Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Polyhedron: Issue #28

Issue #28 of Polyhedron (March 1986) features yet another cover by Roger Raupp, who, as I've remarked previously, seems to have been TSR's go-to guy for on-demand artwork in the mid to late 1980s. I never minded, because I liked his style, which I felt struck a nice balance between the cleanliness of Larry Elmore and the grubbiness of Jim Holloway while still remaining firmly within the realm of "fantastic realism." Given how often his illustrations appear during this period, I suspect Raupp must have worked quickly – a great virtue for an artist employed in the gaming industry.

"Notes from HQ" contains an update on "the City Project" first announced in issue #25. Editor Penny Petticord mentions that "the legal aspects of the project have not yet been completely resolved," but does not elaborate on precisely what this means. She might be alluding to the assignment of copyrights, given that this project will include submissions from many outside sources, though there are other possible explanations. Interestingly, Petticord makes no mention of the placement of the setting within the World of Greyhawk or any other setting. Gary Gygax's imminent departure from TSR might explain this omission. In any event, the project would eventually be shifted to the Forgotten Realms when Ed Greenwood's campaign setting became the default setting of AD&D in 1987.

"Adventure Among the Clouds" by Jeff Martin is an AD&D article that tackles the subject of cloud islands – floating "land" masses that can serve as adventure locales. The existence of such islands was first confirmed in the Monster Manual's description of cloud giants and elaborated upon further in module UK7, Dark Clouds Gather. In this article, Martin describes the origin, composition, and inhabitants of cloud islands, along with notes on how these magical places affect spells and magic items. His overall approach reminds me a lot of a condensed version of what Roger E. Moore pioneered with his "The Astral Plane" article in Dragon #67 (November 1982), though, sadly, less interesting. Cloud islands are potentially fascinating places and very much in keeping with AD&D-style fantasy, but Martin, in my opinion, treats them in a rather mundane way. It's a shame.

Back in the day, Frank Mentzer was a machine when it came to penning RPGA AD&D tournament adventures. This issue includes another one, "The Great Bugbear Hunt," intended for characters of levels 5–7. The set-up is that, while out in the wilderness, a passing band of bugbears slew the horses of a party of adventurers and stole all the items in the saddlebags. Among them is a magic-user's spellbook. Naturally horrified by this turn of events, he enlists the aid of others to venture back into the wilderness in an attempt to find the bugbears and retrieve it. The scenario is, in effect, a scavenger hunt in a wilderness filled with monsters and other obstacles. This one looks like a lot of fun, with plenty of varied and challenging encounters.

"The Specialist Mage" by Jon Pickens introduces a new idea for use in AD&D games: the specialist mage. Bear in mind, this is 1986, three years before the release of Second Edition, which formalized specialist mages as an option for player character magic-users. Here, the idea is presented as being for NPCs only – a common dodge employed in the pages of Dragon to justify its articles on new classes without running afoul of TSR dicta about "no new character classes." Pickens's version of the specialist mage receives XP bonuses if he employs more spells of his chosen specialty, in addition to having access to unique spells unavailable to non-specialists. In this issue, he presents numerous new necromancy spells, though they were intended only for use by "an NPC villain." Where have I heard that before?

Michael Przytarski's "Fletcher's Corner" is focused on the creation and judging of tournament scenarios, a topic that I must confess holds little interest for me. That he is given three pages to elucidate his thoughts on the topic makes it even less compelling somehow. Of course, this is the official newszine of the Role Playing Game Association, which sponsored innumerable tournaments at GenCon and elsewhere, so this is exactly the kind of content that should be here. That it holds no interest for me says more about my weirdness than it does about the article. Alas, I'm the one writing this post.

In terms of the number of articles, issue #28 has among the fewest in some time. That's probably due to the fact that "The Great Bugbear Hunt" adventure takes up half of the issue's 32 pages. Likewise, all the remaining articles, with the exception of "Notes from HQ," are at least three pages long. I probably wouldn't have even commented on this if any of them had any of them stood out as notable in some way. Instead, they're mostly fine if unexceptional, so I took greater note of how few there were than I otherwise might have.

Sadly, the next issue is the April Fool's Day issue, so I don't think it'll prove much better ...

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