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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 29: Mar/Apr 1986



part 1/5



28 pages. Tom Wham breaks the 4th wall and shows us a wizard's tower full of anachronisms. Silly season has rolled around again, and it looks like they're going all out on it again this year. Let's see if the jokes are funny, or I'll be left groaning at the terrible puns and nonfunctional rules.



Notes from HQ: They're STILL having computer problems? Just can't get the staff these days. Actually, that's not quite true, as they've just hired 3 new full-time staff members. Hopefully at least one of them will be sufficiently computer-literate to finally sort the stupid thing out. Despite still being behind on their bookkeeping, they're stepping up the number of conventions they're attending and running official tournaments at this year, and the size of their big show at Gen Con. I guess as long as they don't lose the paper records, it'll all get processed eventually. Levelling up in the real world is a lot slower than in the game.



The Lighter Side of Encounters II: Continuity! You don't see enough of that even in the serious articles! A direct sequel to last year's encounter featuring the same characters. Like that, it has a somewhat absurd premise, but to the characters caught in it, it's a deadly serious situation and the actions of the PC's can make all the difference between success and disaster. Once again, it looks like they're trying to keep these articles humorous, but not so silly or mechanically nonfunctional that they're unusable in a game. Which is exactly what I want to see. A joke becomes funnier when it has multiple layers and can be appreciated by different audiences at different levels of sophistication simultaneously.
 

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(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 29: Mar/Apr 1986



part 2/5



The Camel's Nose: Our full length adventure is also technically usable, but it's much harder to maintain suspension of disbelief over several sessions when all the encounters are not only silly in concept, but filled with terrible puns, NPC's that are broad (and often rather tasteless) stereotypes with names that reflect their personalities all too well. The sample PCs make Frank Mentzer's naming conventions look sensible, valley elves (as filked in the 1983 april issue of Dragon) make a most un-radical appearance, and the 4th wall gets poked at near the end. It's definitely too goofy for my tastes, and the fat jokes and ethnic stereotypes really have not aged well either. So this is one I'm definitely not ever using for multiple reasons, either in an established campaign or a one-shot. My eyes would be rolling too fast to get through even the first bits of narration.



The Ecology of Tiamat: They don't do ecologies in Polyhedron! What are they doing parodying them here, where any non-readers of Dragon won't get the joke? (I know, pretty small part of the roleplayer venn diagram, but there's bound to be some.) It looks at tiamat's stats from the perspective of a seasoned adventurer, and how they don't actually seem that threatening to a well-equipped party. Once you've got to the double digits in levels and optimised properly, why you could get through several Tiamats a day! The AD&D monster manual has been out nearly 9 years now, lots of other books with new spells and magical items have been released, and there has indeed been a certain amount of power escalation, so there is actually a serious point behind the jokes, but it's mainly just a joke, there's no real ecological material here. Good for a mild chuckle, then we have to move on.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 29: Mar/Apr 1986



part 3/5



Fractured Spells: We've been getting lots of new spells every issue for the past year, so it's only fair that they parody this column as well. Another article that's presented as a joke, full of pun names riffing on existing spells, but the resulting spells are actually entirely usable in serious situations, and about the right level for their power as well.

Defect Magic is a weaker Mordenkainen's Disjunction.

Neutralise person essentially turns the victim into a ghost, unable to affect or be affected by other people.

Dissect evil gives you a little more information as to why they're bad.

Detect Chum Tells you if a creature is likely to be friendly to you, whatever your alignment. Perfect for Ravenloft where the regular spell is obscured.

Purify Fools & Drunks is your basic sudden detox for when neutralise poison would be a bit excessive.

Fold person lets you flatten someone to fit them through small spaces. Very handy for sequence breaking dungeons.

Continual Lice gives you a persistently recurring infestation until magically cured.

Exercise is basically Otto's irresistible dance, only lower level, and, y'know, resistible.

Detect Snores & Fits lets you know the number and location of all sleeping creatures within range. This of course is also very handy for telling if someone is only pretending to be asleep.

Pass without Taste lets you consume spoiled, poisoned, or merely ultraspicy foods without ill effect. Exceedingly useful in political intrigue games.

Shenanigan subjects the victim to minor random pranks, for when a long term curse would be a bit too mean.

Control Temper 10' Radius forces everyone to be calm and reasonable, which is incredibly handy when you're dealing with adventurers.

Unkind Familiar gives you a different, somewhat grumpier selection of animals than a regular find familiar spell.

