Wednesday, June 6, 2012

White Dwarf Wednesday #19

The summer of 1980 I turned 11, and White Dwarf published issue #19 for June/July.

Let's take a moment and look at this Les Edwards cover.  Some sort of ghoul or demon coming up out of a pit (a ghoul according to his website).  He is not here to welcome us to the dungeon or give us candy.  I love the detail of this image.  But it is not the only detail we should look at.  Note how the magazine is up 15p from last issue (and 50 cents in the US, Canada and Australia).
We are treated to some more full-page ads.  Again, I enjoy these and they are a different insight to the time and too what was popular.  Up front, Chaosium is no longer "The Chaosium".    An ad as a letter from TSR detailing what is coming to the UK this summer from TSR.  The new Deities and Demigods book as well as the  Modules GW1, S3, B2 and Q1.  Interestingly enough B2 is listed as both for D&D and AD&D.

An aside.  We are really getting into the time when I was hardcore into D&D (as opposed to the last 30+ years I guess).  I can't help but reflect on when this was all so new to me and new to everyone else.  Popping in my MP3s from Stevie Nicks "Bella Donna" (ok that was 81, but hey).

An ad for the the new Ares magazine and the new game John Carter, Warlord of Mars. (Aside #2: Must pick up John Carter on Blu-Ray today!)

The editorial this issue is about the lack of back issues (tell me about it!!) and how they will publish the White Dwarf compendiums, one "The Best of White Dwarf Articles"  and the other "The Best of White Dwarf Scenarios".  I remember wanting those both so bad back in the day.  It was not till post college, a steady paycheck and the magic of eBay that I was able to fill in my gaps.

On to the articles!

Trevor Graver gives us a criminal background for Traveller characters.  Again, I love these old mags because they were so system agnostic.  Everything was thrown in together.  Traveller, D&D/AD&D, Runequest, it was all here.

The Fiend Factory is back with some low level monsters.  The Empopath, which is like a low-level psychic frog.  The Stormbiter, a sort of air-elemental of the desert, similar to a Dust Devil.  Undead Horses (what it says on the tin), the Werefox which I think is the same the would later appear in Monster Manual II. And the Darkhawk which is an evil looking, but not evilly aligned, undead hawk.  Monsters still have Monstermark ratings.

A Runequest mini-scenario, Jorthan's Rescue, by Stephen R. Marsh & John T. Sapienza Jr. is up next.  It looks pretty solid to be honest.

Next up is a page on how there has been an interest of late of new character classes and some ideas behind the new Beserker class that follows.   Roger E. Moore then presents the Berserker as a complete class.  This is an order of magnitude above other classes in terms presentation, use and how it was written.  The class is complete on one page.

ANOTHER mini-scenario by Tom Keenes is next.  Ogre Hunt is presented as suitable for 4-7 moderate to low-level characters for C&S.  At only a page and 3/4s it is smaller, but does what it sets out to do.

Open Box is up with new games.  Starfire from Task Force Games is a tactical naval space battles game for 2-3 players.  It gets a solid 8/10.  Magic Realm from Avalon Hill has been a constant search for me at game auctions. It is described as a fantasy-adventure role-playing game with a board.  While reviewer Colin Reynolds likes the magic battles, he downgrades it for it boardgame like set up.  I get the feeling that this game was in his mind neither RPG or board-game.   It gets a 7/10.   We also have two books from Fantasy Productions Inc. The first is High Fantasy, which reminds the reviewer of D&D. It has some interesting design ideas, including a to hit vs dodge mechanic, but the rest seems uninspired. Don Turnbull gives it a 4/10.  Fortress of Ellendar is an adventure module to be used with High Fantasy, but it fares better with a 7/10.  Finally the first official adventure for Traveller, Adventure 1 The Kinunir gets 9/10 from Bob McWilliams.

Lew Pulsipher gives us an article on magical wards for AD&D. Very interesting, not just in terms of content, but as an extension of D&D scholarship; articles designed to expand some minor bit of game esoterica. This sort of thing will fill magazines for years to come and websites and blogs long after that.

The Letters section has the typical comments on Fiend Factory, but also some letters on the differences between the 1st and 2nd printings of the new MM and DMG, with one complaining that the different "editions" came too soon on the heels of the previous one.  Somethings never, ever change.

Treasure Chest gives us some pre-gen NPCs instead of magic items.

The next article is something of an archaeological find really. It discusses the future of CM gaming, that is Computer Moderated.  The Archaeopteryx of today's MMORPGs.  The game is called Starweb from Flying Buffalo Inc. The turns are still sent and returned by mail, but all the moderation is done by computer.  What is most interesting I think is not that this was the first entry into what would today become a business either adored or reviled (or both) by traditional Table Top RPG fans, but that Starweb is still going on!  This is what I love about these retrospectives, the archaic knowledge of a bygone time AND how it is related to today.
I suppose it should be noted that the reviewer sited a number of problems with Starweb, I don't think he foresaw it would still be running 32 years after publication.

We end with news of some new character sheet books coming from TSR and the C1 module.  The Empire Strikes Back is mentioned with the often quoted "three trilogies" idea.
We have ads. A lot of them in fact, with finally a full page ad for Top Secret again.

White Dwarf grows also to 36 pages (including covers).

This was a great issue to be honest.  Lots of great finds here.  Again, the issues and debates we today were going on then.  In one issue we get Edition Wars! Computer vs. Table Top play!  Power Creep!  Gamers of game X vs. Gamers of game Y! Fun stuff.

What else was going on in RPG history?  Well You can read about White Dwarf here.
James at Grognardia is doing a retrospective of Ares every Tuesday.
Matt over at Land of Nod is doing Dragon by Dragon every Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Such an amazing cover on this issue. The Berserker was a fun class as I recall, pretty sure I used it for a couple of characters.

Unknown said...

You said you're looking for Magic Realm the board game. I highly recommend it; but, the rules are impossible to decipher. There's a java version that you can play on your computer called RealmSpeak that faithfully reproduces the game.