TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 68: May/Jun 1998



part 2/5



The Artist's Loving Touch: In a fantasy world, one thing to be suspicious of is when a sculpture or painting is a little too perfect. How many times has it turned out that they were actually people directly trapped in the form of artwork by magic instead of the product of a keen eye and much painstaking work with your hands? Romero Selejian is the latest ageing sculptor to stumble across a shortcut and decide continuing to make a living was more important than the lives of others. So he's employed a trio of wererats and their jermalaine minions as kidnappers to find suitably interesting subjects for petrification. The rise in mysterious disappearances will soon attract adventurers one way or another. Whether you investigate the auction house, ask round the streets & taverns for rumors, or just go straight for poking around any abandoned buildings in town, there's plenty of ways into this little mystery story, making it nicely open-ended and suitable for a decent variety of groups. Hopefully they'll be able to figure it out, track him down, kill him or turn him over to the legitimate authorities and realise that the magical gloves he used for petrifying people are also reversible, so you can free everyone rather than having to settle for the Vampire Princess Miyu style bittersweet ending. (although the people who bought the "sculptures" will still be annoyed at their artworks being recalled, which could have consequences in the future.) Both a good idea and decent implementation, but it all feels too short, leaving me wanting more. This could definitely be improved upon by adding a little more detail of your own to make it more than a single session adventure, and if I were to use it I'd do so.



Maps of Mystery: Last issue they started doing comics. This time they bring in a proper regular column. (the boundary between a side trek and a short regular adventure has always been pretty nebulous, so the branding doesn't mean much) The idea of just doing a prefab map without all the creatures within detailed has come up a few times in the letters page. (and done in Polyhedron as well as Uninhabited) It provides a middle ground between full adventures that take up a significant pagecount to detail and single line plot seeds where the DM still has to do all the construction work themselves and is particularly useful if you know how to write adventures, but your cartography skills aren't the strongest. It expands the ways they're useful and increases the average efficiency of the magazine, so I'm very interested in seeing if this'll catch on and how frequently it'll appear.

First one is a simple two-level fort built into a hillside. There's an obvious throne room at the back, with a pit trap conveniently placed to drop people into the dungeon if supplicants displease the ruler. The rooms aren't just all uniform squares, the routes between them are non-linear and you can infer their purposes by looking at their relation to one-another, making it look like a place that's lived in, not just a series of obstacles to kill invading PC's. A pretty strong starter. Another way in which Chris is really putting in the effort to shake things up around here after a full decade of the formula staying exactly the same.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 68: May/Jun 1998



part 3/5



Convergence: Another new system hits the shelves, and once again they give Chris the job of coming up with an adventure for it, since he's repeatedly proven that he does his homework (unlike certain other staff members) and won't drop thematic or mechanical clangers like putting saturday morning cartoon comic relief sidekicks in Athas or treating the Tarrasque like an apocalypse level threat in Council of Wyrms. There might still be cringy bits, like everyone having codenames that wouldn't look out of place as handles on modern day social media sites, but at least they'll be ones that make sense in context.

Anyway, the PC's are hired to retrieve a scientist and their findings from a distant space station. They've got an alien artifact to analyse and want to make sure that Insight gets the info within and makes first contact. Of course, it wouldn't be an adventure if things went smoothly and Voidcorp already knows about it too. Their strike force gets there before you, takes over and pretend to be the station's legitimate authorities. Will you realise something is very wrong with the situation in time and be ready to deal with their attacks, make your way through the station to defeat the enemies and rescue the surviving civilians? As usual for Chris, he goes for quality rather than quantity in his adversaries, making sure they have detailed plans & personalities and don't risk themselves unnecessarily when they can communicate over vidscreen and use traps. If it looks like the PC's are winning easily, their morale will break and they'll try to get out of there to be scheming and unpleasant another day. As with his 5th Age adventure he's taking pains to make this not feel like D&D, but instead draws more on claustrophobic sci-fi stuff where the PC's will be on the back foot much of the adventure and have to use their wits rather than raw force to win the day. I think this counts as another success from him, both as an adventure and in providing a whole load of worldbuilding details that could be built upon and lead to future plots. He does seem to have an impressive variety of tricks up his sleeves that he's able to pull out now he's not being held back by another editor. Just how long can he keep up the energy to play multiple roles at once?



Side Treks - One Winter's Night: What's that Lassie? It's time to rescue another trapped person in imminent danger? Let's get going then, no time to waste! As the title implies, it's getting dark and chilly, the PC's are travelling through a forest when a young boy in a panic rides by them. His uncle was trapped under a tree trunk while logging and wounded. They need to get him out and soon, because there are wolf-riding goblins in the area that could make an appearance any time. Does your party have the raw lifting power to move 850lbs of tree straight off, (an instance where a large party with mounts and hirelings will have a big advantage) or will you have to try something creative involving levers, magic or careful cutting around the problem. Unless you're very quick in getting it off and leaving the vicinity, the goblins will catch up with you either during the rescue or while you're carrying him away, giving you a pretty decent combat challenge due to their speed when wolf-riding and use of ranged weapons. Nothing groundbreaking, but all competently done, and it engages with the details of the lifting/carrying/encumbrance mechanics, which is an important part of the rules many adventures forget about these days. It's nice to have some challenges that have actual mechanics to their resolution that aren't combat. This can have a thumbs up for both of it's sections.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 68: May/Jun 1998



part 4/5



The Trouble with In-Laws: If you're going to break the law, you need to be doubly sure that the people you're breaking the law with can be trusted otherwise the odds of getting away with it go way down. When the son of a lord married a commoner (shock, horror!) his father hired ruffians to kidnap & ransom the girl to teach him a lesson. Said rogues promptly turned around and blackmailed him for more money to keep who was ultimately responsible for this misfortune a secret. Then adventurers get involved and who knows what's going to happen next. So here we have another detective story where you might solve the obvious problem but miss the more subtle one, leaving the true villain free to try again in the future, have suspicions but be unable to pin conclusive proof on the lord, forcing you to choose whether to solve this extra-judicially or leave it for now, or find solid evidence, get the best ending and send everyone involved to prison. It manages to pack 2 little dungeon areas plus a decent amount of opportunity for investigation & roleplaying into 11 pages, making it feel pretty dense but still with plenty of room to add more detail. Another fairly good one if you like that very 2e writing style.



Side Treks - Al-Kandil: Everyone knows that when you get a magic lamp with a genie in you should be very careful with the wishes you make. The genie is rarely in there willingly and you may have to deal with them either trying to pervert the wishes or escape. So it proves here, only with an interesting twist. The "genie" isn't actually a genie, but a regular wizard trapped inside the lamp. If someone frees him they'll wind up taking his place and having to do the job instead. So he'll be as helpful as he can with his powers (no world-changing wishes this time folks) and try to form a friendship with the PC's before eventually asking them to free him, then either get out of there or kill them depending on how badly the PC's treated him. The kind of plot hook that's short in page count but could play a substantial part in your campaign over two different arcs - the time with the genie, and the time where one of the PC's is trapped in the genie role and the PC's have to figure out how to solve that. (if indeed they do, as the job does come with at least modest reality warping powers, plus immortality. If the PC's agreed to do a regular timeshare on being inside the lamp and not abuse their power to order the occupant around it would be a substantial asset to the group. ) This could definitely have some interesting ramifications on a campaign depending on how well the PC's handle it and how smart they are at figuring out and manipulating the rules of the lamp. So it's another one that has an interesting mechanical challenge that isn't combat and doesn't neglect the roleplaying opportunities either. I strongly approve of this development, and would definitely like to use it at some point.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 68: May/Jun 1998