Soap Trick is just a mildly reflavored Grease spell. That's been a staple of so many serious campaigns that i don't even see why this is a joke.

Leopold's Tiny Mutt creates a magical bulldog to clamp jaws around someone or something and impede them.

So yeah. These are all entirely usable in a serious campaign without ruining the tone or breaking the system, and some are very good utility spells indeed. This is one article I can happily recommend completely unironically.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 29: Mar/Apr 1986



part 4/5



Gods of the Gamma World game: The trouble with Gamma World is that it's silly enough on a day-to-day basis that the april articles don't have much room to maneuver. How do you make a parody that's clearly distinguishable from the bits you're supposed to take seriously? That's definitely the case with this article, which gives us some extremely powerful NPC's who've become worshipped by the other humans and mutants due to their iconic nature. They have high stats, with a few thematic exceptions that are extremely low, various degrees of near indestructibility, and very varying indeed ranges of hostility and ability to affect the world around them. There are in-jokes and pop culture references in their descriptions, but that's just normal for Jim's writing. They seem entirely usable as long as the PC's aren't the sort who just try to hack and slash through every encounter without talking or gathering information. The question then becomes if you would want too, or invincible racial exemplars and comic relief NPC's would merely irritate them. I'm definitely leaning towards the not end of the spectrum.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 29: Mar/Apr 1986



part 5/5



The Savage Sword of Lugnut the Barbarian: We conclude with a second bit of single page fiction that's basically just an extended build-up to a groanworthy punchline. The princess of the valley has been kidnapped! Only Lugnut the barbarian has thews mighty enough to defeat all the Ultra-Necromancer's minions and rescue her! And the lack of brains to not realise until too late that the princess of the valley is indeed a valley girl, with all that implies. They've used this joke before, and it's totally suffering from diminishing returns with repetition. Frank Zappa has a lot to answer for. This is neither gnarly or radical anymore. I wouldn't go as far as saying it's completely bogus, but it's definitely testing my patience, and would grow increasingly grody if they try going back to this well again.



Slightly less funny than last year, but the game material is also slightly more usable in actual play on average without breaking either game balance, or people's suspension of disbelief. That's a tradeoff i can live with, as jokes rapidly lose their funniness on repetition, but stuff that's useful in game like the new spells can be returned too many times. Let's see how much of next issue will merit returning to and using.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 30: May/Jun 1986



part 1/5



32 pages. What are those Drow doing up on the surface? Doesn't look like they're having a very pleasant time of it. But given they're usually the villains, that's probably for the best. Will they be bucking the trend even in this pre-Drizz't era, or will it be the PC's job to foil them in the adventure inside? Let's find out for sure.



Notes From HQ: Convention season has rolled around again, and they still haven't quite caught up from last year. If they aren't careful, it'll put them even further behind and they'll never get back on schedule. In the end, it's not the paid staff that'll determine if they succeed or fail, it's the efforts of ordinary RPGA members volunteering to help out for free, or maybe an extension on their membership so they can stick around and work for free some more, that really keeps them alive. Oh well, as long as everyone's having fun, what's a little exploitation between friends? I'm sure we'll be hearing next issue what they actually got up too, and if all this extra help let them pull off their plans successfully this year.



Nienna & Friends: Our cover stars this issue are much more racially mixed than the previous instalments. The titular Nienna is a half-drow fighter/mage who's rebelled against the dark side of her heritage and become a wandering adventurer. She travels with a human cleric and two grey elves which take advantage of the raised level limits for superhuman stats in Unearthed Arcana to be considerably more powerful than demihumans used to. It's rather an unbalanced party, so the stronger ones must be looking out for the weaker ones in combat, or the DM isn't giving them particularly threatening encounters for their average level. Her nemeses are her evil Drow father, and his equally diabolical Drider best friend, who they've fought repeatedly, but not killed, which is a very un-D&D plotline. So I very much doubt these characters have been stress-tested by actual play, and their plotline and stats show definite cliched mary-sue tendencies. Definitely my least favourite of this series so far.



