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TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 15: Nov/Dec 1983



part 5/6



Notes for the Dungeon Master: Fresh from giving his advice on solo games, Roger does pretty much the same for high level play, with slight diminishing returns. After all, with solo play, you have to scale down the challenges. With a high level team, the trick is providing challenges that are not only more impressive in numbers, but also scope, and not writing yourself into a corner. This can be quite tricky, especially with the flexibility high level spellcasters have in the D&D system. So don't jump to world-saving plots too quickly, remember that money and magic items can be taken away as well as given, and try and make sure that you leave loose ends and political connections around that allow new adventures to grow organically from the previous ones. Using prefab adventures will always be a crapshoot at that kind of level, and it's easier if you raised them up from lower levels and design your own around the capabilities and histories of your specific group. This isn't nearly as helpful as it could be, as a lot of the advice is geared towards preventing the players from ever getting that powerful, rather than showing how adventures with phenomenal cosmic power are not only possible, but fun. The limitations of their paradigm are still very much in force here.



Mas Day in New Hope: Our festive article this year is for Gamma World. A robot santa and it's reindeer & flying sled were created by an ancient automated factory and sent out to spread cheer and gifts to the postapocalyptic landscape. Any naughty boys and girls trying to take more than their fair share of presents will find them heavily armed and armored and willing to respond with considerably more firepower than a lump of coal. So this is silly, but also a reminder that combat is often not the best path of action. This could be an amusing flavor encounter, or a tough combat one, depending on how bloodthirsty and genre savvy the players are. I guess that's a little nicer than the average dungeon crawl, where pacifism isn't an option. I approve.



House Rules in Dawn Patrol: As we've seen before in here, even the original designers of games often don't play them by RAW. Seems Mike Carr is no exception, as he gives us 7 house rules here that he uses to make his own games a bit more varied and complex. When you're a designer, tinkering comes naturally, partly to improve the next edition, and partly just to stave off boredom. It's not about perfection, it's about variety. Since Dawn Patrol can pack a lot of stuff into a single page, this is definitely a good use of the newszine. I hope they can keep up the variety for a good while longer.



The Vesper Investigation: Another Gangbusters adventure this month. While the last one went into pulp science, this turns into a ghost story, as our investigators deal with what may or may not be a haunted house. (it's left ambiguous whether it actually is a ghost, or just criminals trying to protect their ill-gotten gains, so the GM can go either way. ) So it's not too bad on it's own merits, but it does illustrate that they're struggling to keep this games interesting for themselves and come up with new things without breaking genre. It just seems to reach it's limits as a system and premise too quickly for long-term campaigns.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 15: Nov/Dec 1983



part 6/6



Casin' the Joint: The attempt to keep you from running out of Gangbusters ideas continues with a reminder that reprints (or nowadays, scans) of material actually written in the 1920's and 30's are still readily available, (in fact, they're probably easier to find now than back in the 1980's) so unlike a lot of historical eras, you have a ton of primary sources that you can use for inspiration. The rest of the page is just a list of examples, focussing heavily on the obvious choices over any deep cuts. Another of those cases where the article is not exactly bad, but aimed way too far below my experience level to be of any use to me. We could do so much better now with a forum thread.



Cash & Carry for Cowboys: Another of those irritating reminders of how ephemeral publications could be back then, as they reprint an article that's only 2 years old from Dragon. Were back issues of it even out of print by then? This little list of extra items for Boot Hill must have been more in demand than I thought, because I found it pretty dry the first time around, and I still do. Just goes to show that my tastes don't reflect the average reader of these things, or that of the staff, as this definitely isn't one I would have chosen to reprint if I were in charge of something like this.



College Courses & Vital Statistics: Our second reprint is also very much not one I would have chosen; the detailed list of college courses for Top Secret, making tracking advancement slow and expensive in a way that seems somewhat out of character with the source material. (or at least, the TV side of it, as books can elide months or years of tedious data gathering and undercover work into a few sentences) And Blood Group?! When has that ever been a relevant detail in an RPG? This just seems to be a fundamental disjunction between what Merle wanted out of his game, and what the average player wanted, and I'm not surprised they went the other direction hard in the next edition, playing up the cinematic globetrotting. We have more than enough grinding for cash and delayed gratification in our everyday lives. Do we really want to create more of it in our recreation?



