Wednesday, July 6, 2022

More Postal Humor

Since my previous post on this topic was well received, here are three more examples of the humorous fake envelopes included on the White Dwarf letters page, from issues #36, #37, and #38 respectively. While the inspirations for the last two envelopes are obvious to me, the first one eludes me. Can any readers help me make sense of it?

Retrospective: Wizardry

One of the many disadvantages of living in the aftermath of any kind of revolution is failing to appreciate fully just how remarkable were the initial sparks of that revolution. In 2022, computer roleplaying games are now so commonplace as to be unexceptional, even banal, to the point that there's even a widely used – and understood – abbreviation for them, CRPG. That wasn't always the case, though. In the first decade after the release of Dungeons & Dragons, computer technology was still sufficiently primitive that, despite the enthusiastic hopes of many (including Gary Gygax), there was still room for reasonable doubt about the likelihood that a computer program could ever translate the experience of playing a roleplaying game into a digital format.

Along came Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord in September 1981 to send the naysayers packing. Certainly there had been other computer RPG programs before Wizardry. Just a few months prior, in June 1981, the original Ultima was released to great acclaim – and before both of them there were The Temple of Apshai and Akalabeth: World of Doom (the latter a kind of "rough draft" of Ultima), not to mention numerous simple dungeon crawlers and text-based games. However, none of these enjoyed the same kind of initial success or influence as Wizardry (though good arguments can be made in favor of Ultima's longer shadow over the development of subsequent computer games and genres). Since this post is from my point of view, I feel quite justified in focusing on Wizardry, since it was, along with Telengard, the first computer roleplaying game I ever played.

Like so many early computer RPGs – or, frankly, most computer RPGs ever Wizardry takes its cues from Dungeons & Dragons. Characters may be of the standard four classes (fighter, priest, mage, thief) and five races (human, dwarf, elf, gnome, and hobbit). A simple three-way alignment system is also present, though rather than chaos, law, and neutrality, it's evil, good, and neutrality. Characters also have six attributes (Strength, IQ, Piety, Vitality, Agility, and Luck) that, while somewhat different from their D&D counterparts, are obviously inspired by them. Interestingly, the game introduces the idea of "elite classes," which are somewhat similar in concept to the Third Edition D&D notion of prestige classes. For example, there's a class called a "lord" that is open to good fighters of high enough attributes. If a fighter meets all the requirements, he gains the ability to cast priest spells, much like a paladin in D&D. 

The premise of the game is that an evil wizard, Werdna – Andrew spelled backwards and derived from the name of one of the game's creator, Andrew Greenberg – has stolen a magical amulet from the titular Mad Overlord, Trebor, and used its power to create a vast maze beneath Trebor's castle. This maze consists of ten levels of increasing complexity and difficulty. Trebor now recruits adventurers willing to brave the maze and face Werdna, which is where the player's characters come in. The player creates a party of six characters to explore the dungeon, locate its treasures, and increase in level as they do so. It's a very thin premise, but probably no more so than many early D&D campaigns. Indeed, I suspect a big part of Wizardry's appeal was how similar it was, both conceptually and mechanically, to Dungeons & Dragons, then and now the most popular fantasy RPG.

Like so many early computer roleplaying games, Wizardry was unforgiving. There was no ability to map within the game itself, meaning that a player, if he didn't wish to become lost, had to create his own map using paper and pencil, just like in "real" D&D. Also like real D&D, Werdna's mazes are filled with hidden doors, one-way doors, magical seals, and teleportation traps. These frustrate attempts to create an accurate map, This is in addition to the various monsters and other hazards that exist on each level. Wizardry did not allow the player to save his progress within the dungeon. Neither could a character gain a new level. To do either, the characters had to exit the dungeon and return to the safety of the Adventurer's Inn on the surface. Making one's way through the dungeon is extremely tense, since failure had genuine consequences. This is especially true in the deeper levels, since exiting them took a lot of time and effort and there was always a chance one might encounter more monsters along the way.