In Search of the 12th level Mage: So in the average D&D world, how big a proportion of the NPC's have class levels, and what are the demographics of high level characters? Given the small overall populations, it needs to be a fairly substantial percentage just so you can fill out all the followers you get when you hit Name level. Roger Moore goes into a deep delve of the tables in the DMG and comes out with some benchpark numbers for your campaign to use or intentionally deviate from. 90% 0th level humans, 5% 1st level, 2.5% 2nd level, then halve each time after that until you hit Name level, at which point you have to deviate from the progression for high level characters to exist at all. Fighters are the most common class, with wizards & clerics equal second, then thieves, and everything else a tiny minority. Curiously, Greyhawk is somewhat lower magic and more rogue-heavy than this, as it's intended to be a more gritty campaign world than Dragonlance or the Forgotten Realms. So this is a very interesting little discovery, that takes you behind the scenes and points out some stuff about the AD&D implied setting that was in the books all the time, but most people would have missed. It's amazing what you can discover by applied analysis of statistics and why a designer shouldn't neglect them, otherwise your world may end up dramatically different than you intended.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 30: May/Jun 1986



part 2/5



In Defense of the Lowly Fighter: Looks like all the articles on keeping fighters interesting by roleplaying have been in vain, especially since Unearthed Arcana gave us a couple of new fighty classes that do have other interesting abilities on top. This article complains that no-one wants to play fighters in his game, and they're increasingly light on humans in general too. The supposed balancing factor of lower level limits is hardly ever an issue in actual play, and higher hit points and strength pales against actually having a decent selection of powers to choose from, many of which bypass combat entirely if used cleverly. What are we to do about that? You can take the 3e route, and try to give everyone more cool options, or you can take the 4e route, and reduce all the classes down to a tightly proscribed set of powers that are described entirely in terms of their combat effect. What definitely will not work longterm is petty nerfs without changing the overall structure of the game, as people will keep on coming up with new spells, classes and races and fighters will once again wind up looking boring by comparison. I guess it is always easier to identify a problem than come up with a solution. Not very impressed with this article.



Ravager part 1: Another tournament adventure gets spread to the wider public now it's no longer a secret. Jeff Grubb gives us a tale of a man who's made himself immortal and unkillable by hiding his life essence away. (An idea he'd reuse and finally make available to PC's many years later in the Al-Qadim setting books.) Obviously, the PC's have to figure out how he did it, hunt down the thing making him invulnerable, and destroy it before finally taking the archvillain on directly. A pretty cool plot, that in practice turns into another small, mostly linear site based dungeon, because those 4 hour tournament slots just don't have the room (and D&D lacks the rules) for lengthy social intrigues and researching. The pregen characters once again have terrible puns for names and relationships with one-another that seem designed to encourage IC bickering. The actual adventure has some quite interesting encounters, and while it does have some bits that reward cleverness and negotiation, it isn't a pixelbitcher like the Tomb of Horrors or Needle that'll kill you without a save if you make a single wrong decision. It's an entertaining enough way to fill a session, but I can't escape the feeling it would be a much more epic plot if the players could get involved at an earlier stage and discover the threat organically, then have to figure out the solution themselves instead of just reading the exposition and being dumped at the dungeon. An updated and expanded version would be very welcome.



The Treasure Chest: Another reminder of their exclusive modules. Nothing new to see here.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 30: May/Jun 1986



part 3/5



Fletcher's Corner: This column delivers something completely non-helpful and somewhat absurdist that I strongly suspect was intended for the april issue then delayed for space reasons. We have half-elves and half-orcs. Think what other cool combinations of races you could combine, and through generations of selective breeding, create something with powers from all of them! Ahahaha! That's a joke that simply doesn't work post 3e, which gave you plenty of options for stacking powers from multiple species via templates, bloodline and racial levels treated completely straight, and not overpowering because each one added on their own corresponding ECL modifiers that if anything, would work out underpowered unless you combined templates with very specific stacking synergies. (like Troll and something with fire & acid immunity) This is an instance where the joke isn't funny anymore, because it's trying to mock something that's become commonplace and completely normal, as if it were an absurd idea only twinks would allow in their game. So this is the gaming equivalent of all those 90's movies about the perils of internet dating, mildly amusing as an anachronism, but full of false assumptions in hindsight. It's amazing how often nebulous hyperbolic problems turn out to not actually be problems with a bit more experience.



Beware the new Golems: New monsters? I thought that was one of the things they specifically didn't want. Getting more reader submissions once again seems to be eroding their differentiation from Dragon. Oh well, all the new spells last year turned out pretty interesting. Let's hope the quality is high enough that worrying about petty details of niche protection won't seem like a big deal after the fact.

Copper Golems are perpetually red-hot, which means they do heat damage to everyone near them, and can be killed by immersion in water. Even if you don't have magic weapons, that means smart low level characters can still have a chance of beating them. Good to see this article embracing the puzzle monster side of these things.

