Dragon Issue #280

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Sorcery and alchemy! Power and blood! Dragon Magazine #280 explores the mysteries of sorcerers and magic! Learn what it's like to be a sorcerer and discover your mystical origins. Find a new and powerful familiar, use polymorph magic to its best effect, create fantastic alchemical items, and discover how to combat other sorcerers and handily defeat them. Inside you’ll also find new fiction from J. Gregory Keyes, “Role Models,” “Class Acts”, “Countdown to the Forgotten Realms,” and statistics for the characters from the Dungeons & Dragons movie! Cobble together your components, crack open your spellbooks, and cast your eye on this issue to get the most from your game!

YOUR SORCEROUS LIFE
by Robin D. Laws

You did not choose to become a sorcerer. The talent for magic lay within you even in the cradle. No one taught you how to shape and channel your gift. When it first manifested itself, you were probably terrified. Even if you took it in stride, it is unlikely that those around you did. You were probably taunted by cruel playmates and fearful adults. Perhaps you were attacked. It’s possible that your family cast you out, certain that your powers would bring doom upon them. As you made your way through a hostile world, gradually learning to master your abilities, you learned to trust no one. The above description presents a cumulative impression of the lives of most sorcerers. To find out how much of it actually applies to your sorcerer character, you can use the checklist in this article. You can either choose the answers to each question, roll them randomly, or choose some and roll for others.

POLYMORPHOLOGY
by Johnathan Richards

Polymorph transmutation remains one of the most versatile types of arcane magic, for the possibilities are limited only by the number of different forms you can achieve. With the vastness of the animal kingdom to choose from, many acts are possible through the use of polymorphing magic. Thus, you can choose from countless strategies when using four specific spells: polymorph self, polymorph other, shapechange, and polymorph any object. This article presents them all.

MAGIC IN THE BLOOD
by Geoffrey McVey

Whether starting a new campaign or converting a long–running game to the new rules, you’ll want some sort of explanation for the appearance of sorcerers in the world. Have they been there all along, disguised as ordinary wizards? Has some subtle change in the magic of the universe started to produce them? This article presents some possible answers for your campaign world.

BETTER LIVING THROUGH ALCHEMY
by Jesse Decker & Stephen Kenson

Alchemy is special because it doesn’t require the ability to cast arcane or divine spells—anyone can learn and use the Alchemy skill to exploit the fantastic properties of certain objects: plants, minerals, and creature parts, for example. That makes alchemy useful to all classes. In addition to the information in the Player’s Handbook, the Alchemy skill is handy for a variety of things, including a potentially endless array of items useful to adventurers. Check out this article for new alchemical items your character can make.

MASTERING CHANCE
by Jonathan Tweet

Rolling up random monsters and treasures for a dungeon is practically a game in itself. In some sense, you’re exploring the dungeon. The players will explore it later, but you’re the one who gets the first look. The surprises that the dice come up with become your secrets, which you share later with your players. To a lesser extent, rolling the monsters’ hit points and even ability scores is more of the same: finding out what’s in the dungeon. Rolling up a dungeon is like a game of solitaire: you start with something random and give it order. Unlike solitaire, dungeon building is better if you cheat. Learn how to flesh out your random dungeon with this article.

JUST THE FACTS MAGE
by Robin D. Laws

The key to an interview encounter is understanding the NPC’s intentions. To figure out what potential informants want, you must learn to read NPC behavior and sift clues from their environments. Does the informant mean to deceive you? Is he well–meaning but misinformed? Is he just too busy to talk right now? For most informants, simple observation is enough to figure out the motivations behind an NPC’s refusal to provide the information you seek. Study his behavior for cues that reveal his state of mind. Observe his surroundings for indications of his station in life. Ask yourself what the typical problems of this sort of person might be. Think about what he most wants to protect. Listen to the way he evades your questions. He might come right out and tell you why he’s holding back, or he might put you off with lies that inadvertently reveal his motivations. This article presents you with the tools you need to figure out how to successfully interrogate NPCs.