part 5/5


Stepping Stones: Lisa Smedman decides to go full celtic, with an adventure revolving around a set of magical standing stones and the fae that live just a step away in an odd direction. The PC's come across a treasure map with a cryptic riddle written on it. If they interpret it correctly, they'll get the idea that there's treasure in them thar stones if they can only get hold of the Crown of Lapis, which is buried very close to them in a position that'll require some basic astronomy knowledge to figure out. Of course, first they have to figure out which of the several sets in standing stones in the area they're referring to, which will require some detective work, probably encountering the local centaurs along the way, who's reaction varies widely depending on the racial composition of the party. If you're mostly elves it'll be easy, but one with dwarves may well wind up in a fight and have to continue their search the hard way. Then when they get to the stones they have to deal with the korred that come out from them and dance around them, which once again could turn into combat (or the PC's being mind-controlled, joining in the dancing then waking up next morning with a stinking hangover and most of their stuff nicked) but could also be resolved peacefully if the group stays calm and talks fast. Finally, once they've dug up the crown and followed the instructions, they get the nastiest twist of all. The stones are actually petrified trolls, and speaking the command words turns them all back at once. They do have a load of valuable gold orbs in their possession, but you'll need to separate them from their grip, not just turn them straight back to stone in a panic to get maximum profit from the adventure. Probably not going to get through that encounter without a fair bit of violence then. A pretty linear sequence of events and quite whimsical as well, but at least one that allows for plenty of roleplaying and nonviolent solutions while not breaking either if the players are pure hack & slashers. Middle of the road in quality for a Dungeon adventure, but still solidly above most Polyhedron ones in both writing quality and freedom of choice. Meh.



By Merklan's Magic: Straight from one single-sessioner with a strong fae theme to the encounters, to another one of similar size with a plant theme. Story as old as time, a wizard is doing experiments and creating increasingly smart and capable mutant plants, one kills him & takes his stuff and now the area is being overrun by them. As soon as they cause a bother for a trade route, adventurers are hired to find out what the problem is and deal with it. Wander through the woods and you'll have to deal with half a dozen encounters in any order. Thornslingers, needlemen, mold men, boring grass, a shambling mound, plus a werespider who's just as irked about the sudden influx of plant monsters as anyone and will join up with the party if they talk to her instead of attacking. Venture a little farther off the beaten path and you'll soon come across either the evil treant that's the big boss of all the other plants, or the wizard's old house, which contains a mix of old traps & guards from when the wizard was alive and new monsters. Talk to the Grandfather Plaque on the front door, which is getting a bit bored and would rather be moved somewhere more inhabited, fight a spouter, some nightshades, flying cleavers, unseelie fae and a particularly malformed plant mutant. Mostly straightforward combat stuff, but with enough trickery and roleplaying encounters to keep it from getting too monotonous. Another solid middle of the road one to fill a session, get you more XP and keep a campaign going between bigger events.



Nodwick is ordered by Yeagar to use the Grandfather Plaque as a guard for his booze stash. At least he can be sure he'll get plenty of visitors to talk to even if it's not the most dignified posting. Sure beats being put on the end of a 10' pole and being used to test out traps.



Easily the freshest and easiest to get through issue in a long time, as it becomes apparent that Chris is going to be the first editor to make any serious alterations to the format of the magazine since it started over a decade ago. Standalone adventures of various lengths are still going to be the main course of the magazine, but at least they're not the only thing on the menu anymore and it's nice to have more choices. Let's get to the next issue and find out if these changes turn out for the better or worse in the long run.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 130: June 1998



part 1/5



48 pages. Something big is lurking beneath the ocean waves and it sure doesn't look friendly. We're going to need a bigger trident. Time for another nautically themed issue then. Will we spend more time above or below the waves and either way, what will we find there this time?



Notes From HQ: Convention season is coming up again, so the editorial is a mix of self-promotion and updating us on changing procedures. Their internet capabilities continue to increase, so now you can order adventures entirely online, with shorter deadlines before the conventions for doing so because stuff only has to go through the postal system one way. Some adventures may even be sent entirely as .pdfs, although don't even think of printing out more copies than you need then using the treasure certificates for your own characters without actually playing the adventure, as such cheating will result in harsh sanctions if caught. New technologies bring new ways to cheat the system, which requires new countermeasures in response. Same old story. In more positive news, they actually have enough Judges for all the scheduled games at Gen Con, preparations for RPGA summit are also going nicely and they've added a pair of adorable ruffed lemurs to the animals sponsored by their charity events. All this effort at improving their promotional skills is actually having some effect in boosting engagement, even if they aren't bringing in as many new members as they'd like. Can they keep up the momentum next year though? There's only so long you can work everyone extra hard because you've just got out of a crisis.



your 1nitiative: First letter is generally complementary of the recent changes they've been making, but wonders where the Trumpeter has gone. We already told you it had gone online once. Guess you weren't reading that closely if we have to tell you again.

Second is from Peru, from someone who used to be a member but let it lapse because there were too few other members there to have any Living events. Has the internet improved matters? Well, they're definitely trying. There's also plenty of third party chatroom based RPG sites springing up now. Maybe one of them has a culture more to your tastes.



Table Talk: Another round of fairly inconsequential promotion and corrections here, with one big exception. The rules for creating silver bullets in the Living Death campaign. With magical items strictly limited by certificate, some people have obviously been getting increasingly inventive in coming up with ways to hurt monsters. They're not actually that expensive to make if you have the right skills, but you can't get hold of them in large quantities and they do less damage than regular bullets anyway, so only load them in if you know you're up against creatures that will laugh off normal weapons. Plus not all monsters are vulnerable to silver anyway, so don't be surprised if all that hard work turns out to be for nothing and you have to stick to the solution the designers intended.



Drive Me Crazy: This is identical to last issue, only now in cyan rather than green. Keep on pushing those recruitment drive incentives. Nothing further to say here then.



Table Talk CT: The excursions this month are somewhat closer to home, the familiar names of ConnCon and Egyptian Campaign. Whether you're on the east coast or the plains of the midwest, there's a decent sized convention for you to attend in the spring. ConnCon was definitely the more raucous of the two, but there were plenty of games both RPGA and independent for all sorts of systems. Neither writeup is very long so once again there's not much for me to comment on here. The important thing is that they had fun, even if the attendee's memories of what exactly happened are probably pretty hazy by now. Roll on next year, and all the subsequent ones until the pandemic put them both on hiatus, which is still ongoing as far as I can tell.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 130: June 1998



part 2/5



Elminster's Everwinking Eye: Ed once again manages to come up with a place brilliantly designed as both an adventure location and a place you could actually see yourself living. The Land of Two Princes is dominated by two noble families, the Amcorths and the Beldrists, locked in an eternal battle for dominance. However, this contest has strict rules. They can't fight each other directly, nor shall they cause collateral damage amongst the common folk, (no point being rulers if you haven't got people to rule) victory shall be determined by the number of the other side currently captured by their hired warriors. This keeps the land itself safe and prosperous, ensuring that while the person at the top may change frequently, power overall stays within the hands of the families. (and of course they'll unite ruthlessly against any outsiders trying to take over, making for a fairly stable two-party system despite not being a democracy.) If you want a fairly low fatality land full of knightly shenanigans to keep things interesting this looks perfect. Swear allegiance to one side or another and carry their crest and you'll never be short of challenges in the endless game of thrones. That sounds like the recipe for a long and fun campaign with the right group. This is all well above average even by Ed's standards as a place with a distinctive flavour, balancing game usefulness, real world satire and generally being fun to read. It's a joy to still be finding more lesser known gems in his writing here.



