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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 25: Jul/Aug 1985



part 4/6



Rampage: Our Marvel cover article is quite a fun one, as it involves two different conflicts that just happen to be taking place at the same place at the same time. Abomination breaks free and comes to smash Hulk, and meanwhile Titania gets pissed off at Hercules and sets out to take him down a peg or two. In theory, the good guys should team up to take the bad guys down and restore public order, but y'know, Hulk has anger management issues and doesn't play well with others. A certain amount of trickery may be needed on Herc's part to redirect Hulk's anger in a productive fashion. Or it could just degenerate into a 4-way free-for-all, and let the dice determine who the last person standing is. In other words, this could turn out all sorts of ways, depending on who's playing the characters and the choices they make. Which is exactly what i want to see. Let the crossover be chaotic and the players have plenty of choice to determine the outcome, and it'll lead to interesting consequences down the line.



How to Succeed at Judging an RPGA Network Event: Since last issue had an article on what makes a good player in a tournament game, it's no surprise we have an identical one on the GM's perspective here. This is also pretty different from running your own game because unlike there, you are not a supreme arbiter of the rules, and you can't change anything in the scenario. Plus you're on a strict time limit and it's up to you to enforce that, not keep going 10 minutes longer and winding up doing the assessment paperwork in your own time. So make sure you've learned the module you'll be running, describe everything clearly, and keep things moving, because you want your group to do well so you get good grades too. You're a moderator, not an adversary to them, and don't forget it. Like it's counterpart, this is pretty solid, albeit slightly less entertaining as a read, because being a GM is harder work than being a player, so they have more to get through. That's the kind of thing you've got to do to keep everyone on the same page.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 25: Jul/Aug 1985



part 5/6



Dispel Confusion is nothing but AD&D questions for the first time. Whatever the staff may be doing to keep other games alive, the audience really isn't helping.

What happens when artifacts collide? (perfect defences trump perfect offences.)

Do holy avengers extra damage against chaotic evil stack with their regular bonus? (no)

Can a robe of blending camouflage while moving? (yes)

What level is a magic weapon for the purposes of magic resistance? (it isn't. The enhancement is on the weapon, and therefore only affects them indirectly, so that doesn't apply.)

How does encumbrance interact with races that have faster or slower movement rates than humans? (It can be a pain, I admit)

Can i make objects invisible? (yes, but you need a different spell to people, just like polymorphing)

Does a familiar share senses, or enhance yours? (it enhances yours)

Can a human triple or quadruple class if they have the stats? (I say no, but many other people over the years will say yes)

Can a dual class character switch back to an old one? (no)

Do artfact powers work in an anti-magic shell? (Yes, they're just too awesome to stop.)

Do artifacts block true sight? (only if they specifically say they do. )

What powers do you get when shapechanged? (most things, but not saving throws)

Do you have to make a system shock check every time you use a spell that ages you? (This seems a little harsh, but if you want too.)

How many familiars can a wizard have? (Only one, unless you have lots of issues of Dragon, in which case you can get up to 3 at a time.)

Can you walk through a prismatic sphere? (If you can make all the saving throws)

What level is a reincarnated character? (Same as before, unless above the new race's level limits)

What happens if you save vs time stop? (there is no save vs time stop. It's accelerating the caster, not affecting you.)

How precise is energy control? (by RAW, it's too good. I'm going to nerf it)

What effective level spellcaster is a high level thief (level -9)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 25: Jul/Aug 1985



part 6/6



Review: Paranoia! That's a turnup for the books. It's a silly game, but one you can have a lot of fun playing. It gets a very positive review here, showing that it became popular pretty much as soon as it was released. Guess it hit at just the right time when people were looking for a bit of light relief from deep dungeon delving and serious dystopias. (it isn't 1984 anymore, after all.) It's fun, easy to learn, and well packaged so the art supports the intended playstyle. Their main complaint is that the lack of index and scattered rules can make it a bit tricky to play strictly by the RAW, but let's be honest, who does that with this of all games? Friend Computer is always correct, and stopping to look up rules mid-play is the kind of thing a commie mutant traitor would do. You're not a commie mutant traitor, are you?



