TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 65: Nov/Dec 1997



part 1/5



69 pages. Is that a very small dragon, or a very large eagle? Or maybe just artistic licence with perspective, which is always an option when working in a 2D medium. Well, at least it's suitably seasonal. Time to head into another winter, even though it feels like it's been barely any time since the last one, and see what dangers lurk amid the snowdrifts.



Letters: First letter is from Greece, and picks out their favourite adventures from recent issues. Seeking Bloodsilver gets particular praise.

Second is another of the many people who love Tony Diterlizzi's work, and thinks the issue illustrated entirely by him was awesome inside and out.

Third is deeply annoyed at the absence of Spelljammer adventures. We need more weird settings and fewer generic ones like Mystara & Birthright. Chris is doing his best! It's not his fault no-one else sends stuff like this in anymore.

Fourth is another one pontificating on the use of generic adventures vs ones in specific settings, in the process revealing how eurocentric their concept of generic is. There is a whole load of world to explore even before you get to other ones that a lot of people simply don't want to engage with.

Fifth has a small but very specific suggestion. If they want maps to be more customisable, don't make buildings a solid black. That makes it easier to add numbers directing to their contents if a DM wants to expand on the scenario while keeping everything organised.

Sixth is particularly fond of The Rat Trap, but slightly confused by the organisation of Esmerelda's Bodyguard. They don't normally leave creature stats right to the end, even if it is a new monster, and that threw him a bit. You shouldn't be trying to run an adventure without reading it all the way through beforehand. That's can lead to all sorts of mistakes.

Seventh is one of the many irked by last year's table of contents style. They're also not fond of the idea of favourite adventure polls, being overly precious about spoilers, and puzzled about exactly how Janx's Jinx is supposed to work. I would have thought monsters that just attack irrationally instead of having any clever tactics would be one of the easiest things to run.

Eighth is one of the even greater number of people annoyed by how few basic D&D adventures they do. It's been more than 2 years since they did any at all. Unfortunately, that doesn't look like it's changing any time soon.

Ninth is annoyed by the bearded elf in issue 58. Basic artistic sloppiness. What was going on there?

Tenth loves both regular Ravenloft and Masque of the Red Death, and wishes they'd do more adventures in them. They're also one of the few people who actually subscribed when TSR products vanished from bookshelves, hoping to get their regular fix again. Might not have worked out so well for a few months, but they're back now and you'll get the number of issues you paid for in the end.

Eleventh wonders what's going on with Chris Perkins' basic D&D scenarios. He kept them going well after everyone else had stopped bothering, and for that he should be thanked.

Twelfth gives us a good old adventure path listing, this one particularly seasonal in it's choice of adventures. Nice to see a campaign with decent gaps between each significant event instead of gaining levels every few days until they outgrow the range the books support.

Thirteenth wants more setting specific adventures, particularly Forgotten Realms ones, and maybe even a few for the new Dragonlance 5th age system. Are they going to try and expand their horizons a bit farther? Funny you should mention that……

Finally, someone who thought Jigsaw was an awesome adventure that's entirely usable in a regular D&D campaign. People who have a problem with adventures like that should put their pen where their mouth is and prove they can come up with something better.



Editorial: Quite a few of the letters this issue mentioned Chris Perkins' work. Turns out that's not a co-incidence, as he's just taken over as editor, Michelle deciding racking up some more student loan debt was preferable to sticking around at a company which has been paying sporadically the whole year and quite possibly not wanting to move from Wisconsin to Seattle where the new offices are. So they cast their net around and decided to bring him on board officially. Having been published under multiple editors and had more adventures rejected than accepted, hopefully he has a decent idea of what to do now the boot is on the other foot. Hopefully he also won't use that power to publish a bunch of his old submissions that didn't make the cut under previous regimes, as he playfully threatens to run an entire issue of his own material. So because of his massive built-up portfolio and history with them, he’s coming in with the ability to do a lot of things previous editors couldn’t. It’s just a question of whether he’ll make the right choices or not. Since he’s still with WotC all these years later, surely he must have done something right? Now let’s find out the details.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 65: Nov/Dec 1997



part 2/5



Knight of the Scarlet Sword: Some towns, it's not the monsters outside that are the real trouble, it's the people in charge. In their trek across the borderlands, the PC's pass through Bechlaughter, which is run by the Red Knight, a guy with a serious grudge against arcane magic, summarily executing without trial anyone who casts wizardly spells or uses magic items to emulate them anywhere near town. This seems likely to result in conflict with the average adventuring party. If that or the demand to pay taxes as soon as they enter doesn't get them engaged, maybe appealing to their sense of justice will, as there's a wrongfully accused guy in the jail who's going to be hanged tomorrow. Either way, they'll find themselves dragged into a small town conflict with dark roots. The Knight is being stoked into ever more fanatical acts of witch-hunting by an imp pretending to be a holy goat, the mayor is a doppleganger taking advantage of this to live a life of luxury off the possessions of the people executed, the imp is servant to a powerful wizard who's currently in the middle of becoming a lich, but will be back to take over the town in a few days and the wizard also has a homunculus, which is much more loyal to the wizard's agenda than the imp, also spying around the edges. That's a lot of plates spinning in the air at once and some of them are almost certain to get smashed in the next few days. This feels like someone has taken 4 different side trek ideas and stitched them together into one larger, more complex adventure where they can interact in lots of different ways depending on how the PC's react. It's interesting precisely because I have very little idea how it'd turn out in actual play, whether it'd be best solved with combat or roleplaying, at least without knowing the group I was running it for. Not entirely certain if it's a successful experiment or not but it definitely earns points for being distinctive. Goes to show that it gets easier to make an adventure unique the more elements you add, particularly when the ways they can interact multiplies out quadratically rather than just adding more rooms, each with a different monster that just attacks anyone who enters and never leaves.



