TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 128: February 1998



part 1/5



32 pages. Here we are. Another year, another issue, another binary digit. Each new piece of information takes up increasing amounts of data because you have to use increasingly long codes to point to them. How do you comprehend that vast stream of facts and get some use out of it? If you take it all in unfiltered, will you become a god, or just go insane? Fittingly, the cover takes us to cyberspace in a very 90's style. Cables cables everywhere. Wifi is still just an infant idea slower and less reliable than plugging in and dealing with the tangle, desktops still dominate over laptops. Let's see what their vision of the future looks like in hindsight.



your 1nitiative: First letter understood the references in their christmas staff listing and just wants everyone to know that like Captain America did. Darmok & Jalad, beaming with pride.

Second wants some clarifications about the recent changes and their targets. Doubling the readership just gets them an annual. It'll take even more than that to get the regular release schedule back to monthly. Dungeon still has more than triple theirs and they're not even considering accelerating that yet.

Third wants to know the addresses of TSR writers and send fanmail. Yeah, we've had that request before. Turns out it's a bad idea, which is why they have a PO box you can send it to now, and they'll pass it on once they're reasonably sure it isn't something creepy.

Finally, someone who wants more spells and more Dragonlance stuff in general. The spells, you can buy an epic compendium of now. :teeth ting: For more Dragonlance stuff, they've got their own online newsletter just like the Trumpeter. Unfortunately, unlike the Trumpeter, this link has not survived the passage of time, so unless someone has saved them, we can't get to read them.



Notes From HQ: The editorial gets in on the theme, going hard on pointing out the benefits of embracing the online world. If you order tournaments online, you only need to do it a month before the start of the convention, although if it's an exclusive one that hasn't been approved yet, you still need to submit it for approval 6 months before, but just grabbing some prefab ones to fill out the lineup is now much quicker, and the system will automatically tell you if they've already been ordered somewhere near you to prevent clashes. If you're similarly punctual with submitting all the paperwork afterwards, you get a discount on your next order. Your rankings should update quicker and you can check them any time for free just by logging on. Presuming the whole thing doesn't crash of course. Yup, this is one area where the internet is an unambiguous improvement, at least until it becomes mandatory and they remove the non-online methods of contact entirely, leaving you stuck if the connection goes down. Then you may well wish you still had the good old post office or landline and wish you kept some of the old guard around who still know the old ways of running things.



Table Talk: The news this month is still firmly focussed on the decathlon and membership drive. They need more places running tournaments, more charity events, more volunteers in general. Contact them and let them know how you can help so they can delegate tasks appropriately. Then if you do, make sure you do the assignments on time, otherwise it'll result in a last minute scramble for someone else. They might be under management, but human nature remains the same, which means lots of apathetic people, many that mean well but forget or procrastinate on important tasks and a few working way too hard to make up for that. They might be able to get a few more reliable regulars and promote them to positions where they can do some good, but there'll still be plenty more passive consumers at the bottom of the pyramid.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 128: February 1998



part 2/5



Elminster's Everwinking Eye: Ed is not embracing the digital world, preferring to keep his communiques strictly to letter or irl, which co-incidentally is also the name of this month's spotlighted village. They're particularly notable for being a hotbed for gem mining, including lots of ioun stones and other magical sparklies. While not every family there is rich, there are many that are very rich indeed. This leads to lots of conspiracy theories about what they actually do with all that money, why they stick to small-town life instead of constructing massive mansions or moving away, as well as why the place itself isn't larger. I guess they must like it that way. Once you reach a certain level of wealth that you and your family can be comfortable and secure in perpetuity, why waste it on flashy stuff that won't make you any happier? Anyone who's in thrall to the capitalist ideals of constant growth and ostentatious consumption simply wouldn't understand that mindset. So this is one that almost seems too nice, particularly in the rough and tumble border kingdoms. Until some sucker sends an army to conquer it, at which point they break out the laser shooting floating jewels and hordes of ultrapowerful golems, kick the asses of the invaders and use the more subtle levers of wealth to economically cripple the offending country for decades. It's like Ian M Banks's The Algebraist all over again. This definitely seems like a place where a more sneaky group of adventurers could pull off a heist and come away with a nice profit, but doing so repeatedly would rapidly increase the odds of picking a target out of your league and facing the consequences, because they have a lot of resources that they can bring to bear to protect their relaxed communal lifestyle. Another example of the things only he can manage, making a place nice without being weak or boring. I wish more of the adventures in here & Dungeon would at least try to thread that needle.



City Stories: The irregular series on temples continues by looking at Tyr, god of justice. In a world like this, justice is meaningless without the strength to back it up, so this is another temple that has it's own armory, training grounds and all the other stuff needed to train and equip paladins to go out and fight for what's right. But once caught, they also need to be able to properly assess guilt or innocence and proper punishment, so there's also more emphasis on book learning than Tempus or Helm, with writings by various notables stretching back a good 600 years. As usual, they have a nice full-page map of the temple, a description of the most important NPC's, and some stuff on their customs and day-to-day life there. It all presents a picture of a stable place that's been doing this for a long time and is well integrated into the community. There's just one big problem with this, as they made a big deal in the Trumpeter a couple of months ago about how the high priest had been possessed and the whole thing was infiltrated by Mask worshippers, forcing them to tear down, rebuild and reconsecrate the temple when it was uncovered. So this is an instance where the two articles are both decent enough on their own, but put together are a big editorial fail, showing that they aren't checking and co-ordinating what's being published in polyhedron and the online newsletter. If people aren't aware of the big metaplot developments, they might as well have not happened. Put so closely together, it all seems very sloppy. That should inspire some complaining letters in the near future.



Welcome to Star*Drive: The era of Alternity is upon us again. No surprise that they're trying to promote it here as well, hopefully get a Living setting going if they can get you guys to actually contribute. So here's one of your system free setting synopses to get interest up. The Year is 2501. Humanity has spread to the stars, which is a ridiculously vast area to explore, so we'll focus on a particular region with half a dozen PC-suitable species called the Verge. There's a high ratio of inhabitable planets here, which we get a whistle-stop tour of. Do you want to settle a garden world, terraform a barren one, seek your fortune, get involved in politics, or just pack off to fight in one of the simmering little wars that threaten to break out as soon as people have recovered from the last big one. It's all very colonial era writ large, as galactic civilisation isn't joined up at all and there's lots of competition for the best currently unsettled bits. Unlike their previous attempts at sci-fi, this is very much designed so you can play D&D IIIIINNNN SPAAAAACEEEE!!!!!, complete with lots of opportunity for killing and taking of stuff if that's your bag. We shall have to see if the Living adventures stick to that formula or anyone tries something a little more progressive with them.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 128: February 1998



part 3/5



The New Face of the Enemy: Play by Mail games have never been the primary focus of Dragon or Polyhedron, but they have been a persistent undercurrent right back to the very earliest days of roleplaying, another offshoot from their wargaming ancestors. Their popularity has always been limited by the time and expense needed to play them, with each turn taking a week or even a month and every action costing money you need quite a particular mindset to persist and derive pleasure from playing. But with the internet, you can exchange letters pretty much as fast as people can write them, and send them to as many people as you want at no extra cost. This has led to a massive boom of new players, particularly at the RPG end of the field rather than the wargamey one, where you can have extended conversations in a naturalistic fashion and don't have to wait for everyone to make a move before you can go to the next turn. There's almost definitely some grognards grumbling about all the storygamers coming in ruining everything, :cough:nisarg:cough: but that just shows the more things change, the more they stay the same. An interesting little article that's quite heavy on links, which unfortunately are all dead now apart from the one to rpg.net, showing just how much technology changes gaming, but also how ephemeral things on the internet can be. Our current forums only stretch back to 2002, so any PbP games that were running back then are now lost to the ages. If you really value the stories you told then, I hope you copied the text and saved it in a local copy.



