Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Polyhedron: Issue #14

Issue #14 of Polyhedron (October 1983) makes an change to the "Encounters" series begun in issue #8. Originally, the series presented wholly original NPCs created by TSR designers for use with one of the company's many roleplaying games. In this issue (and the next), the featured NPCs are the creations of RPGA members – and are player characters from their home campaigns. The first example of this is member Sonny Scott's PC, Swat, and his cave bear companion, Ox, as described by writer Roger E. Moore and illustrated by Jeff Easley.

Contrary to the hoary gamer joke, I really would like you to tell me about your character. Hearing about others' characters is often a good way to gain insights into how they're playing the game. That's why I particularly enjoyed the installments of "Encounters" in issues #14 and #15: they gave me a little glimpse into what others were doing with Dungeons & Dragons at their own tables.

The RPGA Network Scholarship announced way back in issue #3 finally has a recipient: a young man by the name of David Lee Griffith from Aurora, Illinois, who was headed to the University of Chicago to study physics. The scholarship is for $1000. I have no idea how much the University of Chicago cost at the time, so it's difficult to say how significant a scholarship this would have been. Still, I find it notable that TSR offered a scholarship at all.

This issue's "Two Cents" column is by Christopher Gandy, who presents "Views on 'Role' Playing." In his one-page essay, he criticizes how little many players actually play their character as different from themselves. As he suggests:

Next time you or your players roll up a set of characteristics, don them like an actor would his wardrobe and portray someone new, someone unique, someone else. Don't just play at a role-playing game, role play during the game.

The extent to which roleplaying is or should be analogous to acting has long been a vexatious topic in RPG circles. Gary Gygax, for example, once famously fulminated against what he called "amateur thespianism," while other luminaries in the hobby held opinions closer to that of Christopher Gandy. As with many such topics, I don't think there's any single correct answer beyond what everyone at the table prefers, but it's good to be reminded that these questions have been with us for decades.

"Dispel Confusion" now takes up four pages, largely because it provides answers to many more questions about the rules of TSR's roleplaying games. Despite their large number, none of the questions in this issue are worthy of comment – which, to be fair, is pretty typical of these kinds of columns (with the exception of "Sage Advice" when Jean Wells was writing it). 

"The Lone Wolf" by James M. Ward is a Gamma World article devoted to describing a type of character, whether player or non-player character, who "is perfect for balancing the deadliness of an Ancient installation with the power that can be gotten from looting such a place." The Lone Wolf is thus a very potent character with high ability scores and hit points, as well as a sizable arsenal of high-tech devices. His purpose is as a guide and guardian so that PCs do not "loose [sic] heart" and avoid the dangers of the setting's most lethal ruins. I imagine that Ward wrote it to throw a bone to those GW players who balked at how deadly the game can be and wanted a surer means of protection than "intelligence and role-playing skill."

"D&D Name Means More Than Just Modules" is an article about which I have written before. Since I stand by my original comments on that, I'll move on to Roger E. Moore's "Artifacts, Relics, and DM Headaches." This is a solid, three-page article full of thoughts and advice on introducing artifacts and relics – immensely powerful magic items – into a campaign. It's good stuff, with plenty of ideas to consider, including the fact that the appearance of an artifact or relic is sure to bring its possessor to the attention of others who will undoubtedly want it for themselves. Moore's primary point is that an artifact or relic is not just another magic item. While they certainly can be brought into a campaign to good effect, they can also upset things – and not just "game balance" – to such an extent that the Dungeon Master should think carefully before doing so.

I'm going to pass over two one-page articles about conventions, because they're only of ephemeral interest, especially to me, since I've never been much of a con-goers. Much more significant in my opinion is this small blurb placed at the bottom corner of a page:

Talk about a blast from the past! I'd completely forgotten about the existence of the Other Worlds Club at Waldenbooks. This really brings back happy memories for me, since I maintained a membership with the club for years and was an avid reader of its newsletter, Xignals. 

"Ambush on Lossend" is a short, mercenary adventure for Star Frontiers, written by Steve Winter. While nothing groundbreaking, I rather like it for its down-to-earth, "gritty" feel, which reminds me more of something GDW would have produced for use with Traveller than what I'd come to expect for Star Frontiers. Finally, there's "Membership Drive Winners," which highlights three RPGA members, Clyde "Sonny" Scott, Randy Solo, and Steve Lierly, who recruited a large number of people to join the association. The top two winners – Scott and Solo – received trips to GenCon, along with various other rewards, including illustrations of their characters (which, in turn, form the basis of the "Encounters" articles in issue #14 and #15).

Issue #14 is definitely a step down from its predecessor, since it didn't have quite as much gameable material in its pages. Still, there's enough here that it held my attention while re-reading it, which is a decent enough gauge of its overall quality.  


  1. Wow! Xignals and the Waldenbooks club bring back some fine memories!!!

  2. Never joined the club, but I sure shopped at Waldenbooks a lot as a kid. And here we are in 2023 and my local area has gone from a peak of about 14 book stores within reasonable driving distance to three, all of whom are still in business only through selling puzzles, toys, games, and calendars, not books. The days of being able to go spend a happy hour or two browsing physical stock are long gone, and I've owned far more scifi and fantasy books than you can find in two of the three surviving shops - and I'm pretty close to Barnes & Noble's pathetic remaining shelf space for the genres.

  3. "'Ambush on Lossend' is a short, mercenary adventure for Star Frontiers, written by Steve Winter. While nothing groundbreaking, I rather like it for its down-to-earth, "gritty" feel, which reminds me more of something GDW would have produced for use with Traveller than what I'd come to expect for Star Frontiers."

    Traveller did so many mercenary adventures over the years that practically anything in the same vein winds up feeling like a GDW thing to me at this point, regardless of setting. Even Hammer's Slammers feels vaguely like something from a Striker campaign.

  4. I remember joining Other Worlds and getting Xignals, but nothing about the details.

  5. I hung onto my Otherworlds card for many, many years after Waldenbooks no longer existed. Finally lost it with a stolen wallet. Good memories.