Oak Golems are created by druids, and work best in natural environments where they can command the plants to Entangle their opponents and make sure they can't get away. Having your own druid in the party gives you the best shot at beating one, as only fire and spells that specifically affect wood will do anything against them.

Brass Golems have a perpetual wholesome glow, that they can intensify to a level that fries creatures vulnerable to sunlight. They can only be created by Good wizards, and lack the control loss dangers many other Golems come with. If you fit the prerequisites, making one seems a lot more sensible than many of your other options.

Shadow Golems let Illusionists make something a little more solid to guard their treasure. They're near invisible in shadows, and drain strength with each hit like the undead. They fit exactly the same combat niche, but for higher level parties. Thankfully direct sunlight will kill them, and like most golems, they move slower than an unladen human, so you can still escape them by heading for the surface and praying it's still daytime, or bringing a Brass Golem along to kick their ass. A pretty good collection of monsters which gives them all interesting quirks and makes them accessible to being created by PC's as well.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 30: May/Jun 1986



part 4/5



Little Miss Sure Shot: A bit of Boot Hill material for the first time in quite a while. It does seem to have been more popular in here, and they have fewer reader submissions in general, so they can let those niche articles through. So here's one on the life of Annie Oakley, as dramatised in the musical Annie Get Your Gun. She was never a cowgirl or outlaw - she only played one on the stage, but her sharpshooting skills were completely genuine. (when your stock in trade is trick shots, you need a lot of skill to reliably NOT hurt anyone. ) Any chauvinist characters who run across her may indeed find that anything they can do, she can do better. (although I'm not absolutely certain about that, as the formatting on her stats is messed up, so I'm not sure how badass they actually are.) So as a flavour piece this is pretty decent, giving you a whole load of plot ideas about how she could be used in a game, but on a mechanical level, it fails due to poor editing. You need to be careful with your kerning when designing tables on computer, as one mistake can put all the numbers in the wrong columns.



New and Old: Jim Ward is still keeping a close hold over Gamma World, keeping it not only alive, but making a new edition for it. If we go by the frequency that happens, it must be easily their best selling game after the two different types of D&D. So this is your standard promotional article selling the new edition by telling us all the improvements he's made to the rules. Your years of actual play and sending in letters complaining about various bits and pieces have not been in vain! More weapons! Better categorisation for tech! More Mutations! Better fleshed out cryptic alliances! A regular schedule of supplements, including one that updates Metamorphosis Alpha! Pretty decent sales pitch. If only they'd edited it better, maybe the supplements would have sold better, and they'd have have kept it going long enough to finish the module series. It's no good adding a load of improved peripherals if you neglect the basics.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 30: May/Jun 1986



part 5/5



Dispel Confusion is back, in another sign that they're working hard to return to business as usual.

Is a lance identical to a spear when used on foot? (pretty much)

Do psionics manifest instantly? (1 segment, so not quite)

Can you see through your own Darkness spell? (not without other powers that specifically allow it.)

Why do monster hit chances cap out at 16 HD? (diminishing returns set in.)

How long does it take to switch classes? (at least a month or two of downtime)

Does magic armor also give you save bonuses vs nonmagical fire or cold? (if it allows a save in the first place)

Why don't undead spellcasters need spellbooks? (They do. As to why one specific one doesn't, maybe they're a sorcerer and the rest of the world hasn't caught up yet.)

Can non-corporeal undead fly? (if they have a fly speed)

What spell level is the automatic spell you learn when you level up? (the highest level you can cast. No point having those slots and nothing to put in them.)



The Critical Hit: Our reviews also return from their hiatus, to give us one on Timemaster. While still a recommendation overall, this is the least positive review they've done so far, as while it has some cool ideas, it's also very much a first edition, and needs some more editing and errata to really shine, as well as a strong knowledge of real world history to create adventures for it. Of course, you could always go wild with the parallel timelines and not have to worry about that instead. It's not as if the canon police are going to knock on your door for doing it wrong, or rewrite this timeline so you never existed in the first place as a punishment …… right?



After a string of great issues, this one is distinctly under par, with a mix of boring, cheesy, underwhelming and promising but badly edited articles bringing down the good ones. They've run out of big special features, and now it's back to mundane life again. Let's see how long it takes for them to produce something to celebrate about again.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 31: Jul/Aug 1986



part 1/5



31 pages. Flying saucers and giant mecha? That's a turnup for the books. Are they together, or fighting, and if so which side will the players be on? Let's see if it'll be high-flying interstellar awesomeness, or anal probingly awful (honey, with this code of conduct? I don't think so) in here.