City Stories: This month we look at the temple of Chauntea in Raven's Bluff. Now, we already looked at the nearby druid circle dedicated to her in issue 119, but as a nature deity that spans both the wilds and cultivated areas, she has places dedicated to both. (and as a very popular greater deity, the congregation to fill both at once as well) There's definitely some tensions between the two about just where the proper balance between nature and civilisation should lie, but as followers of a good deity, they rarely become too cutthroat about it. As these guys have a proper temple building rather than just a bunch of standing stones, the map this time is larger and more detailed, but there's less detail on the political wranglings of the church than last time, and some of that is repeated. So there is a certain amount of diminishing returns between the two, but you're still getting some new setting info that makes the Realms a little more filled in and easy to run straight off the shelf. Another solid but unexceptional entry in this series overall.



Keepers of the Mystic Flame: Another article repeated from the March issue of the Trumpeter, bringing the new knightly order to a wider audience. Unlike the other one, there's no rules refinements here, just verbatim copy & pasting, leaving me with nothing further to say.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 130: June 1998



part 3/5



Magic For Mariners: There's plenty of real world superstitions about the figureheads of ships. Enchanting one seems another good way to give yourself an edge on the dangerous seas, that could theoretically be transferred from one ship to another if you're the type that loots everything. Just don't try to install more than one at once as I'm sure that violates some rule on item slots.

Figureheads of Speed give you a substantial boost in movement rate & manoeuvrability for up to 8 hours a day. Do you use it first thing every day or save it for any dangerous chase scenes that might crop up where it'd really make a difference?

Figureheads of Ramming, on the other hand, are definitely going to be saved for a fight, so your only worry is if you have a second one in the same day before you've recharged. Better hope you're not in a place where the rolls for random encounters come too thick & fast.

Figureheads of Guidance give you an impression of what lurks beneath the waves. It won't reveal fine detail, but it's more than good enough to easily navigate around rocks, reefs, sandbars and other things that could be a serious nuisance to a careless party.

Figureheads of Ferocity buff the combat abilities and morale of the crew rather than affecting the ship itself. Since they can be activated three times a day and last for half an hour each time, it'd take a very busy day indeed to wear out their powers. 6-8 encounters per long rest doesn't really make sense in this edition.

Figureheads of the Serpent animate to help you out in a pinch. If you're in a ship with oars they'll turn some of them into smaller snakes as well. Definitely a nasty surprise for any pirates who board you thinking you'll be easy prey. These all seem quite practically useful if your campaign involves lots of sea travel.



Strange Bedfellows: Our adventure this month is another one for a specific setting that feels more like an outline than a complete module, at only 4 pages with unusually large borders. We're off to Hogunmark in Birthright to defend the borders against the White Witch and the Blood Skull Barony. In practice, that means an escort quest taking a wizard out into the wilderness and defending him from a couple of wolf attacks while he's in a trance attuning himself to the leylines. That's all that happens. So while there's some interesting backstory stuff here, there's less actual meat to the adventure in 4 pages than most Dungeon Side Treks manage in 2. It badly needs some expansion if it's going to last even a single session. It feels less like something to actually play, and more promotion to remind people that the setting exists and does actually have quite a distinct flavour, since so few of them bought it. This is the writing equivalent of eating candyfloss, all space and no filling.



Bestiary: Crustaids are gigantic coral-like creatures with tentacles long and sharp enough to be a threat on a ship combat scale. There are a lot of them around Evermeet and they'll obey the elf queen's commands, which means the safe route for ships to get in and out can be changed easily. Still not an insoluble problem for invaders, particularly if you have a figurehead of guidance from a a few pages back, but a good example of the tricks you can have up your sleeves when you have a country full of near immortal wizards tinkering with biology. This time the decathlon submissions have come up with something both inventive and very specific, which I approve of.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 130: June 1998



part 4/5



Tying One On: Continuing with the nautical theme, Spike Y. Jones gives us a 4 page primer on real world knot-typing techniques. If you know nothing about sailing you might not see the connection, but anyone who's spent any time on a boat will know how crucial proper control of your ropes and rigging is. You need some knots that are secure no matter what the weather throws at you, while others are easily removed at a moment's notice, strong but only from specific angles, or deliberately leave some slack for safety reasons. They get through 14 examples here, but you could easily fill a book with them. (which they helpfully reference) The kind of system & setting free article you'd expect to see more in Dragon, it's a pretty interesting diversion to find in here. Do you have the patience and dexterity to master the art of knotwork, maybe even invent some new ones? Now there's a whole different hobby you could also devote years to mastering. Maybe in another lifetime, if there is such a thing.



Strongwind: A second adventure in the same issue? Curious. They've only done that once before. (issue 81) I guess they have increased page count recently, giving them a little more leeway in their choices. Unlike the other one, this does actually feel like a full adventure, at 8 pages and an equal number of encounters. The ships coming in & out of Raven's Bluff (or whatever other port town the PC's are passing through) have been suffering from an unusual amount of piracy. The PC's are hired to deal with it. First they need to find a suitable merchant ship, with three different options given. They need to fight off a bunch of ruffians looking to press-gang them, decide if they want to bribe their chosen captain to get better accommodation or not, then set sail. They'll encounter an abandoned ship drifting in the wind, with only a single juju zombie to fight as foreshadowing. Get briefly distracted by a sirine's singing, (hope you remembered to pack your earplugs) then it's time for the main event, the ghost ship of Captain Strongwind, feared pirate of centuries past. Can you beat him and his crew, and will you realise that once he's gone, his ship will dematerialise soon after, so you'd better get any looting done fast or wind up dunked in the drink, probably having to abandon your winnings to avoid drowning. A linear single session tournament adventure, but a fairly decent one, offering choices that actually have significant consequences in later encounters and degrees of success or failure, as well as converting easily to a home campaign not set in Raven's Bluff. I think this falls in the usable quality range overall.



The Isolation Blues: If you don't regularly go to conventions and play in Living campaigns, why are you in the RPGA? What do you get out of it if that scene's not your bag, or you live somewhere without many conventions? (as many letters from international gamers bemoan.) Well, there's still Polyhedron, for one thing. :) Then there's not only the adventures that appear in the pages of Polyhedron, but other ones you can get for free as part of your membership. You can find new players via the Classified ads, the online services, or setting up your own events locally. You can use all the advice contained herein to make your home campaign bigger, deeper and cooler, then share your experience to make other people's campaigns better as well. Sounds a bit sappy to me. This all feels like an attempt to keep people who are on the fence at the moment from leaving. Their membership has declined quite a bit over the past couple of years and the new drive doesn't seem to be having much effect so far. They can put an optimistic face on, but that can only take you so far. Just another promotional fluff piece. The space could have been better used providing more actual game material.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 130: June 1998



part 5/5



Living Galaxy Countdown: Well, it took them a long time, but they're finally going to do an actual campaign under the Living Galaxy name. We're off to the Argos system in the Star*Drive universe, zooming in on the planet Marybelle. It's been inhabited by humans for a century now, but only now is the atmosphere approaching breathability without a suit, with plenty of terraforming still to go before it has a a complex self-sustaining ecosystem. That shows that while their technology may be much more advanced than ours, they still can't just snap their fingers and transform an entire world. There's still a lot of work to do before it stops feeling like a frontier. Which as it's a Living setting, they need you to fill in the finer details of. You know the address by now, so let's get those submissions in! Ultimately, this is another reminder that the RPGA is built on the backs of it's volunteers. If you don't write articles & adventures for a Living setting, then judge them at conventions, it'll die a quiet unmourned death. Let's see how well this does over the next few years.



