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TSR [Let's Read] Polyhedron/Dungeon

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


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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 18: May/Jun 1984



part 6/6



Dispel Confusion cont:

Gamma World

My players complain when unexpected things happen! (You're probably playing the wrong game then)

Does Dex 10 really mean you can only jump 6 foot regardless of character height? (big things actually can't jump as far due to the square cube law, but we're ignoring that and keeping it a flat rate for simplicity)

Is nyctophobia really as crippling as my GM thinks? (no)

Can I play a mutant dinosaur? (absolutely!)

Do archivists really refuse to use laser guns (usually. Too valuable and rare to waste on regular adventures)

Star Frontiers

How much does a telescopic sight cost (half the cost of the weapon) Which weapons benefit from them? (most ranged weapons, to some extent)

Are Sathar affected by sonic stunners? (yes)

How flexible is a Dralasite really? (fairly, but not absolutely)

What are heavy weapon skills (they aren't. They're modifiers to regular ones)

Can Yazirians use missile weapons at melee ranges and get a bonus? (no)

What's a robot's to hit chance (30% + 10% per level)

What does PS stand for (Punching Score)

Can Vrusk walk with a broken leg? (somewhat better than bipeds, but they're still hindered)

Can Dralisite shapechanging help them resist falling damage? (no)

How do I earn money? (by providing goods and services to others)

Can anyone drive? (No, you need the proper skills)

Top Secret

What is a wired probe mic? (like a wireless one, only easier to spot, but harder to detect electromagnetically)

How much does barbed wire hurt? (not a lot if you cross it slowly and carefully, but you may not always have that luxury in the spy business. If it's electrified, it's twice as bad.)

What do you roll to climb? (Coordination)

How much do tear gas grenades cost? ($12.00)

Can you carry extra magazines for regular rifles? (yes)



As with the last issue, there are both very good and very bad indeed articles in here, showing they still don't have enough submissions to really be rigorous with the quality control. I guess even if they did, they'd still choose a fair amount of basic stuff I've already seen before, due to the nature of the periodical format and need to make articles accessible to casual readers, so there'd still be boring bits in there. Let's see how the ratios shift next time around.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 19: Jul/Aug 1984



part 1/6



34 pages. From Marvel Superheroes straight to Indiana Jones. They are doing a lot of licensed stuff at the moment. With mixed success, as history shows this particular partnership doesn't have the same kind of impact, since they only have a few movies of material to draw upon compared to decades of comics, cartoons, tv shows and movies. Let's see how good a job they do of making it look cool in here.



Notes from HQ: The classifieds are getting enough submissions to fill most of this page with people looking for gaming groups all across the USA, so they shrink the font size for the editorial. As a result it's not very interesting. Just another apology that bureaucracy is slow and they can't be absolutely certain your subscription will start straight away after you send it in. Between postage times and processing, and depending what time of the month you send it in, it could be next issue or the one after. Definitely an area the internet has improved things, cutting response times enormously. It's good to be reminded how much some things have improved in our lifetime.



The Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors: Our indiana jones adventure is quite different from the marvel superheroes scenario last issue. While that gave you a general setup, but left you the freedom to try and solve it any way you want (which is quite a lot of ways given the flexibility of spider-man's powerset) this is heavily scripted, and almost entirely based upon rolling the dice and following the results to the next bit of text, like a choose your own adventure game without, well, the choosing part. This is not as pleasing to me, especially as I've seen from ARES recently that you can squeeze a full solo choose your own adventure game with meaningful choices into a module sized space with small font and good editing. This could have been a lot better. Railroads are no more interesting when they're in a flimsy minecart underground.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 19: Jul/Aug 1984



part 2/6



Two Cents: This follows on direct from last issue with a rebuttal to most of the points in there. Actually, it seems like they're in agreement on the broad points of their opinions, and it's more the finer details, and also the tone in which they write that rubs each other the wrong way. One of those cases where the smaller the hobby, the more intense the storm in the teacup seems. That's definitely all too familiar over my many years of forum reading. You have nothing to debate about with people who are completely opposed to you, it's ones where you're supposedly on the same side that get vicious and result in splitting into increasingly narrow subdivisions. If you can't get along with your current group, just leave and find another one. In this age of online gaming, it's never been easier to game with people you share preferences with rather than just settling for proximity.