By today's standards, Wizardry is primitive, both in terms of its graphical presentation and gameplay. Even the simplest, most basic computer RPG of the 21st century is lightyears ahead of Wizardry when it comes to its rules and graphics. Yet, for all that, I don't think I've encountered a contemporary CRPG that has held my attention quite as powerfully as did Wizardry. Neither have I found one that struck the right balance between risk and reward, frustration and joy. Doing well in Wizardry took patience, cleverness, and not a little bit of luck, much D&D did back in those days. Succeeding felt like a genuine accomplishment and you quickly learned to cherish characters that survived more than a couple expeditions into the maze – and felt loss at their inevitable demise. Wizardry was by no means perfect – what game is? – but it was a hell of a lot of fun. I still look back on the many hours I spent hunched over my friend's Apple II playing with great fondness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Postal Humor

I'm not completely certain when the practice began – I should probably scour through my back issues to check – but I can't help but find the fake envelopes that graced the White Dwarf letters page amusing. Here are some representative examples from issues #39, #40, and #41 respectively. I'll try to pay closer attention to them when I re-read each new issue, in case there are more that are worthy of sharing.

White Dwarf: Issue #41

My memory of White Dwarf is of a magazine whose articles were largely devoted to Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, and RuneQuest (and, later, Call of Cthulhu), hence my great enjoyment of it. This estimation is especially true of issue #41 (May 1983), which includes material for all three of those RPGs (CoC material is in the near future, however). John Harris provides the issue's cover illustration, another science fiction piece of the sort that, to my recollection at least, was much more common for White Dwarf than for Dragon. 

Ian Livingstone's editorial mentions the closures of both SPI and Heritage Models as evidence that the faddishness of roleplaying and wargaming may be fading. He opines that, in the 1970s, it was much easier for a company "to churn out mediocre games" and not suffer financially as a consequence. In the '80s, though, businesses that engage in such behavior is no longer sustainable as consumers become more selective in their purchases. There's definitely some truth to what he says, though, at least in the case of SPI, its demise was partly due to enemy action by TSR. Still, it's useful to be reminded of the cyclical nature of the hobby's popularity.

"Battle Plan!" by Allan E. Paull is an adjunct to last issue's "Dungeon Master General" article, in which he offered up a simple mass combat system for use with D&D. This time he presents both game statistics and tactical information for the armies of dwarves, elves, kobolds, and orcs. Not having made use of Paull's rules, I don't know how well they work in play, but the information he provides in this article strikes me as quite helpful. Dave Langford's "Critical Mass" takes a look at several novels of the time, the only one of which that I recall ever reading is Frank Herbert's The White Plague. Langford likes the novel, with some reservations, which, in my opinion, is a blanket statement that could be applied to most of the author's oeuvre.

"Open Box" reviews three products, starting with GDW's The Solomani Rim. Reviewer Andy Slack likes it better than The Spinward Marches, giving it 9 out of 10. In large part, his preference relates to the much higher production values and ease of use in the later product. Marcus L. Rowland reviews Yaquinto's Man, Myth, & Magic, along with its first two adventures, Death to Setanta and The Kingdom of the Sidhe. He didn't think too highly of any of them, giving them ratings of 5, 4, and 6 out of 10 respectively. Finally, there's a review of FGU's Star Explorer, a boardgame derived from its RPG, Starships & Spacemen. The reviewer, Allan E. Paull, found the game fun and well balanced, giving it a 9 out of 10.

"A Tasty Morsel" by Oliver Dickinson is another installment in his series of Gloranthan fiction, in which he tells the story of Griselda's exploits in New Pavis. Like most of these stories, it's quite enjoyable, particularly if you like Glorantha or picaresque tales. "Sorcerous Symbols" by Peter Hine is a fascinating article devoted to introducing magical marks and sigils into D&D as an alternative to scrolls and other expendable magic items. Hine presents not only examples of such sigils but a system for producing them, including the costs and time required to do so. It's a solid set of variant rules that a referee might find useful in certain types of campaigns.