DM Tips: Ooh, here's the origin of another of those house rules that'll become canon next edition. We saw a fair number of those in Dragon and it's nice to know I'll be able to trace a few more of them back in here. Critical confirmation rolls, which ensure that your odds of getting a crit continue to increase as you get better at fighting in general, while still keeping them a relatively small proportion of hits. It's a more elegant solution than detailed tables full of various crippling effects, which rapidly stack up on your characters and make their adventuring lives untenable without the aid of magical healing. Still, even a single extra roll is more than some players prefer and they'd streamline crits even further for subsequent editions. Along with the idea here that did make it, there's several others on critical fumbles and weapon breakage that weren't so successful, but are still interesting to see. Another good example of how rules gradually progress, with lots of different experiments that gradually increase complexity that then get cut back down again keeping only the bits that work best. That still leaves this one unusually historically significant overall.



Powers That Be: This column gets in on the issue's theme, covering Procan, Oerths's most chaotic sea god. He brings the sun and the storms, so you'd better stay on his good side if you want to make it to the other end of your voyage. That or direct your worship to Xerbo & Osprem instead, who also have oceanic portfolios but are a little more consistent in their favors. If they moved up in godly power and he went down maybe the oceans themselves would become more sedate on average. But then again, would you really want that as a group of wandering adventurers? Those shipwrecks are a prime source of challenges and treasure once you're high enough level to survive underwater for a while. His specialty priests seem like a pretty decent option for PC's as well. They may not be able to use heavy armor, as that's more of a nuisance than protection if you fall in the water, but they have a good selection of pointy objects allowable as weapons, access to 10 major spheres & 7 minor ones, plus plenty of watery granted powers as they go up in levels. Given how changeable the sea can be, they're not the sort to waste time on overly elaborate trappings and ceremonies, which means the stereotype of stuffy dogmatic clerics should also be noticeably lacking. Nothing hugely surprising in this one, but it all seems pretty solidly usable in game.



A pretty decent ratio of good to bad game articles in this one, but the promotional ones are becoming increasingly aggressive and repetitive as WotC try to get them growing again. If they get much more pushy at preaching to the converted it may well become alienating in itself. Lots of work still needed to balance these factors as they gear up to create the new edition. Let's see what clues next issue has about their role in D&D's larger history.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Raven's Buff Trumpeter 2-6: June 1998



7 pages. Waukeen is back! And just after the church had finished renovating too. Now they have to decide if they're going to switch it all back or not. It took multiple groups of high level adventurers invading the abyss and facing hordes of terrifying tanar'ri, but they managed to get in, get out, and rescue a whole load of less powerful people also trapped in there along the way. Now there's a heroic tale for the ages. (as soon as they've finished interviewing everyone involved and writing it up accurately)

Of course despite this bit of good news as the headline, there's still plenty of other problems. Just because they beat one set of fiends, doesn't mean the rest have gone away. In fact, there's more than ever, between the ones seeking the Heart of Bane, the ones here for sport/revenge and the Baatezu worming their way into the power structure under the guise of solving the problems caused by all these pestilent Tanar'ri. It's just a mercy that Yugoloths don't seem to be involved as well. The guard are getting better at fighting them, but even when they win, there's more casualties on the human side than the fiendish one. To come up with a more permanent solution, the wizard's guild has created the new position of Dean of Planar Research. I'm sure he'll need some assistants to gather information and perform experiments. That seems like a good feed line for some more adventures. Maybe the Selune Orb, another powerful artifact that was recently found by adventurers will hold the key, as Selune & Bane are pretty much opposite alignments.

There's also a fair number of more down to earth troubles as well. They already lost a load of records to fire last year. Now their record offices have suffered a rash of burglaries. What information has been taken and how do the thieves plan on using that knowledge?

Finally, they step OOC for a bit to talk about the changes to high level stuff. We saw Melissa Elderan hit retirement point recently and several other of the most played characters aren't far behind. To string that out, they're changing the rules so getting a government position only puts your character in semi-retirement, limiting them to playing in 6 tournaments a year. You can mix up enjoying your high level character for big events and playing a new one as well if you still want to keep up a busy schedule. If people show there's enough demand (and write enough decent high level adventures to fill it) they might even relax the rules further. Well, when you've played a character that long, you do get attached to them. The WotC staff are probably some of the biggest players as well, so they'd be in a position to change the rules when they become a problem to them.



Rogues Gallery: Azoth Malishar is a powerful fire elementalist who's definitely been buffed compared to his stats as a PC. The son of a Raven's Bluff father & Thayvian mother, he spent his early years as a refugee, as they all tried to stay one step ahead of his mother's former master. This kind of stressful lifestyle is good for gaining XP, and he was a decent level before even getting out of his teens. When he was 22, he encountered a mysterious spirit that prophesized that he should go to Raven's Bluff to prepare himself for the many trials to come. This turned out to be entirely accurate, and hundreds of adventures later, he's one of the most powerful wizards in the city and definitely the most powerful fire specialist, which gives him considerable political influence. Wouldn't want to mess with someone capable of causing that much mass destruction. On the other hand, if you get on his good side, you could learn some pretty cool spells and get plenty of advice on how to survive when you're being hunted by a powerful evil conspiracy. This is why it's best to be nice to strangers no matter how eccentric they seem. You never know when one is going to be capable of unleashing a whole slew of fireballs at your ass.



Living City Q&A: Does Seeking Sword have to roll to hit? (yes, using the caster's THAC0)

Can a Priest have no deity? (a cleric can be vague about their commitments until they hit 5th level, as 1st and 2nd level spells don't need to be granted by an external being. A specialty priest needs to make it clear who they worship right from day 1.)

Who is affected by a Holy Word? (everyone who isn't the same alignment as you, but extraplanar creatures have it worst.)

Do druids have to stick with specific animals for their Wild Shape? (no. they can choose as the moment needs.)

Do gnomes & halflings using a bastard sword 2-handed do 1 or 2 handed damage? (only 1 handed. Small size hurts their leverage no matter how strong they are.)

Do swashbucklers get their AC bonus when wearing elven chain? (yes)

Is elven chain +0 magical? (no)

Can you crush things with weighty chest as a combat move? (no)

When can a bard countersong? (You need to have an action readied beforehand to completely stop it. Otherwise you'll have to wait until next turn to disrupt it, which may well be too late if it's a mind-control power. )

How about the Wand of Fire Extinguishing? (If it isn't in your hand, it won't activate. Depending on your weapon choices and number of limbs, this may or may not be a significant hindrance.)

How do pearly white ioun stones work? (Prism's heal HP damage, even if it was sustained before it was equipped, while spindles regenerate body parts as well, but only damage sustained while you were wearing it. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.)

Is cure moderate wounds allowed in Living Campaigns? (no, even though it's from Polyhedron)

Can I put a Glyph of Warding on my weapon? (no. A ship or caravan, on the other hand…)

If I'm dual-classed, what old proficiencies can I still use? (any that are in a group your new class also has access too. Otherwise, you'll suffer the usual failure to gain XP in an adventure where you use them.)