Side Treks - Flotsam: A nautical scenario three issues in a row? That is mildly surprising. Are people including lots of sea journeys in their campaigns lately? I guess they did just do the quartet of sahuguin based monstrous arcana books. But there's no sea devils in this one, merely a pair of castaways on a wrecked ship that aren't what they seem and will cause all sorts of trouble for the players if they rescue them. They pretend to be just a textile merchant and noblewoman fallen into a bad situation needing a lift, but they're actually scheming pirates who messed up their last raid, and will pretend to be comically incompetent until they have a chance to steal something and make a getaway, maybe manipulating you into doing all the work of finding some famous bit of buried treasure then striking while you're worn down or asleep. Not so much an adventure in itself as a complication to be added to another one, as these guys tag along and act superficially helpful in a way that isn't actually that useful until they get caught out or think they're in a good enough position to betray the PC's. If you've already run Isle of Dread several times for different groups that could keep it from getting boring as a DM. Like adding metamagic feats to customise spells, I wouldn't mind seeing a few more things like this.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 65: Nov/Dec 1997



part 3/5



The Ice Tyrant: Before Chris became editor, he was fast becoming the go-to guy to write adventures for new settings when no-one else would. This is one of his last and hardest assignments, as he had to get to grips with not only a different setting but also an all-new system as well. It's time to draw those cards and see what can be done with Dragonlance Fifth Age that you couldn't in D&D. (And also if they get any complaining letters as a result, as they did back in 1990 when they tried putting a Marvel Superheroic & Top Secret adventure in.)

So, a lot of things have happened to Krynn recently, many of them pretty devastating. Ergoth has been taken over by the white dragon overlord and turned into a land of ice. Your PC's are heading there, whether to help with the resistance or simply to find out what's happened in the first place. They encounter a rag-tag band of silvanesti freedom fighters, who are typically dickish despite the hard situation they're in. Presuming you can put up with their elvish insufferablility without coming to blows, you'll get a chance to join in with their macguffin hunt, heading to Anghanor to capture or destroy whatever valuable thing the overlord is keeping there. Time to go through a mostly linear series of encounters, here divided into acts & scenes because the system tries to be more dramatic and narratively focussed. Get ambushed by some ice trolls. Deal with a banshee haunting the old elven lodge. Make your way through an icy mountain pass guarded by ogres. Get the choice of whether to follow the deus ex machina of the White Stag for an easy route, or go it alone for a harder one. Face the Thanoi minions of the overlord, then (hopefully) sneak past the dragon guarding Anghanor and find out that what they're guarding inside is a large clutch of white dragon eggs, ready to be raised as mounts for the evil army. The adventure then expects you to smash them (none of that moral debate about nature vs nurture and the ethics of baby killing this time around) and figure out how to make an escape before reinforcements arrive.

As usual for Chris, I get the impression that he's done the reading and is working hard to make what he writes fit the themes of the setting. Unfortunately, when said setting is Dragonlance, there's only so much you can do, so this is pretty cheesy and linear, falling firmly into the epic fantasy railroad where there's not much room for deviation without leaving the bounds of the adventure entirely. On the plus side, using the SAGA system means he can give more equal weight to combat and social solutions, as they now both use the same methods of resolution and take about the same amount of time, and he takes pains to point out that each encounter has multiple solutions. It'd actually be a better fit for many of the adventures they're publishing in here at the moment, since they're trying so hard to encourage ones that are heavier on roleplaying and lighter on killing. This really serves to demonstrate why they made the SAGA system in the first place, and how far the TSR writers were from their audience in the type of games they wanted to play in the mid 90's. If it had been a greater success they could have split the playstyles off and written more social adventures in a system better suited to them. Lots to think about here, and as usual even a linear adventure in Dungeon is of higher writing quality than the ones in Polyhedron, but I can't really call it an unqualified success. Not one I have any real desire to use under either system.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 65: Nov/Dec 1997



part 4/5



Side Treks - Reflections: Another single encounter with a fair amount of potential for being expanded upon if the DM's into that. While passing through a small town they hear rumors of mysterious disappearances and what might be responsible for it. If you go searching for the problem, finding it will be no problem because a will o'wisp will lead you right to it. It's a gibbering mouther trapped in a cave, and the will o'wisp has been feeding on the emotional energy & madness it emits when incorporating victims into it's mass. If you get out of this alive, the will o'wisp will flee rather than fighting, but hold a grudge and do it's best to lure more trouble your way. This can be further complicated if you like by the mouther's psychic emanations causing one of the PC's to develop a psionic wild talent. A simple enough scenario that earns extra credit for giving you the option of rewards beyond the usual XP & gold, while not making it mandatory for those who don't have the appropriate sourcebook. Solidly in the good but not exceptional level of quality and overall usefulness.



