Dragon Magazine: Player Advice Collection (Part 2 of 6)

These are my reading notes of various Dragon Magazine articles. Learn more about the collection here.

The six main skills: What AD&D game abilities mean in real terms

Author: Jefferson P. Swycaffer Issue: Dragon Magazine #107 Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A verbose description of the six ability scores, from “the most material to the least”:

As you can see from the above definitions, Jefferson does well defining physical characteristics but fails short with intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. He essentially uses circular, self-referential logic to describe each.

All in all, I don't regret reading this article, but I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone but the absolute newcomers who are wondering what does each attribute stand for. And even then, wouldn't you expect that to be described in whatever ruleset you are using?

Realistic vital statistics: A new system for figuring heights & weights

Author: Stephen Inniss Issue: Dragon Magazine #91 Rating: ★★★★★

Awesome and practical article for generating believable heights and weights for characters. In fact, I've extensively used it to generate NPCs.

Stephen finds the following faults with the system offered in AD&D:

Now, Stephen doesn't stop at the critique—he offers a completely fleshed out system contained in seven tables:

Don't allow the tables to discourage you—it doesn't take long to use them. Stephen claims “a minute or less” but it will most likely take you a bit longer the first time.

Final verdict: I will include this article in my “final” Dragon Magazine Collection. I might also include it in the Wilderlands Gazetteer I'm working on for those players that like to have that kind of detail.

Short hops and big drops: Here's how far and how high characters can jump

Author: Stephen Inniss Issue: Dragon Magazine #93 Rating: ★★★★☆

A simple system for determining how far can a character jump. Everything is based on a so called “jump number” which is determined by the character's strength, dexterity, race, and class. Various environmental modifiers are taken into account in order to determine how far can the character jump.

Another great article by Stephen. I've used it a few times to determine if characters could plausibly jump over the chasm. Most notable use has been during a play-by-post session when a sole survivor was fleeing for his life. He stumbled upon an 11-foot wide chasm so I gave him the article and asked him to figure it out.

With that being said, most of the time I default to anything shorter than 5-feet is automatic success, unless there is combat or some other distraction. The procedures here are nice back-up for those special cases.

Yes, this article will also make it into the final Dragon Magazine Collection.

Sight in the Darkness: An open-eyed look at infravision, the Underdark, and your PCs

Author: Roger E. Moore Issue: Dragon Magazine #211 Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Roger explains what infravision is, how it works above- and under-ground, how it was treated in different game editions (Chainmail, D&D, AD&D 1e, D&D Rules Cyclopedia, and AD&D 2e), and “clever” tricks with infravision.

I'm on the fence for this one. It is not badly written but is very thin on usable stuff, at least for me. As a trained engineering familiar with thermodynamics and thermal imaging, there was little new for me on the scientific side of the article. The gaming side was thin and limited to small gimmicks (e.g. making light bombs).

Actually, I found the historic overview of infravision in various editions of D&D to be the most interesting part of this article. The biggest takeaway for me is that I should remove infravision from elves.

Note: There is an updated version of this article called Infravision & Your Fantasy Hero.

The 7-Sentence NPC: A new way to bring nonplayer characters to life (in game, that is)

Author: C. M. Cline Issue: Dragon Magazine #184 Rating: ★★★★☆

A seven-point checklist for describing NPCs:

Four example to see it in action.

Good article, highlighting what is actionable & gameable information for the Judge. At the same time, today we know better than presenting all of the above in a single god-damn paragraph.

Yes, this article will also make it in my Dragon Magazine Collection.

A new loyalty base: All the tables you need, all in one place

Author: Stephen Inniss Issue: Dragon Magazine #107 Rating: ★★★★★

Man, I love tables. This article has 25 of them:

Stephen reworks the original AD&D 1e system from d00 to d20 with roll-high logic while collating all the reaction, morale, and loyalty rules into one place. There is hardly anything that I could disagree with in this article, but I can see it being dismissed as too crunchy or intimidating.

The reality is that the procedure is simple: a single d20 roll. Where it slows down is referencing all the look-up tables, which are granular. Good news is that any Judge can easily reduce the granularity by shortening the modifier bands. Heck, just keeping Charisma between 3 and 18 removes 17 lines from table B1.

Ultimately, I'd recommend all the Judges to read this article, even if they don't plan to use the rules and procedures within. Stephen peppers it with enough useful advice to make it worth your time, while all the numbers in the table are useful even without ever using them as intended.

Allow me to explain: each table has thoughtful modifiers which you might've not thought of. By reading through them, even once, and their proposed numerical expression, you will at least have an idea how might they manifest in your own game.

Usable, thought-through procedures is what I'm looking for in Dragon Magazine. Therefore, this article will also be included in the final collection.

#Resource #DragonMagazine

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