Your ruling on touch spells was wrong! (so it was)

Can you combine shoes of the woodland with horseshoes of protection? (yes, but make sure you take them off before turning back, or you'll ruin both. )

What rolls does incense of meditation enhance? (most of the ones you make, but not all of them)

Can priests of Tempus change their holy weapon (no. You can upgrade the specific weapon you're wielding, but you need to stick with the same kind of weapon for the rest of your career.)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Raven's Buff Trumpeter 2-6s: June 1998



4 pages. Once again we're so busy with news both serious and comical that they produce two issues of the paper in one month. They're trying to make this year's Gen Con the biggest and best yet, with another epic interactive event and all the elections. While they have a few candidates putting their names forward, there's still no-one trying to become the Knight Commander of the Golden Roosters, and more volunteers in general are always useful. Being able to do a good pirate accent is a definite plus, hint hint. After war and demons, pirates feel like light relief by comparison, but I'm sure they'll still be a decent enough combat challenge for the heroes of Raven's Bluff.

There's still space to talk about things that have already happened though. The big ones are an eruption of Firestorm Mountain, which is thankfully far enough from Raven's Bluff that it isn't an immediate danger, but if it keeps up those ash clouds could have a long term effect on the climate of the region. Fire was also a problem in Procampur when a group of adventurers exposed a cult of Shar worshippers, who obviously didn't take this lying down and caused quite a bit of damage in the ensuing fight. Fortunately, the Red Raven fire brigade proved as competent as ever and we got a satisfying resolution to this adventure. Shar'll have to start a whole new secret society from scratch if she wants to keep a foothold there.

In lighter news, we have an impassioned letter about saving the disenchanters. Haven't heard much on that plotline for a while but I guess it's still on a few people's minds. If you don't have them around it might wind up permanently damaging the weave, and then we'll have to figure out the much weaker 4e magic system. :p We also have signs that they're no longer enforcing the Code of Conduct, as they're free to report on people getting a little too into character in the recent Greengrass Celebration. All manner of hedonism took place, some of it involving players with characters of the opposite gender. Nudity, infidelity and consumption of large quantities of alcohol, oh my! They should count themselves lucky that the Realms doesn't have the technology for paparazzi to be a thing.



Rogues Gallery: Lord Lorien Darkarrow is a name that's turned up a few times before, so it's good to see him getting full stats here. He was born into a human noble family, but in one of his adventures was killed and reincarnated as a high elf. The timeline is a bit fuzzy so I'm uncertain if his age is his actual chronological age or the effective age of his new body, but either way, this also changed him from a happy-go-lucky swashbuckler to a somewhat more ruthless (but still firmly chaotic good) character. He's accomplished many good deeds for the city, including releasing a whole load of magically trapped souls, (as seen in previous instalments of the paper) which has earned him a place in the Order of the Ravens and various other reluctantly accepted honors. Another character who's basic concept is pretty formulaic, but the details are complex and specific enough to make him not just a basic witty repartee delivering swashbuckling D'arganan clone. Let's hope the judges remember to play him in a nuanced way when he appears in the tournaments
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron UK Issue 1: July 1998



part 1/5



48 pages. We're already juggling three different connected threads here at the moment. Time to add a 4th, even more obscure one. Tracking down a complete collection of Polyhedron UK was one of the hardest parts of doing this. If I'd skipped it, I could have set out on this journey a couple of years earlier. But it would have been a real shame to miss it, since what little internet info could be found on it said that it had higher production values than regular Polyhedron despite it's smaller circulation. The full-color cardstock cover definitely seems like a promising start, even if the picture is somewhat pixelated as it's been compressed down to fit 1998 hard drive sizes before being blown up again for printing. Let's find out how the contents compare in quality and choice of topics.



Martial Arts in AD&D: No lengthy editorial here, after the table of contents and a brief request for more submissions covering any system, not just D&D, they dive straight into a good 8 pages of new optional rules for martial arts. Not that you'll be able to use them in the Living settings, but that's true of most of the new crunch they introduced in regular Polyhedron as well. The kind of dense look at various martial arts styles, who can learn them and how good they can get at them that'll probably only make sense if you have the Complete Fighters Handbook and like tracking heavy crunch in a system that still leaves you less deadly overall than just picking up a sword and hitting someone with it. But then again, maybe you want to play a game where you can knock an opponent out or numb their limbs by doing a called strike rather than going straight to killing people and taking their stuff as a default. The kind of thing that's trying to kitbash D&D into a playstyle it wasn't intended for, when it'd probably be easier to write a whole new one designed so the characters have lots of choice of martial arts moves learned independently. Heck, even the storyteller system worked better for this, as the Street Fighter RPG demonstrated. So there's plenty of interesting stuff here to analyse, but unless you really want to play a gritty martial arts game (no leaping on rooftops or hadoukens here) but your players refuse to depart from the D&D system it's probably not worth the effort.



Words to Survive by: A little Call of Cthulhu action cements their commitment to keeping up diversity in the games they cover. Never visit an abandoned ancestral home, no matter how impossible getting on the property ladder otherwise may seem. There's always a good reason it wound up empty. Don't drink the water, don't read anything written by someone called "the mad". Don't keep a journal yourself, that's just asking to die horribly and have someone else be sucked into the adventure in your stead. Don't go out in the dark or fog, don't travel to anywhere weird, don't keep weird artifacts in your bedroom, don't bother with guns, as they probably won't help against eldritch horrors anyway. Your basic humorous bit of genre awareness. Of course, following this advice as a PC may well mean there's no game, but oh well. Finding the right compromise between seeking adventure and doing it in a smart and tactically effective way has always been a tension in RPG's, particularly ones trying to emulate genres from other media.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron UK Issue 1: July 1998



part 2/5



Just Deserts pt 1: We may have crossed the pond, but tournament adventures are still short and linear. A lot of Cormyran merchants have been going missing recently when crossing Anauroch. As is standard practice in the forgotten realms, they hire a group of suitably levelled adventurers to investigate the problem. They get teleported to a nearby oasis and have to pick up camels & guide, giving you a chance to roleplay the culture shock of extreme sexism, sharing salt, haggling and other stereotypically arabian things. (or not if you have any characters who would have some experience to take charge.) A short way out from the oasis, you get attacked by a yellow dragon, which will be a pretty tough fight at the expected level. Despite being somewhat depleted, if they go back at this point they'll have failed in their mission, so they need to press onwards. The only visible landmark that might offer some shade from the scorching sun turns out to be some mysterious ruins. When nearly there, you'll encounter a giant snake, which if you don't attack first turns out to be a serpent lord who'll heal you up and give you cryptic warnings. (but if you're trigger happy is another nasty fight) It then cuts off there only 3 encounters in, making it clear that this is a single session adventure sliced in two. That means I shall have to wait until next time to give full judgement, but I must say that getting through only 3 encounters in 6 pages isn't very efficient writing. This doesn't look like it'll be overly impressing me.



Going Live: We had a fair amount of LARP talk in Polyhedron issue 126. Apparently the UK branch also think this is an important growth area they should be supporting more. So here's a collection of personal recollections by Richard Kides, talking about how he got into LARPing. After over a decade of playing tabletop, he met the RPGA regional director for East Anglia, who proceeded to expose him to a whole new world of gaming. It seems like this group had been taking inspiration from the growing wave of vampire LARPs, because the setting was a meeting of rival drow houses, (with plenty of humans and other underdark denizens as well) which is pretty much the same kind of scheming of pretty, long-lived, sun avoiding creatures for whom descent is important, only with more blackface as part of the costumes. This does not appear to have been a concern to anyone present, although some people put a lot more effort into the costumes than others, so not everyone did it. That jarring reminder it was a different time and place aside, it all seems a pretty entertaining event, with everyone busy with their own scheming or getting caught up in other people's plotlines. You have to get out of the habit of sticking in a party of half a dozen and embrace the PvP if you really want to get the most out of LARPing, and this is definitely a good demonstration of that.



