"Go to the sign of Harvel's Axe, a dubious inn on the edge of the Thieves Quarter, in the City of Greyhawk, and look to your own wrist. If you perceive a bracelet and dangling dice, watch for the next throw in the war between Law and Chaos and be prepared to follow the compelling geas." -Signal

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dragon #285, Sound Manipulation

The last Dragon Magazine review I did pointed out that I though that the  quality of the magazine had slipped considerably. The issue that I am going  to discuss here shows that there has been improvement though it is still  much a it or miss offering.

I grabbed this one because I have always been a fan of halflings. My primary  character over all of the years I have been gaming has been a halfling thief.  This issue focused on halflings so why not. Plus a map of Hommlet and stuff  for the Temple of Elemental Evil...how could I go wrong. Sometime I am going  to need to learn how not to ask that question.

The cover features Lidda who is the poster child for thieves in third  edition. The art is done by Larry Elmore and I have always liked his work.  This makes her look a little bit "mature" than I picture halflings but it is  a spin I could learn to like. In the editor section they go back and forth  between mocking the shorter races and pointing out positive halflings.  Starting to get a bit of a bad feeling here.

The letter section is still there and still called Scale Mail. Getting this  far in you have to notice it has become a lot more graphical in nature and  seems to advertise a bunch of WotC products (it is their magazine after all).
Mixed in amongst the articles so far and the full color page ads are some  sidebars which are nice and a Nodwick cartoon.

At page twenty-two we get our fist thing that will pass for an article. I  skipped the Previews section since it was really just wordy pimping of WotC  materials the coming magazines. The first real article, one page in length,   is a Profiles section wring on a WotC employee David Noonan who apparently  wrote the 3.x Manual of the Planes amongst other things. This gives us  insight into industry professionals. I wonder if they were always WotC  employees though?

Skimming some more ads we get to page twenty-eight there is a Dork Tower full  page comic. I like Dork Tower so it was a good diversion from the  catalog...err...I mean the full page ads in my magazine. Finally page thirty  is hit and I get my article on halflings. Then I see 'most halflings live in  semi-nomadic groups called commonwealths..." and there is a burning in the  pit of my stomach. Then I see "halfling infants are not named until they can  speak. Until this time the parents refer to their child only by such loving  nicknames as "Scout," "Sprig," or "Dandelion". There are most likely parts of  the article that are good and can be used but I stopped reading it very early  on and skimmed. Halfling gangs, really? What is this Clockwork Shire? The  feeling is spreading out from my stomach now. Thanks for nothing James Jacobs. Apparently not only does it take a village to raise a halfling it  takes...be nice, be nice.

The cover article idea ran for twelve pages and had it been written by  someone who did not want to make sure no one ever played a halfling again or  whose agenda was to not make them a laughing stock this would have been good.  Next we come up The article "Little Wizards - You Can Call Him Mini Mage" by  Jesse Decker. This is the article on halfling wizards. I had seen this on the  cover and thought maybe it might work. Had this not followed the previous  affront it might have been palatable. It is third edition after all and anyone  can be anything if you want to powergame it enough. Did not even read more  than things highlighted or in bold type and still felt I spent too much time.

Wanting to finish the trip I move forward to find a missive by Monte Cook.  "Four In Darkness - A Guide To Elemental Evil". Even though written for the  third edition version of ToEE it was like an Oasis in the magazine. I can see  things I would use and it is not something whose sole purpose is to smear crap  all over something that was already in existence. It gives us four new  monsters and a fair number of new spells. It then has a template on creating  demonically fused elementals (where is Rona now) and an example using the  template. Over all a useful offering.

Leaving the garden in the desert of despair I find a caravan leading  somewhere good in a piece of fiction by Ben Bova called Enchantment. I won't  tell you about it but it was worth the read. It clocked in at about eleven  pages so it was a longer read than some fiction I had seen in the magazine  previously but it was from Ben Bova so that is not a bad thing.