Lost Ships, Madmen, and Pirate Gold: Nostalgia tends to come in cycles, as people grow up and try to recreate the things they enjoyed when they were young. It's not surprising that the 80's saw a secondary revival of 30's influenced material as two generations were in the position to spread their first and second-hand love of the interwar trappings and tropes. Here's a system-free article full of plot hooks for any game with a 1930's influence, which includes several current TSR ones, but also Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, FGU's Daredevils, and probably several other smaller ones they can't be bothered to mention here. It's pretty eclectic, as the actual pulps were, not just the two-fisted tales of derring-do. Man vs man, man vs monster and man vs environment. As it's larger, it can cover more ground than the bibliography in issue 15, but there's still a fair bit of rehash here. Oh well, as long as it makes for fun gaming, we can forgive it being somewhat formulaic.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 19: Jul/Aug 1984



part 3/6



And the Gods will have their way: So we've finally reached the conclusion of the module series and get to find out what's behind all this Prophecy of Brie business. Turns out it's a clusterfuck of reincarnated souls destined to be together due to time loops and things that happened in parallel universes of the kind that gives even the gods headaches unraveling the causality of it all. Why couldn't we have been playing that cosmic detective game instead of a bunch of dungeoncrawls littered with bad jokes and obtuse riddles? Oh yeah, because it's D&D, and we have to deal with a combination of the ruleset breaking down long before you get to that kind of cosmic powerlevel, and that the current management have turned against the idea of deities being something you can ever interact with on an equal footing, no matter how much XP you gain. Meanwhile the PC's have been just pawns blundering from one fetch quest to the next without ever really understanding what's going on. If I wanted to deal with that, I'd just play Skyward Sword again, which at least makes sense once you get through it and understand that there's two different forms of time travel interacting, each of which works by different rules, and the payoff is suitably epic as long as you don't mind the linearity. I definitely won't be playing this though, which makes me angry just reading it. Really, the whole series can safely be consigned to the dustbin of history. Don't waste your time slogging through the early instalments, it doesn't get any better in the end.



RPGA Network Item Design contest results: Looks like this competition went pretty well, giving them plenty of options to choose from. The first places are a bit bland, a basic shapeshifting item and a sci-fi taser, but the runners up are much more quirky and interesting, with some things that have both useful powers and potentially nasty side-effects. All of them will be reprinted in the Encyclopedia Magica later, so they're familiar to me, but it's good to see them in their original context. And like adventures, now they've introduced one to the newszine, the odds increase that more will be showing up in the future because they know it's possible and there's demand for them. Another thread starts weaving it's way through history.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 19: Jul/Aug 1984



part 4/6



If adventure has a name……: Our straight Indiana Jones promotional article follows pretty much the same formula as last issue, trying to sell the game by giving a synopsis of the system and what you do in it. It's a much simpler system than the Marvel one, with resolution for everything being a basic roll-under test vs your attribute scores, with occasional difficulty modifiers. This doesn't give much opportunity for customisation or advancement, and indeed, actual character generation rules are conspicuous by their absence, instead forcing you to choose between 7 pregen characters from the movies. (which at least avoids another pitfall of licensed games, making the original characters way more powerful than any PC's you can create yourself) It all seems very small in scope and execution. This is definitely one there's no need to revive and retroclone. Something like Adventure! or Savage Worlds could do all the high action pulpy fun this tries to do and much much more. I'm not surprised they never did any articles for this in Dragon, and the supplements for it petered out after only a year. They just didn't have enough to work with in the first place, and the strictness of the licensing agreement quite possibly precluded any reader submissions from being published anyway. If you want to make something big and long lasting you need to start with the right foundations.



Cryptic Alliance of the Bi-Month: The new gamma world organisations continue to be primarily essentialist rather than ideological, making them difficult to join as PC's and primarily intended as antagonists. This time it's one comprised entirely out of robots. Various specialist types are created by the main factory and sent on missions to expand their influence and exterminate the remnants of humanity. Unlike the average robot, they have underwater bases and are actually quite well equipped for long-term function down there. The master droid has the usual groan-inducing pop culture references. While there's still some amusing and inventive bits, this barrage of fantasy racism is getting a bit tiresome, and I hope the next instalment doesn't continue the trend. Come on Jim, surely you can come up with other motivations for conflict between groups. It's not as if there's a shortage of problems around here to make creatures hate each other for entirely rational reasons.