Notes From HQ: Convention season seems to have gone considerably more smoothly this year, as there's no tales of disaster and equipment malfunction. Instead, there's a lengthy list of thanks which shows that success has a thousand fathers, while failure is an orphan. Gen Con as a whole was once again bigger than ever, and they managed to run more tournament games than ever. It's good to see them learning from their mistakes and being better organised this time around. In other signs of progress, they now have a dedicated computer programmer on the team, so hopefully their woes in that area are finally over, and they've closed submissions on the competition to name their new city. Now, which of the more than 150 options will they choose to be the winner? ;) One plotline is resolved, but another is still being teased out slowly to keep readers interested. That's the kind of planning I like to see in a long-running series.



Letters: Our first letter is from someone thoroughly peeved at how incompetent and TSR-centric the RPGA is. They're a lot more patient and civil with him than I would be. They need to cover their asses in a legal sense. (and also a literal one), so those ®'s and ™'s aren't going anywhere. If you want the RPGA to run tournament games by other companies, you need to be the change you want to see. They'd love to be able to cover the entire hobby, but network externalities mean big games tend to crowd out the smaller ones, particularly when it comes to creating tournament adventures and finding people to participate in them.

Our second letter is from the writer of Fletcher's Corner, turning the gun on the laziness of the average RPGA member. There's over 10,000 of us now. Surely we should be able to create, edit and moderate our own tournament adventures without being dependent on cheesy rush-job crap by official TSR writers who aren't held to the same quality control standards as regular members. It would be nice, agree the staff. Get off your asses and stop expecting people to spoon-feed you passive entertainment. This is roleplaying, goddamnnit, take on a role and we'll all have more fun!
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 31: Jul/Aug 1986



part 2/5



The Plebe Zone: They've been relying on the generosity of volunteers for the past few months to try and catch up with all their work. The work, and getting to meet their heroes, could have been reward enough for them, but they get to have their experiences immortalised in here as well. Just like everyone else, they had nightmares with the computer, which really needs to implement autosaves and external backups, for losing huge chunks of your work of your work the night before the con starts and having to hastily recreate it from memory is no-one's idea of a good time. But they managed to pull things together in the end, and even introduce some ideas that might help things go smoother next year (presuming staff turnover doesn't wind up with them getting forgotten by then anyway) Nothing too unusual here. The amount of work to do seems to expand with the number of hands available, so it always comes down to a scramble at the end. That's just the way human groups normally work, no matter how big they are and how high their budget is.



The Big Con (and me): Skip Williams once again gives his perspective on the convention madness. Despite having gone through this before, he still manages to get himself in a pickle, getting roped into doing as much work as he can physically handle, if not more. He also falls prey to their seemingly cursed computer system, losing big chunks of work and having to recreate it from an old backup. A lot of wordcount is devoted to his interactions with Penny Petticord, which isn't surprising at all as we know in hindsight they'll get married in the future, and it seems they have a relationship based heavily on tormenting one-another in small amusing ways. Ah, the sweet flowers of romance. This is far more entertaining a read than it has any right to be and gives us another amusing behind the scenes of how things are(n't) organised in the TSR offices. In their efforts to create things that are fun for us, it's important that they create an office environment where they can still have fun in their personal interactions as well.



Ravager part 2: Our second instalment of this adventure actually covers both rounds 2 & 3 of the original tournament, which shows how long even 5-6 pages of material can take when it's largely comprised of tough combat encounters. There's still plenty of variety in them though, with straight battles, ones you can talk your way through if you think to try, and puzzle encounters that are much quicker and easier if you were paying attention earlier on and picked up the corresponding clues. (while still not being completely impossible as a straight fight.) There's still the feeling that you could fill in a lot of the connective tissue and make this a full length adventure instead of jumping straight from one mini dungeon crawl to the next, but it's well designed for what it is, being neither too dependent on puzzle traps that require you to think exactly like the designer, or a mindless hack-and-slash fest. I'd have no problem using this one in a campaign.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 31: Jul/Aug 1986



