Dragon #349


Dragon #349

Publisher: Paizo Publishing
Publish Date: 10/2006
Volume: XXXI, Number 6
Pages: 98
Rating: 3 out of 10
Retail Price: $7.99

Greetings, mein freunds! We have a lot to cover and, sadly, November is not quite as interesting as October, so I’ll forego the usual introduction and jump right in. Joshua J. Frost starts us off with an inexplicable two-page advertisement for Final Fantasy XII. I don’t really have a lot to say about this except that I hope it’s the last time Paizo tries to sneak in something like this under the pretense it has anything to do with tabletop gaming just to pay the bills. D&D is only mentioned in the last paragraph as an afterthought. With fewer than 100 pages each month it would just be nice to see more material on everyone’s favorite pen-and-paper RPG, and less space devoted to games whose only link to D&D is that they also happen to fall within the fantasy genre. Moving on&

Next up is “Hitting The Bull’s Eye” by Eric Cagle. Ever wanted a bow that does more than 1d8 damage? How about no fewer than four ranged weapons that negate the difficult choices when a melee opponent accosts your archer? If that doesn’t pique your interest, what say you to over a dozen new varieties of arrows and bolts?

Ok, let’s get serious. By the author’s own admission, most (if not all) of this material is available in other splatbooks. And if you’re thinking, “Wait a second! Making archers worry about melee is an important balancing factor for bows and crossbows,” it gets worse. There’s also a tiny, hand-held bow that is mechanically identical to the hand crossbow at only 15% the price (oh yeah, and it doesn’t require an Exotic Weapon Proficiency). I could go on but suffice to say I was not pleased about 8 pages of cheesy, redundant garbage. Still, tanglefoot arrows do sound pretty neat.

Finally, something with substance! The esteemed James Jacobs updates the Demonomicon of Iggwilv this month with “Dagon: Prince of Darkened Depths.” Get out your pens and paper, class; it’s time for a history lesson. Before the Tanar’ri made it their own as only they can, the Abyss was home to a breed of evil known as the Obyriths. Most of these foul beings were destroyed or driven into hiding as the demons swept in but one remained unchallenged, and his name is Dagon. The 89th layer, an infinite ocean dubbed the Shadowsea is his homeland; as for what he wants or what he does with his spare time, creatures as old as the Multiverse itself are generally weird and crazy and, if Dagon is any indication, like to hang out and eat souls all day.

Dagon is indisputably awesome: so awesome, in fact, he is probably best suited as a plot device rather than a direct antagonist. He is listed at CR23 in Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss and advanced to CR30 in this article, but the real reason Dagon isn’t ideal as a villain is that the Shadowsea is fairly hard to get to and even harder to escape from. It’s just so remote a locale and Dagon so unconcerned with the goings-on outside his realm that a campaign culminating in an epic aquatic duel with the Lovecraftian demon prince is unlikely. However, the article provides full information on the Obyrith subtype, Dagon’s various cults on the Material Plane (including a ten level Prestige Class for the Thralls of Dagon) and even a new demon specimen. You can even learn a little bit about various real-world historical references to this bad boy. I think it’s fair to say this article more than makes up for the crap preceding it.

Edward Bonny, Brian Cortiso and Laszlo Koller follow this homerun with “The Horde: Barbarians of the Endless Waste.” For those who don’t know, the Endless Waste is a vast steppe region in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting and the aforementioned Horde is an amalgam of tribal horse people modeled after Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde.

Normally I would say we don’t really need any more campaign-specific material but there are 14 pages here including sidebars on regional history, racial information like regional feats, a map and gazetteer on various settlements and even stats for a three headed dragon! Of course, the Hordelands collectively amount to 2.4 million square miles of rugged terrain so non-FR DMs may have trouble squeezing the region into their campaigns but if you’re a fan of non-Conan flavored barbarians this article might be what you’re looking for.

Tim Hitchcock brings us “The Ecology of the Ogre Mage” this month, a timely topic given that monster’s recent appearance in WotC’s “Monster Makeover” web article. No matter which version of the ogre mage’s stats you use this one is a doozy: a full history, the typical physiological/psychological breakdown of how an ogre mage looks and thinks (and why), racial variants, sample results from successful Knowledge (nature) checks and even a sidebar about the role ogres and their mystical kin play in our own world’s mythologies. In short, if every article used its space this efficiently, your gaming group should drag you into the street and stone you for not picking up a copy.

Next up, F. Wesley Schneider and James Sutter update Dragon’s coverage of the Savage Tide Adventure Path with “Beyond Sasserine.” You may recall my only real complaint with last month’s “Savage Tidings” was that they didn’t give us a map of the city. Well, that day may never come but at least now we can take a gander at the local geography within about 40 miles in every direction of Sasserine. Ever wonder which varieties of humanoid lurk in the Amedio Jungle? Need some inspiration on colorful and (apparently universal) criminal NPC personalities? Interested in massive black pyramids crawling with the Undead? Then your search is finally over!

Whether you play the Savage Tide or not, articles like this are adaptable enough just about anyone could find something useful here. If you want crunchy bits like feats or spells this won’t be of much use to you but if a steamy southern stretch of your campaign world needs some fleshing out, the information provided here is ready to plug-and-play.

I’m sorry to say Dragon really dropped the ball this month. Filler and campaign-specific stuff just isn’t useful enough to enough people to justify the cover price. If you can browse a copy for the “Ecology” or “Demonomicon” articles, do so; otherwise, purchase at your own peril. In fact, I’m so disappointed the first thing I do after submitting this review will be to write a letter to the editor.