Another issue with lots of articles that are part of a series, this shows them once again tilting towards catering for their expert readers, which makes it a much more interesting read for me. They're still facing the usual day-to-day problems, but they're making progress and becoming a more solid and complex organisation despite that. Let's see if they can continue to do so without getting bogged down by overcomplexity next time around.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 26: Sep/Oct 1985



part 1/6



32 pages. Off to space again, to explore new worlds, meet alien life, and do our best not to get killed by them. Which the stars of this cover seem to be off at a bad start with, by that alien's body language. Will we be able to defuse the situation inside, or is it going to come down to another shootout? Let's see if we can get through the issue without rolling for initiative.



Notes from HQ: Gen Con has come and gone, and once again, the newszine is going to be packed full of war stories from it. They had a more harrowing time than average this year, and don't sugarcoat it, with late mailouts, people not showing up, equipment breaking down, and other such chaos cropping up. Thanks to everyone who stuck around and had fun despite that, you're the people who really keep the hobby alive. Let's hope next year is a little easier.

More positively, the idea of creating a shared world city for the RPGA has taken off straight away with a ton of responses. After seeing a bunch of experiments struggle to gain traction with their audience, this success is made all the sweeter. Expect more bashing out of the details next time around as they search for some kind of consensus. One thing they have already agreed upon is that they do like to be beside the seaside, as it makes it easier for a place to be a trade hub and have adventurers from all around the world visit. Which means adventures involving sea monsters, pirates and hidden coves once it's up and running. That's the kind of planning I like to see. Make sure there's a wide range of terrains nearby, as you're going to need to switch things up if you want this place to keep going for years.



Squeaky Wheels: Oh joy, it's the satanic panic again. Yup, once again Frank has to tell us to keep calm, carry on, and do our best to build healthy relationships with the community at large. The accusations BADD level at us are not just unfounded, but ridiculous, and anyone with any real exposure to roleplaying will soon see that, but the trick is giving them that exposure, especially if they've already formed erroneous opinions, and are desperate to protect their poor innocent babies. (who are actually now teenagers and thoroughly sick of that shit) Nothing new here. It's a big world, and we have to go through this problem from so many perspectives. It'll never truly be over, only decline asymptoticly as the people who thought that age out. Let's hope I don't have to deal with it too many more times in here.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 26: Sep/Oct 1985



part 2/6



Con-Fusion: Ed Carmien delivers a somewhat more cheerful view of the Gen Con madness than the editorial. From the front view, it didn't seem so bad, and if anything, the adrenaline panic of the staff just added extra energy to the proceedings. It might have been tough, but it all turned out all right in the end. Short but sweet.



Where Chaos Reigns: Sonny Scott takes quite a different approach to chronicling the Gen Con madness. He was on the phones organising stuff the whole week before, and so had to head off the worst of the twinkery and idiocy before it could ruin the big day. People really were obsessed with playing ninjas back then, and even though they'd just bowed to that and finally included official rules for them in Oriental Adventures, doesn't mean you can play them in tournament adventures. On top of that, they have to keep the DM's who are running the modules and the players playing in them separated so they don't cheat with advance knowledge, make sure everyone registering for the tournaments has tickets for the main event so they can get in in the first place, and all manner of other missing the obvious that anyone who's worked in customer service and tech support will be painfully familiar with. Really not a job I'd want to do, but I'm glad someone was there doing it. The chaos would be a lot worse without people like him doing their best behind the scenes.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 26: Sep/Oct 1985



part 3/6



A View of GEN CON 18: Michael Selinker provides our fourth perspective, expanding on the chaos back at the TSR offices. Part of it was due to the computers and printers breaking down, partly Penny Petticord pushing through pneumonia, and partly the entirely avoidable silliness of many of the writers not doing their homework until the night before, only finishing the tournament modules at the last minute. How old are they now? You'd think they'd learn to plan ahead and buffer properly. Maybe next year. So this whole set of accounts is amusing, but also somewhat exasperating. It's good that they're admitting they had problems, but it would be better if they hadn't made those mistakes in the first place. They've done this 18 times now, they ought to have a formula for it down at this point, even if it does get bigger and more complex to organise every year.