In Blackest Night: Speaking of vampires, The LARP version of Masquerade is doing very well for itself and they follow straight on with a little introductory piece about how the Camarilla is organised and what you can expect if you go to one of their events. You'll probably start off as a young vampire being introduced to the elysium shortly after your embrace, but from there you could wind up in all sorts of positions, some more compromising than others depending on who you associate. (and of course the vampire scene is notorious for people hooking up IRL as well as IC, which can also lead to the drama spilling out OOC and groups falling apart) If you can keep the drama from spilling out of control, games can last for many years, with characters moving between multiple venues in the same network and gradually accumulating XP. (although progress even for frequently played characters will be much less dramatic than D&D levelling up) You could dive deep into the history of that scene if you were inclined, and it's a definite shame that world of darkness stuff has declined so much in the past decade, turning the nearest rival for D&D's crown into it's own clone of a previous edition. I guess the oversaturation of Twilight made vampires uncool, so now it's time for a break from the whole concept until something new comes along, puts a fresh spin on them.
 
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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron UK Issue 1: July 1998



part 3/5



The Priesthoods of Marakush: Chivalry & Sorcery? Now there's a system that's only been mentioned a few times in Dragon and not at all in Dungeon or Polyhedron, but has been doing it's thing since the late 70's and apparently is still going, having released it's 5th edition in 2020. But at this point in time we're just getting into the 3rd edition, which apparently inspired a bit of edition warring by focussing less on the gritty french knightsmanship and more on covering the whole range of fantasy medieval adventures with the serial numbers filed off. So here they take a couple of the gods detailed in there and convert them back to AD&D stats. The results turn out quite differently to the natively created ones, with each god having multiple orders, each with their own specialty priest stats.

Beleryn is a particularly all-purpose greater goddess, covering nature, family life in general and rulership. This means she gets 6 different orders. Your regular PHB style druids. Cloistered clerics who have very weak combat skills & no armor allowed but major access to all spell spheres. Friars, who are slightly stronger physically, have 4 major spheres & 6 minor. And the orders of the Blue Rose, Bear & Chalice, which each have only 3 major spheres & two minor ones, but d10 hit dice and much better weapon & armor selections, putting them somewhere between clerics & paladins in their party role. Seems like you could build a pretty decent party just by combining several of these, making worshipping any other gods redundant.

Canus, on the other hand is your typical evil wolf goddess, harrying civilisation from the edge and forming secret cults to harm it from within. She has only two types of priest, but they have a similar division. Wolfsheads, who have only 5 major & 4 minor spheres, but also access to any weapon and granted powers revolving around berserker rage & lycanthropy to make them more of a HtH threat. Meanwhile Priests of the Black Moon have all spheres and the power to control both werewolves and undead, but once again, weak combat skills & no armour allowed. That gives you both combat challenges and scheming magical masterminds to fight. These all seem usable even if they're not designed in the same way as AD&D deities, with at least some attempt at balance made.



Gen Con UK 1998: The UK version of Gen Con might not be quite as massive as it's american counterpart, but it's still one of the biggest events in the gaming calendar and it's no surprise that they do a similar article full of promotion and photos from last year so potential attendees have a better idea of all the cool things they could do. Over 40 different tournaments to sign up for, LARPing, TCG's, celebrity guests like Peter Adkison and Dennis Beuvais, post-midnight screenings of nerd favourites like Rocky Horror and Monty Python and a live band to finish things up on sunday evening. They're taking the more leisurely approach to timeslots of only 3 per day with hour long gaps between them, but stretching events out to a full 5 days from wed-sun with a full schedule on sunday, as UK travel times are short enough that there are fewer worries about getting all the way back home and into work on monday, plus the greater amount of paid holiday time european countries have compared to the USA making it easier to take a full week off to attend something like this anyway. So the overall format of this article is pretty similar to many I've seen over the years, but closer examination does reveal some of the interesting little differences between countries and their cultures. If only it was easier to import the good bits back to the USA and make them the norm. (and not the opposite, where they seem determined to spread the worst aspects of for profit private healthcare elsewhere)



On The Trail: There's plenty of smaller conventions in the UK as well, so here's 4 shorter pieces from people attending recent ones and the fun they had. Partizan in Newark was only on it's second year, but already filled Kellam hall with AD&D games, Dragon Dice, Robo-Rally, and all sorts of other things. The main gripe was WotC's choice of Magic:the Gathering promotional material, which was too basic for people looking for a proper game.

The recent game day in southsea was even more packed, with space for 6 tables full of players in the game store, but considerably more than that turning up. Thankfully they opened up another room deeper in the building, watches were synchronised, people were sorted randomly to make sure the groups were fair and much tournamenting was done.

The RAF War Gaming Association meetup was obviously more aimed at an old school crowd, but there was plenty of RPG action going on there as well. They actually had more than enough Judges for a change, letting some of them take a break to play as well. People's cumulative scores in events were tracked throughout the weekend, which meant competition for overall winner was fierce and much gossip about who was where on the leaderboard as they progressed took place. Nice to see somewhere does still cater to the more rigorously competitive kind of gaming where it's expected many of the groups will fail in their adventures.

Finally, the third Dudley Bug Ball seemed a particularly sociable event, with lots of the writer mentioning people by first name only as if he's familiar with them. (while I have no idea who any of them are) This is another convention that's learned the lesson that they should leave breaks between slots for people to grab food, go to the toilet and get to the next one without rushing. The game selection was pretty diverse too, including Spelljammer, Elric, Call of Cthulhu, Chivalry & Sorcery and Traveller. Between playing and catching up with people he only saw a few times a year, there was never a quiet moment. Hopefully next year will be just as busy.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron UK Issue 1: July 1998



part 4/5



Bare Bones: It's the first issue of a new magazine, so we're not getting through this without a regular column giving basic roleplaying advice. There's a bunch of basic ingredients that turn up in plots over and over again. You need a hook to get people interested, plot devices to move things along, maguffins (sic) to do awesome things with to resolve sticky situations, (careful about letting the players keep those afterwards) red herrings to muddy the water, twists to keep the players guessing and it should all build up to a crescendo somewhere near the end of the session. Very much on the storytelling end of RPG design, rather than creating a dungeon full of dangers, giving the players free reign to explore and letting the dice fall as they may. Perfectly reasonable advice, but not telling me anything new, like the many other times they've started a series like this from scratch. It takes several more leaps before they have a chance of getting beyond familiar terrain, and since I know there's only 8 issues of this branch of the newszine, I doubt it'll get there even if it carries on for the whole run.



Reviews: Prayers from the Faithful does have plenty of new spells, but it's also about establishing their place in the world and what various Forgotten Realms clergy actually do with them day-to-day. What does your religion really mean to your character in a provably pantheistic world and why did they choose it, other than the general fear of going to the wall of the faithless if they didn't pick one at all? As D&D becomes more focussed on roleplaying and less on hack & slash, these kinds of questions become more important.

The Dragon Reaches of Marakush is the new setting for Chivalry & Sorcery mentioned earlier. It seems like yet another Tolkien with the serial numbers filed off setting. Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, lots of attention to things like languages and social classes in the worldbuilding, aimed at one system but easily adapted to others. Pretty well done if you like that sort of thing but not breaking any new ground conceptually.