Character Generation Software: Last article had more than a few dead links in it, but this one is even more frustratingly dated, as the downloads of character generation software for various systems they link to would in theory still be useful now if you could get your hands on them. 5 AD&D ones of various quality levels, 3 much better ones for Shadowrun, Earthdawn & GURPS, evidently their creators have more passion for what they do, a purely generic one, and an entirely online one that doesn't work for them, because Java applets aren't particularly reliable. Another interesting example of how the internet is creating communities sharing game material, sometimes selling it even if their legal right to do so is dubious. Which companies embrace the web straight away, which ignore it and which try to stomp on online fanworks and the effect that had on their long-term fortunes is a particularly interesting bit of history that I hope someone was keeping notes on and might make into a book someday.



Robots For Dummies: Now there's a series I wasn't expecting them to parody in here. But looking it up, the for dummies books have been going since 1991 and sold well right from the start, so it's an entirely valid cultural reference for the era, although they won’t get around to covering D&D until 2005. Anyway, here's a lighthearted, system free look at how robots work, applicable to games from Paranoia to Star Wars to Shadowrun. They vary widely in size and sophistication, but all are programmed to obey and be helpful … as long as you know how to give orders correctly. Watch out for boot times, bugs, viruses, need for software updates at inconvenient times, overzealous following of one order at the expense of everything else and people who know the emergency override passwords, turning your loyal servant against you. If you're a regular consumer of genre media all of these should be pretty familiar tropes, so this is more a brief refresher than anything hugely educational. But I'm sure there are some younger readers who'll actually learn something from it. They are trying hard to increase their membership at the moment, so they can't aim everything at cynical long-term readers like me who can predict the patterns in stories fairly accurately before they even start.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 128: February 1998



part 4/5



Virtual Seattle Player Package: Several years later, Virtual Seattle still has a small but dedicated player base, but the Heintz's have grown tired of all the admin stuff and want to be able to enjoy just playing again, so they're handing the lead developer role to Wes Nicholson. who plans to keep the basic tone of things the same, but obviously has to keep up with the flow of supplements and decide which bits are allowed. Betaware is currently only allowed if you get hold of it in adventures, not to buy, although it will eventually go into regular circulation after a big metaplot adventure later this year. Initiation is allowed, but only slowly, so don't think you can blow all your karma on it to the exclusion of everything else. Yes, you can pre-conjure elementals before a run unless it specifically drops you into the trouble cold. No we aren't going to implement certificates for everything like Living City, unless we get bigger or someone really makes it necessary by abusing the system. (but stay honest on your character sheet please) You can buy new spells & gear between adventures but more complex downtime activities would also require us getting bigger and having more volunteers to handle the admin. Unlike the real world reorganisation the RPGA is going through, the changes to this setting look pretty gentle and incremental. There may be a little power creep due to technological changes, but probably less than in the real world, where computers get orders of magnitude more powerful year on year. After all, we don't have anyone revising the rules to make them more balanced if someone figures out how to exploit them.



It's Technical Billy: We continue to try to catch up with all the things they missed over the last year, with the winners of the competitions for sidekicks and tech devices. Let's see if they managed to get anything particularly ingenious.

Kishiko Masamoto is your basic adorable little girl who’s been trained from birth to be a ruthless cyborg ninja assassin by her megacorp executive adoptive father, who carefully makes sure he’s the only person in her life who ever shows her any kindness. Convincing her that he really only sees her as a tool and would sacrifice her life to save his own seems difficult but more rewarding than just killing her. Getting her to add lesbian stripper to her job title even moreso. But how many Shadowrun teams have a face man that skilled in social engineering?

Personal Universal Translators are Star Wars’ attempt at babel fish. But although they might translate the words, they won’t provide the context and diplomatic phrasing a good protocol droid would apply. Let’s hope you have enough cultural knowledge to figure out which type of trap the Berrite ambassador is warning you about.



Dragonlance 5th Age Contest Winners: Continuing straight on from last article, it looks like they did get enough 5th age submissions to make the contest meaningful. Good to see at least a few people were won over by their attempt at a more narrative focussed game.

The Toenail Of Chaos is a shiny toenail shaped rock that does indeed cause chaos wherever it goes. It’s attached itself to a Kender village, and is proving impossible to get rid of or destroy whatever they try. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch of whimsical kleptomaniacs. See how they like the boot being on the other foot.

The Chaos Cloud, on the other hand, just pops up anywhere and also causes random changes to anything caught in it. Better hope it doesn’t just roll around you in the middle of the night so you have a chance to avoid it. That’s a definite downside of a more narrative game, encouraging the DM to pull stuff like this without so much as a saving throw. In the hands of a bad one, who knows what they’d do to you without a chance to resist.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 128: February 1998



part 5/5



Powers That Be: As they said he would a few months ago, Eric Boyd hops from Toril to Oerth to give them a little more spotlight time. Certain WotC staff were big Greyhawk fans back in the day, so they're bringing the setting back even if it wasn't the most financially successful previous times around. (in sharp contrast to most of their more pragmatically driven changes) The format remains the same, but unlike their more successful counterpart they aren’t delving into new hidden lore, just talking about already well-known gods, at least to anyone who already cared about the setting. So it looks like this is more outreach to the people who don’t already know about Greyhawk than new lore for the hardcore, as Polyhedron has never really had much in the way of Greyhawk stuff before.

The first god picked is Boccob. Gods of magic are a pretty popular choice for adventurers, as they’re generally pretty powerful while also being less morally restrictive than the average god. This is even more true of Boccob than Mystra as he seems a pretty detached deity to the average man on the street. Worship him and you can pretty much do what you like as long as part of that involves seeking magical knowledge. (and with enough magical knowledge, you can accomplish nearly any other goal more easily, so it’s win-win) There is a catch though. For all his knowledge and power, even he can’t stop entropy and he sees a future in which magic gradually declines in power until it can only do a fraction of what it used to, (which looking at magic in 4 & 5e compared to older editions has already come true :p ) then is eventually forgotten for mundane technology. The higher level you become as a cleric of his, the more likely you are to become aware of that and be sucked into his eternal attempts to turn or at least slow the tide, which may lead to existential despair for a mortal mind. There’s a reason his ascended archmage assistant Zagyg is called The Mad, after all. So this has a decent amount of atmosphere even if it’s plot hooks are a bit high level for most parties, reminding us that Greyhawk is a darker and more neutral-aligned setting than the Forgotten Realms, with fewer neat novel-mandated happy endings. You can still gain high level, tons of magic items and even immortality as an adventurer, but the world itself remains less cozy & caring and in the end it’s all going to fall apart or be destroyed by Tharizdun. Will you stick with it anyway and try to make it a better place or head off to other planes of existence when you get the power?



