I get the best gaming value-for-the-money out of old issues of Dragon magazine. No matter what edition the magazine was currently supporting, there's always at least three ideas worth the price of admission--and in almost every issue the density of ideas-to-dross skews in the right direction. In this series of posts I'm going to pick back issues at random, give them a read-through, and point out the things that (hopefully) illustrate why I think picking up old issues of Dragon for a couple bucks when you see them in the wilds is damned worthwhile.
"In a Class By Themselves," written by Tom Doolan and illustrated by Rags Morales, is not the sort of article that usually appeals to me. Essentially, the article takes up the system for creating a new character class in the 2e AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, and gives a few examples of how to use it to create hybrid classes that act as a kind of multi-classing for human characters. However, the second example--the street avenger--did catch my eye: "Here is the peasant’s paladin, the back-alley hero. The street avenger has made it his personal quest to rid his city of violent crime. He uses the criminals’ own methods to root them out and destroy them, yet he remains the hero and savior of the helpless victim." Although the concept of the street avenger isn't the most original character concept ever, it occurs me that I've never played a character fitting that profile, and that the core idea of a street avenger would fit very well into the Umberwell. In the spirit of making something new from something old, I've borrowing Doolan's character class idea and made a 5e D&D character in that mold: Elzabeth o' the Gutter.
Peter Adkison's "The PC Report Card" is halfway toward something I can use. The notion of grading the players' performance to assign XP seems weirdly one-sided in a game that is essentially a collaborative effort to have fun, and since I grade people's work in real life this isn't something I want to do when I'm off the clock. However, the idea of having players write down the things they feel they accomplished or were significant on a 3x5 card after a game session and using that information to award XP or other rewards is interesting and worth tinkering with.
"Magical Crossbreeds," written by Johnathan M. Richards and illustrated by George Vrbanic, takes a tried-and-true D&Dism out for a walk: wizards are always using magic to glue two different creatures together into a monstrous amalgamation, ala the owlbear. The article gives a full Monstrous Manual treatment to six new monsters, including the amadillephant, dragonfly turtle, duckbunny, moat cat, spider-horse, and venom dog. Although these beasties might be a little out there for most D&D campaigns, I can certainly see them getting some use in a Gamma World game or perhaps a homebrew D&D setting based on Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation.