Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: The Strategic Review #1

This was the first magazine published by TSR, and the precursor to Dragon. It comes in at a whopping six pages, but they manage to pack a lot of stuff in. I'll be ignoring the articles that don't pertain to D&D and my campaign - for a more thorough treatment, check out this link.

TSR News notes that D&D supplement books are a high priority, and there will be at least one out before GenCon. They never would have believed how much stuff comes out these days.

CREATURE FEATURE: We get our first new monster: the Mind Flayer! It's a classic right off the bat. They are described as super-intelligent humanoids with tentacle mouths that eat brains. If a tentacle hits it will draw the victims brain out in a few rounds, leaving the victim very dead. On top of that there's the mind blast, which has a range of effects from death, insanity, stunning, and putting the victim in a coma. It's more effective against the very stupid and the very smart, less so against those with average Intelligence. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be exceptional! Magic-Users and Clerics are slightly more resistant than others.

It's also noted that the Helm of Telepathy provides some resistance to the Mind Blast, and can be used to stun the Mind Flayer in return.

You really can't beat Mind Flayers. They work as masterminds, and you can use them as arbitrary villains because they have that whole "unknowable alien" thing going on. It's easy to give them minions of the mind-controlled variety. Plus, they just look cool. And thankfully there's nothing here that's contradicted later on. They're the first new monster introduced for the game, and that means they'll be the first new monster to show up in the dungeons of my campaign as well.

CASTLE & CRUSADE: Gary gives us an article on Chainmail weapons, mostly explaining why the spear isn't all that effective in the game and in history. It ends with an ominous paragraph where Gary promises a complete run-down on the Pole Arm next issue. The first, and by no means the last...

SOLO DUNGEON ADVENTURES: This article is a series of charts and tables that can be used to create dungeons on the fly for solo play. It turned up later in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide with a few changes and more detail, but this one works perfectly well.

It's not much use to me as is, but I'm toying with the idea of a dungeon that is completely and utterly random. I'll call it The Pit of Ultimate Chaos, or something equally cheeseball. Every time the players enter it will be different than it was before. It'll be a bitch to run, but fun as well. The only constants will be a few special rooms on each level, but the locations of those will always be different for obvious reasons. I'm even toying with the idea of randomising the levels every time the PCs switch floors, so that if they go down to level 2, then back up to level 1 it will all be different and they'll be hopelessly lost... But probably not. It's a little too punishing.

Well, that was quick! (Consider it a gift after yesterday's behemoth.) Tomorrow, not so much, as I'll be starting with Supplement I: Greyhawk, and the many goodies and nasties contained therein.

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