Play. Test.: For many years, the lack of playtesting in even official TSR adventures, let alone ones used in magazines and tournaments was a running joke. This is one of the most obvious things that WotC looked at and decided had to change ASAP. That means you too RPGA! Living City modules now require at least one certificated playtest with feedback scores averaging 7 or better before they're approved for general release. Other Living settings don't have the number of submissions to be quite so strict, but they'll also be encouraging more playtesting for those and one-shot adventures as well. On the player side, you can gain XP for doing so as well, so volunteer now and save others from terrible writing and sloppy mechanics! This is a development I definitely have no problem with, given the number of adventures I've slated in here. I guess it won't stop ones that are just linear and boring from appearing, but just weeding out the worst bits of poorly thought out writing is still a step in the right direction. Now they just need a new system built from the ground up with tighter rules to really make their higher standards make sense. :)



Another issue full of updates and changes, reminding us that their hiatus came just when the internet was massively exploding in popularity, bringing all kinds of little changes to the world around at the same time. That means they're putting lots of effort into taking advantage of those opportunities, because they really don't want to fall behind again and be cancelled for good. Looks like it might be a while longer before they find some kind of regular routine. This continues to be pretty interesting reading for me then. Time to see what they get around to doing next issue and if it'll feel long overdue.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Raven's Buff Trumpeter 2-2: February 1998



5 pages. Religion continues to be both the cause of and the solution to much of the Living City's problems. The gaggle of evil cultists seeking the Heart of Bane have mostly been arrested, but the temple of Lliira is facing all kinds of trouble. They managed to win a place on the clerical Circle through their heroic actions in the war, which has led to much bitchiness from followers of Sune and Sharess who think they deserve one as well. Spend a bit more time building yourself up and less trying to cut rivals down and maybe you'll have a chance. They also had to fend off attempted theft during their recent costume ball by one of the several alu-fiends that recently married adventurers. Everyone knew that was a bad idea! But some idiots believed they could be redeemed by the power of love or were just too horny to consider the consequences. Who knows what other problems they'll cause before the city authorities get fed up of it and have to organise something to root them all out. In more positive news, at least one attempt at redemption is working out so far, as a priestess of Talos was persuaded to turn over a new leaf and switch to worshipping Lathander by adventurers rather than simply killing her. Let's hope that's not also a long con that'll lead to further newsworthy events.

There is still a fair amount of more secular news though. It looks like there might be an adventure involving an extended underdark trip brewing, and Lord Blacktree is looking for volunteers. Do you think you're tough enough to go without the sun for weeks or months at a time? Or would you prefer to stick closer to home and make the roads safer again, as apparently bandits are proliferating even though the war is over. That's often a problem when you have lots of ex-military people who can't find a regular job. And the wizard's guild is building a new larger facility, which I'm sure will be of great concern to the neighbours. Let's hope it lasts a few years before being blown up by some experiment gone wrong. Even back to business as usual is still pretty busy compared to most places.



Living City Q&A: Does Living City use Chance to learn spells & max number knowable by intelligence? (yes)

Are multiple enlarge spells cumulative? (no)

Can half-elves become crusaders? (if the specific god allows both those things as worshippers, absolutely)

Can Prayer buff Thorn Spray (yes, but not as much as you think, as the bonus is per target rather than per thorn)

Can priests change deities (yes, but it'll cost them, and their new employer may not trust them for quite some time)

Can non-elves cast spells in elven chain? (no)

Can Rangers two-weapon fight in Elven Chain (yes)

If a polymorphed creature gets pregnant, what species are the offspring? (this is too big a can of worms to deal with, so we're going to ban shapeshifted pregnancies entirely in Living campaigns. Wait until next edition, then you can stack templates to your heart's content in your home games)

Do I have to follow racial ability score minimums? (yes)

Do druids gain bonus XP for high enough ability scores? (yes)

Can multi-class clerics use weapons not normally allowed? (no, no and thrice no!)

Can you use multiple links from a chain of silver links in one round? (no)

How does multiclassing interact with the Chaos Spell's saving throws? (for now, the better option)

If you dual wield a weapon you're specialised in, do both get all the bonuses? (yes, if it's light enough to dual-wield in the first place)

What size of weapons can I dual-wield? (two light or one medium & one light. Or a katana & wakizashi because samurai are kewler than everyone else.)

Can non-specialty clerics cast the special spells from sourcebooks? (only if we allow specialty priests of that god)

Can priests of Moradin craft nonmagical weapons that hurt things only hurt by +1 weapons for the whole team? (no)

Can gnomes & dwarves use medium weapons one-handed? (dwarves yes, gnomes no)

Can dual-class fighter/clerics improve their punching proficiency further? (yes, but using the skill of both will cost XP until your new class exceeds your old one)

Can you still disrupt wizard's spellcasting even if they have a stoneskin up negating the damage? (yes)

How can I abuse polymorph other? (in as few ways as possible please)

If I'm dropped to negative HP and then healed to positive, can I get straight back in the fight? (no, you need a bit of bed rest first)

Can one PC raise another from the dead? (only during the same adventure they died. Otherwise you'll have to pay full market price at the temple.)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Raven's Buff Trumpeter 2-3: March 1998



10 pages. The majority of the news is devoted to the noble classes attempting to reassert their dominance after being decimated by the war. The surviving houses are now under extra pressure to find suitable people to marry and produce new heirs. Maybe some up and coming adventurers would fit the bill and would relish the opportunity to marry into old money and improve their social status? Of course, there's also the question of what to do with those abandoned manors where no extant heirs are to be found, and what lurks within them. At least one family was engaged in demon summoning and secret sacrifices to evil gods, and even though it might have ended badly for them, that doesn't mean there aren't still dangers lurking in there for anyone trying to reclaim them. Once again, this seems like prime opportunities for adventurers to go in and make a difference.

The religious problems continue, but take up a smaller part of the wordcount this time. This time it's the temple of Lathander that's been unexpectedly destroyed by a very suspicious earthquake. Being optimistic sorts, they look on this as an opportunity to build a bigger, better one, and have employed a famous sembian architect to do the honors. Let's hope the people behind the destruction don't strike again and turn the whole thing into a mess of ever escalating costs. There's also the ongoing suspicion about the two establishments devoted to the worship of Sharess in the city. Would you want your kids going to her services? Do we really have the energy for that much hedonism? Even with the Code of Conduct gone, they're not going to immediately leap to encouraging pansexual orgies in the official FR books.



There's no OOC rules questions this issue. Instead, a full 7 pages are devoted to expanding the knightly orders and their specialist sub-orders. If you want to join any of these, now you have the full requirements, behavioural restrictions and benefits.

The Blood Guard are Griffin Knights who've finally earned their own griffin, although the admins reserve the right to disallow it in tournaments. They need to donate 10% of their income to the order, but get a 20% discount on weapons & armor, resistance to fear effects and cheap raising if they die on a mission. (as long as the body is recovered.)

Dove Emissaries take the pacifistic agenda of the order and promote it in foreign lands. This means they're unavailable for play for 3 months out of the year, but you can choose which months, so it'll only be a problem for the most prolific of tournamentgoers. They have fairly stiff requirements in terms of social proficiencies, but will get another bonus one when they qualify, plus a potion of extra-healing every mission instead of a regular strength one.

The Pillars of the Realm are servants of the Clerical Circle devoted to protecting and upholding religions in general, rather than any one faith. This means they have to support and protect all but the most obviously evil religions regardless of their personal feelings on them and settle disputes between them on top of the usual knightly stuff like tithing and going on specific missions. In return they get a bonus ancient religion proficiency, discount access to magical healing at any temple and a token of faith that gives a slim second chance at saving throws.

Golden Crown Roosters are an upgrade path from the regular ones that doesn't require them to switch to a whole different order. If you've spent at least a year as one already, have at least 100,000xp and have generally proved yourself not only heroic but also actively promoted & recruited for the order, you get a neat badge and your own room with an actual bath, so you don't have to wait for the communal ones to be free to stay clean & shiny-armored. Oh, the luxury.

Knights of the Hawk are trained as undercover agents to protect Raven's Bluff against more subtle threats. This means they aren't bound to the same kind of obvious code of honor as other knighthoods, but still need to be ready to adopt any guise and go anywhere at a moment's notice to fulfil assignments and keep full records of their actions so their superiors can judge if they were justified afterwards. They get an appropriately sneaky bonus proficiency, contacts in law enforcement and the right to order their martinis shaken, not stirred as a reward.

The Keepers of the Mystic Flame are a somewhat mistrusted secret society devoted to protecting arcane magic from misuse. Considering part of the initiation is swearing a magically enforced oath that results in instant death if you reveal the secrets of the order to outsiders, they'll probably remain misunderstood even with current attempts to improve their image. They do get a couple of interesting minor magic items for joining, their own secret language and room & board at the temple of Mystra though so I guess high risk, high reward. Hopefully some players like that kind of style enough to apply.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 67: Mar/Apr 1998



part 1/5



80 pages. Scarecrows with pumpkin heads? In april? At this latitude? Localised entirely within your cornfield? Looks like they're failing at seasonality again due to the massive surplus of horror submissions. Let's see if there are any fresh ideas inside, or they'll be as rotten as autumn fruit by the time spring rolls around.