The Laser Pod: Our Star Frontiers material this issue extolls the virtues of miniaturisation, giving us a new small weapon that can be fitted onto smaller ships, or mounted in great quantities on something larger so they have lots of secondary guns and are difficult to blindside. They might not have the range or power of missiles, but sometimes you want to hold back a bit and do a warning shot first or don't have that option anyway. Along with the stats, they also include a bunch of plot hooks for how people might react to this technology being introduced mid-campaign, which is very pleasing to see. Too many Sci-fi settings are oddly static and need a good shake-up to keep them interesting. Let the new technology be cool and an advantage to the side that gets it first, then spread and become commonplace over time like things do in reality.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 19: Jul/Aug 1984



part 5/6



Dispel Confusion drops back to two pages. Have they finally worn through the dumbest questions?

D&D

How much damage does a flaming arrow do? (1-3 extra unless it hits something flammable)

Can you tie a flask to an arrow? (It'd fuck the aerodynamics and massively reduce the range)

Can you tame a great cat? (If you've got the skills)

Can elves be paralyzed by carrion crawlers? (yes)

Can you make traps? (Oh yes)

You forgot some monster stats! (Sorry, here you go)

AD&D

How much does it hurt getting rid of green slime? (depends on the method)

How long does it take to get in & out of armor (long enough to be a real inconvenience in an emergency)

Do vampires retain their class levels? (Sometimes. Entirely up to the whim of the DM)

How long does it take to get a protection from demons scroll active? (Sometimes too long. Better not hesitate.)

Can multiclass wizards exploit that and use tenser's transformation with better weapons? (no)

Are Jann affected by Protection from elemental scrolls? (Yes, all kinds. Sucks to be them.)

Do rings of protection & magical shield plusses stack? (no, best boost only)

Does a Staff of the magi overload still have a chance of sending you to another plane? (yes)

What happens if a bag of holding is cut from outside? (all the stuff inside is lost)

How hard is it to get a thing with Magic Resistance into an iron flask? (as if it were an 11th level spellcaster)

How frequently can you use cell adjustment again (after a long rest)

Can you stack Hastes (no)

Can familiars be dispelled (no)

Can you turn undead in the lower planes (usually)

Can Cleric/Assassins use edged weapons (yes. Any god that allows that combo in the first place cares little about avoiding bloodshed.)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 19: Jul/Aug 1984



part 6/6



Dispel Confusion continued

Dawn Patrol

Can you pull upward even when shot down? (yes. It might just help you land in a better position)

How accurate are onions (1 roll every 2 hit factors)

When do you decide how big a loop-the-loop is? (after the other player's move)

What happens if an attack hits a hit location that particular plane lacks (it has no effect)

Gamma World

Can you mix and match editions? (If you feel like it)

How bad a defect is a hopeless character? (Entirely up to your players)

How short is a shorter character? (subtract from a base height of 1m for humanoids)

How do I balance inventing new weapons? (lots of time and adventures for the right raw materials)

Gangbusters

How do I improve HP? (spending XP on the stats that it's derived from)

What is Robert Jackson's legal score? (85)

Star Frontiers

Can robots have skills? (if someone programs them in)

Can you be trained without spending XP (no)

Where's the security lock program? (oops)

Can you repair a robot? (If you have the right equipment)

Can a parabattery recharge a power pack? (no)

Can infrared goggles see infrared devices (the ones that emit it, not the ones that absorb it)

Can maintenance robots carry backpacks? (If properly programmed)

Can a robot defend itself if not programmed to do so? (no)

How far can a robot travel? (about 1km per SEU)

Does Vitasalt work like regular salt? (No, it's even better!)

How many languages can a polyvox learn? (as many as you can find tapes for)

Top Secret

Can you hotwire vehicles? (If your AOK is 75+, it's A-Ok!)

Is there a minimum AOK to drive at all? (no)

What's the chance of catching a thrown item (roll co-ordination if you've got an action ready.)