A LITTLE MORE FAMILIAR
by Stephen Kenson

They are companions, pets, allies, helpers, spies, and friends to wizards and sorcerers, but they’re also frequently overlooked and underestimated. They’re familiars. In legend, familiars were often considered spirits, or even demons, that took the form of animals. They are attributed special powers that they use in the service of their masters. In Dungeons & Dragons, familiars are magical beasts that serve as companions and allies. Wizards and sorcerers are able to select a familiar starting at 1st level. While the system for familiars presented in the Player’s Handbook provides all the basic information a player needs, there is much more to familiars than meets the eye.

REEL HEROES
by Eric Haddock, Matthew Sernett, Cory J. Herndon, Rich Redman, & Jeff Grubb

Roleplayers have been putting their favorite movie characters—or thinly–disguised versions of same—into their games for years. Now the release of the D&D movie provides both good and evil characters ready–made for your campaign. Whether you pit a whole new band of heroes against the villainous Profion, join Ridley and Snails on a criminal escapade, or ride out on a quest with the enigmatic ranger Norda, the main players in Dungeons & Dragons will make excellent additions to any game.

ZOE MOTION
by Cory J. Herndon

Zoe McLellan (that’s “Zo,” like “yo” by the way) is not one of the better known names in the cast of Dungeons & Dragons. She’s got a face that you’re sure you’ve seen somewhere before though, and for good reason. She’s made many appearances on television since 1994, including guest roles on shows like Nowhere Man, Star Trek Voyager, The Invisible Man, and of course she portrayed Quinn Mallory’s evil alternate female self on a memorable 3rd season episode of Sliders. Her film career has been more eclectic, ranging from roles in Mr. Holland’s Opus to Inventing the Abbotts. Find out more about her from this interview.

THE OPAL OF NAH
by J. Gregory Keyes

Fool Wolf lay in a pile of dead men, trying not to gag as a maggot crawled across his lip. The inside of his eyelids had faded from red to black, so he knew the sun had set, but his ears told him the cracked granite plaza surrounding him still swarmed with warriors—fewer than this morning, when he had first arrived, but enough to kill Fool Wolf if he so much as twitched . . .

VS SORCERERS
by James Wyatt

Enemy spellcasters can be an adventuring party’s most dangerous foes—especially when protected by loyal minions. When it comes to minions, you’re on your own (or see earlier articles in this series for tips on fighting goblins, orcs, zombies, and other foes). But there’s a lot you can do to prepare yourself for fighting a spellcaster—particularly a sorcerer, whose spell repertoire is limited but whose sheer destructive power is often unrivaled.

THE ADVENTURES OF VOLO: LOST TREASURE OF CORMYR PART 3
by Ed Greenwood

Volothamp Geddarm, at your service, gentles, setting truths of Faerûn before you like coins being hurled in a golden shower over the shoulder of a dwarf at work with his hammer, stamping coins out of soft gold. This day I write of another pair of lost treasure tales gleaned from the records of the great kingdom of Cormyr. Debate still rages in scholarly Cormyrian circles as to whether the Forest Kingdom once either lost a great magic in the form of a harp that could heal those who touched it while it played by itself, or narrowly won freedom from a great evil . . .

CLASS ACTS: ELDRITCH MASTER
by Monte Cook

“Speak not of the eldritch masters, for their ways are mysterious and dangerous. Taught by creatures most would never dream of speaking with, they live their lives in a realm higher than that of other mortals. But do not envy them, for they often pay a great price for their power.” —The Book of the Pale

The eldritch master is usually spoken of in whispers, for many have heard the legends that you cannot speak the name of one without her knowledge. Eldritch masters have an unnerving aura about them, as well as a stare that can freeze you in your tracks. Most eldritch masters are sorcerers, but sometimes bards take up the mantle. To join their elite ranks, a character must contact and make a pact with a powerful outsider or other magical creature such as a lammasu, celestial, fiend, slaad, lich, hag, rakshasa, or titan. As NPCs, eldritch masters are usually loners, occasionally taking on a single disciple or aide. They never join guilds or other such organizations, and often avoid the company of arcane spellcasters altogether.

