Wednesday, March 13, 2013

White Dwarf Wednesday #56

It's August 1984 and White Dwarf 56 is on the shelves and newsstands.

I have felt that the last few issues of White Dwarf, and my reviews of them, have been in something of a rut.  So for this issue I think instead of dedicating time to the minutia of the issue,  I will instead highlight sections and talk about what they meant to me then and now.

Interestingly enough I am starting in the same place; the editorial.  Ian Livingstone (and if memory serves these are among his last issues) talks about the state of the British RPG hobby.  While in retrospect I can see what he is saying, but back in 84 England was this magical land where True Roleplaying games come from.  Even the best American games had English roots.  Or so I thought.  Imagine my surprise living in Illinois that Ground Zero for RPGS was just a couple hundred miles north of me.  When I got to college I heard stories about how Gary would come down to SIU to play D&D. The store I was mail ordering from to get rare items (like White Dwarf) was in a Chicago suburb I would later move too and stay for 10 years.  So my perspective then was one of an anglophile living in a town that was in the middle of a cornfield and not really based on any reality.  It is interesting though that reading this now I do still think of the British RPG market as being more serious.  I think this is largely due to White Dwarf itself.
It was about this time I was HEAVY into Doctor Who, so the FASA game was on my must have list.

Up next is an article about playing Ninjas in FRPGs.  In the early 80s everyone was obsessed with Japanese culture and society.  Though I guess ninjas never really go out of style. I have played exactly 1 ninja my entire  gaming life.  His name was (horrible I know) Oko-nishi.  My lame attempts at a Japanese sounding name.  In my defense at what I knew was bad I made him a half-orc.  It must have been around this time I made him too using the Oriental Adventure rules.  My then DM and I had worked up a D&D combat simulator and we plugged him in with 9 other characters.  He was attacked by a Black Dragon (or Red, cant recall) and killed. The dragon kept attacking him and only him.  We had not worked out all the errors. In the end he had been reduced to something like -70 hp.  My DM offered to let him be ok, or keep him dead. We enjoyed watching it so much and getting the mental image of this dragon jumping up and down on my dead ninja that I felt it was a waste to say it never happened.
I am pretty sure that my half-orc ninja was not based on the cover of this issue.

Open Box switches to a new format. The games are now on "cards" like an offset window, self contained.  It makes it easier to see what you are reading and jump to a particular game, but the space economy is terrible.     The review I focused on was the World of Harn game.  It gets a 6/10.

A few more pages in we get something that was a feature of Dragon, the stating up of book characters.  In this case The Belgariad by David Eddings. This is something I do to this day. The issue then as now is that characters in books, movies or TV are not built according to the D&D rules.  We saw that a couple of issues back with Gandalf cast as a Cleric.  There is an ad for the books later in the magazine.

Up next is an interesting Call of Cthulhu game that takes place in the future on a distant planet. The Last Log is an interesting thing really. I was not expecting to see CoC used like this, but of course it works.  The creatures of Lovecraft's stories are more alien than demonic.    This very notion will be explored again and again till most recently with Eldritch Skies and Cthulhu Tech.
The adventure itself would fit in nicely with either of the newer products above and it was a nice bit of forward thinking.  Not so forward was the "dot matrix printer paper" of the layout, but hey.

We also get an AD&D adventure on an island.

The minis section works with the Cthulhu adventure (which some are used) and/or Traveller or Star Frontiers.

We get more ads in the middle of the magazine, similar to the style of Dragon including one for the new Dragonlance modules.

Fiend Factory seems to get back to made it so good in the past, really neat monsters.  This issue has monsters from the Planes.

An article on Tech in D&D.  For no reason better than "I don't wanna!" I never liked tech in D&D including black powder.

The newstand reports that TSR is releasing the Companion Rules. Finally.  I had moved on to AD&D at this point and was not a fan of the Mentzer books.  Now I am of course. Also excitement over the new Indiana Jones game that is due out.  An interesting bit about a new movie based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space is being made.  Wonder what happened to it?

Near the end we get one of the first of what I call the "classic" ads for MERP from ICE.

So in truth this is a better issue than the previous ones.  The common thread is taking the game you are playing and doing something new with them.  Maybe we are turning a corner here.


wardy-la said...

Excellent stuff. I have only just dug out this issue again and "The Last Log" is one of my favourite early Call of Cthulhu scenarios - I have played in this and also run it and have great memories of it. The accompanying pics really add to the flavour, especially the re-painted Eagle. On re-reading it I think the time is right to try it out again!

Brett Minor said...

I only got into comics for a short time. I was obsessed with LOBO and SPAWN.

Dropping in from A to Z Challenge. It's my first year participating.

Brett Minor
Transformed Nonconformist

Patrick Mallah said...

This is the first issue of White Dwarf I ever bought. Reading this brought back some great memories!

Unknown said...

I agree with Wardy-La, the Last Log is an excellent little scenario and, along with Temple of the Doomed Prince last issue and Sky Rig (for Traveller) next issue is part of a trio that all use the device of a logbook or journal that describes the last days of a doomed location.

Ninjas - These articles predate the release of Oriental Adventures by quite a while, at least in the UK.

Whilst I approve of the new direction of reviewing selected parts (a wise move, as the articles get gradually longer as we go), I think your description of The Sunfire's Heart as "an AD&D adventure set on an island" sells it a little short - it's part one of two adventures detailing the hunt for an artifact not unlike the orb thingy from the Belgariad. That said, I ran it and it's very light on actual content and opposition, but it could be used as a springboard for inspiration.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

@Simon. Yeah, I have to admit I was feeling I sold everything a little short.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

@wardy-la: It is a cool adventure and interestingly enough it reminded me of a Traveller adventure sat in Victorian London which I believe is coming up soon.

@Doc: glad I could provide that!

@Brett: actually it is a Game magazine, but that's cool!