An issue with a lot of interestingly flawed stuff in it, as they try things that really won't work out in the long term. There's a lot of stuff that they did that never made it into the history books, and this is one of those bits very few people will have any nostalgia for. I don't feel the desire to dwell on it any longer. Let's see if next issue is memorable for good or bad reasons.
 
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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 20: Sep/Oct 1984



part 1/6



28 pages. Giant robot attack! Looks like it's attacking something in Gamma World, by the looks of the things in the foreground. Will we be playing the poor beleaguered mutants, or the mech pilot? Somehow I suspect we'll be on the lower end of the power spectrum, but let's not jump to being pessimistic straight away. Let's see what else this issue contains.



Notes from HQ: As usual for this time of year, they're in post Gen Con recovery mode, and enthusiastic to share their experiences. There were the usual organisational snafus, but they had cool new tournament modules for all their systems, most of which will eventually see general release. Once again, it was bigger than last year, and their expansion shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Good to see things going well for them. It'll be interesting to see how this department is affected by the upper management battles of the next few years.



Cryptic Alliance of the Bi-Month: After three issues in a row where they gave us unambiguously villainous racist organisations, Jim goes to the other extreme, with the Healers. As you'd expect, they're a bunch of goody-goodies who'll accept anyone who wants to promote peace & harmony, and work towards turning the radioactive planet into a blooming paradise. Rather stereotypical and cheesy once again, but as we've found from D&D, a cleric is an incredibly important part of a team. Even if they aren't a combatant in their own right (which D&D clerics are no slouches at either) being able to heal and buff your allies is a real force multiplier. Even if the other PC's are somewhat less nice, they'll still eagerly want to keep one of these around, so they can definitely find a place in nearly any party.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 20: Sep/Oct 1984



part 2/6



The Proton Beam: Proton beams? So shooting charged hydrogen atoms at people? That seems like an exceedingly impractical weapon in an atmosphere, as it would attract to whatever atoms were in the way, making it's range short. Given that regular hydrogen already tends to bond highly exothermically (ie, goes boom) to form compounds with whatever's available, slathering things in exposed protons would certainly mess people and objects up, but it would be tricky to fire them fast and far away enough to keep the user from being caught in the explosion, and repeated shots would build up a dangerous level of negative charge on the weapon that would make it even harder. A strong reminder that while Star Frontiers may be harder science fiction than Gamma World, that's a very low bar to clear indeed. A fun new bit of crunch for your players to enjoy, but the science doesn't hold up to even cursory examination. So it goes. At least it gave me a chance to engage a different part of my brain to most of this reviewing.



The Druid: Looks like the sample characters series isn't going to complete itself properly after all, as they skipped last month, and this is the last one before it disappears unmourned. Guess they just couldn't get the submissions or something. As with the previous two, he's into double digit levels and has a pretty swanky home, albeit one made out of shaped still-living trees. Thanks to his heroic deeds, he has plenty of treasure, which of course he doesn't need to spend any of to survive, so he can use it philanthropically to maximum effect, which further cements his popularity. It's so much easier to get through life when you have the power to disengage from capitalism any time you feel like it.

Despite not labelling it as a separate article, they also include 4 more NPC's, 2 druids, which as before are the same level, but have quite different equipment and spell selections, plus a paladin and a wizard. While they do tend to well above average stats, they're still considerably less annoyingly written and more usable in actual play than the Giants in the Earth ones from Dragon, so I regret this not being properly completed. An eternally unfilled symmetry is a troubling thing to see.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 20: Sep/Oct 1984



part 3/6



The 384th Incarnation of Bigby's Tomb: Having completed the epic 8 part module series, this issue's adventure has considerably less pressure on it. It still has it's silly elements, but they're considerably less irritating than the Prophecy of Brie. Bigby has got old, and having not developed a method of true immortality (Greyhawk wizards seem much less willing to share research than Forgotten Realms ones), has put himself in suspended animation while spreading rumors that anyone bringing him potions of longevity will be richly rewarded. Of course, being a mad wizard, you still have to fight through a sadistic selection of monsters and traps to get to him, which gets rearranged and restocked if you leave and come back. While not quite as sadistic as the Tomb of Horrors, it's definitely written in the same vein, and will require brains and caution to get to the end no matter how high level you are. Don't put your players up against it if they aren't ready to pull out all their own tricks in response.