Robo Rally Grand Prix moves us from RPG's to boardgames, showing this column is going to be more of an all-purpose reviews one than it's Dragon equivalent. It's all good dirty wacky fun as you zip between multiple locations through portals and try to get to the finish line first while avoiding oil slicks.

Jakandor: Island of War gets the closest thing to a negative review here. It's an interesting concept, but doesn't really have the depth to fill a whole campaign like they want and regular PC's are more likely to just pass through and not engage with the cultural subtleties.

Battleground: Prelude to Waterloo is the latest in a popular series of computer wargames. It gets the most detailed review here, although quite a bit of it is explaining the history of the series and basic things like multiplayer LAN gaming rather than the actual gameplay. I guess it was still a new idea at the time. Another reminder of just how much the internet has improved over the past 20 years, opening up a load of new opportunities when it comes to PvP games. (if you can find anyone else who wants to play that specific game with so many options out there)

The trilogy of sahugin focussed monstrous arcana adventures gets a 9/10 and a review that's pure praise. Good artwork, opportunities for roleplaying, horror elements, but still enough fighting to keep PC's from getting bored. You could fill many months of a campaign with this.

College of Wizardry finishes the column off much as it started, only looking at the day to day life of a wizard when not out adventuring. Enjoy a grab-bag of sample setting info, new spells and mini-adventures aimed at your aspiring arcane spellcaster. Another of those fairly niche products they only got around to producing because AD&D is so saturated with supplements by now.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron UK Issue 1: July 1998



part 5/5



MEGAbyte: The reviews continue with a particularly quirky choice of product, the Babylon 5 interactive digital guide. Two CD's full of of music and point & click menus that let you find out more about the show and the people behind it in a visually appealing interactive way. The kind of thing that would become more common as special features on DVD boxed sets where all the bonus material was a big a selling point as the main feature, or fansites devoted to a specific series. (although some bonus bits could be buried pretty far down a menu tree. ) Another of those things that was big for a while, but has gone into a decline in the age of streaming and a few big social media sites dominating the internet, which is a shame. It shows how changes in technology also affect the format of what's being produced, changing what's easy to do and how much money you can make out of it. Quite a thought-provoking little article really.



Should there be an AD&D 3?: There've already been a few articles in Dragon & Polyhedron that floated ideas which would become core next edition. Here's where they get systematic about it, with a full 64 questions about which way they should take things, mostly rating an idea from 1 to 5, but some that are binary or require more open-ended answers. Do you want AC to go up or down? Do you want a universal resolution mechanic or lots of different tables? Quick & simple character generation or lots of customisable options? The kind of thing TSR didn't really get into, preferring to go with the gut feelings of their writers, and look where that got them. So this is a reminder that the creation of D&D 3e (which wasn't really the 3rd edition of D&D, because they released way more editions than that, but more a continuation of the AD&D line than the basic D&D one) was a protracted process involving a lot more careful math work, audience feedback and playtesting than previous editions. (which still wound up breakable in all sorts of ways once released into the wild, but oh well, can't predict all the ways the parts of your system can be combined, particularly once you open things up to 3rd party publishers) There are some leading questions here, but just as many where they then ask the precise opposite thing to balance the information they get out. All in all, a pretty decent quality of survey.



While there were some basic repetitive bits in here, there was more than enough fresh perspective and ideas in here to make this a pleasant change of pace from the regular magazines, making it much quicker and easier to get through than I would expect for it's size. This era is proving to be much more varied and experimental from this perspective than the Dragon one, where they really played it safe and grew quite boring as a result. Now to get through several more of each of the other things I'm covering and hope that it continues to be a breath of fresh air next time around as well.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Raven's Buff Trumpeter 2-7: July 1998



7 pages. A relatively quiet month this time, as most of the news is following up on previously introduced ideas. Several more people put their hats forward for various government positions, entirely willing to accept that they won't be able to play those characters as frequently. Do Lord Silver Fox, Alpin the Scot or Belanor Fenmarel sound like trustworthy names worth voting for? What will they do to solve the ongoing problems the city faces?

They are making some progress on the demonic troubles front, but it's hard to guard everywhere even with the Golden Roosters mucking in on patrols. The temple of Mystra was mostly destroyed, which is going to be another fine mess to clear up. Until the heart of bane is gone, more'll keep on coming no matter how many you kill. Let's hope they get it done before something else big attacks, such as monsters from the Underdark, as a threatening open letter hints might be coming soon. Or maybe the evil wizard lord Roan Sattlemark will use his mind-control powers and political position to manipulate Raven's Bluff into a war with Thay. Which plot hooks will people bite on and turn into a bigger deal and which will be forgotten? It does seem like normal players are getting some influence over the direction of the Living City as a whole, which is good to see.

Of course, some things are dictated from the top and no amount of player complaining will change that. Cheating on magical item certificates is strictly forbidden. Because some people at Conncon didn't follow the rules, all magical items bought or traded there turn out to be fakes. You won't get the ones you sold back either, the scammers are long gone. That's going to make some people very angry, particularly if they aren't reading the newsletter and only find out about this when their character is audited at a future convention. Convention organisers, make sure you return all unused certificates after the con so you can't use them to cheat with your own characters or other such cons. Just can't trust anyone these days, can you?



Rogues Gallery: Lord Torrik Briarrose is one of the people looking to win a government position in the upcoming elections. A huge chunky moustachioed bear of a man who serves Tyr, he's very well equipped to take names and kick Tanar'ri ass. (since bubblegum hasn't been invented here) He's running heavily on an anti-corruption platform, as even though Raven's Bluff isn't actually that bad as FR cities go, it still has more than enough that it doesn't meet his standards. Well, with Baatezu being officially sanctioned visitors at the moment can you blame him. You know what happens if they're left alone for any length of time. He has a typically tragic backstory involving losing his parents and being mind-wiped, reminding us that even though Living campaigns force you to be good, this is still the 90's and people want to put more angst into their gaming. When every other character has something like that going on, they can't help move the campaign a little further in that direction.



Living City Q&A: You got the rules on combining multiple attacks with unarmed combat wrong! (yes, but in our defence, we were working with an earlier print of the PHB.)

Do gauntlets count as a weapon slot or miscellaneous one for Paladins? (Miscellaneous)

How much XP does switching alignment cost? (double cost for the next level)

Can Monks or Crusaders have a kit? (no)

Does a cube of liquid enhancement double it's quantity or quality? (quantity, so more people can gain the same effect, as two doses of the same potion rarely stack)

How does moonweb work? (you can see out, but they can't see in and neither of you can pass through. )

Can I move an AoE spell with a duration around once it's cast? (not usually)

Will restoration fix Con drain? (yes, but only one point at a time. That can get pretty expensive if you were zapped multiple times)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
The Raven's Buff Trumpeter 2-7s: July 1998



4 pages. Four more people try to sell themselves to the readers of the newspaper and win public office. Would you like to vote for Sir Tyrell Darkmoon, who's accumulated 8 different titles in the course of his adventures, but still says he'll support the common man over spoiled nobles and strengthen the borders against external enemies. Or Lord Knight Rashverak Dandelion, who says he'll mix strength with a healthy balance of nurturing to go. Denzil Lassar, who simply thinks he ought to be in charge because he's awesome. And Jenilynn Leyland, a priestess of Tyr who's appealing to the "won't someone think of the children!!!!" demographic. Well, that last one definitely wouldn't get my vote, as that has a long record of going bad places even with the best of intentions.