part 3/5



Aliens and the Cryptic alliances: Aliens? In Gamma World? I thought the whole point of the game was that we got ourselves into this radioactive postapocalyptic mess. Ancient aliens on Gamma Mars I could accept, as it's a different sandbox from the main one, but this feels like definite dilution of theme. Oh well, I guess it's Jim Ward's game, and if he's getting bored and wants to spice things up after a decade of developing the same game, that's his prerogative. So the twist here is that instead of an overt invasion, which they're woefully outnumbered to accomplish even with their technological advantage, they're abducting and replacing one or two individuals in each cryptic alliance with crystalline clones, then trying to work their way to the top of these organisations. This is not going well for them, as they're not very good at the fine details of human social dynamics. So there are strong elements of comedy of errors in this, that give the PC's plenty of opportunity to stumble across the infiltrators and destroy them without ever even knowing what they were up against in the first place. It's not the typical cliche alien encounter I was expecting. Once again it looks like he has inventiveness to spare, which is a very good thing to see, especially after all this time.



New Druid Spells: Jon Pickens continues converting magical items into spells, giving existing spells stronger or weaker variants, and occasionally even coming up with new ideas of his own. Unearthed Arcana is already out now, so obviously none of these will make it into there, but some will make it into the AD&D 2e corebook in a few years time. He decides Affect Normal Fires, Burning Hands, Flesh to Stone & Stone Tell make perfect sense on the druid spell list as well as the Wizard or Cleric one, lets you share your stealth in natural environment abilities with others, and fills out the top spell level with two very different save or die effects for when a Hierophant is well and truly sick of your bullshit. Since a fair number of these are not even new spells, but he still prints the full descriptions, this article feels particularly padded and hit-and-miss. I think he may be hitting diminishing returns on this idea. Let someone else submit actually inventive new spells instead.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 31: Jul/Aug 1986



part 4/5



Dispel Confusion covers more than one system again.

Star Frontiers

Why can't level 1 pilots fly starships if they aren't using the interstellar features? (the controls remain more complicated even if you're only using a fraction of them.)

Does a Toolbox come with a Techkit? (yes)

How much does a sickbay cost? (at least 8,000 creds per bed, probably a lot more. Better hope your planet has a socialised health system.)

How much extra pay can you get if you have multiple skills relevant to the job? (full for the highest one, then a reduced extra for subsequent ones. If you can find a good jack of all trades you can save a lot compared to hiring multiple specialists.)

AD&D

How do surprise and backstabbing interact? (Surprise is one way of getting the benefit, but you can also get it mid-combat if you hide and someone else distracts their attention. I guess we'll have to clarify that in future editions.)

Why would a half-orc become a thief when they can get better effective thiefly abilities as an assassin? (alignment restrictions. If you want to be a hero, you sometimes need to make hard choices)

Why are magic-users better at summoning elementals than druids? (druids are more focussed on the prime material plane. Raw elements take more effort to incorporate into Nature.)

If the violet part of a prismatic sphere is a solid wall, what's the point of the rest? (it isn't. If you make your save you can get through. Going back the other way will still involve another 7 saves.)
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 31: Jul/Aug 1986



part 5/5



The Critical Hit: For the first time, this column reviews a supplement rather than a corebook, choosing to focus upon the Klingon sourcebook for the Star Trek RPG. Whether you want to focus on them more as antagonists, or your players are sick of being all nice and neat as part of the federation, and want the chance to duel and backstab their way to captainhood, this gives you lots of new stats and setting details for ships, weapons, and the Klingon homeworld, as well as two actual adventures to get your Klingon PC's going once you've made them. It once again gets a positive review, although like most supplements, you shouldn't try it until you're thoroughly comfortable with the core rules. Try and dump a ton of them on the players all at once and you'll probably kill your game. Introduce them one at a time and you can keep it interesting for many years longer than you could manage on your own.



A pretty decent balance of conventioneering and providing game useful material here. It shows another round of iterative improvements in their workflow as they continue to expand year on year. Will that continue to apply next year, or will they get overconfident and find some way to mess it up? Time to head once again into the rich colours of autumn, and see if they've stored up for the winter to come.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 32: Sep/Oct 1986



part 1/5



32 pages. The Worf effect is in full force on this cover. Once again Klingons are used as chumps to demonstrate when a new alien race is bigger and badder than them. Of course, in an RPG, you have to be a little more careful about this than a TV show, especially if you plan to make them available as a PC race at some point. Let's see if the contents of this issue are well-balanced or potentially game-breaking.



