Wednesday, March 6, 2013

White Dwarf Wednesday #55

White Dwarf #55 comes to us from July 1984.  Our cover this month is what can only be called a "Space Marine".  The cover is good as in well done, but it doesn't fill me with anything.  I might have passed this issue up in the stores. Still though, I was a bit down on Sci-Fi games at this point, so I am sure that it would have been lost on me anyway.

Ian Livingstone's editorial is once again ripped from today's headlines.  The Gaming Hobby is DYING! But he admits that despite the shrinking market and layoffs the hobby is only changing.  He is right of course and the hobby will never hit the peaks it hit at this time, but it is, and was, changing.  Interestingly enough I did not  have this perspective back then.  To me it seemed like the gaming hobby would go on forever, if I thought about it all.

Marcus Rowland continues his Name of the Game series with Supers, Spies and Scary Guys.  Superhero games are covered with Champions claiming the top spot.  Spy games are next with Top Secret featured. Next are the "odd" games which includes a diverse lot of Call of Cthulhu, Daredevils and Gamma World.  Historical games end the article.

Spiderbite is next and it is a short scenario for D&D/AD&D, for 1st to 2nd level characters.  There are some interesting changes here. First thing you notice are the "DM's" sections to each room/adventure area. Canned text for the DM to read that began with B3.  Also are the "newer" non-orthogonal maps, ala Ravenloft (see next section). It comes in at four pages, but seems smaller than that.  The newer format certainly takes more text.

Open Box has some reviews. We get our first supplement to Warhammer, Forces of Fantasy.  I will admit I know very, very little about Warhammer except what is commonly known.  Jon Sutherland gives it a 7/10 and asks why was the Warhammer book so full of errors (glitches as he says) to need this book?
A bunch of TSR modules are next, X5, L2, I5 and the immortal I6.  Dave Morris goes over them in turn. He has the highest praise for X5, Temple of Death which he gives 10/10.  L2 gets 7/10, I5 9/10 and Ravenloft gets a 8/10.  He loves the plot and does call it a straight Hammer Horror yarn, but bemoans the puns.
Sherlock Holmes - Consulting Detective and an associated adventure The Mansion Murders are reviewed.  Nic Grecas enjoys it as a welcome diversion from dragon slaying or blasting aliens and gives it a 9/10.  I have been looking for a copy of this for a while.  Still haven't found one yet.  Finally Stuart Aston has a few books for Starfleet Battles; SSD Books 1, 2 and 3.  All get a 9/10.

Critical Mass has more book reviews. The only book in the bunch I can recall is Stephen Donaldson's Daughter of Regals.  I remember getting this through the Science Fiction/Fantasy Book Club (ok hands up, who was a member?) and I enjoyed it, which is interesting because I didn't really care for much of Donaldson's other works.  The reviewer here disliked the book mostly (but liked his other stuff from the sounds of it).

ICE breaks up the flow (eh) with a full color ad for the Fellowship of the Ring boardgame.

Phil Holmes has more undead for RuneQuest.  Now back in the day I was not into RuneQuest except as a way to get more Call of Cthulhu into my D&D.  These days I am trying to educate myself more on RQ and this is the sorta thing I enjoy.

Another full page, full color ad.  This time to let us know that Finieous Fingers is going to Fantasy Gamer Magazine.  One though has to wonder if the big selling point of your magazine is the appearance of a comic.  BUT this is Fineous Fingers, and while I never was a big follower of any particular magazine comic (with maybe the exception of "What's New!") even I knew of FF.

Crash Course, bi-monthly Car Wars column is next.  This one concerns punks in 2034.  While it is easy to read this now and think "that is only in 20 years", its still an interesting insight into 1984.

Animal cults and worship for D&D is next.   Tony Parry and Jerry Vaughn correctly point out that this is an area that has gotten very little attention in D&D. And they are still correct.

Castle of Lost Souls part 4 is next, finishing up the series. This seems to be the longest one yet.  I think I should give this one a try sometime.

Letters covers some of the same observations that I have had.  The magazine looks better than ever, but showing signs of slowing down and not being as cutting edge as it once was.  Other bemoan the lack of Traveller articles and the increase in RuneQuest ones. Additionally one letter states how they don't like Travellers (the comic). 

Speaking of, Thrud is next.

Tabletop Heroes gets the color pages again.  It is my memory that at this time Dragon was moving away from minis while White Dwarf was embracing them more.  I could be wrong though.

RuneRites has some really cool looking threats for RuneQuest. First we have a bipedal bat-like monster, a rather nasty spell and a magic ring that seems to be just as cursed as it is magical.

Fiend Factory has the Gods of the Shapelings (from last issue). The gods seem more interesting than I recall the monsters being.  The trouble is they are presented as something along the lines of uber-archetypes to fit the psychology of the Shapelings.  Noble effort, but the result is the gods seem a little bland.  Though with some work I think they would work out well.

Treasure Chest has an interesting article about Arch Enemies in FRPs (and D&D in particular).  I like the idea.  The concept of the reoccurring villain is older than Lex Luthor or the Joker, and not something I think we use enough in fantasy games.  It is something VERY common in games like Buffy, or Ghosts of Albion sure.  But there is something to be said about having an enemy come back for more and more.  Keeping him alive though is the real trick.

Travellers is next followed by an article on variant universes in Traveller.

News is up. We learn about Mayfair's "The Keep" movie tie-in game/adventure.  Also from Mayfair are the Roleaids products.  RQ3 is on the way.  The Star Trek RPG from FASA will hit the shores of the UK soon.

We end with the usual rounds of ads.

Not much to say about this issue really. Nothing new or innovative from the last few issues to be honest, but serviceable material.  I think WD needs to shake it up a bit here soon.


Unknown said...

I think once Name of the Game and Castle of Lost Souls are out of the way we get some more meat again - there's a lot of "introductory" stuff in the first few issues after #52.

Castle of Lost Souls is passable enough, although ripe with hoary old cliches (which were even back then), for example the two guys, one of which only tells the truth, the other only lies. (Sadly Haley's option from Order of the Stick is not an option).

Spiderbite - a simple adventure but works well if you need a drop-in. The animal cult stuff bears a closer look, it's got an innovative (fort he time) mechanism behind advancement which I quite like.

As for Stephen Donaldson, Dave Langford really does seem to have a love-hate relationship with his works. He's forever bemoaning the dense and sesquipedalian prose style but at the same time sneakily admiring the work. I know how he feels!

faoladh said...

I still have a bunch of SFBC editions, mostly the ones that are collections of novels under one cover (most of the Thieves' World series, for instance, or Tanith Lee's "Tales of the Flat Earth" and "Secret Books of Paradys").

I wonder if that Traveller article would be useful to me. What did it cover, exactly?

Timothy S. Brannan said...

If I get a chance I'll pull it back out and go over it more in detail.