The Unkindness of Ravens: Caw? Yet more raven based scenarios, unconnected to Ravenloft or Raven's Bluff? We're getting spoiled for choice. While on the road on a stormy night, they espy Crawford Manor. Unless they're genre-savvy enough to put up with the wet and avoid spooky mansions in the middle of the night, they'll find themselves sucked into a gothic murder mystery. Legend has it that there are 6 special ravens among the many that nest upon it's roof. If they are killed, the Crawford line will fall. This is actually because some of the family are wereravens, but they'll do their best to keep that a secret. But anyway, while you're enjoying exposition over dinner, one of the servants will turn up murdered. Everyone will be forbidden to leave the house until the murderer is found and the sleuthing is on. Interview the family members and their servants for clues. Explore the reaches of the attic & basement, which contain secrets even the current family don't know about. A familiar formula, aimed at groups who want plenty of roleplaying and only light combat, but pretty decently implemented, with a twist of who's responsible that the players are unlikely to guess straight away and short circuit the adventure unless they're overequipped with divination magic. This isn't one I'd treat as rubbish and nothing more, cast out from my chamber door to the library full of forbidden lore to be read nevermore.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 65: Nov/Dec 1997



part 5/5



The Beast Within: We finish things off with another single encounter that could have easily been labeled a side trek if the editors wanted. A priest of Ilmater was infected with lycanthropy. Since Ilmater is the god of stoic patience in the face of suffering, rather than seek a cure, he viewed this as a test of faith and has been living as a hermit and trying to ensure that his bestial side has as little opportunity as possible to hurt others. The PC's will happen to be passing by his cottage at sunset on the full moon, so they can see him and be warned away just before he transforms. That obviously leaves them with the moral dilemma of if they should kill the werewolf or find some way to subdue & trap him until he turns back. Then if you do spare him, you have to convince him that it would be better to seek a cure than continue to suffer alone, which will require some spirited theological debate to overcome his moping angstiness. So this is the kind of scenario that simultaneously encourages you to take the heroic route, while also leaving no good deed unpunished and creating much more hassle for you long-term if you do. The kind of thing that makes me want to give up on being nice and just go full murderhobo because it's just less irritating. I think I'll pass on this one.



Some interesting experimentation in this one, but the ratio of hits to misses isn't that great. As usual when a new editor takes over, there's still a backlog of material that's been accepted but not printed yet, so there's no sudden change in the overall tone of the magazine and we're still firmly in roleplaying heavy, action light territory. Still, the brief break from D&D is welcome. Onto the next year to find out if that's more of the same and if they'll put any more 5th Age or Alternity adventures in to boost the variety.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Raven's Buff Trumpeter 1-9: Nov/Dec 1997



4 pages. What really is Myrkyssa Jelan's deal?! The cover story plays armchair psychiatrist, trying to figure out why she's so determined to conquer a city in a short time period. Is she under the effects of a magical Quest, with dire consequences if she fails to complete it within a certain time period? Has she signed a deal with lower-planar forces and needs to deliver a certain number of souls or have her own collected? Or is she just that irrationally power-hungry of her own accord? In any case, while the city as a whole isn't sending their army to help, after an impassioned speech by Lady Amber about supporting your neighbours, many individual nobles will be, and adventurers are welcome to join their forces. What twists will they face, and how will players react to them? Will it be a trap, and will your actions be able to affect the long-term metaplot? Find out in another big interactive battle at Winter Fantasy! :teeth ting:

Closer to home, they continue to have temple troubles. Apparently the high priest of Tyr has been possessed for over a year, so the new temple was never properly consecrated, and has been secretly used by priests of Mask the whole time as a hideout. Only the actions of still mistrusted mercenary Hathmar Blademark pierced their disguise and cleared them out for now. So much for truth, justice and the faerunian way. Several other temples have also been corrupted by the Heart of Bane, an evil relic that causes nothing but trouble wherever it shows up. They need to either find the counter-artifact quickly, or rebury it in a heavily trapped dungeon somewhere far away. Preferably not in Thay, because who knows what the Red Wizards would do if they got their hands on it, and they already have enough diplomatic incidents from recent times adventurers have killed scheming Thayvians in the course of their heroics. Annoying them enough that we have another full-fledged war on our hands when forces are still depleted from the last one is not a good idea.



Living City Q&A: Can I play a Ranger/Druid (no)

What restrictions does a dual-class Paladin/Cleric have? (those of both classes. Keeping both sets of powers can be hard work.)

What exactly can a holy sword do? (let's go back to the DMG description. Is it really that hard to interpret correctly?)

Do you always have a chance for automatic success or failure no matter how high or low your score is? (usually, but there are exceptions.)

Can a multiclass character use a staff of rapid magery on their nonwizard spells? (no)

Does a scarab of protection activate against enervation spells, even though the level drain is only temporary? (yes)

Can I stack the benefit from multiple copies of the same ioun stone? (no)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 127: December 1997



part 1/5



32 pages. You don't give the lady of pain flowers! Even if they do have thorns, that seems unlikely to end well. But it might lead to a good planescape plot hook for us, which gives me a little more optimism for this issue. They've also updated their format much faster than Dragon or Dungeon, revamping the whole look and moving the contents to a sidebar on the cover, which gives them an extra page to play with inside. Let's hope they're crammed with stuff to do and see.



your 1nitiative: First letter wants to participate in their online conventions, but is annoyed they're AOL only. Complain no more! Now they have plug-ins that let subscribers to other services join in. Get involved, there's always more that needs doing than volunteers to do it.

Second complains about the idea of spinning the Living City stuff off to a separate newsletter they have to pay for. They're not doing that now, because they moved that stuff online. Go check it out! In a demonstration of how non-linearly I write this, this is the first I heard about it, leading to a scramble to find the online editions of the Trumpeter and add them to the timeline in the right places before my posting caught up with my buffer. Being a completist is hard work. Also hard work is administrating downtime, which is why they're still not implementing that no matter how many people complain unless some of you are willing to step up and do the job for them.

