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Dragon – August 2005

August 23, 2005

Some recent issues of Dragon have underwhelmed me. This one did not. It always weirds me out when I see PA in an unexpected place. Talk of PAX in the Dragon Talk section of the magazine does that to me, as Tycho’s face unexpectedly peers out from the page.

The first big article of the issue is the initial entry in the Cities of the Realms series that will be running for the next year or so. “Crimmor: City of Caravans” gets a treatment by Ed Greenwood, and it is truly glorious. The shock of seeing what is essentially a mini-sourcebook for the realms in this issue was big. The Amnian city of Crimmor is given a very detailed look, with lots of plot hooks and interesting characters. Most wonderfully, Ed was allowed to include little details that often get left out of Realms products, like the kind of cheese (parsley and onion) and fish (a kind of catfish-like bottom feeder) that the city dwellers enjoy. I am completely enthralled by the article, can’t wait for more.

Second article is a creature feature, “Dreams of Arabia”. Details some critters from the middle east, like a hieroglyphic golem, a clockwork eunuch, and a flying monkey. Interesting color (esp. the flying monkeys, which are described as a sort of urban pest), but probably not anything I’m likely to use in a game.

“Fires of Alchemy” is a real-world history of Greek Fire, continuing a recent trend in exploring the historical background behind staple D&D concepts. Aside from a discussion of the realities of alchemical fire, the use of fantasy Greek Fire is explored. Nothing that interesting, but the background is good stuff.

More real-world background, as brewing throughout history gets a look in “Drunkards and Flagons”. Talk of the brewster and the origin of hops gives way to some actually pretty cool fantasy brewing discussion. Talk of what Evermead actually is, the frost resistance imbuing Firebelly, and the awesomely named Dwarven Grave Ale. Interesting color article, lots of good stuff here.

The Ecology article is actually really interesting for once, as “The Ecology of the Kraken” deals with some seriously creepy stuff. Kraken as dark chthuloid geniuses plotting in the depths, lording it over their slave stables in underwater oxygenated grottos, is pretty dang cool. I particularly like the mental image of mutated Kraken, reformed by a dark god’s evil purpose.

“Wormfood” this month focuses on gear for surviving the hazards of the Diamond Lake area. Some interesting new stuff, but only worthwhile for a game set in a mining town.

“Arsenal of the War Mages” is a collection of magic items for combat-focused spellcasters and their soldiery buddies. Some inventive stuff, like the Cavalryman’s set (provides all sorts of awesome bonuses to a mounted scout), the Earrings of the Wolf (provides constant communication with other earring wearers), and the Scout’s Journal (essentially a self-making map with copious notes, fog of war eat your heart out).

Spellcraft this month is “Livre d’ Aquatha”, a tome with some underwater spells. I’ll never use them, so I only give the article a cursory glance, and with nothing super interesting in Class Acts (except for some interesting alternate uses for a Cleric’s turning power) I consider myself done with the issue.

Much improved over previous months. Hope they keep it up.

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