Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Polyhedron: Issue #4

Issue #4 of Polyhedron (March 1982) is the first issue to officially bear that title, though it's nowhere to be seen on its cover, which features original artwork by Larry Elmore. The first use of the new title appears is inside, where it's also given the definite article – The Polyhedron. Frank Mentzer explains that the title was suggested by RPGA member Bill Huber of Petaluma, California, beating out many other suggestions (e.g. Role Players Guide to Adventure, Multiverse, Roles & Rules, etc.), none of which struck me as very good. 

Highlighted on the Letters page is a missive from Gary Gygax, in which he talks about his first meeting with James M. Ward. Mentzer follows this with the following comment: "See, folks, he really reads this stuff!" While I'm sure it was meant innocently enough, the comment strikes me as an example of the Cult of Gygax that TSR promoted sometimes promoted and to which fanboys like myself were often prone. With the benefit of hindsight, it also reminds me uncomfortably of the parasocial relationships with celebrities that contemporary social media tries to foster.

Mentzer's "Where I'm Coming From" is brief and focuses on new and upcoming features in Polyhedron, such as Jon Pickens's column for Basic D&D and Roger Raupp's "Nor" comic strip, both of which premier in this issue. There's a similarly brief piece announcing the winner of Grenadier's 1980–81 "Wizard's Gold" giveaway. The winner was a 14 year-old boy from Florida, which oddly pleased me. I remember the ads for "Wizard's Gold" in the pages of Dragon at the time but I can't say I ever gave much thought to who might have won. More than four decades later, now I do.

"RPGA Interview with 'Jake' Jaquet" is, as its title suggests, an interview – and a lengthy one at that – Gary "Jake" Jaquet, one of the forgotten employees of TSR Hobbies during the late '70s and early '80s. His name is well known to me because of his involvement in the creation of the first edition of Gamma World. He was also an important figure in the early days of Dragon, where he served in a variety of capacities, including Publisher. As with previous interviews in Polyhedron, this one is full of wonderful anecdotes and trivia about TSR and its products. I could – and probably should – devote an entire post to sharing some of these tidbits. For now, though, I'll share one of them, which feels strangely relevant in our present age.

"White Rabbits" is where Frank Mentzer corrects errors and oversights from previous issues. This time, he takes the time to credit people whose names were inadvertently omitted. One of these names is Jeff Dee, whose illustration of the bone (not ice) devil was the subject of some speculation in an earlier post on this blog. Don Turnbull's "Turnbull Talking" serves as a reminiscence of his early experiences with D&D and the expansion of its roster of available character classes. Turnbull notes that some players and referees dislike the addition of new classes to the game, but he does not share this view. 

"Spell Bee" returns, with a look at the AD&D versions of the spells magic missile, fireball, and lightning bolt – complete with diagrams! Believe it or not, this is actually a very interesting and useful article. Though the article isn't credited, internal evidence ("My wizard Felonius") suggests that Frank Mentzer wrote it. He does a good job, in my opinion, of laying out how these three common offensive spells actually work according to the rules of AD&D, something that's often forgotten by many players. Certainly, some might find it a bit tedious in its specificity, but we must remember that Mentzer cut his teeth in the world of official AD&D tournaments, so his knowledge of the game's rules is highly exact. I don't think the article can be criticized for being similarly precise.

"Dispel Confusion" answers some not very interesting AD&D questions, while "Basically Speaking" by Jon Pickens is a disappointingly dull overview of what to do with your shiny new copy of the D&D Basic Set, right down to how to use that crayon that came in the box. "News from HQ" is just a collection of ephemeral notes about then-current concerns of the RPGA. Roger Raupp's "Nor" is a full-page comic whose first installment shows a spaceship crash land on a planet that appears to be a fantasy setting of some sort. This is a common enough trope, but I'm curious to see where Raupp takes it. On the other hand, I started reading Polyhedron with issue #8 and don't recall seeing "Nor." That suggests the comic, like Tom Wham's "Rocksnaz" from issues #1 and #2 won't last long ...

I continue to find Polyhedron interesting reading, though mostly from a historical perspective. More so than, say, Dragon, the RPGA newsletter includes lots of "inside baseball" information about TSR and its employees that I find very compelling. That's probably while I'll make a serious attempt to examine its interview articles much more closely in the coming weeks. There are lots of nuggets to mine in them and I suspect that readers of this blog will find them as fascinating as I do.


  1. I had acquired a few Polyhedrons back in the mid-late 80s and while I found them interesting to read, lacked enough "gameable" material for me to justify the cost. Later on I realized it was due to my rather small and un-representative sample. Which also goes to explain why I was able to score them as cheaply as I did.
    I have been meaning to re-read some of them, but now maybe I don't have too.

  2. Says more about technology/work being alienating than it does about leisure time as some "curse". Workers with no desire/creative output might become weird online crypto-fascists starting eternal corpse fights in their "leisure time" while creators/artists will find other things to do.

    And how much of this is actual "leisure" time (aka time allotted by taskmasters because Work Time is at the top of the Time Hierarchy) when they're constantly tethered to some device that holds their psyche to work, politics, ads, escapism and impotence/rage.

    Do people really have more leisure time? Pretty questionable. They just focus all Down Time into addictive devices / media.

  3. "There's a similarly brief piece announcing the winner of Grenadier's 1980–81 "Wizard's Gold" giveaway. The winner was a 14 year-old boy from Florida, which oddly pleased me. I remember the ads for "Wizard's Gold" in the pages of Dragon at the time but I can't say I ever gave much thought to who might have won. More than four decades later, now I do."

    I wonder if this promotional contest (if that's what it was?) was either an inspiration or influenced by Metagaming at all. They were running what amounted to a "treasure hunt" contest with The Fantasy Trip in 1981 and 1982, using the solo (or at least GM-optional) modules Treasure of the Silver Dragon and Treasure of Unicorn Gold. Both of them involved hunting for quite valuable statues concealed somewhere on public land, with clues to the locations hidden in the adventures themselves (which were pretty terrible, honestly). IIRC the first one was located but AFAIK the unicorn is still hidden out there somewhere.

  4. Maybe it is the mirrored glasses or the focus on the legs, but that cover has some strong Star Frontiers cover vibes.

  5. I'd be interested to see when Post-Holocaustal became Post-Apocalyptic in common parlance. I said the former for years. The usage of P-A is prevalent now on the internet, so I've changed my usage.