelljammer by the time the line ends.

15th praises them for increasing the amount of backstory in recent years. His players respond to adventures with nonexistent or inconsistent stories with great mockery. Just make sure you don't go too far in the opposite direction and start writing all the stories before play as well.

16th is notable forum founder Eric Noah, who's also pleased by their version of The Tempest, but worries about copyright issues. It's well over a century old, so no worries about that, and besides, you can't copyright ideas, only specific implementations, so you can continue to file the serial numbers off more recent source material and send it in as adventures.

17th is another person who's very grateful that the magazine is around, because they simply don't have time to write their own adventures between studying at college and a job on top of that. You might have time if you weren't also running 4 different campaigns a week. There is such a thing as quality over quantity.

18th and finally, setting a new record for number of letters in a single issue, is someone who wants to know more about L'Trel. If you're lucky, T.J.T. Zuvich will send in some more adventures set there. For now, the precise details remain unknown to all but him and his own group. Another one that would probably have more than a few sales if updated to a later edition and released under the OGL.
 

Davies

Legend
Editorial: Willie Walsh celebrates his 20th adventure published in here. Despite being fairly well known and getting fanmail from people who've played his adventures and want more, he still gets more than half the adventures he submits rejected, which means there's enough other ones in his archive to make a pretty big book now. (which would probably sell quite decently if he were to update them to a more recent edition or an OSR retroclone and publish it as an OGL product)
Unfortunately, as Mr. Walsh seems to have dropped off the Internet in 2014, I suspect he may no longer be with us.
 



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