Notes From HQ: Penny Petticord quits abruptly, leaving Barbara Young in the lead editor's seat. Yikes. This upsets their schedule even more than it was already, and they'll be using a bunch of guest editors to get the next few issues done simultaneously, until they finally have things back on track and get a permanent replacement. This means they need your help more than ever, especially if you ever want the RPGA to become independent from TSR. Send in articles! Write tournament adventures! Take on admin duties! We can get through this together! Certainly no shortage of drama in the offices back then. Let's hope their quality control doesn't go to pieces as they try to co-ordinate all the guest star staff.



Letters to HQ: Following directly on from the editorial, our first letter is Penny saying goodbye. She's one of the few TSR staff who decided to side with Gary over Lorraine :wolves howl, rumble of thunder: when he was forced out of TSR, and joined him in forming New Infinities Productions along with Kim Mohan & Frank Mentzer. A laudable but ultimately doomed demonstration of loyalty, that would only last a few years before the company died and Kim & Penny were forced to come crawling back to their old company, while Frank quit the industry entirely. So this is a pretty dramatic turning point not only for the newszine, but the company as a whole. In the long run it'll affect every aspect of their operations. Welcome to one of the big forks in RPG history, where things could have gone very differently if it hadn't happened.

Slightly less dramatic, but also somewhat significant long-term, is a letter from regular forumite David Carl Argall responding very positively to the concept of specialist wizards, but not at all to the specifics in the article, and giving his own suggestions in response. This is one area where getting lots of people to contribute ideas will definitely help the final product come out better.

Finally, we have a very lengthy letter on the Living City, why a coastal location is optimal for it in terms of terrain types, and how it might logically be named and constructed in a way that's both realistic and allows for lots of adventure possibilities. Good to see there are people who are very passionate about these things contributing. Hopefully they won't get too competitive or annoyed about only having small fractions of each of their ideas used.



Following directly on from the last letter, they update us on their deliberations about the name of the Living City, giving us 19 of their favourite submissions and asking us to vote on them. None of them are the actual final result, which reminds us that this isn't really a democracy, and there's still going to be more developments before they come to a final decision. Just what political and legal nonsense will be involved behind the scenes here?
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 32: Sep/Oct 1986



part 2/5



Arcane Academe: Reader apathy has put the author of Fletcher's Corner off this whole column writing business, so we have another shakeup here. Now Jeff Martin'll be giving you your compact doses of GM advice until further notice. Unsurprisingly, his mind is still on convention experiences, so we get some advice to hold on until next year. But while the last few bits of advice have been on getting the most out of your games, this is about surviving the actual convention process. Choose your party carefully, for the wrong roommate makes the whole time there a lot more odious and sleep-deprived. Don't overspend on the first day and wind up having to lug a ton of stuff around while looking regretfully at things you wish you'd got instead. And if your constitution is remotely delicate, don't forget your antacid tablets. Now that's something games don't give enough attention too. I guess getting the squits from dirty water while out adventuring and having to deal with wandering monsters while also dealing with crippling bowel pains, and figuring out how to clean your trousers afterwards without hot water is a bit too gritty and realistic for even the most hardcore of historical nerds. A reasonably amusing start. Let's see what kind of depth he can build too in future instalments.



Operation: Butter-Up: Our module this issue is a Top Secret one, another of the tournament adventures they ran at this year's Gen Con. Even without external submissions, they could easily fill most of the year with a collection of these for their various systems. It's one that actually features some proper espionage too, talking to the various people at a hotel and figuring out who the bad guys are, rather than just sneaking in, killing people and blowing stuff up. That's a real positive. On the negative side, it's filled with silly names and bad puns that make taking the plot seriously a bit of a challenge. But if you can get past that, there's a lot of information packed in here, giving us stats for over 50 characters, and a timeline for what'll happen if the players do nothing, while giving them plenty of freedom to change it. Definitely don't recommend running this one without reading it properly first, but if you do, there's a lot more depth in here than your regular site-based dungeon crawl. So this isn't perfect, but it's much closer to fulfilling the full potential of the system than the early adventures and making them properly distinct from D&D ones.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 32: Sep/Oct 1986



part 3/5



Pain and Pleasure: Another Gen Con story they didn't have room for last issue. John Cereso was one of the tournament co-ordinators, which meant he had to herd 16 GM's and 70 players into groups, then make sure those who got through to the second and third rounds were organised into new groups that shared no members with the previous round to ensure fairness. The kind of thing that needs either a very good memory or a spreadsheet. Like most of these accounts, it involved getting up very early, staying very late, and any weakness in your immune system (in this case a sore throat) will be a lot worse by the time you finish. Once again shows how critical constitution is for characters of any build in the real world, for there's a lot of stuff even the grittiest of game streamlines, and even a small illness or injury can turn something that's normally fun into a torturous endurance test. I hope you rolled well on it.