"The Snowbird Mystery" by Andy Slack is an espionage-related adventure for Traveller. The scenario makes use of both the Explorer Class Scoutship introduced in issue #40 but also an accompanying article, "The Covert Survey Bureau." The Bureau is an Imperial spy agency that occasionally makes use of freelance operatives, hence their utility in an ongoing Traveller campaign. The adventure itself revolves around a corrupt governor's efforts to hide his illicit activities from the Empire, as well as a rivalry between the CSB and Naval Counter Intelligence. The resulting adventure is quite complex and includes plenty of scope for further development.

"Unarmed Combat II" by Oliver Dickinson is based on a collection of submissions and comments by readers regarding the best ways to expand and further develop unarmed combat in RuneQuest. It's an interesting article in that it doesn't settle on a single approach, but instead offers a number of options from which to choose. Being something of a rules tinkerer myself, I can't help but appreciate this approach. "Assignment: Freeway Deathride!" by Marcus L. Rowland is a scenario for use with Car Wars, a game I don't recall seeing supported much in the pages of White Dwarf.

Part III of "Inhuman Gods" by Phil Masters offers up yet more monstrous deities, like the lava children and grimlocks of the Fiend Folio. I don't wish to be too critical of this series, because I know I would have adored it as a younger person. From the vantage point of today, though, I nevertheless question its utility, especially for the more obscure (and rarely used) monsters of AD&D. Inspired by the movie, TRON, Paul McCree has penned "Discs as Weapons in AD&D," which does just that. He presents eight magical disc-shaped throwing weapons, a few of which have unique uses and effects. The biggest takeaway from this article for me, though, is a reminder of just how much of the content of D&D and other RPGs depends on "borrowing" from other media. The hobby is and always has been a creative goulash.

Issue #41 certainly held my attention, anchored by its superb Traveller material. As I have no doubt said on several occasions previously, White Dwarf published some of the best Traveller material outside of GDW's own. If you were a huge fan of the game as I was (and am), this was frequently a must-have periodical. I look forward to seeing more such material in coming issues, along with support for some of my other favorite RPGs. Speaking only for myself, we are entering the Golden Age of White Dwarf.  

Monday, July 4, 2022

Rod Serling and CAS

I've often remarked on this blog how rare it is for the works of H.P. Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard to receive good adaptations in visual media and I think I'm more than justified in saying so, but at least HPL and REH got adaptations, no matter how poor. The same cannot be said for Clark Ashton Smith, whose pulp fantasies have left almost no footprint in contemporary popular culture, despite his being one of the most popular and influential writers to have written for Weird Tales during the Golden Age of the Pulps. 

Of course, "almost no footprint" is not the same as "no footprint." As it turns out, one of Clark Ashton Smith's stories has been adapted – and by Rod Serling no less. During the third season of his 1970–1973 television anthology series, Night Gallery, there was an episode that adapted, albeit loosely, Smith's 1931 tale, "The Return of the Sorcerer." Compared to the groundbreaking The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery is somewhat more uneven in quality. However, it does feature a number of genuinely excellent episodes, most which focus on horror or occult subjects, thus giving the series a different overall tone to its illustrious predecessor.

Though "The Return of the Sorcerer" is not one of the show's best episodes, let alone a completely faithful adaptation, it's not without its charms. The primary one is the performance of Vincent Price as John Carnby, the story's titular sorcerer. Price is always a pleasure to watch, even (especially?) when he's hamming it up, as he does here. Bill Bixby plays the translator of Arabic whom Carnby hires (called Ogden in Smith's original and Noel Evans here) to help him decipher a passage from the Necronomicon. The broad outline of the story is the same as its source material, though there are a number of additions that serve no real purpose. Chief among them is the creation of a new character, Fern (Tisha Sterling), who is Carnby's assistant and whose sole purpose in the TV narrative is to add some titillation. I find that odd, because if any Weird Tales author knew when to make good use of sensuality, it was Clark Ashton Smith and he saw no need of it here.