Third is much more humorous, complaining about the falling O in their title, but otherwise being mostly positive. They may or may not replace it in a few issues time, we shall see.



Notes From HQ: They announced a lot of big changes last issue. Inevitably, some of them got a load of complaints and they had to partially walk them back. Free members are limited to 2nd level no matter how many XP they get, so if you want to participate in Masters tournaments, you'll have to cough up. Given the number of tournaments it takes to reach 3rd level, hopefully you've decided you're a committed gamer by that point and the RPGA is worth paying for. They've also brought back discounted family memberships, because as long as you've got one fully paying member at an address, you don't need multiple copies of the same issue delivered to your door. On the plus side, there's one new change I'm pretty certain they can't go back on. They're announcing the themes for next year's issues well in advance so people actually have a chance to send in appropriate articles. I've wished they'd do something like that for ages. Despite the struggles, these seem like positive steps overall.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 127: December 1997



part 2/5



Table Talk: They lost a fair few subscribers over the hiatus, so it's time for one of their biggest membership drives yet. They put a big thermometer at the side of the page, currently just under 7,000 paying members. If they can double that over the course of next year, they'll add a bumper sized annual to the schedule at the end of each year in the same way as Dragon. So get cracking! Sign up all your friends. Pester your FLGS, get them signed up to the Adventurers Guild Retail Program tournaments and you get 24 new opportunities to adventure and earn points every year! Fight the apathy! Of course, I've seen the list of issues and already know they won't hit that goal, but it remains to be seen if it'll be a close run thing or they'll barely manage a few hundred people like the early 90's membership drives. (or even continue to lose members overall despite the drive) Another thing to keep an eye on over the course of the next year.

They also report on this year's decathlon, which had slightly fewer entrants than last year, but still more than I expected with the lack of deliveries. I guess the online newsletters kept things ticking over enough that the hardcore members didn't lose faith they'd be back. The ARC Fellowship look like they'll take the top spot pretty comfortably again. It'll probably take quite a few new members to overcome their experience advantage in winning these competitions.



Elminster's Everwinking Eye: We're still getting high this instalment, as Ed talk's about High Mukshar. It's dominated by an odd alliance of Illithids and dopplegangers, which is actually a very scary combination when you think about it, as the psychic powers of the illithid lets a group of dopplegangers pull off complex co-ordinated infiltrations without any external discussion that might give the game away. If you're planning on going there, make sure your friends are informed so they can use divination magic to check you're still you next time they see you. The few human settlements are obviously very paranoid indeed and willing to pay big money to anyone who can rid them of the shapeshifters in their midst. The guy who's nominally in charge is a blacksmith, which reminds us that the best way of catching out dopplegangers is not in conversation, as they can read your mind to get the right answers anyway, but lacking the practical skills of the person they're imitating. So he survives unmolested for now, but people who show themselves to be competent fighters tend to wind up dead in their sleep at the hands of their "friends". This is a problem that can't really be solved by raw force, requiring magic and a clever plan to break their hold over the area and make sure their numbers don't multiply & spread. Well, this definitely looks like it has plenty of potential for a long and interesting campaign with the right group of PC's. Think you're up to the job?
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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
I've run this adventure twice in 5e and once in 2e. It's quite good and has a great map and good foes.

However, it is challenging because of the 3d nature and especially how dynamic it can be. The PCs make a lot of noise in room A- does the NPC in room C investigate?
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Dungeon Issue 57: Jan/Feb 1996



part 2/5



Editorial is after the letters for a change, and has also reorganised it's formatting. The topic is pretty basic though. Do you describe your character's actions in third person, or act them out dramatically in first person? Since this is the 2e era, they're definitely in favour of you getting a bit more immersive with your roleplaying. Get into character, maybe learn how to do a few accents so it's more obvious when you're speaking IC vs OOC, and the whole experience will be more memorable. The kind of thing that would have been a short article in Dragon, and very familiar indeed. Meh.



To Cure a Kingdom: We start out the adventures with your basic macguffin hunt where the PC's are secretly being played by the villain of the story. An overambitious Illithid tried to take over it's city, failed and was cast out & stripped of it's psychoportive powers to wander the underdark the slow way. Despite having developed some extra psychometabolic tricks to compensate, it still wants them back so it can go home and get revenge. So it's taken over a disease cult, engineered a particularly weird disease that (hopefully) needs the same ingredients to cure that it does, leaked info of the cure & and waited for adventurers to come around with all the crucial bits that it couldn't get hold of on it's own. The PC's will be hired by the king of the land above to sort this out. Killing all the disease cultists so they can't do it again is optional but not discouraged. The result is a medium sized dungeoncrawl in the Temple of Elemental Evil mould, where the early parts are easier than expected to make sure the PC's are deep inside and can't escape easily when the real fun begins. Then there's some nasty traps, disease using enemies, high level clerics and the mind flayer itself, these last two having complex sets of powers that you'll really need to read carefully beforehand to use as smartly as you're supposed too. A fairly decent old school style adventure that revels in it's convoluted elements, so it's not for DM's who don't know how to do prepwork and play enemies as smartly as they're written. It looks pretty easy to expand outwards and connect to several other adventures in here, such as the other set of disease cultists from issue 11 and Goblin Fever from issue 46, so I can definitely see myself getting some milage from it. A whole disease themed adventure path would be all too resonant after the real world events of recent years.
I ran To cure a kingdom in 2e - a long time ago, but I seem to recall it was a decent adventure. I wonder if it would run well in 5e....
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 127: December 1997