A fairly boring issue, as both the GM advice and reprinted articles are focussed on a very different audience to my tastes, while the interesting stuff is also somewhat goofy and irritating. Another of the ups and downs in general quality. At least they're still going by fairly quickly. Let's see if 1984 will be suitably dystopian when viewed from this particular angle.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 16: Jan/Feb 1984



part 1/6



32 pages. Our WWI fighter plane and 1920's gangster audiences get a crossover with a bit of gyrocopter action. Will the chaser be able to shoot the pilot down, or will he use his superior maneuverability to get away? Let's keep going and see what actual context and odds of success this has inside.



From the Editor: After a year of vociferously refusing to do modules in here, and another of trying to placate the demands by doing little capsule adventures instead, they do a sudden about-face. The combination of cancelling RPGA exclusive merch and modules has left them with some prime real estate opened up, and a bunch of almost finished modules that need a new home. So Polyhedron is the obvious place for them. And even once they've got through the 4 they have scheduled, they'll know they can do it, so they're more likely to do it again. In a more partial capitulation, while they're still not going to pay for articles, they are offering membership extensions in exchange for them instead, which is better than nothing, but still not as good a deal as getting published in Dragon. You really need to be doing it for the love, not any delusions of making a full-time living out of freelancing. Let's see how many people actually take that up despite the better options elsewhere.



Encounters: Turns out the cover image was actually for Top Secret. Gyrocopters are actually a good deal more advanced than WWI planes, and their fragility is a result of making them collapsible, so you can smuggle them in places, reassemble them and then fly out. You have to sneak up on the enemy agents and rescue a captured scientist before they get over the border. Since you're outnumbered and in a fragile vehicle, you'd better be careful. You might win and still find yourself stranded, having to hike days with your rescued asset to get to safety. This is a pretty interesting set of parameters for an adventure, that gives you plenty of options how to complete the scenario, and looks like it'd be fun to play out. I approve.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 16: Jan/Feb 1984



part 2/6



Cryptic Alliance of the Bi-Month: Another regular feature starts up, as Jim Ward continues to move Gamma World away from a series of zany events to an actual setting. Give them people they know and care about, and an ideology to pursue, and their adventures will be more focussed and hopefully last longer. First up, we have the Followers of the Voice. They worship a sentient computer, and their big adventure hook is seeking out more ancient technology to bring back and hook up to their master, making it more knowledgable and powerful. It has slightly more android followers than human ones, and very few mutants choose to serve it indeed, as mutations are irrelevant too, or even a crutch distracting from the focus on technological advancement. You'll definitely never run out of missions or enemies serving this one, but may eventually be forced to defect when you realise your master has no real concern for your wellbeing, and would send you on a suicide mission in a nanosecond if the data indicates that would be profitable in the long term for it. Yeah, this definitely seems like it would add to your game, both as an ally and an enemy. Let's see how long they can add more ideas before repetition and diminishing returns set in.



The Shady Dragon Inn: This month's promotional tie-in article is for the eponymously named AC1, as TSR starts to add more accessories than just new monsters and adventures. Want a place that you can start your adventures at, that's also robustly built enough that they'll still have to pay for their drinks until they hit high level, with moderate level staff and patrons who have some useful magic items and know how to use them. Here ya go. Have a sampler. Not particularly useful once you've bought the thing, but these promotional things rarely are. It's still decent enough on it's own merits.



Hot Shots and Cold Water: The endless quest to deal with overpowered problem players continues in here. Trying to solve an out of game problem through in game means is a silly thing to do, yet somehow they haven't realized that and keep on trying it. The big problem here appears to really be rotating GM's, allowing players to bring a previously played character into a campaign without thought as to how they fit into the world, and with items and abilities the GM never gave them, and hasn't planned how to suitably challenge. If you always make a new character for each campaign, and the GM and players actually communicate expectations when creating them instead of just bringing a sheet to the table blind, half of this shit would never have the chance to build up in the first place. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep that in mind in your own games.
 


(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 16: Jan/Feb 1984



part 3/6



The Riddle of Dolmen Moor: So, the first half of the Prophecy of Brie got released as modules, but the second is a polyhedron exclusive. Given the respective size of print runs, I'm not sure if that's a step down in readership for them or not, and might motivate people to hunt down the previous instalments. Or not, as nothing here is particularly exciting. Head up to the moor, deal with an annoying invincible bard who gives you a clue to the second part of the adventure if you do the right things, and then try and find the right tomb containing the macguffin needed to progress to the next module. It seems very much a matter of luck whether you'll do the things the module expects or not, and whether you'll pick the right tomb straight away, or spend hours facing the various monsters in the wrong ones. I guess that's the old school for you. :/ You have plenty of choices, but getting the information to make those choices meaningful can be tricky.