Letters is very small this time, with only two submissions, both sent via email. First praises them for doing a Dragonlance Saga adventure, but nitpicks how snow shoes actually work. When you live in Canada, you get plenty of first hand experience of these things.

Second talks about their favourite adventures of recent issues, favouring ones that are larger and involve traveling between multiple locations over one trick ponies. Got to keep them from getting bored as variety is the spice of life.



Editorial: When a magazine has been going for this long, it does get difficult not to repeat yourself. Chris talks about some of the most overdone creatures, that have appeared repeatedly in here and get even more disproportionate numbers of submissions. Evil wizards, liches, lycanthropes, vampires and especially dopplegangers, they just keep on coming, often being used in very similar ways. It's not that you should stop using them entirely, as after all, he's had adventures published featuring every single one of these, plus the equally cliched kobolds with traps, but if you do you need to be aware that you're being held to higher standards than if you use thouls or bhaergala and come up with a way to use them that isn't just an imitation of something we've seen before. Don't try to imitate his writing style to get published either. Chris knows he's awesome and is flattered that you would try, but you'll never be him, so work harder on developing your own distinctive style. He continues to have a lot more tongue in cheek egotism than any previous editor, which makes for an interesting read, but also makes me worry at some point he'll start to believe his own hype.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 67: Mar/Apr 1998



part 2/5



Witches' Brew: As usual for the first adventure in an issue, they pick something that's conceptually fairly simple. You're hired by a wizard to gather potion ingredients. Can you get hold of baneberries, black peat bog tar, shrieking mandrake root and deadly nightshade and get them back to him while they're still fresh? Seems simple enough until you read up on your folklore. One can only be collected during the full moon, another only keeps it's magical potency if you don't let any moonlight touch it, and of course the mandrake shrieks can be lethal so you need some form of heavy duty ear protection. Things are already looking like a genuine logistical challenge to get them all in the right order. Then there's the witch of the title, who wants the ingredients for herself and will actively interfere in your attempts to gather them with increasing viciousness as the adventure goes on. (unless you decide to go kill her first and then sort out the ingredients afterwards, which might actually get things done quicker. ) Nothing original here, but it's a well put together sandbox that signposts what you need to solve the puzzles while also putting enough time pressure on you that you never feel like you're just wandering around aimlessly. Both the villagers and the monsters get a decent amount of flavour and while there is a default sequence of events it's easy enough to sequence break it if the players come up with an interesting plan instead of just reacting to immediate events. All in all, a pretty good start.



After many years of refusing to put any kind of dragonmirth analogue in here, they finally start including comics, which is a refreshing change to see. Familiar faces Swordplay riff on the whole witches' brew concept, but can't come up with a suitable rhyme to cast the right spell.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 67: Mar/Apr 1998



part 3/5



Side Treks - Eye of the Storm: There's a lot of profit to be made in solving problems you've created yourself. What better time to sell lightning rods to a village than when there's a huge storm a-comin'? They'll be too busy frantically fitting them to their houses to haggle over the price or question why someone with the equipment to save the day just happened to be passing. Unless a particularly paranoid group of PC's just happened to also be passing by at the same time. So what we have here is a double layered encounter with an obvious threat and method of solving it, and a second objective that the players might not even realise exists, instead thanking their "benefactor" and going on their way once the storm is over. A fairly interesting bit of writing that uses a rare subclass, introduces a new monster, and has two very different potential action scenes packed into three pages, this definitely doesn't feel like a rehash of a previous scenario and is definitely one I'd enjoy using.



Training Ground: They can't just do dungeon crawls filled with traps and puzzles anymore. They always have to come up with justifications why the place exists and why the PC's would want to go down there beyond the basic joy of killing things & taking their stuff to accumulate personal power & wealth that take up a significant percentage of the pagecount. Here's one where the tension between the 1e and 2e parts of the writing are particularly obvious. You have a tricky puzzle dungeon filled with traps, constructs and monsters that are in suspended animation until you enter their rooms so you don't have to worry about what they eat or where they go to the toilet. Then you have a secondary plot about how the Zhentarim (or other similar evil secret society in your campaign) want to get hold of all the stuff inside the dungeon. The PC's are alerted to this by a rather convoluted sequence of events in a nearby town, and hopefully engage with them enough to get involved. Of course where's there's one Zhent, there are probably more, and you'll encounter the remains of the previous party they sent in and quite possibly another one if you take too much time going through the dungeon. It's an awkward fit though. It all feels like the dungeon was created first then the plot elements were stapled on afterwards to fit the current fashions in adventure writing. The final result is an interesting read, but also rather clunky in a "how do you do, fellow kids" kinda way. There's more than enough good elements in here that I could get something out of it, but the whole package isn't one I'd just use as is.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 67: Mar/Apr 1998



part 4/5



Side Treks - The Little People: Leprechauns. Whether they're on your side or not, there's a creature guaranteed to add a little irritation to an adventure. Thankfully this is one where the pointy boot is on the other foot, and they're the ones in trouble. One of them wandered into a dead magic zone, which abruptly switched off his invisibility and made him easy prey for the group of highwaymen currently camping there. Now they want three wishes from him, which obviously he can't grant under the circumstances. His friend ran away and asks the next group of adventurers to come by for help. (but he won't mention the dead magic zone as he doesn't know exactly what happened either) This means you'll probably get a nasty surprise when you try to fight them, or have a baffling time trying to scry or use other magic like a Sleep spell to shortcut the encounter and free the leprechaun nonviolently. They're still low level enough that you can probably beat them in a straight on fight, but it'll be an annoying gotcha encounter, particularly for the players of spellcasters. Probably not one that would appear in future editions more concerned with game balance and making sure every character can contribute to every encounter, this is not as irritating as it could have been, but could still prove pretty problematic if used with the wrong group. This one's probably winding up on my discard pile.



Falls Run: James Wyatt provided the majority of Masque of the Red Death articles in Dragon, doing a lot of work to keep the setting alive and expanding. No surprise that he'd also contribute a MotRD adventure in here during the same time period. We're off to a tiny appalachian village to find what darkness lurks within. There's a cabal of evil adepts that worship a wolfwere. A journalist dug too deeply into their affairs and became their next victim. Now his ghost appears on the anniversary of his death and haunts the train passing through the village. The PC's will be on that train for whatever reason. (using public transport in the USA? There's a lot of character concepts that plot won't fit :p ) They'll be way underleveled to fight a D&D ghost head-on, so they have to survive the chaos the ghost causes, then investigate what his backstory is and figure out how to lay him to rest. Actually, they won't get much choice in the matter, because the weather will be conveniently awful, trapping them in town until they solve the mystery and the timeline throws events at them hard and fast, pretty much ensuring it'll be over one way or another within a couple of days. This feels very much like a tournament adventure, with a fairly linear sequence of events designed so something happens every time the PC's hesitate, keeping them moving so you can wrap it all up in as single session. Pretty decent for a linear story based adventure, with the writing and editing as usual well above Polyhedron standards, but not really my cup of tea. It's also very much not for a group that picks combat as their first solution to problems, as the adversaries are both much more powerful than your recommended level, and both the ghost and wolfwere only hurt by magic weapons you probably don't have. If you don't think to go to the legitimate authorities trusting that they haven't been corrupted by the cult you don't have good odds in a fight against them. So this is dated in not only the 1890's way, but also the 1990's way. Even though the code of conduct is technically gone by now, most of the writers haven't caught up, and the police are still presented as unambiguous good guys. How many groups are going to believe that and do what the adventure expects if you ran it now?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 67: Mar/Apr 1998