As adaptations go, it's not the worst. It's certainly closer to its source than, say, Conan the Barbarian, but it's nevertheless not something I'd urge anyone to seek out. The episode is more of an oddity than anything else, a unique example of Hollywood taking notice of Smith. Given the treatment Lovecraft and Howard have received over the years, perhaps it's just as well that the Bard of Auburn has largely been ignored.

The Mass Combat Fantasy Role-Playing Game

Though I was (eventually) an avid reader of White Dwarf, my direct experience with most of Games Workshop's other products was quite limited. I largely missed out on games like Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play until many years after the fact and even then my experience of it was cursory. That said, I do remember quite vividly the original marketing campaign for the very first edition of Warhammer, featuring the advertisement below.

Though I never bought the game – primarily because I never saw it in any of the hobby shops I frequented – I was nevertheless greatly intrigued by it. Warhammer's subtitle of "the mass combat fantasy role-playing game" intrigued me greatly. Around the time this was released (1983), I had begun to see a need for a stronger integration between personal and mass combat in roleplaying games. Consequently, Warhammer caught my attention. Had I been able to find a copy locally sooner, I likely would bought a copy. By the time I could, I had already read the lukewarm reviews of it in Dragon and so decided to pass on it. I now rather regret that, since that original edition is probably the only one whose complexity is within the range my feeble brain can handle. Ah, well!

Pulp Fantasy Library: The Blade of the Slayer

An aspect of the Golden Age of the Pulps I find especially congenial is the freedom with which its authors borrowed from and included homages to the works of their comrades. H.P. Lovecraft famously encouraged his fellow Weird Tales fictioneers to take whatever they wished from his tales and make use of them as they saw fit; he, in turn, did the same. It was all in good fun and speaks to the easy collegiality of those bygone days (something that, perhaps unsurprisingly, reminds me of the early days of the Old School Renaissance as well). 

I was reminded of this when I recently re-read "The Blade of the Slayer," the fourth of Richard L. Tierney's Cthulhu Mythos-tinged historical fantasies featuring Samaritan gladiator-turned-Gnostic-magician Simon of Gitta. The tale originally appeared in the first issue of Pulse Pounding Adventure Stories (December 1986), a fanzine produced by Cryptic Publications that featured artwork by Stephen Fabian. The 'zine was very short-lived, with only two issues, the second of which (released in December 1987) also included another Simon of Gitta yarn.

"The Blade of the Slayer" takes place in January, A.D. 32, which is relatively early in the career of Simon, as he travels through Parthia on the run from the agents of Rome. The story's action picks up quickly, with Simon evading a band of cutthroats in the desert. While attempting to hide, he encounters an old man, "tall and white-bearded, clad in a dark greenish robe inscribed with the symbols of the Persian Magi." 

"Ho, stranger." The voice of the old man was nearly as thin as the cold wind. "Why do you come here to the site of the First City?"

"The–what?" Simon rose from his fighting crouch and approached the old man cautiously. "What are you talking about–?"

"And you have not heard that the spirit of the First Slayer, who founded it, still lingers about this ridgetop, waiting for unwary strayers?"

Simon glanced about at the numerous worn boulders, at the dry grasses blowing under the chill wind. "Aye, I've heard such tales. But, surely, no city ever stood here–"

"The legend is true. No outsider is safe in this place. You must go."

Simon is more concerned with his immediate safety and so is not put off by the warnings of the Magus. He beseeches the old man to hide for a short time, assuring him he has no interest in anything else. The old man relents, leading him into "a small room carved from the living rock and meagerly furnished with a cot, a wooden table, and two stools." He offers Simon some food, but again warns him about the spirit of the First Slayer, which the old man claims will overwhelm the Samaritan without magical protection. Simon scoffs and boasts that he, too, "[has] been trained in magical arts by Parthia's very own Magi."