Boredom: Now, if giving players too much power too quickly can result in them getting bored, especially if the challenges don't keep pace, the opposite is just as true. If advancement is too slow, the types of challenges are too repetitive, the players have no freedom of choice, or conversely, they have too much freedom and not enough information to direct their choices, boredom will set in, and your campaign will not last much longer. This is a pretty good bit of GM advice, giving you a neat checklist of problems to go over if you're starting to struggle with player engagement. It's not an easy job, and no matter how long we do it, we'll always need to keep switching things up to keep both ourselves and our players interested. So referring back to stuff like this will always be useful.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 16: Jan/Feb 1984



part 4/6



Research is not a dirty word: Last issue, we had an article on source material for Gangbusters. This article does exactly the same thing, but in a more generic way for both fantasy and sci-fi games. So this is basically Kim Eastland's own personal Appendix N, showing us his particular tastes and influences. They're quite different from Gary's, and a lot more visually oriented, with a large proportion of illustrated books and comic books in there. You could definitely build a distinctively flavoured setting using these as the primary sources. There's a good topic for a spinoff thread.



Photo Session: Our Star Frontiers article this issue also draws heavily on real world research, taking NASA mockups of space vehicles and stations, and extrapolating on them a bit to turn them into adventure hooks. A picture is worth a thousand words, and so this is a pretty high density and fun to read article, that also showcases how much their layout skills and art budget have improved since the first issue. They still might not have the amount of colour Dragon has, but their B&W work has increased in both quality and quantity. That's the kind of trend I hope continues throughout the years.



Monty Haul and the German High Command: Our reprint this month is far more deserving than the last two. There's been a lot of people joining gaming since 1978, and many will have heard the term Monty Haul, but not known the context. Wonder no more! Enjoy his ridiculously overpowered crossover adventures where they throw in stuff from every RPG system around (or at least, the TSR-owned ones, for copyright reasons) and the kitchen sink! They may be silly, but they're also a lot of fun. Strange how they discourage that playstyle in new gamers. Oh well. It's a big church. There's room for all sorts of game. Just don't put more elements in than you can keep track of, for without continuity, you don't have a campaign.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 16: Jan/Feb 1984



part 5/6



Dispel Confusion:

D&D

Can you put a lower level spell in a higher level slot? (Not for a good few editions)

Can a cleric use a dagger to cut rope (Yes. Rope doesn't bleed)

Can a thief backstab with missile weapons (Again, not in this edition)

Can other characters backstab (Yes, but not as well)

Why does a dragon's breath weapon get less effective as it gets damaged (To encourage you to hit hard and fast or die fast.)

Do silver-tipped arrows affect your chances to hit (no)

AD&D

What AC do Bigby's hands have (same as their caster)

Can Bigby's hand's be hurt by normal weapons (no)

Does displacement stack with armor (yes)

What is Monster Summoning VIII (Until someone invents 10th level spells, a misprint)

Do all magical AC bonuses stack? (Within limit of bonus type and what you can wear)

What range is a crossbow underwater? (30'. Missiles don't work great there)

Can boots of Elvenkind silence chainmail (no.)

Does a Monk's AC bonus apply flat-footed? (yes)

Do Monks fight as Clerics or Thieves (Clerics.)

Do Monks get double CON bonus at 1st level? (yes)

What class is a Monk for the purpose of psionics (Thief)

How much money does a multiclassed character get? (Add both classes together (They'll need it to buy all the trappings)

Is seeing a nymph a save vs death or spells (Both, one for each effect)

What do piercers do after they've fallen (climb back up very slowly. They're only a real threat in large numbers)

Does Polymorph Self let you go planehopping if the creature can? (No. That's the kind of magical ability it can't emulate)

How often can you psionically levitate (1/day)

Can demihumans be psionic (yes)

Do rangers get double CON bonus at 1st level (Same as Monks)

How do Rangers learn Magic-user spells (Finding a teacher)

Do Rangers & Paladin spells need material components (yes)

Do multiple rings of wizardry stack? (Additively, not multiplicatively. )

How long is a Rod of Lordly Might's Paralyzation (1-4 turns)

What does giant slug acid do (4d8 damage)

Does giant slug acid have a save? (yes, vs breath weapon)

Can demihumans become spectres (only if they have human blood)

Does Fire Shield return magical bonuses as well? (Yes. Wouldn't be very proportional retribution otherwise.)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 16: Jan/Feb 1984



part 6/6



Dispel Confusion continued:


Boot Hill

Is there an Encumbrance limit? (If you're carrying more than 50lb, you won't be able to get far)

What's the difference between SAR and DAR? (Speed you can fire them)

Dawn Patrol

Can you tail someone as soon as you come out of a cloudbank? (no, not until the next turn)

The other players wouldn't let me ram an enemy and commit suicide when my plane was badly damaged! (Yes, it would be very unsportsmanlike of you. )

Some of the other players seem suspiciously lucky (Watch their rolls closely. If they're cheating, kick them out.)