Needle part III: Having got the Needle back home, it turns out one of it's functions is an interdimensional gate! So guess who gets sent through it to find out what's on the other side, and if you can kill it and take it's stuff. It sends you to the moon, where you get railroaded into rescuing the princess of a race of intelligent spiders, and well rewarded with lightsabers and vibranium if you succeed. The trappings of the adventure are profoundly silly, but as with the previous instalments, the danger is very real, and very precisely tuned to the capabilities of the pregen characters, with several plot twists that target specific members of the group. (presuming they survived the previous instalments) As with the previous instalments, it would lose a lot if used in a regular campaign with another group of PC's, (and you'd have to deal with how the treasure changes the world long-term if they win it) so I recommend against it, but it's still an interesting read, and the silly elements make it more memorable. It's well worth reading as a historical artifact.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 26: Sep/Oct 1985



part 4/6



Dispel Confusion:

AD&D

Isn't a phantasmal force too small to imitate most things? (You're confusing real inches with wargaming scale inches)

Is a mind flayer's mind blast the same as a regular one? (resisted differently, but the effects are the same)

What happens if you roll more psionic power than your racial level limit lets you learn? (yeah, that's going to waste)

Can you hear sounds made outside a silence spell while inside? (no)

How do you get to lower levels of outer planes? (there are shortcuts you can find, but first time round, you'll probably have to take the long route.)

Gamma World

How long can you stay underwater in powered armor? (if it was fully charged just before, 72 hours)

Can you take over a Kamodo with psychic powers? (if you can beat their own ones)

How do size modifications affect your movement rate? (linear multiplication)

What military aircraft can I find in ancient bases (GM fiat)

Can characters with dual brain use the same power twice in one turn (no. each brain has a separate set of powers)

How do you protect against high level ID cards? (Dual factor authentication)

Where are Lake Blob and the White Feather tribe? (within travelling distance of your party, if you want to have the adventure)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 26: Sep/Oct 1985



part 5/6



Gamma Mars: Our cover article takes us into space for the second time this issue. Unusually for Gamma World, it's treatment is actually less silly than the D&D one, giving us a perfectly sensible future history of human colonisation of mars, and the things they found there, including a mostly extinct extraterrestrial race that colonised mars a long time ago, then went into suspended animation after being mostly destroyed in their own apocalyptic conflict. Mutants are somewhat rarer but hardly unknown, and human civilisation is considerably more functional than back on earth, while the aliens are fully statted out and playable as PC's, so you have plenty of chargen options. It's a harsh frontier environment, and there's plenty of wilderness to explore, but at least there's not so many insane racist factions that'll try to kill or enslave outsiders on sight. I can definitely see the upsides of setting a campaign here, so that makes this article a success.



Unofficial New Illusionist Spells: Jon Pickens finishes this series off by stealing some powers from monsters as well as magic items, with mongrelmen, dark creepers, wands of illumination, and robes of blending's tricks getting turned into a form illusionists can memorise and use over and over. Plus a psionic power gets converted for some reason, several higher level variants of existing spells that last longer, cover larger areas, or affect more targets, and two variants of magic-user spells with a more tricksy shadow based flavour. As before, they're iterative rather than inspired, but many will still wind up appearing in Unearthed Arcana and future corebooks. D&D may not standardise it like some systems, but there's still solid demand for variants that are basically X spell, only more powerful in one way or another. Many an article will be filled by them in the future.



Fletcher's Corner: This column takes a somewhat leftfield turn, and spends a couple of pages talking about the demographics of magic items in his campaign. While there are some unique ones, one-shot stuff like potions & scrolls and low power permanent ones like +1 weapons are available for sale. On the other hand, remember that just because an item is in the books, doesn't mean it has to exist in your campaign, and this counts double for ones that aren't in the books that the players made up or were given by another DM. So his tastes are more high magic than nearly any non-D&D campaign, which don't have the same escalation of power and treasure baked into the system, but he's still trying to hold back the worst excesses of monty haulism that ruins games. It's a tough line to draw, as you don't want to drive players away, and you want them to do cool things, but if one player comes in with a ton of items from another game and outshines the others, then you have a big problem. An interesting column, that reminds us that these things are much less of a problem now, with the expectation that you'll create new characters for each new campaign a default, and much better rules in term of expected items & treasure by level. It's good to see we have actually learned and grown since then in some ways.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 26: Sep/Oct 1985