The Kellar: Our cover article this issue is completely different from most of them, even beyond it being for a different system that isn't even a TSR one. Even more curiously, the Kellar aren't even a race from any Star Trek episode, so this is purely homebrew. Given the hassle they have to go through to get approvals for every single Marvel Superheroes article, the licensing conditions for the Star Trek RPG must be considerably less strict for this to get published. The Kellar turn out to be your typical rubber-head aliens, this time with an inflatable crest that pops up when they want to threaten you. In terms of personality and powers, they're very much vulcans+, in both upsides and downsides, with a strong, if somewhat random selection of psionic powers and superior strength and senses (which can be easily dazzled), but mild social difficulties and terrible luck. I get the impression that the writer created a lot more detail on them in his own campaign, and it's been heavily cut down to fit into the article format. It's all a bit cheesy, and i'm really not sure what to make of it. Will the powers and disadvantages balance out in actual play, or will the social penalties turn out to be mainly cosmetic, like many of the worst AD&D 2e kits? Not a question I can answer, but if you ever played this system, I hope one of you can.
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 32: Sep/Oct 1986



part 4/5



Dispel Confusion comes to an end. Not due to a lack of rules questions, but because they're moving them back to Sage Advice in Dragon where a larger proportion of their customers will actually see the answers. Such are the rewards of popularity.

AD&D

Can you tell a weapon's plus from the material it's made from? (no. Awesome material has some correlation with plus, but some ultra-powerful weapons don't feel the need to show off.)

Can anti-magic shell protect monsters immune to non-magical weapons? (yes)

How do you make cold iron weapons (without heat, like it says in the description. This isn't easy.)

How does Prince Thrommel use Fragarach when he's of the wrong alignment? (He doesn't. He just keeps them from using it. Y'know. Treasure. What you're there to get.)

Do demihumans get new multiclass options in Unearthed Arcana? (oh yes)

What are ninja & yakuza chances to pick pockets (same as regular rogues)

What are monk & yakuza nonweapon proficiency slots? (here you go)

D&D

Which is a lycanthrope's natural form? (Usually the human one. If the were is after their name, it's the animal one. )

How do you turn undead with more than 12 HD? (the joys of rounding up)

Can clerics ever learn edged weapons? (no)

Can clerics used spiked shields? (no)

Can humans fight unarmed? (if you've got the Companion Set)

Can you raise a black dragon to be Lawful? (It won't be easy)

Do low charisma characters have to be rude? (no, they'll be unlikable whether they're polite or not)

Why do characters have to become NPC's when they get lycanthropy? (so White Wolf have a chance to get going by satisfying a niche we don't)

Can centaurs or half-orcs become PC's? (Centaurs, sure. Half-orcs don't exist in Basic D&D. We have to be extra strict on the whole family friendly thing in this line. )
 

(un)reason

Adventurer
Polyhedron Issue 32: Sep/Oct 1986



part 5/5



The Critical Hit: Our review this month is somewhat odd. 2/3rds of it is an almost direct word for word rehash of the Pendragon corebook review in issue 27. The remainder is a brief review of The Pendragon Campaign supplement, which is positive about the material, but grumbles that they made it a separate book when it's pretty much necessary for play. If the biggest RPG in the world requires not just two, but three corebooks, only one of which is player-facing, it's perfectly reasonable for others to sell the player and GM material in two, especially in games where the players shouldn't know all the details of what they're going to be up against, for the exploration is much of the fun. So this is a bit half-assed as a review. I strongly suspect he was busy at the conventions and whipped it up last-minute then recycled old material to pad it out.



RPGA Tournament Winners list: Once again the Bingle family win multiple 1st and 2nd places in various tournaments around the country. I don't see any other familiar names here though, which shows how much the field has expanded in the past 5 years. No longer do TSR staff and hangers-on dominate the scene at every convention. So the winners probably are winning due to skill rather than just who they know, which is a good thing overall.



A lot of interesting developments in this one, as they continue to make progress on the living city despite massive behind the scenes turmoil. If Dragon is anything to go by, that means there's another good year or so of chaos before things settle down again. Will Polyhedron come out of it better or even worse? Either way, it should be interesting finding out. Time to start a new chapter and see just how different things become.
 

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

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