"Aye, I know you now," said the oldster, his manner becoming a bit less suspicious. "You are Simon of Gitta, a pupil of the Archimage Daramos. I saw you several months ago, when I and several other priests of my order visited Daramos in Persepolis. Daramos mentioned to us that you were his most accomplished adept."

Simon, too, relaxed a bit more. "Thank you. But your memory is better than mine. I recall your visit, but not your name–"

"I am K'shasthra, priest of the Order of the High Guardians. At least one adept of our Order is always stationed here to guard the secret that–that for now must be kept from mankind. We have kept guard thusly for nearly two years. So much I may reveal to you, who have already been initiated into many secrets of the Magi. Perhaps I shall tell you more–but only with the understanding that the outer world must never know, until the Order has decided that the time is right."

In time, K'shasthra recognizes Simon as a powerful ally and agrees to reveal the secret his Order hides from the rest of mankind. The cave in which the old man dwells is part of a series of underground chambers that were dug beneath the First City, reduced to dust after thousands of years. Despite its name, the First City was actually "a walled fortress, founded by the First Slayer in fear of many who, fired by his example, sought to pursue and slay him."

"But the Slayer was under the curse of the great world-creator Achamoth," K'shasthra went on, "–the Demiurge who has fashioned the First Men to serve him. For his rebellion a Mark was set upon the Slayer; all who saw it shunned him in fear, and he was cursed to leave his city to his followers and wander forever over the face of the earth, hating and slaying, spreading new hatred and death."

"You mean," gasped Simon, "–this was–the city of Enoch …?" 

The strength of the Simon of Gitta stories is the way that Tierney deftly blends the history, myths, and religions of the ancient world – including those of the Bible, as in this case – with all manner of occult and Lovecraftian nuttery to present compelling, almost Howardian tales of blood and thunder. Likewise, Tierney regularly engages in the same kinds of borrowings, homages, and in-jokes as his Weird Tales forebears. In this particular case, he does more than simply have Simon's saga intersect with that of the Biblical first murderer. He brings him into contact with another pulp fantasy character inspired by those same stories. The result is every bit as fun as those of Lovecraft, Howard, or Smith, hence my fondness for "The Blade of the Slayer."

The saga of Simon of Gitta has long been out of print. Fortunately, Pickman's Press has collected them all into a single volume very recently and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in this unusual series of sword-and-sandal stories. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Retrospective: Talisman

There's a lot that could be said about the creative and commercial ecosystem created by the publication of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974. Chief among them is that, while D&D and many of its imitators did indeed sell well, those sales were nevertheless minuscule compared to traditional boardgames or even the burgeoning fields of electronic and video games. That's why many RPG publishers, TSR foremost among them, quite quickly attempted to find ways to make inroads into the wider games market. The various incarnations of the D&D Basic Set were one prong of this strategy, attempting to make roleplaying less arcane and more accessible to those not already immersed in wargaming or fantasy and science fiction. Another prong was the creation of more conventional games that borrowed thematic and esthetic elements of RPG in order to generate greater interest in them. 

Aside from Dungeon! (which was actually created before the publication of D&D but published later), I get the impression that most of these fantasy-themed boardgames weren't all that successful – or at least weren't as successful as their publishers had hoped they were going to be. The only other exceptional that immediately springs to mind is Games Workshop's Talisman (The Magical Quest Game), which first appeared in 1983. I say this because, unlike all the other such games from this time period, Talisman is the only one that's still in print today. There's even a digital version of the game.