part 6/6



Review: Twilight 2000 is another game that gets a positive review first time around, sells decently, and will be back again with many new editions in the future, despite the setting proving increasingly anachronistic after the fall of the USSR. He particularly singles out the organisation of the rules, which are both more solid and easier to look up in play than the last couple of reviews. They do seem to be picking their targets well so far. I guess with only one every two months, they're in a position to be highly selective and only recommend us the cream of the crop. Doesn't look like we're going to be getting any amusingly ranty slatings here.



Gen Con 18 Tournament Winners: They used Temple of Elemental Evil as a tournament module this year? I don't remember that from the Dragon thread. I guess they did struggle to get everything written on time, so I wouldn't be surprised if they grabbed whatever was available and repurposed it. Anyway, here's all the 1st-3rd places for the various systems. Kelley Foote once again scores highly in multiple categories, and the Bingle family also all appear repeatedly, showing the benefits of knowing each other outside the tournament and co-operating better in scoring highly. They should gain a few levels as a result of this.



Filling so much of the issue with convention talk meant there was less game useful material than the last few issues, but the convention material was sufficiently dramatic and humorous that it still made for interesting reading. They're still maintaining a pretty high standard of articles overall, so once again I can go into the next issue feeling pretty optimistic. Let's see what presents they've prepared for christmas this year.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 27: Nov/Dec 1985



part 1/6



28 pages. That dwarf has shaved! : points in horror : Ostracise her! Or not, given that it's a new enlightened era where demihumans should be free to express themselves however they wish as long as they're not hurting anyone. Let's see where this issue falls on the conservative/experimental spectrum.



Notes from HQ: After dealing with a fair amount of chaos in this year's Gen Con, they're trying very hard to do better next year. They're already open to registration for events, and doing their best to debug their database so every member can have their experience levels and subscription time remaining easily accessible and editable. Slightly less ahead of the curve, they encourage submissions for the april fools issue, which is only 4 months away. I know it seems like a long time, but in publication terms, it's really not, especially when editing and rewrites come into play, so get writing if you don't want to miss the deadline and have to wait another year for the right window. You really do have to learn how to think on a different timescale if you want to make it in this business. Even for people who've done it for years, it's not easy for humans to be constantly planning ahead to this degree.



Dominion: Jon Pickens has finished backconverting magical items into spells, so this article takes a different tack. He asks why Magic Jar doesn't fit into any of the existing spell schools. The vast majority of designers would put it into the least worst option, as they did in the 2e revision where it became a Necromancy spell. Instead, he decides to add a whole new school of Dominion and give us 10 new spells to fill it. Which really still isn't enough for a specialist wizard, but then again, they don't have those yet anyway. Only a couple of these will make it into the next corebook as regular Enchantment/Charm spells, so it does seem like there's a bit of diminishing returns setting in here. Really, this shows that the D&D 8 schools of magic are pretty arbitrary and it's often possible to achieve the same effect under several of them by changing the method and flavour text. There are many magic systems that are both more flexible and more scientifically rigorous, and I think it's a sacred cow that could possibly be slain and replaced by more balanced divisions.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 27: Nov/Dec 1985



part 2/6



The Thorinson Clan: Our cover image is once again a collection of NPC's without a particular plotline attached to them. It's also another demonstration of how to differentiate characters when they're mechanically very similar, as every one of these 5 is a dwarf fighter of medium level, not even a multiclass mixed in for variety. So the emphasis has to be on their backstories and personalities. Thankfully these are pretty decent, spinning a saga of a dysfunctional family tree. The father and mother, the favoured son, the black sheep, and the illegitimate grandchild none of them knew about until recently. And thanks to the long lifespans of dwarves, they could probably add several more links to that family tree before the top ones start dropping off. As with the ogres, this is pretty interesting reading, even if it does make me long for 2e and the introduction of kits to give them a bit more variety mechanically. You can definitely get a fair bit of use out of them over the course of a campaign.



