Dragon – October 2005

September 29, 2005

The Halloween issue of Dragon is chok-a-block with dead thing, squirmy things, and things that would best be left dead. Unfortunately, the dead walk especially vigorously in October.

“Not for the Living” is unique not only for the creep level of the topic, but for the concept. The piece discusses hauntings of the traditional move and novel variety, and achieves them in game terms by providing templates to apply to physical locations and objects. Starting from a Haunting’s magnitude, you can determine how a rip in the fabric of reality would affect the game world. There are several options presented, each covering a different form of classical haunting. My personal favorite is the Eidolon, a multi-part haunting that attempts to capture the horror of a tale like The Ring. Applying templates to something other than a creature is an interesting idea, and works really well here.

“Birth of the Dead” is a background piece discussing the origins of the undead. If you’ve ever looked at the MM description of the Nightwalker and wondered how exactly such a creature comes about, you no longer need to be curious. The article offers up formation stories for many of the most commonly seen undead types, from Death Knights to Shadows, from Allips to Mohrgs. It’s a great background piece, and if you’re planning an adventure involving a powerful undead critter it would be excellent story fodder.

The short story this month made my eyes glaze over, so I skipped ahead to the creepiest article in the magazine: “The Ecology of the Spawn of Kyuss”. Tying in once again to the Age of Worms Adventure path, this piece details the origins of the worm-ridden undead that play an important role in that campaign. The entire article is nauseating, especially the “Necrology of the Worm” subsection. If you’ve ever wanted to know how an undead leech can transform you into a hungering horror, you’ll know after reading this piece. It’s even better than most of the Ecology works, because it manages to instill a sense of dread at ever facing the creature into the reader. Creepy stuff.

Wormfood this month covers some places in the “big city” in the Age of Worms campaign. The generic name of Free City is given to the genre-less campaign hub, but the places they detail are actually pretty interesting. There’s a theatre, a gambling house, an arena, and a bathhouse. Each are great meeting spots to get to know some of the denizens of the city or find some information about plot-specific topics. They also include rules for a simple dice game. The attention to detail the game shows is probably one of my favorite things about the current Dungeon/Dragon editorial staff, evidenced throughout both of the Adventure Paths and dripping from most of the better adventures in Dragon’s sister publication.

“Curios of Corruption” is this week’s Bazaar foray, and details some neat Cthulu-mythos inspired artifacts. Right down to the book with the face that steals your soul, a nasty DM could find several things that they could use to scare the pants off of their players. The Bazaar is followed by a piece on “The Demonomicon of Iggwilv”, which is a slightly misleading title. It should read “The Demonomicons”, because in actuality there are six books representing the demon-queen’s knowledge. A great background piece, the article goes into some detail about Iuz’s mom and her role in eviling up Greyhawk. Technically the Spellcraft article for this magazine, the article details some spells found within one of the tomes. Each of them is predicated on the use of the Planar Binding spell, and allows an evil spellcaster the chance to get more for their money when trucking with the forces from beyond. I love this crunchy combination of rules and background, and the article does a great job of offering up both. Silicon Sorcery offers up some stats for the headlining critters from Shadow of the Colossus. Not sure I’d ever use such stats, but damn is that going to be a cool game.

The D&D buyer’s guide (read: a bunch of pages of ads) that runs at the end of Dragon leads off with a really stupid idea: “Three-Dragon Ante”. It’s basically a non-collectible card game that is intended to be a fantasy themed game you can play in between games or (wait for it) in-character while you’re hanging out in an inn. Dumb. Stupid stuff like this is why I’m glad that Dungeon offers up simple dice games like Marlota, and Spellbones from this month’s Wormfood.

A down note to finish off this issue, but overall another solid issue. I know I’ve said this before, but I continue to be pleased with the quality of Paizo’s magazines. Dragon in particular, post 3.0 changover, was pretty weak sauce. They just seem to be getting more on-game. Keep up the good work, Mr. Mona.

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