Gamma World

Why are Pure Strain Humans so powerful (Because no-one was playing them in 1st ed.)

Why can't characters gain HP (Not every RPG is about advancement. Some want things to stay tough no matter how long you go for.)

How many spines can Horl Choos throw? (More if they're focussed on one target than multiple)

Are the sample creatures edible (Mostly, if you cook them enough)

Is a life chamber supposed to give my character total amnesia? (Hey, you're alive and still have your friends. Just be thankful it isn't 100 years later and you have to piece together what happened on your own. )

Can household robots attack? (You'd be amazed how tough household pests can be in the irradiated future.)

Gangbusters

How much is a shotgun? ($75. Pretty soon, everybody's got one)

The shotgun fire diagram contradicts the written rules! (The diagram is right)

My GM won't let me play a military policeman! (The different focus might well drag you away from the core game activities anyway)

Are Thompsons really that broad a spread of fire? (Yes. Collateral damage is to be expected.)

Star Frontiers

Is the revival time limit 20 or 24 hours (20. We done contradicted ourselves within a few pages again. Fire the editor.)

Are the low-G jumping rules correct? (Nope, and the corrected ones are nowhere near reality either)

Are the medium movement rating ranges correct? (Nope. Much narrower.)

The ranged weapons modifiers also contradict themselves in different places! (So it seems. Here's the right ones.)


Plenty more twists ands turns here, as they prove they're still willing to shake up the format on a regular basis. How long will the modules and new columns stick around, and when they go, what will replace them in turn. Let's see if the next issue will change just as dramatically, or they'll maintain a stable form for the rest of the year at least.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 17: Mar/Apr 1984



part 1/6



34 pages. The amount of complex shading is way up on this cover, with an interestingly shaped temple in the hills featured on the cover. They may not have added colour to the newszine yet, but they're definitely continuing to improve the production values in other ways. Let's see if the inside of this issue presents any complex issues, or it'll be just basic black and white battles against obvious villains.



From the Editor: The first half of this page is just a potted synopsis of the rest of the issue. Nothing interesting to say about that. Somewhat more interesting is that they've changed their minds on another thing, and decided to try classified ads, putting the first 4 examples below. Will people take up that offer, or will it die the slow death of apathy and overspecialisation again? That's the kind of thing more suited to a local newspaper than one that gets distributed across the entire world.



Letters returns after being absent for an issue. The first letter is extra pertinent to this, as it criticises them for being all articles by the staff and no reader contributions. To which they have to give their canned response that they're trying, but they're not getting enough good submissions. If you think you've got what it takes, do your best to fix this.

Our other letter involves players throwing tantrums at the prospect of even minor setbacks happening to their characters. This is the problem when you only play one character, and it took a long time to get them up to that level. They need to learn to diversify a little. Broadening your experiences gives you more ability to cope with life's little irritations.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 17: Mar/Apr 1984



part 2/6


Encounters: Along with adding a full adventure, the mini adventure expands to 3 pages as well this issue, although a significant fraction of that is made up of artwork. Explore an abandoned temple and discover it's secrets. There are a fair number of snakes involved, so unprepared characters may die abruptly, but some of the challenges have rotted away, so it's not as dangerous as it could be. A nice diversion on the way between bigger quests that could pay off nicely, or be a dead-end, depending on the skill and caution of the players. That's a good little bit of dungeon-crawling which I could happily use several times.



Cryptic Alliance of the Bi-Month: Our second alliance are written pretty strongly as villains. Pureblood racial supremacists who use knightly symbolism and want to exterminate all mutants? They know exactly what they're doing here, and only an idiot would nazi it even if they don't explicitly spell it out. You can't help having politics in your gaming if the setting building goes beyond white room one-on-one fights, it's just a question of what kind, and how directly they parallel our struggles in real life. And it's obvious that issues of racism are still all too relevant in the postapocalyptic radioactive wasteland, with creatures judging each other on their appearance rather than their behaviour. If they could all learn to get along and use their various mutant powers in harmony civilisation would rapidly be rebuilt bigger and better than ever and then it'd be an entirely different game.



