Dragon #350


Dragon #350

Publisher: Paizo Publishing
Publish Date: 11/2006
Volume: XXXI, Number 7
Pages: 98
Rating: 3 out of 10
Retail Price: $7.99

Happy Holidays everybody! I hope you’re all still with us after last month’s discouraging content. This month’s opening act is Sean K. Reynold’s “Core Beliefs: Wee Jas.” Wee Jas isn’t just the goddess of death magic; it would be more appropriate to call her the goddess of death AND magic. The article also touches on the Ruby Sorceress as a goddess of love, and tries to explain how her deft management of cosmic politics allows Wee Jas to compete with Boccob, Nerull and other deities for pieces of their respective portfolios and still remain a major deity. This information is of limited use to DMs with campaigns outside the setting of Greyhawk but it still made for an interesting read.

Of course, in typical fashion, Mr. Reynolds brings the goods. If you want a sample planar ally of Wee Jas, you have it in Zem’Jil, a converted lawful evil succubus. If you want more creatures for your cleric’s summon monster lists, the Witch Goddess offers some undead and dragons to throw into the mix. There are also the obligatory new magic items and spells but the meat and potatoes of this series has always been the “fluff,” and this issue delivers it in spades.

Next up, Hal Maclean brings us “Magical Pollution: Arcane Afflictions and Augmentations.” The concept here is that in much the same way as America digs giant holes in the ground and fills them with trash which could easily be recycled, what goes around comes around and in an advanced magical culture (like the traditional, medieval Western Europe-inspired fantasy setting of a D&D campaign) pollution is as much a problem as it is for us in the 21st century here on Earth. The difference is that toxic waste and millions of tons of plastic are replaced with what is left over after artificers and arcane researchers have finished or abandoned their experiments.

The article provides us templates that simultaneously make creatures more dangerous but also provide some sort of drawback (which can be alleviated with a new feat, provided here for our convenience); special locations that are superficially dangerous but may be of use to those who know how to exploit their features; and magical hazards that basically make life miserable for everyone around. I’m not sure what to say about this article. I think it was well written but it clearly ties in with material from WotC’s new release, Cityscape: A Guidebook to Urban Adventuring. Those who tend to think of cities as places where adventures do NOT happen, but instead where the heroes can rest up between dungeon crawls will find this article to be of limited use.

Jake Manley and Jason Bulmahn follow suit with “Creatures of Corruption: Monsters of Magical Mishap.” I’m a sucker for alliteration. Anyway, you can probably guess what this one’s about: we have a new undead creature, a new type of ooze and a template that can be added to just about any living creature to represent what happens when magic goes awry. Think Chernobyl but with meteor swarm instead of a nuclear meltdown.

This is pretty lame, frankly. Just about anything would have been a better use of these six pages; does anyone really need new monsters? I think almost every ooze is an example of magic having gone horribly wrong; we don’t need a specimen actually described as being toxic. The material isn’t badly written but I think the readers had enough mediocrity last month. Moving on&

Eric L. Boyd follows with “Legacies of Ancient Empires.” The aasimar and tiefling are not the only examples of planetouched; in fact, there are more of them than there are planes of existence. Take the azerblood, for example: if you want to play a character who isn’t quite an azer but is clearly not a dwarf, this was written with you in mind.

I think you get the picture. Maybe there are a lot of people out there wondering, “What happens when a goblin and a barghest do the deed?” but I certainly wasn’t and I honestly don’t know what purpose these new player races serve except to continue the mindless policy of flooding the market with new material most people just don’t need. It’s one more symptom of the same disease responsible for new base classes, PrCs, monsters and feats. I, for one, would be ecstatic if WotC limited their product releases to one or two per month, at least, substituting quality for quantity. Failing that, it would be nice to see less useless drivel in Dragon.

Eric Cagle saves the day with “The Ecology of the Clockwork Horror.” For those who don’t know, Monster Manual II introduced four examples of this new Construct menace: essentially, Clockwork Horrors are like sentient, self-replicating robotic ants. Thankfully for the Prime Material Plane, the raw materials needed for large-scale production are scarce; unfortunately, these are copper, gold and other precious metals, meaning the horrors are a logistical, economical threat as well as an environmental one.

This month’s “Ecology” article is much the same as all the others: high in quality, though if you don’t use MM2 you may not get a lot of mileage out of it. Still, “mechanical beetles that destroy all life” is a relatively simple concept to adapt, so if you don’t have access to that book, just make it up!

Next we have “Savage Tidings: Journey to the Isle of Dread,” courtesy of Stephen S. Greer and Gary Holian. Without giving too much away (and admittedly because I don’t have a clue what the “Savage Tide” adventure path is about), if you’re playing “Savage Tide” you will, at some point, leave the city of Sasserine and sail to the aforementioned Isle of Dread. As you might suspect, this requires a boat and a journey over the seas. The article explains the types of people that call the coast home, as well as offering a smattering of regional feats and a new guild affiliation, as per the rules in the Player’s Handbook II.

Even if you don’t use the “Savage Tide” material from Dungeon, this article may help your game. The feats aren’t bad and the authors also include answers to the age-old question: if the PCs get into a fight with pirates over the open sea and lose a member, is there any way to replace their mate before reaching a friendly port? I recommend at least giving the article a once-over for this reason alone. It also bears mentioning that you can find a Play by Post “Savage Tide” campaign on our very forums here at the D&D Archive, courtesy of Astute1.

James Lafond Sutter opens up shop in the Bazaar of the Bizarre this month with “Wizard’s Workshop.” An uninspired title, to be sure, but the material he offers isn’t half bad. Have you ever wished you had a summoning circle but, being an adventurer, the logistics of a permanent one in a single location have left you stymied? Well, bring it with you! There’s also a pair of goggles that lets you instantaneously overcome the normal 1 hour casting time of the identify spell as well as a magic eyeball that reminds me quite a bit of the movie MirrorMask.

Ok, you got me: that was forced enthusiasm. I’m as sick of new magic items as I am of monsters or spells. But these are actually pretty decent, of similar quality to the stuff in the back of the DMG, which is unusual for this monthly feature.

Christopher Wissel rounds out this issue with “Chronomancy.” The focus of the article is on a magic tome called the Chronocorsa, a discourse on time travel with mysterious origins. A spellbook that travels through time unbidden is pretty convenient for DMs who only want to incorporate chronomancy into their campaigns in short, (relatively) controlled bursts.

The article also has a sidebar describing different ways DMs might introduce elements of time travel to their game and reasons not to do it. Of special note is the spell time shield, creating a radius centered on the caster that makes all spell effects eat up their duration twice as fast. This is typical of the article: if you want spells that let you travel into the future or back to the time when aboleth ruled the antediluvian mists of prehistory, you’re out of luck. But if, instead, you want spells with practical applications that also mention time travel in their flavor text, Wissel’s contribution is for you.

This issue is a mixed bag. As always, “Core Beliefs” and “Ecology” bolster what might have otherwise been a dismal failure but these should just be icing on the cake, not reason enough to disregard crummy writing. We can only hope the fallout from last month’s issue will encourage the Dragon staff to think differently as we move into 2007.