Encounters: Surprise surprise, you're expected to fight the giant robots on the cover, not pilot them. Not an easy task when they have missiles that can hit you from miles away, plenty of manoeuvrability on both land and water, detachable parts that can fight independently and lots of armour and hit points. No matter how much XP you have, you're going to need tech of your own and a plan if you don't want a quick and explosive death. That or a whole army of cannon fodder to wear it down, as refuelling and repairing is a big problem for mechs in Gamma World, so they can win battles but still wind up losing the war. While not impossible, this is definitely an out of context problem for the typical small party of PC's. Better get building those social connections with the world around you, not just becoming more powerful murderhobos.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 20: Sep/Oct 1984



part 4/6



Women in Role Playing: We had a fair few articles on the persistent sexism problems in gaming over the course of Dragon. It's not surprising they'd turn up in here as well, where the hardcore nature of the RPGA means the gender imbalance is even greater than the general population of roleplayers, and the focus on conventions means they're more likely to be exposed to situations where these kinds of conflicts happen. This is made worse by the fact that AD&D 1e has sexism baked into the system, with actual differences in max stats due to your character's sex, which means it will tend to attract people who want that kind of crunchy simulationist biological essentialist stuff in their gaming and drive people who'd rather not sweat the small stuff or actively want to feel empowered in their fantasy fun elsewhere. Roger Moore gives us a decidedly mixed message on this front. On the one hand he does want more women in gaming. On the other, he's still not only fully enforcing the AD&D rules in his own game, but has additional sexist house rules on top of that. Despite the efforts of his wife, who contributes some footnotes to the article, he's still got a long way to go with his own internalised attitudes and assumptions. So yeah, this shows that while the TSR of 1984 is trying to be progressive, they're still pretty parochial by modern standards, and even the products which are aimed at attracting women, like the new Dragonlance setting, will have their own problems as a result of that. Equality is a long difficult battle, and even if you manage to balance one axis, there's still racism, ablism, homophobia and all manner of other intersectional discrimination to tackle. This is one problem that can't be solved by a team of plucky heroes slaying an evil overlord and taking their stuff.



Now that it's Over: Mary gave her perspective on Gen Con in the editorial, now it's Roger's turn to talk about the cool stuff that caught his eye. Having mentioned Dragonlance in passing last article, we see a little more about it, further reinforcing that it's definitely intended for a different market than Greyhawk, with it's deliberately mixed-sex development team, tie-in novels (which rapidly become the main focus and the RPG books the tie-ins) and emphasis on little setting details like mounts, songs, cooking recipes and the outfits the characters wear. There's plenty of cool stuff from other companies that caught his eye too, like Paranoia, Toon and Chill, as the hobby continues to diversify and create gams for smaller weirder niches. And although wargaming is definitely in decline at this point, there's still enough hardcore fans for some epic minis setpieces. They also debated the possibility of doing monster cards, but decided against it for logistic reasons. (something they'll change their mind on 6 years later when technology has improved and they have more artwork to recycle) It's another pretty interesting snapshot of what was going on that year.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 20: Sep/Oct 1984



part 5/6



Dispel Confusion:

D&D

Can a magical net be ripped? (no)

How does a PC become a relic keeper? (They can't)

Can you use magic items when jousting? (In the default campaign, that'd be picked up and disqualified pretty quickly)

What counts as earth when forming an earth elemental? (it need to be loose enough to separate from the ground to make up it's body)

Do you need the element available when drinking the elemental form potion? (yes)

AD&D

Is T2 ever coming out? (We still think it is, but it totally isn't, at least not as a standalone module.)

What are you going to do about all the useless monsters in your books? (not a lot. A few of them simply won't be in the next edition)

What level do dragons cast spells? (At least the lowest caster level that could cast spells of that level. Another thing to properly codify next edition.)

Gamma World

Can illusion creation create things you haven't experienced? (no)

Can you use your own powers and thought imitation at the same time? (no)

How do you use barl nep oil safely? (develop radiation resistance)

Some of the cryptic alliances are horrible and insane! (Yes. All the better to kill you horribly with or have interesting adventures avoiding being killed)

How can a robot attack someone with a stage V ID? (If it's malfunctioning or runs under different protocols)

Can Herkel hurt each other with their poison? (yes)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 20: Sep/Oct 1984



part 6/6



Gangbusters

Can you multi-class? (Yes. If you can do both jobs without getting caught, it's double the plot hooks, double the fun. Track types of XP for each class separately. )

Star Frontiers

How does a maintenance robot become deranged? (Much more easily than it staying fully sane after a few centuries)

Can you use a parabattery to fire a laser (It's possible but not a good idea.)