part 5/5



Uzaglu of the Underdark: Connecting to his theme in the editorial, Chris shows us another way to combine familiar elements in an inventive way that no-one else has done before. An undead myconid? What interesting ways could the transition to unlife have altered it's spore powers? What nasty tactics could it's own fungally powered minions use when not bound by the scruples most living myconids stick to? A single encounter that could be placed anywhere in the underdark, but a lengthy and varied one, as you have to deal with waves of hopping zombies combined with various fungal creatures like shriekers, brown & yellow mold and violet fungus, all placed in tactically effective positions arounds the area by Uzaglu, who's no joke either when you finally get through his minions to fight him. Not sure if it'll take up a whole session, but it could easily be several hours of nonstop dice-rolling or sudden nasty death for the PC's if they roll badly on the saving throws vs the special attacks. Definitely aimed at the higher level and more tactically astute end of the player spectrum, this is one I definitely wouldn't mind using, although I can see some groups getting soundly TPK'd by it if they're not careful, so it's definitely not for every campaign. But for those of you who like 3e style monster design where familiar creatures are given new twists by applying templates and big setpiece battles it's pretty nifty.



WotC cross-promote The Duelist, their magazine devoted to Magic: the Gathering. Get your discounted subscription now! I don't think I'll be doing a Let's Read of this one even if I could find copies of all the issues.



A pretty interesting but also very much of it's time collection of adventures, determined to shoehorn plot and backstory into every one even when it doesn't really fit. There's a few signs of the changes in style 3e will bring in the final adventure, but otherwise they're all a lot more tonally similar than they should be. Another one to pick the best bits from for your own campaign rather than trying to mainline the whole thing.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 129: April 1998



part 1/5



53 pages. Still keeping some of the high-tech elements from last issue, but they're being put to more visceral use fighting a giant gorilla. Shadowrun is still pretty popular around here, so let's see what new material they have to offer for Virtual Seattle players and the rest of their members as well.



Notes From HQ: They may have gone back to bimonthly, but they've also significantly increased the average page count, so are you really getting that much less content, particularly when you also count the Trumpeters online? Well, since they've also decided to start putting adverts in, I'm going to go with prooooobably. Another way WotC is squeezing them to try and make them more profitable after years of being mostly left alone as a private club. If you want to scale up the amount of content you need to volunteer and get more involved in general. Connected with this, they reprint the list of co-ordinators from recent issues of the Trumpeter. If you think there's something important that needs doing and isn't feel free to apply and join their numbers. They're also doing a big in-person summit in october to discuss the state of the RPGA and Living settings. If you really want to influence their direction in the next few years, you should be there. So it's not all good news, but at least they recognise that the way to grow the RPGA is to solicit lots of feedback and give people the feeling that their desires matter & they can make a difference if they get involved. Hopefully more engaged members are also more likely to proselytise to non-members and get their interest as well.



your 1nitiative: First letter praises their recent upgrades in presentation. Both the newszine and the website are really doing their best to be useful and look good while doing it.

Second wonders if they're going to put together a living Vampire: the Masquerade setting. They're certainly going to try, as they'd be fools to ignore the second most popular RPG in the world. Keep an eye on this space!

Third is more praise of their new visual style and programs. They stayed static for such a long time as technology improved around them and it's good to see them actually making steps forwards.

It's not all positive though. Fourth one is very annoyed about how few winners there were for the Chaos Marks contest. They gave 4 categories, each with three subcategories, yet only had 2 winners! What gives? Those were just examples, not binding divisions. You really expect chaos to be that regimented? More fool you.

Fifth, a gibberish email from the monkey god. Tripitaka doesn't understand the internet, so who's going to stop him from getting up to whatever mischief he feels like?



Table Talk: Despite all the strong attempts at figuring out how to improve the place in the editorial, the recruitment drive doesn't seem to be going anywhere, as they're still stuck just below 7,000 members. Once again goes to show, increasing current customer satisfaction and reaching out to new ones are two largely separate skillsets. They sure are offering a lot of exclusive events though, between the ones to earn points on the decathlon, the summer revel and their continuing attempts to make Dragonlance 5th age catch on. Please attend them! It's moments like this that remind us how small they actually are and how much work it is keeping the RPGA going. Take away a few of their most dedicated writers and the whole thing would fall apart.



Drive Me Crazy: Following directly on from the anaemic results of the recruitment drive so far, they step up the rewards available for you if you bring lots of people in. Free modules or back issues, T-shirts, club memberships, a special RPGA briefcase to hold all your gaming material in at conventions and if you manage to recruit 100 people, a free trip to Gen Con! Who wouldn't want all that? You've got until the end of august to rack up those numbers so no time to waste! Will this get the results they want, or just make them look increasingly desperate? I suspect many of those modules & back issues are things from the warehouses that WotC are trying to clear out, so giving them away is no great cost to them anyway.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 129: April 1998



part 2/5



Table Talk UK: All the stuff promoted in the main Table Talk column was very USA centric so it's a relief to see them still doing some coverage of the wider world. This time we're off to Warpcon in Cork. (which in the RoI so it isn't technically part of the UK, but do we really expect them to know the difference) As should be expected from the name there's a whole load of Star Trek stuff both RPG and otherwise, including episode screenings where audience participation (ie, shouting abuse at Wesley Crusher and telling Riker & Troi to just get it on already) is encouraged. They also had a vidi-veg room where you could just hang out and watch videos all day if you didn't feel like gaming, LARPs, Warhammer, CCG's and a surprising number of tournaments for rare or out of print RPG's. The RPGA may only support Living campaigns for a few big systems, but there's a whole load of people who welcome a one-off of some odd system and a big convention is the best place to find them. Just try and stay sober enough to focus on what you want to do, because they really lived down to their irish stereotype on that front. So a mostly positive experience, but also a pretty raucous one that might stress out nerds of a more delicate disposition. Having esoteric interests doesn't preclude obnoxious drunken behaviour.



Elminster's Everwinking Eye: Beware the Jundarwood, my dear, when the moon is fat. And most other times, for that matter, as this thick bosky landscape is filled with hazards both mundane and supernatural. A hot wet mass of vegetation that grows over a mountain, there's plenty of opportunities to twist your ankle on a root or lose your shoes in an unexpected little stream even when there's no monsters around. Since it's absolutely packed with them, courtesy of a powerful wizard/priest who deliberately turned the place into a wildlife preserve and supercharged it's fertility, your odds of getting through without getting lost and having many random encounters along the way are low. You definitely want a ranger or druid in your party if you're thinking of venturing in here. No cosy little towns this time, just pure adventure possibilities for players bold enough to seize them, all presented with Ed's usual lashings of flavour and attention to detail, dropping hints as to the history of the place and how it sustains itself that you could expand upon. Will you go in ready to kill whatever you encounter to grind for XP, will you be hunting for something specific that's useful for creating magic items, or will you be trying to unravel the mystery of how the place is kept so unnaturally fecund, maybe even remove it so the place could be settled? That's a way to get into the domain management system without sucking up to other nobles or having to violently replace them.



City Stories: The featured temple this month is that of Lliira. This is particularly interesting because up until the Time of Troubles it was the temple of Waukeen. But of course she disappeared mysteriously and her clerics lost their powers, with Lliira offering to fill the gap. It took a few more years, but at this point nearly everyone has switched and the temple has officially been renamed & repurposed to fit the new portfolio of spreading joy. This means the layout of the building is also particularly interesting as parts were originally designed for one purpose and have now been hastily renovated to perform another. Like most successful churches regardless of alignment, they do a lot of community work, as looking after orphans, providing free food for the poor, educating kids and creating spaces for fun activities like a gymnasium, dancehall & swimming pool definitely increases the average amount of joy in the world on top of attracting worshippers. That gives PC's a decent number of reasons to engage with them beyond paying for healing in an emergency. Of course, we know in hindsight that Waukeen isn't dead after all, but will be returning in just a few months time, which raises the question of if they'll cover how that affects the church after they've spent so much time renovating the place. Let's hope they can keep on top of the metaplot events happening in the wider realms and successfully incorporate them into Living play.



