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Mystara in Dragonby Hervé Musseau
Mystara: Return to the Lost City, by Michael Mearls, 5-page article starting on page 88.
The article recounts the history of the Cynidiceans, describes the main elements of the lost city (including a map), describes the four cults and their goals, gives statistics for the infamous Zargon, and describes (with rules) the drug that makes the Cynidiceans fall into their eerie dream-state.
The article repeats elements of B4, but with a twist: it is set in the close future of the module, as NPCs (maybe from the author's campaign) have "played" the adventure from B4. However, they failed to completely defeat Zargon, so there are some changes to the setting as a result, even though things are mostly unchanged.
The article gives 3E stats for Zargon, and, well, he's a tough bastard -- not at all like the Zargon of B4. The article says he does not remember his origins, and only suggestions are given; while this is not incompatible with B4, it differs from Zargon's origins (and knowledge of it) in the unofficial Cynidicea Gaz. Likewise, the Elixir of Fantasy and its use differ from those in the gaz (and, I believe, is also not exactly like B4).
Note that the (unnamed in B4) underground lake is here called Lake Moldvay (after the author of B4).
Red Steel: Cinnabar, Red Steel, and the Red Curse, by Franck Brunner, a six-page article starting on page 68, illustrated by Cara Mitten (a picture of a warrior tortle with trident and wooden shield).
The article contains an introduction to the SC (and how to use it in other campaigns), the history of the Red Curse, rules for handling the Red Curse under 3E rules (acquiring, effects, the legacies, the afflicted including a sample, inheritors, cinnabryl and red steel and vermeil and crimson essence), and a description and 3E rules for tortles including a sample.
This is a no surprise translation from 2E to 3E of the rules for the Red Curse.
Thus, there is no new material.
I was a bit miffed by the fact that inheritors are handled as a feat that can be taken repeatedly, as I think the peculiarities of inheritors could have warranted a prestige class, but then the game mechanics of the multiple feat seem quite appropriate.
The article does contain a few contradictions or differences with the Red Steel books:
- the article gives the afflicted a second legacy (they normally have only one, like everyone else but inheritors). I'd be tempted to say that the original rules are best (it is one package: one legacy, one ability loss, and if you do not protect yourself one affliction), but playtest it and if it more balanced IYC to give a second legacy to offset the affliction then why not.
- the article says there is known no cure from affliction. I'd say, use the one in the books, unless you give afflicted a second legacy as per the article in which case don't give a cure to preserve balance.
- the article says creatures must have an intelligence of at least 3 to be affected by the Red Curse, which excludes animals. The RS books explicitly say that animals are affected as well. My advice: let the animals be affected, it's more fun to have an even more dangerous (and surprising: ooh, the nice little kitty -- ouch!) wilderness out there.
- inheritors who become afflicted: the article is not totally clear how much they suffer; to keep it consistent with prior rules, the adverse effect of *each* inheritor feat should apply, like the gains (so you do not get just double penalty from a normal afflicted, but triple, quadruple, etc.). Other possible interpretations: you get double penalty no matter how many times you took the feat; you get double penalty for every time you took the feat (ie, double, then quadruple, then six times, etc.). I think those are unbalancing, though.
Hollow World: Sudnering Ka, by Ken Marable a five-page article starting on page 22, illustrated by Anne Stokes.
So, the article feature a new Azcan character type, who steal power from Ka to increase their own. A note about power levels: though I don't know much about 3E, this seems a bit unbalanced. It is somewhat similar to werecreatures, as the Azcans become sort of bestial; however unlike lycanthropy there is no associated downside to it (nothing like the vulnerabilities or difficulties to control lycanthropy ... well, except for an intelligence drop, and oh yeah if Ka ever catches you ... compared to increased strength and constitution, armour class, attack, poisonous blood, special powers (enhanced vision, scent, ...) and feats). Fortunately, since PCs are unlikely to be evil Atzanteotl-worshipping Azcans who enjoy bathing in the sacrificial blood of animals, the Defilers of Ka are more likely to be enemies they encounter that happen to have unusual powers (but no more so than other oddities they are likely to encounter during their adventuring careers), so this shouldn't be a problem.
About the integration in Mystara:
Well, the article is of course intended to be used with Mystara, and I don't see why it couldn't. A few qualms though: Immortals are called deities
. Since when are dinos considered "followers" of Ka? I'd expect followers of an Immortal to be sentient creatures, not animals. Or should we consider all animals to be followers of Zirchev, and plants followers of Terra, and rocks followers of Djaea? Odd. Of course their destruction would pain Immortals who watch over them, but calling them followers?
Two princes of the Azcan Empire who are defilers of Ka are named, but there are no princes with those names in Sons of Azca (the name given for the emperor is correct, though), and given that major cities are ruled by the various princes and that some of them are not the gazetteer clearly implied IMO that this meant there was no other prince.
Now, there is of course that mention of a four letter word for elf. Well, we'll simply assumed the author meant Schattenalfen. And since there are no half-elves either, that the half-things are in fact SA too, so the defilers are 95% Azcans and 5% SA. It is a shame that the article doesn't say who those SA defilers are. Are they rogue SA who live among the Azcan defilers? Has a group of SA stolen the secret of defiling from the Azcans? Has Atz given the SA the secret of defiling?
I was not worried by the mention of barbarians; we can easily assume, IMO, that some Azcans can have barbarian as their class, instead of warrior. Note also that the article says that Azcan mages are mostly sorcerers and not wizards.
Blackmoor: Guardians of the Docrae, by Ari Marmell, a three-page article starting on page 84, illustrated by Bob Steinman (a female halfling omatu master with fighting chains, in a fighting stance, background light wood hills).
The article has a short summary of the history of the Blackmoor area, and of the halflings of the Northern Marches, and notably the Docrae. It introduces a form of dance, that can be pushed by the omatu masters to a very effective form of unarmed combat fighting style. The article contains a full description of the omatu master prestige class.
I don't know what people saw in hobbits that made them want to make halfling countries the home of powerful warriors, but that must be me.
While quite different, the omatu masters are somewhat reminiscent of the hin masters, being such improbable sturdy defenders of their race. The omatu masters are a halfling version of monks with oriental fighting style and weaponry (this is reinforced by the illustration, which reminds me of an anime, like the movie Final Fantasy).
To determine how well it fits within Blackmoor, I suppose we will have to wait for the new setting that should be released soon (by Goodman Games, according to the article). I can only assume (hope?) that this article was written by someone in the know.