BESTIARY: INVADERS OF THE BARRIER PEAKS
by James Jacobs

Almost a hundred years ago, a unique event took place in the depths of the Barrier Peaks: A technological marvel, a starship, crashed into these remote mountains. This starship was from an unknown source, and its crew had succumbed to a terrible viral outbreak. The separate modules of the ghost ship drifted in space for unknown years; one of them is the section that crashed in the Barrier Peaks. This event triggered a massive landslide that buried the ship under hundreds of tons of rock. For several decades, this technological wonder remained hidden and buried until an earthquake exposed it once again. Automatic safety features had engaged during the crash, shutting down robots and placing the surviving lifeforms in stasis until they could be rescued; the earthquake triggered the same systems and awakened the denizens within the ruined ship. Over the next several years, these denizens slowly began to spread outward into the surrounding wilderness. Before long, the strange creatures reached the nearby Grand Duchy of Geoff. The Grand Duke hired many adventurers and sent them into the Barrier Peaks in hopes of curtailing the invading beasts. The ruined ship was soon discovered, and the relics and technological wonders made several adventurers rich and powerful. The location then became a popular but dangerous attraction. Unknown to the many adventurers who scoured the Barrier Peaks over the last several years, a second crashed module lay hidden nearby.

ROLE MODELS: PAINTING MINIATURES
by Mike McVey

When you look at someone’s clothing, you see that where light hits the surface of the clothes the colors are lighter. The areas that are in shade, such as creases and folds, are darker. Because miniatures are so small, the effects of natural lighting are minimal. The areas in question simply aren’t large enough to cast any real shadows; this results in flat colors. The solution is to artificially paint these lighting differences onto the miniature. Paint lighter colors onto the areas that would catch the light and deeper colors into the folds and creases. This is called highlighting and shading, and it is the most important painting technique to master.

THE PLAY'S THE THING
by Robin D. Laws

Last month in “The Play’s the Thing,” we showed you how a colorful battle–cry can make your character more fun to play, as well as tell everyone an essential fact about your PC’s history or personality. This time, we’re going to take a step back and look at an even simpler method for lending your existing PC a sense of distinctiveness. If you’ve focused more on the monster–slaying and puzzle–solving aspects of the D&D game until now, you may not necessarily know what kind of personality you want to give your PC. It could be that the personality you enjoy portraying is simply a fellow who likes to slay monsters and solve puzzles. Naming your weapon gives your character something that’s unique to him, without making any big decisions for you about his true nature or future goals. After you’ve customized his weapon, you might feel inspired to go on to embellish him further. Or you might feel content to leave him as Arras the Monster–Slayer, who wields the famous cudgel Drum–Beater. Even at that, your character sheet will have a bit more zip to it than most. Before you name your weapon, you need to decide which member of your arsenal gets the honor. It should be the killing implement your PC first reaches for in a fight. You don’t have to wait for a fancy magic weapon before you name your blade or spear. In fact, you might be better off naming a mundane weapon. That way, if you lose the original, you can give the same name to its replacement, with no one the wiser. If you lose the magic sword Ogrebane, you face mockery when your ability to dispatch ogres is obviously lessened. Some GMs have been known to seize on a player’s naming of a mundane weapon by deciding that it has latent magic qualities the PC can awaken in the course of his adventures. Although I can’t make any promises that your DM will follow up on this hint, it never hurts to try. Having selected your weapon, it’s time to figure out its name. There are several ways to go about this . . .

Due to licensing restrictions, the PDF Download edition of this issue does not include Phil Foglio's What's New with Phil & Dixie or The Opal of Nah by J. Gregory Keyes.

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