part 3/5



HOM Sector For The Hol-l-DAYs: Paranoia is already filled with pop culture references, so doing a christmas themed article for it makes perfect sense. Of course, the contents themselves are as internally contradictory as ever, ensuring that everyone is technically a traitor for not spending at least 110% of their yearly credits on presents, and always giving more than they receive. You'd better watch out, because Santa Clone and the Santabots take the festivities very seriously. If they give you a present, you'd better show your appreciation for it, then pass it on before it explodes or make sure it's delivered to the proper address. Their newer Living settings may be increasingly serious and plot driven, but if you're playing Paranoia at a convention, chances are it's strictly Zap style shenanigans where most of your clones will be gone by the end of the 4 hours. This is all very much in that spirit, a bunch of plot hooks thrown together with no real attempt at coherence, but it'd still be fun seeing how players navigate their impossible demands. Not deep, but it doesn't make me groan like some of their attempts at comedy, these ideas seem entirely usable in a one-shot.



(un)Conventional Holidays: If you're starting a convention, you can't expect to go from nothing to thousands of attendees overnight, particularly in a small town. It's probably best to set your expectations accordingly and not even try to organise a full-weekend extravaganza, but go for a single day event instead. As they're also doing with the big conventions, probably the biggest decision is if you want to try and cram 4 4 hour slots for games into the day, or go for 3 with gaps between them so things are a little less exhausting and pressurised. Of course, the rules of the venue you're at might make the decision for you, as many will want you to be packed up and gone well before midnight. Don't expect to make a big profit, but if you charge a few dollars for attendance and promote decently it should be possible to break even at least. Another basic little piece on logistics that shows that they know they need to build up the grassroots stuff if they want to grow roleplaying as a whole, not just put on one or two big events a year. That's what'll get people buying books, playing for years to come and turning other people onto gaming in the future.



The Saving Grace of Valrenwood: It's nice to go out adventuring, but oh so much nicer to come home. At least, until you find out evil forces have wormed their way into your hometown and are planning on taking it over & transforming everyone into monsters. Not that you have any real emotional connection with them in a single session tournament adventure where you're all playing pregens, but that just makes it more of a challenge for your acting muscles. Anyway, you get home to find out that there's a sickness spreading through the place, mostly affecting the farm animals so far, but now the Elder's daughter is infected as well. There's plenty of rumors about what might be happening, most of them false, but at least they give you some ideas of where to start the investigation. Before long, you'll run across some Histachii, which if you're a knowledgable gamer will immediately let you figure out the big bad is a yuan-ti. Turns out the High Theocrat is secretly a Yuan-Ti pureblood, and if not stopped will drug everyone and do a big ritual in the ruined chapel to turn them into Histachii. Can you defeat him and his minions, and will you find the clutch of Yuan-Ti eggs hiding in the cellar of the chapel, or will the village face another round of trouble next year? No great surprises or particularly clever twists here. Less linear than most polyhedron ones in the order of encounters, but quite railroady in terms of dictating your reactions in the boxed text in many of the individual encounters. Overall this is about average by Polyhedron standards, which still means it's way below the Dungeon average and not one I feel any desire to use, but it doesn't do anything particularly annoying either. Just another day at the conventions.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 127: December 1997



part 4/5



The Day Of Grace: The cover story is actually pretty short, a single page, system free bit of plot hookery. Once upon a time, the Lady of Pain didn't kill a little girl who went up to her and talked to her. This was such an out of character event that they made the anniversary of it a regular celebration where people are supposed to be nicer than usual (which some factions are better at than others) and they have a big parade in the Lady's Ward. Easy enough to incorporate into your game, this reminds us that Sigil might be a big city filled with flavour, but that isn't it's primary purpose and everything that happens there is a sideshow to the inscrutable agenda of the Lady. She's obviously not a completely uncaring monster, given how often she mazes people who trouble her rather than just killing them, but if she felt like it, she could just get rid of everyone like you'd fumigate a bug-infested house and that has to inspire some existential dread in the smarter inhabitants. Being a bit superstitious seems an entirely rational reaction under the circumstances. If you want the planes to remain more than just bigger, weirder dungeons to delve it's important to keep some of that cosmic sense of scale in your campaign.



Winter Fantasy: They put the preregistration form for winter fantasy in last issue. Now it's time to promote it again with basically the same information, but this time in prose form for those of you who find it easier to digest that way. Tournaments slots have been reduced to 3 per day with 2 hour gaps between, so you don't have to choose between maxing out your gaming time and seeing the various seminars, special events and awards ceremony. See the previews for their upcoming releases such as Alternity and the new Marvel Super Heroes game. Find out if you've got what it takes to play Magic: the Gathering professionally. That would have been lower on the bill if it appeared at all under TSR management. There might be further changes to come, but it looks like they'll be trying to maintain their special relationship with this convention for now.