She-Rampage: Our first Marvel scenario in here put 2 characters up against each other. The second racked that up to 4. This pits a full 6 heroes against the bad guy's minions. Keep on like this and you'll be up to Infinity Wars levels of escalation within a few years. :) 5 established marvel heroines, plus a superpowered self-insert of this fine publication's editor meet up to deal with fake images of themselves appearing in a girlie magazine …… with extreme prejudice. As this is the marvel universe, it turns out they're not just dealing with your basic drooling sexists, but interdimensional sexists with rocket boots, power armor and lasers who are part of a nefarious conspiracy to make the entire multiverse more sexist. Which to be honest is probably not even the strangest thing they've fought this month. So this is simultaneously very dated in some ways, and still all too relevant in others. The internet age has made porn and photoshopped images so common that hardly anyone's going to get worked up about a few fake nudes, but even the mightiest hero can be socially pwned online by a trolling noobmeister posting a particularly cutting meme, (except maybe Vision and a few of the more powerful reality-warpers) and even if they hunt down one troll IRL it's not going to stop the mockery. If anything, the Streisssand effect may make whatever they were trying to get rid of more widely seen. Sexism is still alive and kicking despite both grass-roots efforts and legislation. No amount of heroic asskicking will solve large-scale structural inequalities. But just maybe, we can get some light relief by playing make believe in a better world, and that'll give us strength to keep on trying to improve this one.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 27: Nov/Dec 1985



part 3/6



Fletcher's Corner: This column tackles another topic that's shown up over and over again. Problem players. No matter the system, no matter the era, this is always going to be relevant. The specific types of problem players he picks are slightly unusual though. People who know all the rules and monster stats, and always have the optimal response to every challenge?! By the time we get to the 3e era that's just normal, at least for people who read forums regularly. I suppose that illustrates how gaming culture has changed a fair bit over the decades, and technological advancement has made it much easier to have all the information casually at your fingertips. What's normal and what's a problem is entirely subjective on the group, and how they want to play the game.

The other group he singles out is also a bit unusual. People who try to micromanage the entire group. While I accept that too much of that is a problem, the opposite, where everyone in the group creates their characters in a vacuum and does whatever they want in battle without consideration for the group, is worse. That way lies blundering into traps, getting into unneeded fights because one impulsive jackass leapt to the attack instead of talking, and catching other PC's in your AoE blasts. You do need to discuss character builds and tactics with the other players, but you also need to accept that you'll have to listen to other's opinions and compromise, because one person can't order around all the rest even if their mastery of the rules is superior. So what I thought was going to be timeless advice actually turns out to be pretty dated, which shows how much the average player has increased in system mastery over the decades, and that the bar where you'll be stigmatised for being too nerdy even for a hobby packed with nerds has been raised by a fair amount. The kind of change you don't notice unless you have something to contrast it against.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 27: Nov/Dec 1985



part 4/6



Alignment Theory: Another nerdy one in quick succession, as we do a bit of set theory. In original D&D there was only Law & Chaos, which were frequently conflated with good and evil. So when the actual Good/Evil axis was introduced there was a tendency to see Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil as super good and super evil, the most extreme ends of the spectrum. This is not the case, the two axes are entirely independent, and you can move in one or the other independently based on your actions. The question is, how far can a neutral lean in one direction or another before they actually register as that alignment? Are they roughly equal divisions, or is true neutrality precarious and requires constant effort to do a balanced number of good and evil actions? Are partially neutrals a balancing force, or just so obsessed with one alignment descriptor as to make the other one irrelevant? While this does give some opinions on these questions, it's really just to get you thinking about them, as what alignment means can vary from campaign to campaign, and be debated endlessly. It's not the first word, and it definitely won't be the last, but it's more solid on a mathematical level than most, so I approve of it overall.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 27: Nov/Dec 1985



part 5/6



Dispel Confusion is entirely devoted to Star Frontiers questions this time around, most unusually.

Are you going to do any more modules featuring the Eorna? (not unless the line sells a lot more than it is now. )

What are the stats for the K'tsa-Kar system? (oops. Here you go.)