Next after a page of puzzles is an offering called Campaign Corner which  features plot hooks for many of the various WotC campaign sponsored worlds.  These all seems to be viable hooks and noting too crazy like nomadic street  gang of halfling wizards in the commonwealth.

Next we get a prestige class for Gnomes & Halflings offered to us by Monte  Cook. The class is Lightbearer. They are special heroes for the two  aforementioned races. They can best be called racial paladins perhaps. The  concept is one I am not sure I would use but it is well presented and not  overpowering.

The next section "The Bestiary" presents us with a handful of monsters that  are supposed to be connected with the Temple of Elemental Evil. The offerings  are solid and can be used even if not connected with the ToEE with a minor  bit of work in some cases and not much in others. I am starting to not feel  so bad about the magazine by now but I still have issues.

The next section "City of the Ages" reviews cities from the past and presents  them in terms that could be used in the game. The city presented here is  Prague. I have often thought that the cities of eastern Europe are overlooked  gems for gaming material. This proved my point and though presented with some  game stats it is generic enough to be used in any fantasy type game.

The next two sections are Faith of Faerun and Elminster's Guide To The  Realms. The former deals with special followers of Selune called Silverstars  and the latter with The Shrine of Swords which are roadside shrines to  Tempus. Though Forgotten realm specific these are good and could be adapted  easily enough.

These are followed by a section dealing with Pixies. Is is only one page long  but is a good read. It deals with dealing with pixies. Then is a two page  Nodwick comic. I guess we get multiple offerings but in the end it is a comic  after all.

The final section is actually a section with a number of short offerings. It  is called Wizard's Workshop. This is arguably the most useful and best part  of the magazine. The sections contained here offer a wealth of good gaming  advise and information on related topics. The section here are listed below.

Chainmail
Forum
Silicon Sorcery
Sage Advise
The Play's The Thing
PC Portraits
Dungeoncraft
Role Models
DM's Toolbox


The issue ends with a full page What's New with Phil and Dixie. There was  also the enclosed map of Hommlet which will come in handy either as intended  or as some yet to be named village. Overall the issue was good once we got  past the Halfling Hate. I would say that the quality had improved in the  years since the last reviewed issue was published. It is for the third  edition and that makes it not really so OSR friendly but much of the  information could be converted. I am more interested in the quality than the  edition so this was a step up....except for the halfling crap!

Spell:

Sound Manipulation


Level: Third
Range: None
Duration: Five Rounds + 1 Round/Level
Ares Effect: 9" Radius
Components: V   
Casting Time: 3 Segments
Saving Throw: None

Bu means of this spell the magic user is able to manipulate and control the  sounds that occur within the area of effect. The ability will be limited to  the sounds that they themselves are able to hear.

The manipulation ability can be applied to any number of sounds  simultaneously. The caster can either deaden a sound or amplify it so as to  be unbearably loud. They can also make an existing sound seem to be something  other than what it really is but it must be similar in nature. The footsteps  of a party member could be modified to into the skittering of a rat or  similar sound.

While the caster is manipulating the sound they must remain in a constant  state of concentration. If their concentration is broken at any point the  spell will end and all sounds will return to normal.

It is important to note that the sounds are manipulated and not the  perception. This will mean that sounds will be heard as manipulated outside  the area of effect but once the area of effect is left it will be heard as  normal inside the area of effect.

Disclaimer: The spells that you will see, for how ever long the write ups  last, were all written up or conceived of back in the 80's so the terminology  may not appropriate for anything other than 1e and depending on how well I  did back then it may be slightly off for that as well. If there is any  duplication of spells that exist now it is most likely I wrote mine first :)  Please feel free to comment on them but try not to be too hard on me. If  anyone wishes to use these in anything they print please let me know in  advance and all I ask is proper credit. 

2 comments:

David said...

That's one of my favorite covers... she may be more "mature" than halflings are usually shown, but I think that's why I like it as much as I do.

Wymarc said...

The editors letter says the cover gives her a touch of Emma Peel. Never a bad thing and I am prone to agree. The cover is one of the ones that I remember the most but then again I am an Elmore fan from way back.

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