Variants, House Rules & Hybrids: Sigh. Time for another lengthy bit of largely negative DM advice exhorting players to tone it down, play it by the book, and look very carefully before introducing new stuff into your game. Too many poorly thought out creatures, classes and house rules will rapidly make the game less fun, not more. They really are having to repeat the same basic idea a lot, in different wordings, from different angles, over and over again, as the nature of gamers means they'll lawyer every ruling and push at every limit you impose upon them. It's very tiresome to read, and I'm sure even more tiresome for them to write, as people keep sending in ideas that they think are awesome, but are mostly both poorly written, and poorly designed on a mathematical level. (and also surprisingly repetitive, somehow the same "cool" class ideas pop up over and over again, showing their imaginations aren't actually all that imaginative either.) This shows no signs of resolving itself any time soon, and is another waste of space from my perspective.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 17: Mar/Apr 1984



part 3/6



The Incants of Ishcabeble: Part 6 of the prophecy of Brie delivers another round of alliteration, riddles, puns and puzzles, as the PC's try to get to the top of a wizard's tower. Even more than last time, you'll need both your puzzle brain and your tolerance for bad jokes fully functional if you're going to get anywhere beyond the ground floor. Whoopee cushions, extremely specialised magical items, a combination of long & deadly fights and surprisingly easy fakeouts, this is pretty irritating, and definitely not one I'd want to be involved in as a DM or a player. I'm definitely starting to see why they cancelled them as standalone modules. Just …… no.



The Fighter: Having spent a whole load of time telling you what your characters shouldn't look like, they decide positive reinforcement is as important as negative, and set out to give us an example of what a medium-high level character SHOULD look like. Or at least, what their trappings should look like, as they go into great detail about his personality, equipment, history, likes and dislikes, but not his actual statistics (although given that he has followers and a keep, and counting up the amount of money he'e earned in his adventures, he's probably in the 12-14th level range.) It's quite interesting, and shows that friendships and favours won over the course of your adventures can be just as important rewards as riches and magic items, especially if you make them unique and fleshed out in their own right. That's how you set a good example. They could do a lot more of this without it getting repetitive than nagging columns about game balance, so I definitely prefer it.



Two New NPC's: Having spent two pages describing a single character, they then decide to switch up the approach and give both the stats and personalities of two more in a single page. This obviously means somewhat less depth, but also more immediate usability in your own game. They're the same class, level and alignment, but differ a fair amount in their other stats and items, serving as a good example of how even in this edition, characters can wind up being customised in play. Put together, this shows a definite agenda, to demonstrate that even the most vanilla class in the game can be interesting if properly played, and you don't need to constantly add new ones to be cool. Nice effort, but that's a battle you're going to lose in the long run, with subsequent editions racking up the customisability of every class. The average player wants a little more mechanical choice and less randomness than the designers are giving them at the moment, and it'll take the company dying and being taken over before they properly cater to it.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 17: Mar/Apr 1984



part 4/6



Disguised Weapons: Unsurprisingly, there's always a market for new gadgets in Top Secret. Here's another 6 of them. Multipurpose tools that can also be used as weapons are great for a spy, as you can take them places you couldn't take an obvious weapon, or use them for their other purpose in your everyday undercover life and keep them around just in case. I have a definite fondness for these sort of things, and have bought several of them (the cheap joke shop versions, not the expensive serious ones) over the years. So a collection like this is pretty cool. As an extra plus, all of these look like they're within the bounds of physics and could actually exist in reality. (<<) (>>) Muahahaha, how very tempting. I shall have to investigate this further.



Wishes have their limits: Time for another chunky helping of swatting the players on the nose with a rolled up newspaper and telling them NO! BAD PLAYERS! NO BREAKING THE GAME WITH PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER! The problem is so pervasive they couldn't even keep it to one article per month. So yeah, a detailed explanation of precisely how non-omnipotent wishes are in AD&D. What they can't do full stop, what is more powerful than them, and what can partially resist them. It all illustrates pretty effectively how limited even 9th level spells are compared to the spells of legend and literature, and that they could have designed many levels further up, giving them even more leeway to create effects both orders of magnitude larger in scope and somewhat greater flexibility. There's no reason the game should hit diminishing returns after 18th level other than failure of mathematical rigour. Hell, Birthright showed that you can introduce magic of much vaster scope even at low level as long as you multiply the costs to cast it accordingly as well. Another strong illustration of just how much better designed the system could be, and how often people had fun in spite of it, rather than because of it. There's still a long way to go, and a lot of stuff to add between then and now that'll show just how awesome characters can be and still have interesting and significant challenges.