Knights of the Hawk: They detailed a whole bunch of knightly orders in the Trumpeter last month, but the new order of sneaky knights are the only ones that appear in the newszine itself, showing that they're probably more significant than the rest. The details are mostly identical apart from one small revision - they no longer gain as many fame points as regular knightly orders, as they're supposed to act in the shadows, move in silence, (thankfully extraterrestrial violence is not currently on the list of big future metaplot events) so becoming too well known would compromise their ability to adopt new identities as needed. I guess someone figured that out and sent in a complaint in the intervening month. Good to see them making small sensible incremental improvements to the rules.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 129: April 1998



part 3/5



Jungle Tales: This irregular column goes back to one of the plot hooks dropped in the very first Living Jungle issue. The lion tribe have never met a tiger, but have legends of their existence that say when they do it's going to be pretty disastrous all around. Now the signs in the prophecy are happening and it looks like dark times are ahead. Will they be able to hold off the enemy long enough for their guardian spirit to fully awaken and save the day? Is all of this literal, or a warped retelling of the days when their ancestors travelled the stars and fought alien races, with the "tigers" another intelligent race and the "spirit" some kind of AI in their crashed spaceship? Either way, this looks like a lead-in to another big metaplotty adventure where your PC's get to find out a little more of the history of their world and how it really works, maybe get to keep some cool ancient technology magic items. Coming to a convention near you, hopefully. Good to see them continuing to develop the setting in ways consistent with what's come before, and I hope that the adventure linked to this was of decent quality.



Trouble In Mind: As well as Dungeon, we're also getting at least one Dragonlance 5th Age adventure in here, which is nice to see. Steve Kenson sends us off to the Dragon Isles to root out a traitor planning to sabotage the Legion of Steel. Of course, this being polyhedron, there'll be no real detective work involved, just a linear sequence of 5 scenes where you won't be permitted to solve the problem ahead of time and short circuit the dramatic final confrontation where the villain plans to hatch a Fire Dragon egg by throwing it into a volcano and you have to struggle with him on the summit. Instead, you'll have to go through a whole session's worth of roleplaying with no action or significant choices, then a final fight where you don't have the option of solving things by talking. Much worse than the Dungeon one which took pains to point out the multiple ways each scene could be solved and detail types of roll & difficulties for each one, this just feels unfinished by comparison. The core idea has potential, but it needs another round of development to make it worthwhile to play.



The Jungle Books: One problem with adventuring in the Living Jungle is the lack of books to use for inspiration. While there's a fair number of books where people venture into the jungle, there's far fewer where people live there the whole time without interference from outsiders and even fewer were actually written by natives rather than white people, many of which have never even seen a jungle in real life. Unfortunately this particular bibliography falls firmly into that mould. Tarzan, The Jungle Book (obviously), Heart of Darkness, King Solomon's Mines, Lord of the Flies, The Most Dangerous Game, you won't be finding much lived-in expertise here. The music recommendations are similarly pasty. The Kinks, ELO, Paul McCartney, Jethro Tull? It's just a mercy they didn't mention the all-time cheese classic by Toto. The kind of thing we could do better today with a casual google.



Running In The Jungle: Shadowrunners are stereotyped as big city dwellers, but there's plenty of wilderness left outside the urban sprawls and it can be very dangerous indeed if you don't know what you're doing. Sooner or later you're going to be hired for a job that takes you out there and if you aren't prepared you'll have a very bad time of it. All that cyberware will short out and rust in the damp unless you went for the expensive stuff, progress can often be slow and it's easy to get lost when you can't see beyond the next few trees. Don't even think of trying to swing on the vines like Tarzan if you weren't raised there, between the ones that are poisonous and the ones that can't hold your weight just grabbing on a random one is a crapshoot even if you're a trained gymnast. On top of the mundane hazards the growing magic level is bringing back giant carnivorous plants and other monsters, often abetted by the local shamen who aren't fond of outsiders, or possibly any kind of human interaction at all. A humorously presented bit of IC advice that reminds us that Shadowrun is a pretty gritty crunch oriented system underneath the magical bits, where anyone trying action movie style heroics will rapidly learn the error of their ways. You have to scope out the situation and bring the right gear just as you would with an urban run if you want to come out the other end and collect your payment. Like the D&D supplements that took us to fantasy asia, arabia & mesoamerica, Shadowrun's success is letting it release a whole load of supplements on other parts of the world at the moment and this is a good reminder of that. You can do all sorts of things in this world beyond hanging out in Seattle waiting for the next Mr Johnson to show up. Maybe a road trip would be just the thing to keep your campaign from getting stale.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 129: April 1998



part 4/5



Jungle Tales 2: The first tale foretold events to come in the Living Jungle. This one tells us about the recent past, how a young Shu named Booda became the unlikely chief of the Simbuki tribe. Orphaned from one tribe, cast out from another, he had a pretty unlucky life, but he never lost courage and became a skilled shaman over the years. When he heard that the old chief of the Simbuki had died without leaving an heir and were holding an all-comers competition to determine the new one. Figuring he had nothing to lose, he and his Saru companion Urg entered and did surprisingly well, their racial special abilities helping them get through the tests where many others failed. Several others got to the finals, but he was the only one willing to grasp the spike of the sacred tree and pass the final test. (ie, the only one who's player was willing to retire their character and start a new one, as being a chief leaves no time for adventuring.) So this turns out to be a demonstration of how being a top player in a Living setting may get you some prestige, but you still won't be permitted to fundamentally alter the structure of the game, because they'll make you retire your character if it looks like they're getting too powerful and prestigious rather than let you play them as a chief and maybe try to institute democracy and a program of technological advancement. There are still certain playstyles you can only really enjoy at home, including domain play, because Birthright never got anywhere near the level of popularity to run a Living setting there. (and even then, the domain level bit would be better covered by a PbM game than linear tournament adventures at conventions)



Agriculture, Invention & Society In Malatra: Speaking of technological advancement, they follow that up with a list of what basic technologies are available to what tribes. If you want to get hold of something outside your own specialties, you'll need to find someone from an appropriate one and barter with them. Given the climate, pretty much everyone has easy access to cocoa, coffee, tobacco and sugar so at least we know there's no shortage of vices to get hooked on. Access to metals are much more regional, with fools gold and copper being fairly common, brass, gold and silver rather rarer and restricted to specific tribes and iron completely unknown. Cotton and hemp are also pretty niche at the moment, but could become more cultivated in the future. They do have rubber but it hasn't occurred to anyone that it can be used for more than making bouncy balls so that's something you might be able to exploit if your judge is feeling generous. A fairly low key bit of worldbuilding that is useful for setting expectations, but not particularly exciting if you're looking for cool new stuff to add to your character. But then again, you knew your equipment was going to be pretty limited when you first made your character. Hopefully that already self-selected out the worst kind of munchkins.



Bestiary adds a bunch of new races that are also permitted as PC's to the Living Jungle roster. There's always room for another tribe when each individual one is so small.

Lacerials are malatran saurials, although it's unclear whether they were brought here in a separate incident from the one involving Moander in the western realms or not. In any case, there's a mere 60 of them split between the 4 subraces, not really enough for a viable breeding population. Out of touch with their gods, on a strange world where they struggle to communicate with the natives, they're quite understandably prone to depression. Only Bladebacks, finheads and hornheads are available as PC's, flyers are understandably forbidden due to the effect easy flight from 1st level has on railroads. All have the somewhat nerfed level limits common to Living Jungle races, in sharp contrast to their generous ones in the complete book of humanoids, and dual-classing is forbidden to them on top of that. Mildly frustrating but not surprising.