Do wound penalties make it harder to break out of tanglers (yes)

Can you shoot guns wearing shock gloves (only when they're turned off)

What can I do with a maintenance robot? (Anything you can program it to do. This may not be easy)

Top Secret

Can you restore permanent losses with XP? (Only the numerical ones)

Does Charm mean you're good-looking? (Only if you want it too)

Why do high level characters get less XP for challenges? (Because they're easier for them to do.)

Can you use Martial arts with a knife? (No)

Can you use a blow and a hold in the same phase (Yes.)

Why aren't heavy weapons in the rules (If a spy has to be that obvious to accomplish their mission, they're not doing it properly. You probably want to be in a different genre.)



A much higher ratio of hits to misses than the past few issues made this one particularly enjoyable to read. Lots of stuff I could actually see myself using, and another nice snapshot of the state of gaming back then. Let's see if they've saved anything special for the festive season this time.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 21: Nov/Dec 1984



part 1/6



28 pages. Monsters in the mist? This issue's cover won't be winning any awards, but at least has an excuse for being a bit light on the detail. I wonder what story they'll extrapolate from this one. Let's see just how long and elaborate a campaign arc we can build from the contents of this issue.



Notes from HQ: The newszine continues to have somewhat faster staff turnover than Dragon. (or maybe it just seems like it because it's only bimonthly) Mary Kirchoff leaves, which puts Penny in charge from the start of next year. Guess I can expect a corresponding shakeup of the regular columns once again to reflect her tastes. Other than that it's the usual promotion of the rest of the issue and reminder to include a SASE with every letter if you want a response. That bit won't change no matter who's in charge, until email bypasses all those correspondence delays and expenses entirely.



Encounters: Our cover story is suitably seasonal, sending a paladin on a quest to arctic lands to find a magic item for his courtly love. He's not actually that well suited for the mission, which would be better served by stealth and speed rather than a heavily armoured warrior trying to fight their way through the ice creatures that currently possess his objective. So success at this one is very much up to the brains of the player rather than the character, realising you need to play against type to put the odds in your favour. That's pretty interesting writing. The secondary plot hooks you can use to expand this out are pretty interesting as well, letting you come back to it long after the initial adventure is over. Another pretty solid bit of adventure design.



Observations from a Veteran Gamer: We don't have Two Cents this time around, but this article is basically indistinguishable from one of those. The most important thing in a game is the fun, not the rules. This means fun for everyone, so make sure everyone gets a chance to shine. Don't overcomplicate, don't split the party in a way which leaves some players ignored and bored for ages, and remember that inspiration can be found in the most mundane of everyday things. The kind of basic advice article that isn't remotely original, but remains relevant to this day because human nature hasn't changed. Something like it will probably crop up every few years.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 21: Nov/Dec 1984



part 2/6



Why Gargoyles don't have Wings but should: In sharp contrast, this is the kind of article only Gary Gygax could write. A rambling digression filled tale of recent events, future plans, errata for the books, and then a bit of ecology for the AD&D gargoyle (not to be confused with basic D&D gargoyles, which are constructs) There's a lot of information in there, but it obviously never felt the pen of an editor to put it in a logical order. Perks of being the guy in charge, as I've said before. If you can unpick it all, you do get to find out some cool tidbits about his vision of the multiverse that never got properly published, and so was ignored by future authors. Less positively, we also see one of the portents of his downfall, as he's now working with Flint Dille and considering doing Buck Rogers material with him. That's one choice he'll come to regret in the long term. So while there's both good and bad bits here, it's all interesting, which is what I really want to see. He's still a source of a huge amount of raw inspiration for the rest of the company, it just needs slightly better filtering for maximum benefit to long term play.