Decath10n: Despite all the challenges it's faced, they're still going to do another decathlon next year. But as they're in a generally more experimental mood, they're going to do some revisions to try and boost engagement. They gradually added on categories over the years until you had way more than 10 options to choose from, many of which hardly got any entrants at all. Now they're slimming it down to just 3 writing events, three service events, and any 4 tournaments out of the many they're running throughout the year. None of that option paralysis, just enter all 10 of them if you want a decent shot at winning. Another little sign that WotC is going to be a lot more happy to dramatically change things to make them profitable, and willing to cut them entirely if they still don't work. Will the decathlons still be going come the start of the next millennium? Like the membership drives, it's definitely something to keep an eye on over the course of the year.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 127: December 1997



part 5/5



A World of Your Own: Roger continues directly on from last issue once again, trying to figure out how to get Forgotten Realms players to take the commute from the planet to the Tears of Selune. Fortunately, there's already an adventure for that. Stardock, where you take a portal from Undermountain to save Halaster, because as annoying as he is, Undermountain without him managing it is even worse. Once up there, it's time to take elements from Realmspace, Rock of Braal, Dungeon issue 28, Dragon 184, 214 & 232, the 1996 annual and the complete spacefarer's guide to turn it into less of a day trip and more of an extended campaign which'll leave them wanting to stay up in space after the initial challenge is over. Another issue going quite heavy on Gotta Collect 'em All!, reminding us that even less popular D&D settings have more material than most whole other RPG systems if you scour the old sourcebooks and magazines and put it together. It's just a matter of if you can remember what's relevant and track it down. If not, just make up something of your own to fill the gaps, it's not as if anyone's marking you down for not sticking to particularly obscure bits of canon. About average quality overall for this column.



Behind the Screens: They retired A Few of Our Favorite Things as a column title last year, but this is clearly a continuation of the same set of GM'ing advice, this time featuring Ed Stark. Give every NPC a name and basic description so they can be recognised from the faceless crowd. What NPC's do is more important in actual play than coming up with extensive backstories. Don't make them unrealistically brave or cowardly, play them like real people, not just things to fight. Everything you improvise, note down so you can play an NPC consistently next time. Nothing I disagree with, but as basic and rehashed as ever. Rebranding has done nothing to make this column any more useful to me.



Like last issue, this is mainly interesting in seeing what they've changed, what they wanted to change but walked back, what they didn't really change that much but have rebranded because they've got to be seen doing something and what has simply stayed the same. It's obvious that they're feeling the pressure a lot more than the bigger magazines. Time to head onto next year to see if there'll be another short period of stability before they get absorbed into Dungeon, or it'll be all rushing from one idea to the next trying to stay afloat.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Raven's Buff Trumpeter 2-1: January 1998



4 pages. The Heart of Bane looks like it'll continue to be the main macguffin for several months to come, causing all kinds of problems with the city. On top of spreading generalised corruption, it's also attracting followers of evil gods who want it for themselves. Fortunately they're not any kind of unified front, but open fighting in the streets between followers of Bane, Cyric & Iyachtu Xvim is a nuisance for everyone even if they do wind up killing each other off. Despite this danger, they're also instituting a program of austerity to rebalance the city finances after the war, selling off weapons and cutting back the city watch. I guess that leaves saving the day in the hands of adventuring groups rather than the government. (which is as it should be) Hope you're ready to deal with problems ranging in seriousness from evil gnomes to demonic rampages. Let's hope that whatever metaplot developments this year brings, they aren't so overbearing they prevent people from having a decent choice of adventures.



Living City Q&A changes hands, putting Cisco Lopez-Fresquet in charge of sageing, while also taking the time to talk about the many other new co-ordinators for various aspects of Raven's Bluff life. All of them have email addresses (mostly @aol.com ones) so you can easily contact them from anywhere in the world. Having their print arm out of commission for a year has really pushed them to exploit new technology in a way that would have happened slower if at all if TSR were still in charge. Let's hope all these people can manage to communicate effectively amongst themselves and have a system to deal with what happens when different ones make contradictory rulings.

Does Haste require a system shock roll for aging you? (Yes. Your odds of survival if you use it regularly are very low indeed. Please do not cast it on your enemies in an attempt to exploit this.)

What gods can half-elves be specialty priests of? (depends which side of the family raised them)

Can dual-class fighters continue to improve their unarmed combat skills? (no)

What do you do if a PC does evil things? (Paladins lose their powers straight away. Other ones need to show a repeated pattern of evilness before you remove them from play for good, so put a note on their record for future judges.)

If priests of Illmater memorise Call upon Holy Might in a regular slot rather than cast it as a bonus spell, does it require rest? (yes)

What gods can I follow as a Crusader or Monk? (considerably more than as a specialty priest, but still not all of them)

Can I use the quest spells from Prayers of the Faithful? (no)

Can a multi-class fighter/specialty priest wear armor if single-class priests of that god are forbidden? (no)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 66: Jan/Feb 1998



part 1/5



80 pages. It's the middle of the night, clouds are gathering, our ship is sinking, and I'm still using a lantern rather than a continual light spell. Sea adventures continue to be a pretty stiff challenge for adventurers who haven't stocked up on water-breathing magic and picked equipment that won't be ruined by the trip. Let's see what level range and type of campaign the contents of this issue will best cater to.



Letters: First letter thinks they don't do enough haunted house adventures. Send more in now! I can think of many rarer types of adventure but that's an entirely valid desire.

Second simply wants lots of variety and for people to not get too obsessed with historical accuracy. Do you really want to die of dysentery post dungeon-crawl because you didn't properly sanitise the goblin's treasure?

Third is also sick and tired of the endless generic vs specific arguing and also wonders what happened to Wolf Baur. He moved on up, but he's got several more interesting adventures to release in here. Keep your eyes peeled, because otherwise the ghouls will do it for you.

Fourth thinks that Dungeon is much better bang for your buck than most standalone adventures. Twice the cost for often smaller page counts? Not worth it.