Does a rocket pack help you reorient in space combat (no more than any other method of propulsion)

Can I make my own computer program if I have the skills? (Like new magic items in D&D, you need GM approval for everything.)

How good are Sathar at repairing? (the slightly better option)

I want to know the history of the setting! (Buy Zebulon's Guide! :teeth ting:)

Does having more spaceship skills let you charge extra? (yes)

Can you upgrade a computer program? (Yes, but it usually costs as much as buying a whole new one, just like reality)

Why is the frontier map two-dimensional? (Because you couldn't handle the complexity of real space navigation. YOU CAN'T HANDLE IT MAN!!!!)



Gamma Mars: Following on from last issue, they give us a whole load of new martian monsters here. As with last issue, the martian creatures are noticeably less gonzo and more focussed in what special powers they have, as there isn't the same degree of radiation to cause random mutations. This is not to say they aren't dangerous, especially when they work together, as some of them have been selectively bred by the native martians to help them exterminate the human invaders. The result is a collection of creatures that are individually weak, but very dangerous collectively, as they enhance each other and provide a whole load of extra tricks to their creators. You're definitely intended to play these in a Tuckers Kobold's style, harrying, tricking and trapping the PC's to wear them down rather than facing them in a fair fight. Better hope they've figured out some inventive ways to use their own mutations in response. This series is turning out pretty well.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 27: Nov/Dec 1985



part 6/6



Review: This column once again picks only the best, giving us a positive review of Pendragon. It's easy to start, but not so much to finish, as it's designed so a campaign will take several years of real time, and multiple generations of game time. For that reason, he does not recommend using it as someone's first RPG. They'll need a stable group and to build up their stamina first if they don't want to crash out before Arthur even becomes king. Similarly, he recommends allowing the PC's to actually participate in the big metaplot events like the Grail hunt, not just watch from the sidelines while awesome GMPC's have all the fun. You'll just have to make more stuff up on your own if they manage to alter history. But despite those minor flaws, it still looks good, has rules which are well organised and well thought out to support the intended playstyle, and is packed with interesting setting details while still having plenty of room for further expansions. It was recommended then, and remains so now.



Another strong set of articles concludes what has easily been their best year so far, packed full of stuff that's still useful for games today. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as it was pretty much the peak of AD&D's popularity in general. Let's head into next year, and see how Gary's ousting and the corresponding upper management chaos affects this part of the company. Will it be business as usual for the RPGA, or half-assed filler and protests? Let's get through that tiresome auld lang syne business and keep going.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 28: Jan/Feb 1986



part 1/5



28 pages. Oooh. A flying adventure, eh? Dragon had a couple of flying themed issues (124 & 244) and they turned out pretty well. I'm pleased but not surprised that they'd do the same here at some point, as the sky is always waiting quiet and pale to inspire us from the moment we leave the womb. Let's see if this issue is immensely marvellous, or the kind of slackness & softness we ought to shun.



Notes From HQ: Another round of things they haven't got around too yet in the editorial. They're still wrestling with bugs in their computer database, which is a little worrisome considering how many months it's been going on. You'd think they'd have either got the hang of it or given up to try a different system by now. But they're still plugging away on getting their scoring system working smoothly and caught up with all the data from new tournaments (over half a dozen every month, even in off season), and slowly building the framework for their new city. (which includes all the tedious legal ass-covering.) The eternal bureaucratic war rages on.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 28: Jan/Feb 1986



part 2/5



Adventure Among the Clouds: Our cover article goes all Jack and the Beanstalk. Your characters are in a fantasy world, so why not make it properly fantastical, with solid clouds and things living on them? It means once you get to a level where your characters have easy access to flight powers, they can't just cheese most encounters by soaring above them and using missile weapons, as there's plenty of things up there to bump into and challenge you appropriately. It would also explain how cloud and storm giants can maintain viable breeding populations without dominating the earthly ecology and making humanity a minor species - they grow their own giant plants up there. It's like going to another plane of existence, only not quite as difficult or dangerous. Indeed, the whole tone of this article is very much planes-lite, right down to the lengthy description of how spells work differently up there, and a surprisingly strong focus on the physics and ecology of how cloud islands grow, shrink and move with the weather. So this isn't as over the top fantastical as it could be, but it's still a pretty interesting read that opens up another terrain for adventuring in. Just needs a bit more elaboration to fill it with actual scenarios. If you want something a bit more modern and high-flying in it's treatment, check out 13th age, which makes it's cloud overworld into a significant part of the setting rather than a tacked-on afterthought to gate away high level encounters.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 28: Jan/Feb 1986



