Friday, August 7, 2015

Dragon Magazine #10: Random Monsters, Treasure XP, and...Orgies?


The Dragon issue #10 is one of the most useful and interesting ones I have encountered so far in the series. Because of the amount of content in the issue, this review is going to be a two-parter. I'll take the articles in order:

D&D Option: Orgies, Inc.

This article addresses the problem of PC's having accumulated too much loot. This may have been a concern in games where XP is awarded for treasure. The author, John Pickens, proposes a novel solution: award XP not for money earned, but for money spent.

I suppose this might be helpful if a DM truly wishes to encourage players to siphon off money, but I don't see "too much wealth" as a problem. If they have trouble carrying it, provide a bank or let them take it home and lock it up. If you don't like how quickly they're leveling up because of the size of the hoards they recover, then scale the treasure hoards down.

Pickens gives us five expenditure types that would qualify for XP awards: sacrifices, philanthropy, research, clan hoards, and yes, orgies. I was instantly reminded of the anti-D&D propaganda during the Satanic Panic of the 80's, in which claims were made that characters were rewarded for brutality, rape, and an assortment of other vile deeds. At the time, I thought such claims were baseless. But this article only serves to fan the flames. There's even a 1/3 page, full-color illustration of a goblin orgy! Even if a DM wishes to implement this system of XP rewards, the fifth option is purely gratuitous.

Designing for Unique Wilderness Encounters

Yet another random terrain generator. I don't see much value in tools like this. A DM with any amount of imagination should be able to create a logically consistent terrain map on the fly. But in case you don't wish to spend the mental effort, this system seems decent.

Random Monsters

Now here is an interesting concept. The article isn't about random encounters, but random monsters, as in monsters whose features are unique and randomly generated. The idea is reasonable at first glance; player knowledge can render many encounters mundane if you only stick to "normal" monsters. Why not throw them for a loop from time to time?

But I personally won't be using this system. While I believe a new creature can be useful when it fits the theme of the adventure, arbitrary use of a new creature seems illogical. I assume the monsters featured in whatever guide your system uses represent the gamut of your world's ecosystem. Anything new or unique should have a cause -- a mutation, an enchantment, etc.

Next time, I'll complete the overview of Dragon #10 with a look at dungeon design, encumbrance, and level advancement. In the meantime, you can find Dragon #10 on Ebay or purchase a collection of back issues on disk at Amazon.

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