Oscray (nice pig latin ya got there) are an orcish tribe that's obviously descended from Spelljammer Scro, reminding us that the Living Jungle has that whole ancient aliens theme going on in the background. They've lost most of their spacefaring technology but still have a decent cache of brass weapons that give them a definite edge in a fight when the enemy only has wood or stone. They're smarter, not affected by bright light and have somewhat better level limits than standard orcs, making them actually decent threats and a better than average PC choice down here.

Impala Katanga have the speed of their deer counterparts, but also the fragility and general skittishness, making them not the most reliable of adventuring companions. In large groups, they have a special power to cause confusion when they all scatter at once, but that's another thing you won't be in a position to use as a PC. Still, even if double speed ground movement isn't as cool as flight, there's quite a lot of monsters you can make an easy getaway from while the rest of the group suffers a TPK. Let's just hope you don't get stuck with the same players and their new characters in a future tournament.

Hedgehog Katanga are slower and tougher, so they're stalwart companions as long as you don't wind up fighting back-to-back with them or going on an aquatic adventure, as they're terrible swimmers and understandably scared of water. Better not put them in a group with that tribe that can't sleep properly unless they're floating.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 129: April 1998



part 5/5



Powers That Be: The second god in this series is another well-known one that'll appear in next edition's corebooks. St Cuthbert of the Cudgel, the no-nonsense common sense god who has no hesitation giving you a good smack upside the head if you don't meet his standards, with more severe violence forthcoming if you actively follow the cause of chaos and/or evil. In a war-torn, monster-filled world like Oerth, this means his priests always have their plate full of things to do whether you choose to go out adventuring or stick with a community and do your best to improve it. Fittingly, there's much less examination of his secrets and personal mindset than Boccob, and more of how his clergy is organised & what they get up to on a day to day basis. They also remember to include the spheres & granted powers for his specialty priests, which makes this a definite step up in usability, but slightly less interesting as a read. The description of his church is consistent with but not as detailed as the one in Dragon issue 358, showing that the writer of that definitely read this and built upon it further rather than making it all up. Good to see writers respecting previously established canon over many years of development. Overall, this once again gets my approval, even if I'd generally prefer to play followers of gods that are more tolerant of existing in a polytheistic society.



RPGA in Bloom: Winter Fantasy, Origins and all the various conventions in countries around the world are all fine and dandy, but Gen Con continues to be the biggest dog around. Time for another 6 pages of promotion detailing everything that's going on. Awards, seminars, special events and oh so many tournaments for all their Living settings and many others. Will you try to influence the ongoing metaplot in their big interactive extravaganzas, or try your hand at one of the standalone adventures, many of which sound like serious meatgrinders if their descriptions are accurate. Maybe you'd like to meet the people behind the adventures, find out why and how they do what they do at the Q&A's. Or build a storyboard for Polyhedron with Jeff Quick. Well, that's one way to ensure the october issue isn't late. :p There's far too much to take in here, more to do than can ever be done, so you'd better study when everything is happening and map out where you've got to be when in advance so you don't get lost and arrive to events late.



Following straight on from last article, we have the preregistration form for judges, showing that while Winter Fantasy and some other conventions may have moved to a more leisurely 3 timeslot per day schedule, Gen Con is still packing the full 4 in, giving you the option of playing tournaments 16 hours a day for 3 days solid if you have the stamina. Run 4 and you get in free. Run at least 8 and you get free housing for your stay as well. This time there's 19 AD&D scenarios and 12 for other systems to choose from, with Alternity and Dragonlance 5th Age getting heavy pushes, Virtual Seattle managing 2 from actual popularity, and our first appearance of a White Wolf tournament in the RPGA. Do you want to play a werewolf in the wild west? Well roll right on up pardner! Let's hope that they get enough judges to run all these, because that was a persistent problem even in less turbulent times.



The Best Classic Adventures of all time: Ah yes, the silver anniversary re-releases. Before .pdfs of everything became commonplace, old adventures could be genuinely hard to find and all the classics from the 70's and 80's were long out of print at this point, so they could make a big deal about re-releasing them. What I didn't know before is that exactly which ones they reprinted was voted for by polyhedron readers, as shown here. Which 4 out of these 93 options (some of which are whole series rather than individual modules) will get the most votes? Spoiler alert, It's going to be G1-3, S2, I6 & B2, not very surprising choices even if you don't remember the fine details of the old school era. (and probably some of the easiest ones to find second-hand anyway) The genuinely rare ones like the UK or Immortal adventures aren't going to be coming down in price as a result of this.



A pretty interesting issue that sees them continuing to try and change things for the better, but still lacking the number of reader submissions to exert the same level of quality control as the bigger magazines. What more will WotC try to boost engagement before finally giving up and merging them with Dungeon? Still room for several years of quirky experiments hopefully. Let the progress bar move along another pixel.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Raven's Buff Trumpeter 2-4: April 1998



6 pages. The Heart of Bane continues to attract trouble, but thankfully said trouble tends to cancel itself out after a while. This time it's Tanar'ri vs Baatezu trying to get their hands on it and take it home to use in whatever long-term schemes they have. Certain adventurers recently sided with the Baatezu, as at least you can trust them to keep a deal. Whether that'll come back to bite them later remains to be seen. (but seems pretty likely) Siding with Tanar'ri definitely hasn't worked out for Myrkyssa Jelan, who's now safely in custody and facing a swift trial because it's definitely her they captured, and she's definitely guilty, and the plot to replace Lady Amber Lynn with a doppleganger was definitely spotted straight away and foiled without it being part of some bigger scheme honest guvner, and the sudden elections of the lord speaker & deputy mayor positions she declared recently are also completely not suspicious at all, nor is putting hard-bitten mercenary Lorien Darkarrow in charge of the Golden Roosters without going through all the usual qualifying procedures. All just perfectly normal civic events :whistles:

In lighter-hearted news, the magic vs technology pissing war between the temples of Mystra and Gond resulted in the rest of the clerical circle stepping in and forcing them to do a group project together. Chalk & Cheese buddy comedy shenanigans seem likely to ensue. Will that be an adventure in itself or just something to read about in the future? There's also the usual round of IC romances at the interactives. It still seems like it's possible for players to be in this setting without getting caught up in one big event after another, which is a relief.



Raven's Bluff Rogues Gallery: Looks like they're bringing this column back as another online-only extra, making this place even more of a general extension to Polyhedron and less just a newspaper. The first one is Uldred Stonefist Deepaxe, who to no-one's surprise is a high level dwarven fighter. He has a typically tragic backstory, seeing his wife & kids killed by orcs made him unable to just stay at home anymore, so he became a wandering adventurer. Fortunately, he fell in with extremely prolific adventuress Melissa Eldaren, who helped him get over his trauma and he became a stalwart companion through many adventures, eventually becoming a Knight of the Griffon and owning an armorer shop. Not sure if that was earned in actual play or not since they don't list the player but he seems pretty representative of high level adventurers around here.



The number of knightly orders continues to proliferate. This month they introduce the Order of the Phoenix, (has Rowling ever had a single original thought in her life?) dedicated to fighting undead and extraplanar monsters. (which is a skillset currently in high demand, as we saw from previous news) They have a whole bunch of sub-orders for you to move up in, which gain pretty decent powers like Flame Strike & Dispel Evil as bonus spells, but these ranks also have minimum charisma scores, so some PC's will be unable to ever qualify for the highest ones no matter how high level they get and moving to a more prestigious order would be a better plan long-term. Plus the requirement to tithe and demands upon your behaviour are even stricter than for Paladins so it's definitely not one for every player even if you could do with the power boost. Looking at how demanding the number of chivalry points & knightly honors they want is, I doubt anyone'll make it to the top rank before the edition change makes it all moot.