DM Talk: While disciplining the player's excesses is important, learning to be a good DM is just as important, for otherwise your games will fall apart over and over again, and you'll soon wind up with no-one to play with. This is less about knowing the rules than it is about knowing your players, and their skill level, likes and dislikes. Even if you're a skilled GM, if there's a mismatch, there'll still be problems. Aside from the definite playstyle snobbery putting Real Roleplaying over system mastery, this is a pretty standard bit of advice, neither particularly innovative or particularly annoying. Meh.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 17: Mar/Apr 1984



part 5/6



Dispel Confusion:

D&D

How does Zargon grant spells if he's not a god? (Franchising. If you beat him, there's a greater evil still to vanquish in the future. )

How does a ring of weakness interact with strength-boosting magical items? (It overrides them)

Are magen affected by Charm Person? (no)

Can you save magic missiles for later after casting? (yes) Does detect invisibility count for targeting them? (yes)

Is a ship's crew figured into their weight capacity? (yes)

Are there female dwarves? (Yes, and their beards are just as thick and lustrous as the men's)

Can you put wights to sleep? (no)

What happens when a Held Door is opened? (if it's closed again, it relocks. The spell don't give up that easy.)

Can you resist a Helm of Telepathy (if you save successfully)

AD&D

Does turning undead have verbal components? (no) How long does it take? (0 segments on your turn)

Can clerics have familiars? (no)

Can a banshee be turned? (not in this system)

Can Neutral clerics Turn or Control undead? (Depends which way they lean)

Are Monks a subclass? (no. Their own thing.)

Can you dual class within the same type of class (No)

Which levels are drained first when dual class characters get hit by undead? (the current one)

Boot Hill

Shouldn't a repeating rifle do more than a derringer? (Nope)

How do the penalties work when dual drawing guns? (-3 to each of their individual stats)

What does reload rate mean? (x per turn, not 1/x)

Isn't Morgan Earp a bit too good with that gun? (Yes, we goofed our math)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 17: Mar/Apr 1984



part 6/6



Dispel confusion continued:

Gamma World

Where is the turbine car? (We forgot to put it in 2nd ed, but didn't erase all the references. Here's the details)

When does a Portent's damage absorption refresh? (every round)

How do I play plants under the new edition? (the old edition's rules still work fine)

How do Terl Feathers protect against radiation (Changing color as a warning.)

Can you use Jet Spray Drugs as weapons? (Yes, but watch out for wind blowing it back in your face)

Can you skate using the antigrav sled? (Oh yes)

How can poison turn things to stone?! (Gamma World is soft sci-fi. Don't stress your little head about it too much.)

Star Frontiers

How many skills can you know? (as many as you have the XP for. Room for many years of adventuring!)

Do Dralasites have two-weapon penalties? (yes)

Can hand weapons hurt starships? (a few of the strongest ones)

Can astrogators precalculate all their jumps on planet? (no. space is ever shifting.)

Can launchers fire more than once? (Yes, but not more than once per turn)

Can ion drives take off from a planet (no)

Can ion drives do interstellar flight (yes) How much fuel does it take? (7200 credits worth)

Top Secret

How can a weapon have negative damage? (When you're trying to use a missile weapon in hand to hand combat. )

What and where is situation 3? (in the 1st ed corebook, but not the 2nd)

What are air guns for? (Nonlethal fighting. Sometimes you really do want to keep your enemies alive.

How much does speargun ammo cost? ($2. You can halve that by retrieving and reusing the spears.)

Is Sneak Attack damage aded to regular damage? (no, it replaces it)

What other items can you use for lockpicking (All sorts of stuff. Too many to list, so it's up to GM rule of thumb. )



With a fair share of good articles, but also more than it's fair share of interestingly bad articles, this veered between entertaining and irritating quite a few times. So some stuff you might want to use, and some which should deservedly stay in the dustbin of history where it belongs. At least they were low on blandly boring stuff this time. Let's see if that'll continue next time.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 18: May/Jun 1984



part 1/6



32 pages. Spider-man vs the Scorpion fighting across the New York train lines. That is a turnup for the books. The Marvel Superhero RPG had a long and healthy run of articles in Dragon lasting nearly 10 years. It'll definitely be interesting to see if that's matched in here, and what else they can add to it. Which characters and scenarios will they decide to focus on in polyhedron and will they be any good? Let's get web swinging, because the city isn't going to save itself.