Talisman is a competitive game. Two to six players contend with one another in an attempt to reach the center of the game board, where the Crown of Power is located. Each player selects a hero card, which includes game statistics, including special abilities that differentiate one hero from another. Play consists of rolling a die to determine how many spaces a player can move his hero around the board. Depending on the space his hero enters, the player has to draw one or several cards. These cards can depict anything from monsters to fight, objects to find, or even helpful strangers to aid the hero. Interestingly, some cards permanently alter the space for which they're drawn, meaning that other heroes who enter them later must contend with their effects. This is especially true of monsters that aren't defeated: they remain their until someone slays them.

The board is divided into three concentric rings, each one smaller than the previous one – and filled with greater danger. Getting between the three rings is difficult, unless the hero has improved his abilities and acquired beneficial items through battle and the luck of the draw. Talisman thus has a kind of leveling mechanic built into it, which each ring representing a different level of challenge and only heroes whose players have taken the time to build them up will have much chance of success. Notice I wrote "chance of success." That's because Talisman is very random game, with so many of its elements determined either by cards or the roll of dice. That's not to say there's no strategy involved in its play, but the vast majority of its outcomes are determined by random means.

This randomness will no doubt be frustrating to many players, but, for others, that's a big part of the fun. Each game is quite unpredictable and there's no guarantee that even a seasoned player of the game will come out ahead of a total neophyte. Of course, Talisman includes the possibility of direct player versus player action too. Whenever a hero enters the same space as another, they can fight and the winner can steal an item or money from the defeated hero (as well as losing a life – all heroes have four before they are out of the game). This adds another level of uncertainty (and sometimes frustration) to the game and increases its appeal.

Talisman is one of those games that roleplayers frequently keep nearby to play during those times when not everyone can show up for a session. Because of the randomness of its gameplay, which only increases if one makes use of even one, never mind several, of its expansions, this is not a short game to play. In my experience, it was rare to complete a game of Talisman in less than 90 minutes and I recall some games that lasted three hours or more. Still, if you don't mind the outsize role that chance plays in the outcome of most games, Talisman is quite fun. There's a reason the game is still published almost four decades after its initial release. It's one of the classics of the hobby and I have many fond memories of playing it with friends.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

"The Thinking Magazine for Adventure Gamers"

Issue #40 of White Dwarf (April 1983) featured an advertisement for the first issue of TSR UK's Imagine, which premiered the very same month. 

In addition to the usual hyperbole, the ad is also notable for making use of the term "adventure gaming" to describe the hobby it services. In certain quarters, "adventure game" was preferred to "roleplaying game," in part, I think, because "roleplaying" was at the time more strongly associated with the field of psychology. I don't recall ever encountering the term often back in my youth. To my American ears, it sounds very British, but that might just be confirmation bias on my part. Regardless, it doesn't appear to have been widespread in its use, even within the United Kingdom, as evidenced by the title of Games Workshop's own foray into the field.

White Dwarf: Issue #40

I have no idea what artist Emmanuel's cover to issue #40 of White Dwarf (April 1983) is supposed to depict. Despite that, it's exactly the kind of cover I strongly associate with the magazine: weirdly evocative and vaguely science fictional or fantasy in its subject matter. Somewhat relatedly, Ian Livingstone's editorial notes that fantasy RPGs remain much more popular than science fiction ones and he wonders why that is. It's a question I regularly ponder myself. The closest I've come to an answer is that fantasy is a more strongly codified and, therefore, familiar gaming genre, where even those RPGs that deviate from the Tolkien-descended consensus tacitly acknowledge its supremacy. The same is not true of science fiction, with its welter of sub-genres and approaches.

"Zen and the Art of Adventure Gaming" by Dave Morris reminds us that we're solidly into the '80s and its fascination with all things Japanese. His article is an attempt to present feudal Japan in RuneQuest terms, with new weapons, armor, and skills, in addition to a very brief treatment of kami and magic. Being on something of a RuneQuest kick lately, I found this article a welcome one, though its brevity limits its utility considerably. I now find myself regretting that I never picked up Land of Ninja during the years when Avalon Hill was publishing RQ under license from Chaosium.