Take Command of a Titan: Last issue, Jim Ward very consciously did not let you pilot a giant mecha in Gamma World. In contrast, Roger Moore decides to do an article actively encouraging you to become a starship captain in Star Frontiers. It's a big responsibility, and also a big expense, but your firepower is also vastly improved in turn, making any normal fight trivial if you're in a position to bring the orbital bombardment to bear, and giving you a lot of diplomatic leverage. But it's not as if you're short of interesting challenges at this level, as Star Trek has shown us how to make it work for many years. A pretty pleasing article packed full of ideas and references, this makes this kind of campaign seem entirely achievable. Just because you're wandering the universe with a small gang of your closest friends, doesn't mean you can't do it in style. Let your PC's have nice things. Gives them something to get attached too and lose later on without resorting to a TPK. :evil:
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 21: Nov/Dec 1984



part 3/6



Spelling Bee: Frank picks this column up again after a break of well over a year. He isn't in the mood for an in depth delve though, making this into an extension of Dispel Confusion answering lots of little edge case questions. You can stack lots of little things on an unseen servant as long as you don't exceed the weight limit. Enlarging or shrinking an item can be an excelent way of normally reaching inaccessible places. You can't always speak languages you can Comprehend. You can't teleport delayed blast fireballs across the world to kill enemies at no risk to yourself. You can still use psionics while paralyzed. All pretty common sense stuff. No entertaining rants to be had this time around.



Witchstone: After a bunch of adventures where your choices were very restricted, it's a huge relief to get a more open one that lets you explore the wilderness a bit and face the challenges out of order. They're still challenging and often require the use of brainpower as well as raw force, but there's no One True Way of solving them that automatically foils all other methods. Take on a Giant clan and their witch leader and stop them from marauding the countryside. Just like in the very first AD&D module, only with very different specifics. So this is the good kind of old school sandbox, letting you go straight for the big bad, (and probably fail) or take the tactical approach, do the other challenges first and get all the treasure & magic items in them, scout out your opponents properly and come in prepared or lure them out to fight you on your terms. That's much more what I'm looking for.



Five New NPC's: They've stopped the in depth descriptions of a single NPC, but the smaller, fully statted ones continue, and it looks like it would have been thieves' turn this issue, as we get two straight thieves, a multiclass fighter/thief, a druid and a fighter/illusionist. As usual, plenty of effort has been put into differentiating them in terms of personality and possessions, making them usable as both allies and enemies without being overpowering for the PC's. No shortage of reasons for them to interact with you, as despite their accomplishments so far, they still have further needs and ambitions. Will you help them on their way, or have to foil them?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 21: Nov/Dec 1984



part 4/6



Module Building from A to Z: Since it seems like they'll be including a module in every issue for the foreseeable future, they need a lot more of them. So here's a particularly detailed set of rules about what they're looking for, and more importantly, what will get your submission summarily disqualified no matter how good it may be in other areas. Obviously there's no point in sending in adventures for non-TSR published or currently out of print games. Army vs army or save the world scenarios are a bit much given the size limitations we're working with. Try not to use too many obvious cliches, but conversely, be sparing with new monsters and magic items, especially ones that break the general patterns of current design. And no sex, drugs or rock n' roll, because TSR want to be family friendly and not give the satanic panic people any more ammunition. Basically, you've got to thread the needle between not being too different from what's already out there, and not an obvious rip-off of a specific thing that already exists, while also maintaining writing quality and clarity. A pretty tall order, and of course one their staff writers aren't bound by, as Gary's blatant rip-offs of Alice in Wonderland and King Kong demonstrate. All a bit tedious really. This is one reason why the d20 boom was so awesome, as it removed all this gatekeeping and let there be some really weird stuff in amongst the shovelware.



The RPGA Network Tournament Scoring System: After barely a year with a consistent scoring system, they decide it took too much bookkeeping and revert to the older, simpler, voting based one. How are you supposed to build consistent ranking tables if you keep on changing the rules? The best laid plans of mice and men eh? The rest of the article is just a recap of how it all works for new players who have only known the more recent system, and attempts to justify their decision post-hoc. It's all a bit tiresome, and reminds me that competitive tournament modules are not actually a very good environment for the roleplaying part of RPG's. There's a pretty solid limit on how much you can develop your character and their relationships with the world around them when everything has to be done and dusted in a single sitting. It once again makes me glad I never got heavily involved with that kind of scene.
 

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters

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