From the editor: Unsurprisingly, the editorial is also very enthusiastic about the arrival of Marvel material. They've included multiple articles on it, making it a themed issue. May they have a long and fruitful collaboration. They're also happy that their request for more reader-submitted articles is paying off. Hopefully that'll also continue without constantly needing to be asked for over and over again. Finally, and most significantly, they've brought Penny Petticord on as an official member of staff. She's been doing a lot of the behind the scenes organisational stuff in their convention tournaments right from the start, and her hard work has been recognised and rewarded. Get used to her, because she'll be sticking around for a long time in one role or another. The money might be nice, but she's the kind of person who would keep on doing this stuff without it. Without people like her, a hobby would eventually grind to a halt. Long may this silly little game of let's pretend continue to draw us into it.



Encounters: The Scorpion has captured J. Jonah Jameson! Spider-Man had better rescue him quickly, otherwise he'll probably wind up with a new, more pleasant boss at his day job! ;) It's a hard job, being a hero, living with those kind of moral dilemmas, torn between the greater good and maybe, just once, getting ahead in life. So this is a pretty good introductory scenario for the game, written from the perspective that many of the readers won't know the rules yet, and need reminding that this is not D&D, so killing all your opponents without regard for collateral damage is not the way to go. In fact, even one intentional killing will make you lose all your Karma, which could be weeks or months of saved up advancement lost. If you aren't willing to get into the spirit of things and subdue, trick, imprison or banish your enemies instead, (and accept that they'll probably be back at some point) using this system won't go well for you. Very interesting indeed. It's definitely good that they're thinking about genre emulation, and not just recycling the same system for every game with a few cosmetic changes. A very pleasing start to the articles indeed.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 18: May/Jun 1984



part 2/6



Cryptic Alliance of the Bi-month: We've had a group of human supremacists in here. Now they show that mutant supremacists also exist, and are no more pleasant to outsiders if you don't meet their fairly stringent standards. Unless radiation resistance is part of your powerset, there's no way you'll survive living with them long enough to be accepted, for they make their homes in only the hottest of hot spots. This makes them difficult to root out, but also limits their expansion, and ensures they'll never be able to conquer the world in general, as the mutations creatures manifest will always be unpredictable no matter how selectively you breed for them, and a big chunk of your babies will wind up dying horribly in their early years. Once again you're more likely to be using these guys as antagonists than as a group the players want to join, as they don't play well with others and unless the whole group is strongly mutated, there'll be definite split loyalties if just one or two PC's join. That'd cause problems in game. Use with caution.



Remarkable, Incredible, Amazing!: We had a Marvel Superheroes adventure. Now, unsurprisingly, we have the straight promotional article that works hard to make the game seem cool, but is of no use once you've actually bought it. Your stats don't have numbers, they have cool adjectives so you can describe how awesome your are mid-action in a snappy fashion (but they still run on numbers behind the scenes) They have a universal resolution mechanic with degrees of success rather than a straight binary pass/fail, although you'll need to keep the reference table on hand. There's lots of emphasis on genre emulation, with stuff on balancing your everyday life and your superheroic activities, measuring wealth, connections and popularity on top of your more intrinsic stats. There are a few bits that seem dated by modern standards, (secret identities in particular have mostly died with the rise of the camera phone, and the random generation of characters & relatively small selection of powers won't be to many player's tastes ) but overall, it's a much more elegant and focussed system than AD&D that you can still have fun with today. Now can we get past the promotion and see some new material for it?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 18: May/Jun 1984



part 3/6



Kobolds and robots and mutants with wings: We've had a fair few crossover articles over the years where they take something from one system/world, then put it in another one. This one puts a more unusual spin on that, asking what happens if they go there and come back. Take a group of kobolds, the smallest and weediest of the common humanoid races, put them in gamma world where their fast breeding means they pick up a lot of mutations while weeding out the bad ones, and then if they find their way back to a standard fantasy world, they'll be in a much better position to expand and thrive, as they're both more powerful individually, and have picked up a bunch of technological tricks. So this is pretty cool material for two systems, that could be used in either, or as a bridging scenario between the two, setting things up for further crossover adventures. That's both inventive and a good use of their page count. Two thumbs up.



Llywelyn's Tomb: Part 7 of the Prophecy of Brie is thankfully a little more serious than the previous instalments. Instead of whimsical wizardly puzzles and riddles, it's the somewhat more prosaic irritation of facing lots of undead, in a place with turn resistance, so your clerics don't get to completely dominate the proceedings. There's still a fair bit of trickery involved, and an interesting mechanism where the big bad draws power from it's minions, so it's best to take some of those out before going for it. Overall, it's a definite step upwards from the last two. Let's see if the final is suitable climactic, or if it'll go out with a splutter.