"Dungeon Master General" by Alan E. Paull presents a system for handling large scale combats in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Paull's system is a relatively simple one that eschews miniatures and downplays precise measurements in favor of speed and ease of use. Consequently, the system is loose and relies on referee judgment and common sense in many areas, such as the adjudication of morale. Not having used it myself, I can't speak to how well it works, but I nevertheless appreciate articles like this. I've long been of the opinion that D&D is in need of a mass combat system that does not expect the referee to break out a sand table every time he wishes to simulate a clash between armies. Paull's system may or may not succeed in doing this to most people's satisfaction – I suspect the latter – but it's a worthy project nonetheless.

Dave Langford's second "Critical Mass" column focuses on two authors whose works have been discussed on this blog in the past: Robert Asprin and Stephen R. Donaldson. In the case of Asprin, Langford reviews Myth Conceptions, the third in the author's Myth series. Langford doesn't think much of the book or its humor; I can't say that I disagree with him. It's very difficult to write a series of humorous novels without eventually descending into an unintentional parody and that's more or less what happened to Asprin. As for Donaldson, Langford reviews White Gold Wielder, the third and final book in the second trilogy of Thomas Covenant. Langford doesn't think better of this novel and, again, I can't really disagree with him. The second trilogy showed promise early on, with the protagonist being much less awful than he was in his previous outing, but it's still a convoluted, self-serious slog with a couple of interesting ideas that don't justify the time I invested in reading it.

"Open Box" reviews Soloquest 2: Scorpion Hall for RuneQuest, giving it an 8 out of 10. Also reviewed are a quarter of AD&D modules: Hidden Shrine of the Tamoachan (8 out of 10), Ghost Tower of Inverness (8 out of 10), White Plume Mountain (8 out of 10), and Dwellers of the Forbidden City (5 out of 10). Perhaps I am biased, but I find it difficult to believe that Dwellers of the Forbidden City rates only a 5 or that either Ghost Tower of Inverness or White Plume Mountain, both of which are contrived funhouse modules, deserve ratings as high as they received. Chacun à son goût. Illuminati receives a 7 out of 10, while Starstone, a generic fantasy module published by Northern Sages (and with which I am unfamiliar) receives a 9 out of 10.

"The Eagle Hunt" by Marcus L. Rowland is an AD&D scenario for 1st–3rd level characters. Its premise is that an ancient artifact, the titular Green Eagle, has been stolen from the king's treasure vault and the two detectives dispatched to locate it have themselves gone missing, thereby necessitating a public reward of 20,000gp for anyone who can recover it. "The Eagle Hunt" is a lengthy and engaging adventure, quite different from the usual low-level scenarios one regularly sees. Likewise, the Green Eagle's true purpose, if discovered, has the potential to open up interesting possibilities in a D&D campaign.

"Trading" by Oliver Dickinson presents a simple trade system for use with RuneQuest, one vaguely reminiscent of that found in Traveller (not that that's a bad thing). Speaking of Traveller, Andy Slack offers up "Explorer Class Scoutships," a detailed look at a new type of starship, complete with game stats and deckplans. Part II of "Inhuman Gods" by Phil Masters treats readers to the deities of yet more non-human beings, such as the firenewts, flinds, and frogmen. "RuneQuest Characters" by Nelson Cunningham provides the code for a GAP (game assistance program) intended to generate random RQ characters. I love that the article includes a section entitled "What to do when it crashes." Good times! Finally, "Treasure Chest" gives us six more D&D magic items, because we can never have too many magic items, can we?

Issue #40 is a very strong issue, filled with plenty of meaty and imaginative articles, many of which have a unique flair that differentiates them from what I saw in the pages of Dragon and other American gaming periodicals of the same era. Re-reading this issue, I found myself unexpectedly nostalgic for the White Dwarf of old, before the magazine became wholly devoted to Warhammer and its spin-offs. I consider myself fortunate to entered the hobby at the time I did. We shall not see its like again.