Living City Q&A: Can you gain a kit after character creation? (no)

Who can really get a save against the Chaos spell? (we were wrong last time. The actual answer is even more restrictive.)

Can specialist wizards cast scrolls from their forbidden schools? (yes, but not many other types of magic item.)

Can I cast a spell in the same turn as I use a quarterstaff of rapid magery? (no. You'll need to think of other things to do with that extra action.)

Does armor help against touch spells? (unless it specifically says otherwise, which is the opposite of the ruling next edition)

Does a scarab of protection protect you from having buffs dispelled? (only if it's cast directly at you rather than the area in general)

Do I gain the bonus nonweapon proficiencies if I'm a generalist cleric of a god? (no)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Raven's Buff Trumpeter 2-5: May 1998



6 pages. Myrkyssa Jelan has been swiftly executed after her trial, the abyssal lord Vondryxx has been imprisoned in a magic sphere, but the overall amount of fiendish interference in the city is still on the up. The infernal hunt club is trying to rebrand itself as a respectable organisation full of upstanding (and wealthy) citizens that has every right to exist in the open. Would you be so churlish as to deny them that? Given the way stories work, we're likely going further down this slippery slope before a few heroes pull us back.

The amount of mundane gang war is also up again, although whether that's part of a larger plot by one of the evil forces to get hold of the Heart of Bane or just people letting off pent up tensions now the war is over remains unclear. There's also the fully legal form of bribery that counts as elections around here, where the winner is determined by the amount of donations the candidates get. Better get canvasing and making promises to change things you probably can't keep if you want that Lord Speaker job!

Another of those indications that you won't be allowed to change things too much is Melissa Elderan reaching the rank of archdruid, which means she's given up any temporal titles and had to retire as a PC. She may still appear in the news, but her player is going to have to start all over again from 1st level with a new character. Still, at least it took nearly 8 years of extensive play to reach that point - future editions won't give you anything like that time to get attached to your characters.

Speaking of time, it looks like one of their recent events involved time travel. Uldred Deepaxe wound up going back several centuries and being responsible for the founding of the dwarves underground kingdom. This means that they've declared him their ruler now that their time has caught up with him again, which he seems somewhat confused about but determined to do a good job. Let's hope it's a stable time loop and he won't get erased from history by someone going back and changing things some more.

They do have some more lighthearted news as well. The new wizards guild is going to be the largest building in Raven's Bluff! Since they said the same about the new temple of Lathander last month that raises the question of which is actually true, and if the architects are going to get competitive about it, causing spiralling costs as they try to outdo each other. Meanwhile, fresh from appearing in the newszine, the high priestess of Lliira has suddenly come down with depression, which is a big problem for someone in her line of work, so she's been sent on a sabbatical until it clears up. Is there any sinister magical cause behind it that'll be solved in an upcoming adventure, or just mundane burnout from years of forced cheer?



Living City Q&A: Does a dual-classed fighter get the exceptional con bonus to their other class as well? (no)

If I precast spells on myself, are they cast? (this seems like a tautology, so absolutely yes.)

Can crusaders & monks use the special spells of their deity? (yes, but only if that god is permitted as a specialty priest)

Does a druid count as a specialty priest? (yes)

What magic items continue working when a druid shapechanges? (none of them. Temporary buffs from spells do continue working though.)

Do demihuman level limits apply (Yes)

Can I stack punching specialisation as a dual class paladin/cleric (most definitely not. Reassign those slots now!)

Can I use magic to alter the odds of resurrection survival rolls? (only if it specifically permits that use)

Can a familiar wear a ring of protection? (not unless specifically designed for that purpose)

What happens if the weather improves while Call Lightning is active? (the rest of the duration goes to waste unless you have other spells to fix that)

Does a ring of hill giant strength buff a druid's attacks in animal form? (as already stated from two different directions, no)

If using a magical item is an evil act, do the PC's know this beforehand? (yes. This is one area where we don't mind metagaming)

Does the additional attack for specialising in unarmed attacks stack with multiple attacks from gaining levels? (no)

Do monks really get a greater damage bonus for specialising in unarmed combat than everyone else? (yes)

Do you need to make a tumbling proficiency check to get the +2 bonus from having it (yes)

Do mymidon rangers get a weapon specialisation? (no, just a regular extra slot)

How does the Eye of Snooping work (quickly, for anyone, but not for long)

If a weapon has extra plusses against specific things, does that stack with the regular plusses (no, it replaces them)

Do I have to pay to learn the proficiencies in the module Arrival? (yes, but only if you want to learn them at all. We've decided against permanently altering your build nonconsentualy.)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 68: May/Jun 1998



part 1/5



84 pages. Like the last couple of Polyhedrons, the cover decides to go a little higher tech than usual. While we've seen goggles & gears like this before in mechanus, the guns make it look more likely we're finally off to see what adventures the Alternity system has to offer us. Let's see if they can deliver content that's both fresh and good without the grognards complaining about even the slightest presence of non D&D material sullying the purity of their magazine.



OwO what's this? Mere of Dead Men series coming soon? They're finally getting serious about providing adventures with a bit more connection between them and promoting it properly beforehand as well? About time! Another big sign of how the WotC years are going to be different from the TSR ones.



Letters: First letter praises them for continuing to produce varied adventures despite the complaints. No two campaigns are the same, so not all adventures should run on the same basic assumptions.

Second praises them for their general standard of quality control. Pretty much every issue has something usable, and if it's not, it's easily modified to make it so.

Third is the typical contrary opinion, complaining how even when dual-statted, a Dragonlance SAGA adventure bogged down the magazine and wasted space. Even a few pages of non D&D material is too much!

Fourth also has a problem with the SAGA adventure - the annoying deus ex machina bits. Yeah, that's a staple of the genre, and a good example of how even if you convert an adventure to another system, it'll still retain the basic assumptions of the original, which in this case skew more towards romantic fantasy than gritty dungeoncrawling.

Fifth goes back to being pleased with their diversity, with particular praise for The Unkindness of Ravens. They also want to know if they've ever done an amnesia adventure. Just the one, in issue 22. They're not easy to fit into an ongoing campaign, so they're more likely to appear as a tournament adventure or other one-shot.

Sixth is general praise, preferring the issues with lots of short and medium length adventures to ones dominated by a big one. You're definitely going to like this one then.

Finally, one complaining that monster HP do not appear to be rolled randomly as they should in the magazine. They've crunched the math and pretty much every adventure has them at average or better. What kind of example is that setting players?! It's just your basic survivorship bias. The ones that were wimpy probably died before they could meet the adventurers. :p How many 1hp wizards did you lose when you were just starting out before you made it to 2nd level?



Editorial: Chris's editorial confirms that the issue does indeed contain an Alternity adventure, and tries to thread the needle between selling the game and reassuring all the AD&D fans that it'll still be getting the lion's share of the magazine. There's a whole load of things you can do with the new system that wouldn't work so well in the old one and it would be stupid to ignore them. Which is actually the case for a lot of games systems, as AD&D is looking pretty clunky by now and there's plenty of ways more recent ones have improved on it, but inertia and network externalities are powerful forces and it's hard to get people to switch. Bringing out a new edition and letting the old stuff go out of print will get many to convert, but even that isn't foolproof, and will become less so as the internet makes copying and redistributing digital versions of old books ever easier. There might be parallel universes where Alternity became more popular than D&D and came to dominate WotC's output, with dozens of different fully developed settings, but it's not this one, and I'd wager they're a very tiny proportion of the multitudinous branching potential timelines. In this one Alternity does get more adventures than 5th Age or Top Secret managed, but it's still a small proportion, and they'll be back to all D&D all the time in a few years. Enjoy the variety while it lasts.
 

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