The Magic-User: Looks like they're trying to make a series out of these articles showcasing several characters of the same class and showing how to differentiate them. as with the last one, their precise stats aren't given, but given the degree of history, spell selection, and magic items they have, they're well into name level and pretty dangerous in both the personal and political arena. There's also a bunch of variant spells casually tossed into the text, stronger or weaker versions of existing ones with the levels changed accordingly. It's all a lot more fantastical than the fighter one, but I guess that's not surprising. the important thing though, is that it's full of specific quirky details that are good hooks for actual play, rather than making the character an all-powerful unbeatable mary-sue that might be the DM's wet dream, but would be no fun when players encounter them. Let's hope they can keep the editorial control on that going and give us good examples for all the classes.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 18: May/Jun 1984



part 4/6



Two New NPC's: Following on from last article, two other wizards get fully statted out. As with last issue, they're quite different in both personality and the way they use their powers. One is cautious and likes to use his divinations to help out from behind the scenes, while the other likes to blast things to shit with liberal use of charged magic items. Both have disgustingly high ability scores that definitely weren't rolled up randomly, which is a bit tiresome, but oh well. They still have enough quirks and backstory plot hooks to be interesting and easy to use in your own campaign, which is what we need out of articles like this.



Two Cents: Instead of a forum where lots of different people give their opinions on all sorts of topics, this column is turned into soapbox for one reader to expound on their likes, dislikes and playstyle. Joseph Wichman is very much against PvP and evil characters, somewhat disapproves of railroading, and is in favour of keeping IC and OOC knowledge properly separated. Nothing too unusual there. We all want freedom to do what we want with our characters, but have to learn to get along with others so we don't step on their freedom's too much and ruin other people's enjoyment of the game. If you want to play a game where competition against the other players is the intended purpose, there are a lot of rulesets better suited to it than D&D.



Layover at Lossend: Our Star Frontiers material has a deeply cringy attack of old school racism, as the PC's have to deal with intelligent apemen while en route from planet Gollywog. That's either very unfortunate, or an entirely intentional and nasty bit of dogwhistle association, especially as said apemen fill all the superstitious primitive stereotypes. I think it's safe to say I won't be touching this one with a 10 foot pole. Whether it was intended maliciously or not, it can stay buried in the past where it belongs.



Money makes the World go Round: We conclude with another fairly basic bit of advice. Make sure the PC's have plenty to spend the treasure they found during their adventures on. Between training, currency conversion fees, taxes, restocking food and supplies, hunting out new plot hooks and outright robbery, there's a lot of ways you can eat into their savings and force them to get back on the road again. If they want to invest in the stock market or buy up property and become a landlord to make their wealth self-sustaining they'll have to make a conscious effort to do so. That's both realistic and sensible, although you might still want to be a little kinder on them than reality is to us. After all, it is supposed to be a game. Nothing particularly surprising about this. Another middle of the road little article.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 18: May/Jun 1984



part 5/6



Dispel Confusion:

D&D

Can Gold dragons use breath weapons while polymorphed? (no)

Can you use blunt weapons to subdue? (yes)

What does a rust monster have to roll to hit a weapon? (your regular AC)

How do you decide what weapons humanoids use? (However you choose)

What weapons can't halflings use? (ones that would be two-handed for humans)

Can Trolls use a crossbow? (If they feel like it. Are you going to tell them they can't?)

Can you cast spells on Gaseous creatures (if they don't require touch. )

AD&D

Can you cast prismatic wall on a creature (yes, but it's only affected if it comes out then goes back in again, not if it stays still inside it.)

Which spells does an energy drained spellcaster lose (a random one from the spell levels affected)

How does parrying work? (not very well in this edition)

Is Belial more handsome than Asmodeus. (Possibly, but never say so to asmodeus's face.)

Does dual-classing give you all the proficiencies of both? (yes)

Can a spellcaster choose to do less damage with a fireball (no)

Does a pyrolisk really have 43 HD? (No, only 4+3, thankfully)

What happen if passwall is dispelled while someone is in it. (unless they can break out fairly soon, they suffocate)

What happens if shadow monsters use save or suck effects (they have a flat chance of failing equal to their unrealness on top of the regular save)

Boot Hill

How much do civilian scouts really earn? (Depends how good your negotiating skills are)

How can brawling get a 5% bonus if scores aren't percentile? (5% = +1. We'll fix that next edition, baby.)

How does soldier experience work with regular experience (the same, until you hit the cap, then you need to go out and do it solo to get any further.)
 

Halloween Horror For 5E

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