Fifth is relieved that Dungeon is back, but also apprehensive about what the new management will bring. Knowing how you become a playtester would also be nice. Just send a SASE and rough idea of what kind of adventures you like, then make sure you run it with your group and send the feedback within a few months.

Sixth likes their comedy gnomes. I might be annoyed by them, but they definitely have their place in the magazine and at least they're usually irritating in an interesting way.

Seventh has praise for both the writing and illustrations of Last Dance. Good horror creeps up on you, and this one did that quite effectively.

Eighth also praises Last Dance, as well as the comedy of the mad chefs. There's room for both at their table.

Ninth and finally, someone who wants more Birthright and absolutely no Fifth Age stuff. Just can't get rid of those system purists, can we.



Editorial: It's been all change around here. We've already got a good sense of Chris's style from the many adventures he's submitted. Now Jesse Decker the new editorial assistant introduces himself. Even someone as hyperactive as Chris needs someone to make sure everything's ready when he comes in so he can get through more work and focus on actually editing other people's submissions. If you don't do that, he might actually go through on his repeated threat to fill an entire issue with his own adventures. Fortunately, Jesse already has experience with this, being one of the few people who actually used the hireling rules properly in his own campaign. Adventurers who reinvest their money in the economy, hiring servants to create a support structure for their adventures and eventually building their own keep will be much more popular than ones who put it all in a portable hole and continue with the murderhobo lifestyle, only with more plusses on their magic items. So he's probably exaggerating the way their relationship works for comedic purposes, but with some underlying truth beneath it. Every Batman needs their Alfred, every Stonehill Boulderdash needs their Bob. Some day he may be the guy in charge, but for now he's content with his position. And if you're not, all the more reason to pretend to be right up to the point of your sudden but inevitable betrayal. We should be able to maintain some playfulness in the adventures as well under the guidance of this dynamic duo.
 


(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 66: Jan/Feb 1998



part 2/5



Enormously Inconvenient: Sometimes, you get shrunk down so what would normally be trivial obstacles become lengthy terrifying encounters. More often, someone gets the bright idea of making small creatures bigger, which can really upset the ecosystem if the changes are permanent and hereditary. Fortunately, that's not the case this time and there's no big cackling villain to defeat. It's just a broken beaker of plentiful potions leaking growth potion into a river, causing the animals downstream to grow in unpredictable ways. While on a journey, you'll come across giant ants eating a dryad's tree, causing her great distress. Save her and she'll give you the appropriate hint to follow the nearby river upstream and save the rest of the forest. Along the way, you'll encounter all manner of other giant animals, often engaged in humorous role reversals as the amount of growth has been inconsistent and some prey are now much larger than their natural predator. Giant frogs, giant raccoons, giant beavers, giant buffalo, giant carnivorous plants, all good clean enlarged fun. Take the broken pieces of the beaker out of the river and things'll return to normal in a few days, plus you'll have the gratitude of the fae of the area. All pretty easy to understand and use in nearly any campaign, apart from super serious and gritty ones, where it might ruin the tone. Another one to put in the solid but unexceptional category.



Side Treks - Avenging Murik: Chris might not have the time to come up with epic adventures like he used to, but a side trek? No problem to whip that up in an evening off. A pair of dwarves ask you for help in dealing with a troublesome stone giant who killed their companion. Seems like a simple enough problem. The twist is that one of the dwarves is actually a werebadger who instigated the unprovoked attack in the first place, and will try to use the fight to steal the giant's gold and leave the rest of you in the lurch. If the players are paying attention they can make peace with the stone giant and go after the real bad guy instead, which gets you more XP and less treasure, but this is 2e so you weren't gaining XP for gold anyway. A very 2e feeling little encounter that's all about reminding us that who the good and bad guys are isn't always clear, and if you attack anything you encounter unprovoked maybe you're the real monsters. Another one that's easily usable pretty much anywhere, anytime, competently written, but nothing particularly exceptional or original.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 66: Jan/Feb 1998



part 3/5



The Sunken Shadow: Turns out the cover story is pretty accurately represented by the cover, as it's aimed at starting level characters, so you will indeed be low on magic aside from some potions of water breathing provided by your employer. That means you'll have to use your brains to figure out and deal with the other supernatural elements. The PC's are hired by a Paladin to retrieve the treasure from a shipwreck, with a particular emphasis on a gold armband that looks like an eel. Since paladins aren't supposed to care about material gain, this should immediately be cause for suspicion that this won't be just a simple retrieval mission. Any suspicions will be further compounded by the ship losing a crewman each night of the journey to a massive eel-like creature. Unsurprisingly, the armband is cursed, and the paladin it's latest victim, turning him into a ravenous were-eel each night unable to resist his hungers and trying to make up for it in the day. To get the good ending you'll need to realise that and destroy the armband rather than giving it to him or falling prey to it's supernatural beauty and trying to keep it yourselves. Another very 2eish feeling one where you're strongly encouraged to take the heroic path and not take every mission purely on your own potential material gain. If you do nothing but those you'll stay poor forever and never get the chance to move to domain management even if you hit high enough level. :p It's no wonder that playstyle has been eroded from all sides over the years. So this is another adventure that isn't bad on it's own merits, but there's a lot of diminishing returns seeing the same idea several times in quick succession.