Speaking of which, apparently followers of Tyr have been getting overzealous in general lately. The Knights of the Right Hand have been enforcing their own idea of what's good without regard for the city's laws so much that they get kicked out of the Knight's council. Whether that's because they're heroic rebels or lawful dickish paladins (possibly listening to too much bad advice from disguised Baatezu) I'm not sure, but this seems like setup for further plot twists in the near future.

Of course, their fears aren't completely unfounded, given the number of adventurers that recently married alu-fiends. Enough of them have done dubious things that they've all been declared wanted criminals, putting anyone who married one in the position of needing to turn them in or have suspicion fall on them in turn. One has been "persuaded" to turn on the rest and reveal their secrets via a helm of opposite alignment, which unsurprisingly revealed they were all part of an abyssal network feeding information back to Mykyssa Jelan and a still unknown demon lord. Even though they might have been exposed, I'm sure they're still capable of causing plenty of trouble with their mind-control and teleporting powers before they're all banished.

The hint that next year's big events might involve things from the underdark continue, as do the eruptions at Firestorm Mountain. (very much nominative determinism there) We also get a threatening anonymous letter that says the many disasters various temples have suffered over the last year are all orchestrated by one villain called The Checkmate, who will destroy more if his demands are not met. Precisely what those demands are remains to be seen, but if he's not full of hot air he must have some pretty effective & sneaky powers to cause all this damage without being suspected before. I guess there's no shortage of rare spells in the realms only known by a few to trick people with, as so many articles have shown us.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 69: Jul/Aug 1998



part 1/5



84 pages. Here comes the Flameskull! But is it going to attack the adventurers, or is it one which is bored enough to attach themselves to the party instead and follow them around making snarky comments until they decide to kill it out of sheer irritation. (then probably find that they can't) That's a situation that has caused much annoyance over the years, including in official novels. Let's see if this issue makes it fun to play out or not.



Editorial: Chris has already made more changes in the past couple of issues than previous editors did in the past 10 years. He does not intend to slow the pace, although he's finally starting to run down his backlog of submitted but not published adventures, so this is the first issue in quite some time where he doesn't also feature as a writer. That's counterbalanced by the fact that they're starting up their first extended series of adventures this issue, which obviously needed more creative input as an editor than usual to co-ordinate all the writers of individual sections and make sure it has a solid overarching plot with no inconsistencies. What darkness lurks in the mere of dead men, and will the PC's be joining them in eternal rest?

Plenty of other experiments coming up soon which he has no hesitation about spoiling, some all new and some harking back to the old school. Puzzles and traps with a booklet of illustrations to help the players choose their course of action? They haven't done that since issue 37. A homage to the works of Lenard Lakofka? Off to the planes, under the seas, and a tie-in with Dragon's Wyrms of the North column. Not sure I'll like all that, but it's definitely a decent amount of variety, and as long as someone does it won't be wasted space in the magazine.



Letters: First letter reminds us that even when you use adventures from Dungeon, you shouldn't hesitate to put your own spin on the material. (particularly if there's a chance the players might have already read some of it) It makes your game more unique and probably more fun as well.

Second is irritated at the inefficiency of the Dragonlance Saga adventure. That was a lot of backstory for relatively few encounters. Well, what do you expect with these narrativist sorts? The story is the important part and they don't want you messing it up. :p

Third is generally complimentary, but wants more adventures with riddles & puzzles. Well, you're in luck, because have we got a treat for you coming up later!

Fourth praises the works of Michael Shel & Steve Kurtz, but spends most of the letter talking about the idiosyncratic way they played the game before they had the full rule books. Playing AD&D modules with only the basic set and extrapolating higher levels from that had results that were hilariously wrong in hindsight. They could definitely do with a clearer entry path to the rules.

Fifth is very strongly in favour of more Alternity adventures. It inspired a whole ton of ideas that you couldn't do in D&D and needs more support. Let's make it the success it deserves to be.

Sixth nitpicks Eye of the Storm, pointing out that with their saving throws, Storm Children are on a fast track to below replacement breeding rate and extinction. That's probably why you never see them anywhere else in the future. :p

Seventh has the complaint that the gender balance of characters in adventures isn't great. Time the Dungeon writers got a little affirmative action & diversity training perhaps?

Eighth thinks regular D&D is superior to the supposedly advanced variety, particularly the Rules Cyclopedia version which is easy to get into but still gives you enough depth to play for decades with the same characters. They should do more adventures for it. Oh and support other systems in general as well. They could do with the extra help while AD&D already has more than enough.

9 &10 continue the endless debate about if the magazine should have more or less variety and what even counts as not generic in the first place. The stars could burn out and nerds will still be nitpicking over the boundaries of genres.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Dungeon Issue 69: Jul/Aug 1998



part 2/5



Slave Vats of the Yuan-Ti: So far, Dungeon has been almost entirely episodic. One two-parter, a couple of sequels to popular adventures, plenty of adventures set in the same world that are stand-alone but have minor connections a DM could choose to put together, but nothing forcing a lengthy commitment purchasing every issue that has a part of the larger adventure for it all to make sense. And actually, it looks like while the Mere of Dead Men series may have more connection between it's various parts, as well as a canonical place in the Forgotten Realms, they're still making sure that the individual parts can also be used standalone. After all, dismal swamps infested with monsters can be found on many worlds, as are stalwart heroes. You could remove the framing device and put each of these adventures in different swamps around your own campaign world.

But anyway, the swamps north of Waterdeep have been unusually troublesome of late. You've been hired by Sir Justin Melenikus, a Paladin of Helm, along with several other adventuring parties. (which neatly explains why he isn't out there doing it himself despite being higher level than you, the problems are too many for one party so it needs a more co-ordinated approach) Your first assignment is to investigate the abandoned manor or Wolfhill House, which they believe is being used as a hideout by smugglers. They're not wrong, but things are a lot more complex than that. The leader of the smugglers is actually a Yuan-ti pureblood, using the mundane criminality to gain resources to create brainwashed clones to increase their influence over the world in general. Having the typically high intelligence of his race, he's prepared a contingency plan for if adventurers come blundering in, involving sacrificing a clone of himself and using illusions to hide the important parts on the manor so they can lay low and go back to plotting world domination once the adventurers have gone, thinking they've cleared out everything.

So this is designed so the players can have two outcomes and still get to the next adventure. They could defeat the obvious monsters but miss the more subtle ones, go back to Sir Justin and claim their reward and be assigned their next mission next session. Or they could realise something fishy is going on, get to the secret areas and face tougher challenges, but also gain more treasure and clues that there's a bigger conspiracy at work, which will hopefully lead them to investigate things more proactively. It does a careful balancing act of catering for both dumb dungeoncrawlers and people who want to know the history of a place, how and why the monsters got there and what they actually get up to day-to-day when adventurers aren't around. It is corralling their choices behind the scenes so they'll get to the next part of the plot either way but at least it's letting them deal with the individual scenario the way they choose and the worldbuilding parts of the adventure are well above average, as is the use of nonstandard monsters with templates and class levels to keep the challenges interesting. Even though Chris is only editing rather than writing it still shows his hallmarks in monster design, much of which will become common practice next edition. So this is a step forward rather than a bold leap, as they're still trying to juggle doing something new with pleasing their more conservative readers who just want more standalone adventures to use as they please in their own campaign, but it is a well done one. Looks like this experiment is indeed going to be a success. (after all, they wouldn't have produced more and longer adventure paths if the readers had panned this one)
 

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