part 3/5



The Great Bugbear Hunt: After showing us the clouds, our actual adventure is ironically the type of wilderness one that would be over much quicker if they just flew over big chunks of it. Frank Mentzer gives us another 16 page tournament module that takes up more than half the issue. Thankfully it's neither as silly or as linear as Needle was, instead sending the PCs into a particularly mazy and monster infested bit of woods to recover a stolen spellbook. There are indeed not only bugbears there, but regular bears, werebears, and a druid powerful enough to turn into a bear as well. Many of the encounters are not hostile unless provoked, so it'll reward players who don't just hack and slash through everything, but try sneaking and diplomacy instead. This is a cool sandbox that could be completed in a single setting if the PC's are lucky (it'd kinda have to be given it's tournament origins), but could also be strung out over several if they want to really explore every nook and cranny and clear the place out. This is one I'd have absolutely no problem using in a regular campaign.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 28: Jan/Feb 1986



part 4/5



The Specialist Mage: Well, this is a turnup for the books. Jon Pickens introduces another thing that would become core next edition, and stick around in all the subsequent ones too. We never saw this in Dragon, and it's very pleasing that I get to trace another thread of history back to it's relatively obscure genesis here. Even more interestingly, the mechanics are not the same as 2e specialists. While some elements are the same, like gaining a bonus to learning spells of your specialty and a penalty to the rest, they don't have the forbidden school wheel, instead imposing increasing xp penalties if your ratio of specialty spells to other ones drops below a certain level. (which is a bookkeeping nuisance for PC's, but isn't a restriction at all if you've already reached max level for your race) Overall, I think this implementation is more annoyance than benefit, and can definitely see why they changed it for wider publication. It's good to give things several years of playtesting so you can experiment with different approaches and iron out the kinks.

Along with the general principles, they give lots of new spells for the school that needs it most, the Necromancer. If you're going to make specialists a thing, you need to make sure they have several spells of their specialty to choose from every single spell level. Mildly irritatingly, only two of these will make it into the 2e corebook, which means 2e necromancers once again struggle with a lack of low level spells unless you buy a load of supplements (or just the complete necromancer's handbook ;) ) So this is cool and historically significant, but also very much unfinished work. You still have a long way to go to make all the various types of specialist wizards both well differentiated and well balanced.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 28: Jan/Feb 1986



part 5/5



Fletcher's Corner: This column fails to co-ordinate with their other departments, and returns to a topic they did only 3 issues ago - how to be a good GM in a tournament game. However, while that was focussed more on how to run a good individual game, this also looks at the logistics of creating a whole tournament from scratch, writing your own multi-part adventure to run the teams through, and getting enough players and GM's to run the whole thing. Which is a considerably longer and more challenging process than reading a preprepared module and sitting down to run it for 4 hours, then filling in a few forms, before grabbing some food and doing it all again for the next round. Unsurprisingly, the thing that comes up over and over again is to prepare in advance. Always prepare more than you think you will need, because the stress you'll be under if you try to wing it will be quite considerable. Make sure the modules aren't finished the night before (pointedly not looking at you, TSR staff writers), make sure you get them to the prospective judges soon enough that they have time to prepare too, make sure there are enough of them and make sure the space you're running the games in is big enough to accommodate all this. It's a bit repetitive, but you really do need to hammer that point home. So not a fun read, but a helpful one.



A curious issue, as there's much fewer articles than usual, but they're unusually long and significant. So it was interesting to read about, but I struggled to find as much to write about it as usual. Oh well, if that keeps up, maybe we can get through this a bit faster than I originally anticipated. Let's see if it's a trend or just another outlier.
 

COMING SOON: 5 Plug-In Settlements for your 5E Game

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