Side Treks - Swing Shot!: After several fairly familiar ideas, here we have one they've only done once before in Dragon, and not at all in here. A bridge over a chasm in the underdark, as seen previously in issue 131's underdark special, which means there's no way around unless you can fly and monsters can easily use it as a choke point for ambushes. Only instead of Gargoyles and Ogres, this time you're facing orcs and a giant snapping turtle in the water at the bottom if you get knocked off during the fight. They do have a shaman that'll use their spells intelligently to make the encounter more dangerous, but despite saying they're aimed at similar level parties, this one is much smaller and easier than it's precursor from a decade ago, reminding us that adventures have become much more forgiving in general over the years. Underdark exploring is common enough that both are entirely valid and could be used in the same campaign at different points, but this is definitely the weaker of the two in terms of both challenge and inventiveness. We could stand to see more iterations on the same idea, but they'd have to really put the work in to come up with different layouts and combinations of creatures to prevent diminishing returns.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 66: Jan/Feb 1998



part 4/5



Operation Manta Ray: Or maybe this is the cover story, since it's a second nautical one in the same issue. Yeesh, what was I saying about diminishing returns? Still, at least it's one that requires sneakiness rather than straight-up paladin style heroics. You get hired by the Sembian navy for a matter of top secret national security. You need to find your way into Immurk's Hold and rescue their spy in the pirate's midst before enemy forces blow his cover and subject him to unspeakable torture. A direct assault would be suicidal even at high level, as there's literally thousands of them, many spellcasters, plus gargoyles, malenti and magical wards that make entering from air or underwater no cakewalks either. It's time for a heist mission! If you already have a piratical background you might be able to talk your way in, particularly if you have the right kind of tattoos. (or at least know enough to fake them) Of course pirates are always looking for new fresh recruits, so even if you don't look the part you can get in on the bottom if you're willing to undergo the gruelling hazing of the Pirate's Run. However you get in, you'll then have to find your man by process of elimination and a passphrase, (without just going around saying it to everyone, which would raise suspicion pretty quick) which has the potential to lead to a whole bunch of side adventures. Then once you do, there's the additional complication that he's fallen in love with a pirate woman while undercover and doesn't want to leave her, but she's still loyal to the code and unless you have some pretty slick persuasive skills will rat you all out when she finds out her husband has been a double agent all along. This will probably lead to your escape being even more dramatic and perilous than your entry, but in a naturalistic way rather than an inevitable railroad. This adventure contrasts sharply with all the other ones in the issue, presenting a large, open ended, easily expandable scenario full of moral greys and then giving you fairly free reign to solve it yourself rather than having obvious proscribed good and evil solutions. You're probably not getting through it without getting at least a little grubby, but at least you'll be doing it in a way you decided of your own free will, not because your mind is being messed with by an evil magic item. It makes me really wish they were doing more decent sized sandboxes and fewer isolated prefab encounters, which they continue to get worse on as the years go by.



The Petrifying Priestess: Chris was pretty fond of the idea of customising monsters with class levels as a freelancer, so it's no great surprise that he accepted this one, which does exactly what it says on the tin. A medusa which is also a mid-level cleric of Gruumsh, giving her a whole load of extra utility tricks that are particularly handy if she's surrounded by minions, which conveniently she will be unless you scout the area instead of just leaping in and choose your time of attack carefully. Facing her, her maedar boyfriend and her orc minions both living and undead will probably have you outnumbered unless you brought hirelings, and if you only brought one mirror it'll be easily smashed before you can get her to petrify herself. (plus if the boyfriend is still alive, he'll be able to easily turn her back.) A pleasingly tough and very 3eish feeling little scenario where the parts fit together effectively in combat, while still retaining enough 2e focus on their day to day lives and ecological effect that you could solve it in a more sneaky way. A quite forward-thinking bit of writing that I thoroughly approve of, this is easily my favourite adventure of the issue.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 66: Jan/Feb 1998



part 5/5



Orange and Black: A tiger? A bad guy? But they're so kyooot! Yup, it's time for another adventure in the same issue where what initially seems like just a basic challenge to kill turns out to be a lot more complex. A little kid has gone missing from a village the PC's are passing through, so they'll be asked to rescue him. If you have any skill at tracking at all, you'll soon find him in the lair of said tiger, scared but completely unharmed. Unless you really force the issue or look like you're threatening the boy, the tiger won't attack you, strongly hinting something is up. It's actually a ranger polymorphed into a tiger, losing his intelligence but retaining enough of his former personality to still be kind to kids. If you figure that out, you then need to trap him and take him to a nearby abandoned shrine to have the transformation removed, which unsurprisingly has an undead guardian to beat. So this is yet another one with an obvious evil ending, (kill the tiger) neutral ending, (rescue the boy but leave the tiger alone) and good ending (turn him back, everybody lives Rose!) for you to get depending on your player's smarts and tastes. Very 2eish, but won't fall apart if they make the wrong choices, this is yet another one in the solid but unexceptional league overall.



The Statement of Ownership lurks at the back of the magazine, because unsurprisingly it's not great news. They've dropped to another 6,000 to a mere 23,000, losing a fair bit in both the newsstands and subscriptions. Like their other two magazines, it's time to put in the work of regaining trust by showing they can deliver regularly again and maybe finding ways to promote to potential buyers that TSR couldn't or didn't want to reach.



A lot of short and competently written but dull encounters here, there's nothing here that really offends me taking the adventures in isolation, but put together it's a pretty weak and repetitive collection. We're now hitting the point where 2e had ran out of new ideas and they were still figuring out what to do differently with the next edition. Dragon really upped the number of short crunchy filler articles in this period and it looks like Dungeon will be following suit. You can still get plenty of useful stuff for your game from them but you have to filter more carefully than earlier years. This is one I'm quite comfortable closing the final page on and maybe never opening again.
 

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