Dragon #355


Dragon #355

Publisher: Paizo Publishing
Publish Date: 04/2007
Volume: XXXI, Number 12
Pages: 98
Rating: 6 out of 10
Retail Price: $7.99

Greetings, ladies and germs. This month the Internet blew up with the news that Paizo will no longer be publishing Dragon or Dungeon. Concerned readers can find all the information they need in WotC’s press release, Paizo’s transition page for subscribers and, of course, right here at the D&D Archive where there is plenty of intelligent debate over the future of Paizo, the OGL and D&D in general. Moving on&

José Montero kicks it off this month with “iDragon: Modern Music in D&D.” The article breaks down the process of finding a suitable MP3 device or media player, songs to play on it and ways to incorporate this soundtrack into your game (all while deftly avoiding the touchy subject of music piracy). Suffice to say it is simultaneously a solidly written and completely out-of-place article; it really has almost nothing to do with D&D, with only the last page and a half actually discussing reasons to use music during your game and ways to do it without distracting the players from the action. I don’t have much else to say about this.

A swing and a miss, and Hal Maclean steps up to the plate to compensate with “Seven Saintly Domains.” Observant readers will recall the seven deadly sins were incorporated into this central class feature of clerics as domains back in Issue #323 (and, as a sidebar promptly reminds us, were later released in the Spell Compendium). With the advent of 3E, players of clerics had an unprecedented new trick up their sleeve when portraying the essence of their characters using crunchy mechanics: it became possible to actually select superpowers that relatively few other clerics possessed, since there were so many to choose from.

This article allows players interested in incorporating Judeo-Christian philosophy into their games with these “saintly” domains, from Charity and Patience to Humility and Zeal. Helpfully, the article also suggests a few deities from the Greyhawk, Eberron and Forgotten Realms who might offer said domains to their faithful worshipers. At the very least, this article completes the ensemble, but perhaps it is most useful in explaining what the virtues represent and the spectrum of possible interpretations a cleric might need to keep in mind, as well as roleplaying tips for a cleric who, in selecting one of these domains, is committing to a specific, saintly lifestyle.

Next we have “Creature Catalog VI” from the ensemble cast of (take a deep breath) Kevin Baase, Jason Bulmahn, C. Wesley Clough, Thomas M. Costa, John Flemming, Nick Herold and Eric Jansing. Some of these baddies debuted in earlier editions of the game and this is their first (official) makeover for 3E, while others are brand new juggernauts designed to rack up your PC kill count. We run the gamut here from faerie serial killers to giant slugs, giant dragonflies to magic leeching and memory stealing moss.

Of special note are the rot giant, if only because it reminds me of the Boomer in Turtle Rock Studio’s upcoming Counter-Strike replacement Left 4 Dead; and the scarecrow, which as you might suspect is like a golem but specifically designed either to discourage loiterers or specifically track people down and murder them. It is unclear to me why anyone would need to use monsters not included in this article ever again.

Next, our old friend Own K.C. Stephens brings us “The Ecology of the Devourer.” Of special interest here is Peter Bergting’s artwork, evocative of a certain 2E boxed set that starts with “Return” and ends with “to the Tomb of Horrors.” Anyway, as you know, devourers are giant undead that linger in the Astral Plane and capture the souls of the unwary. Particularly awesome is their ability to draw on these souls, which reside in their hollow chest cavity and can be seen floating around, screaming. This article “fleshes out” (I promise at least one pun per review until Dragon is cancelled!) the devourer, explaining their origins in the dark depths of githyanki history and possible reasons for individual devourers to cause problems for the PCs.

Let me amend my earlier statement: it is unclear to me why anyone would ever need to use monsters again that are not either in “Creature Catalog VI” or are, in fact, Devourers. This article gets bonus points for being about Undead, spotlighting a monster appearing in the core Monster Manual and having some of the coolest, Dia de Los Muertos-esque artwork appearing in Dragon in a long time.

“Savage Tidings: The Market is Bad,” by James Jacobs and Richard Pett, continues the winning streak with what amounts to a guided tour of Scuttlecove, a pirate trading hub which features prominently in the Savage Tide adventure path. Pirate cities are always neat but this one happens to have been founded by “godless cannibals who fled persecution for their wicked crimes,” as Jacobs and Pett explain. The article goes on to suggest connections between the local aristocracy and archfiends (and Vecna for good measure). Yuan-ti also live here; in other words, buy this magazine.

The article emphasizes Scuttlecove’s usefulness to PCs as a mercantile center, providing bios on prominent merchants and their special wares, including plenty of serpent and anti-serpent themed alchemical and magic items. A few new poisons, some of which specifically affect (or are at least more potent against) yuan-ti. The one drawback is that not enough space was provided to really expand on the settlement’s history or government system, although there is enough here to extrapolate a nice backdrop for a few adventures. So, you should find everything you need here if you intend to use it in conjunction with the adventure path in Dungeon but if you’re looking for a generic pirate city, Scuttlecove may take some work.

“Volo’s Guide: Demon Cults of the Realms” by Eric L. Boyd is a mixed bag. The problem is that it focuses on demon princes already covered in prior installments of the “Demonomicon of Iggwilv” but emphasizing the activities of their cults in this specific campaign setting. It describes in great detail individual plots hatched by specific cultists, concerning particular geographical regions of Faerûn. At least it’s only three pages long.

Nicholas Logue concludes this issue with “Dragonmarks: Way of the Shackled Beast.” The article tells the story of a shifter monk in Eberron (shifters are like a diluted bloodline of lycanthropes that can take feats to regain more and more of the power of their ancestors, featuring prominently in the Eberron Campaign Setting but also appearing in Monster Manual III) who was martyred during that world’s period of inquisition against shapechangers and now inspires other shifter monks with their own fighting style.

The plus side is this article features five new feats, an artifact, a new fighting style for monks and a new material from which to forge weapons. Unfortunately, considering shifters are not a core race, only one of the feats is of much use to anyone not playing in Eberron and the new material is basically alchemical silver but better. The artifact, however, called the Amulet of the Twelve Moons, is actually pretty neat and has nothing to do with shifters. All in all I’d say this is a pretty crummy way to end an otherwise awesome issue.

Actually, that’s not where the issue ends, is it? Until now I’ve not given much coverage (or any at all, in fact) to the “Class Acts” section of the magazine. For anyone who mysteriously reads my review even though they don’t regularly buy or subscribe to Dragon, this is where you can find things like a comprehensive two page run-down of all the spells in the Player’s Handbook that don’t require somatic components, or alternate class features for druids to make them more suitable in an urban environment. I thought I would say a few words about “Class Acts” this month because one element in particular, “Eldritch Warriors,” was so well done. Scott Noel offers up a handful of new class features for fighters (meant to replace a few of their billion bonus feats) that help make them more magical.

I guess the premise here is that it’s one of the only classes that has no magic abilities whatsoever, so to compensate why not take “Armored Savant” at 1st level, lowering the arcane spell failure chance and negating the encumbrance from your armor? Or how about “Eldritch Juggernaut,” granting you Spell Resistance as long as you’re wearing medium or heavy armor? Not only do many of these features scale up as you gain more fighter levels (encouraging people to stick with a class that is perhaps most notorious for running out of steam in a campaign’s endgame), a few of them offer interesting spell-like abilities that really level the playing field for what is supposed to be an iconic character class but in reality comes up short under the core rules.