Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lost Pelinore

Among the old school blogs that I read regularly, there's recently been an upsurge in interest in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and how its present reputation may in fact be a reflection of the game's post-Enemy Within development rather than where it began. I find this very fascinating, because, even though I was never a player of WFRP, I love delving into the origins of things. One of the really intriguing notions put forward by Coopdevil over at FightingFantasist is that Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play owes a lot to the Pelinore setting created for TSR UK's Imagine magazine.

Not being a WFRP scholar, I can't speak to the truth of that. However, this notion has at least reminded me of the existence of Pelinore and Imagine. I'm fortunate enough to own a nearly complete collection of the magazines, thanks to a friend who gave them to me a few years ago, knowing my interest in gaming history. Imagine's a great window on a part of the hobby's history of which I know very little directly. I think that needs to change ...

15 comments:

  1. You can't separate any discussion of WFRP from the larger corporate culture GW ended

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  2. I had friends who played the Warhammer war games, and I've gotten my hands on a copy of the Warhammer 40K rpg.
    As near as I can tell the "GRIMDARK" aspect of the Warhammer games is largely a stylistic one imposed by the publisher, but not enforced mechanically. The game has a reputation for being extremely lethal by modern standards, but I think "extremely lethal" is probably what a grognard would call par for the course and what I would call realistic.
    Once again while I can't speak for WFRPG, I find that the setting and presentation of the 40K game to be a unique, well thought out, and interesting take on the sci-fi setting and would be thrilled to play it, even if my character were not literally dripping with spikes, skulls, and the like.

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  3. If there's one thing I hate hate hate it's that bloody Games Workshop took their Fantasy line further and further down the spikes, skulls and GIANT AXES path until it became a parody of itself. And that has infected WFRP in hideous awful ways.

    WFRP 1e was a thing of beauty. It was gritty without being 'die at 0 HP' deadly. It had touches of Call of Cthulhu and the right elements of Chaos as dread powers wot man was not meant to wot of. And it had a fantastic sense of humour about it.

    Sure it might not have had a clear identity, and it might have hung together mechanically like Frankensteins monster (like AD&D 2e imo), but it worked, and it was lovely for all its warts.

    I don't mind that 40k is Grimdark GrimGrim, or that Fantasy Battles is now the same thing but Fantasy.. but my totally selfish unreasonable gitish teenage self wishes they'd left their rough diamond alone.

    Is this what being a grognard means?

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  4. IMHO, the Enemy Within scenario owed more to the  Irilian campaign (the Rising of the Dark) published in White Dwarf at the same time, than to Pelinore. Just an impression.

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  5. For me there are two strong stylistic links between Pelinore and WFRP. The first is that much of Pelinore consists of floor plans of what we could term "civilian" buildings such as law courts, inns and shops with a run-down of which NPCs live there and WFRP (both in the original book and in the White Dwarf articles) does the same, even down to mimicking the graphical style of Paul Ruiz in the original IMAGINE and GamesMaster Publications offerings.

    Second is stupid punning names which were all over contemporary Citadel Miniatures adverts as well. I note to my approval that the current rise in interest in playing Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd edition with period toys includes the tradition of giving everyone and every place silly punning names.

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  6. I like Pellinore a lot; the epic "In Search of New Gods" is one of very few adventures I have run more than once.

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  7. Irillian is the adventure that kicked off my main AD&D campaign; one PC, Thrin, started off in Irillian as a 3rd level Cavalier and retired 14 years later as 117th level Lesser God of Swords. :)

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  8. Funny you should post this as I've been going through Pelinore articles over the last few nights. Particularly love that magic school with the crystalline architecture. As well as the locales, there was a lot of good city background stuff around guilds and legal systems. I think Imagine magazine is a lost gem and certainly was a big part of my formative gaming years, here in the UK. They did some great modules too. Particularly enjoyed DM-ing Round the Bend in university, where characters are shrunk to go down a magic-user's drain!

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  9. As a former Games Workshop employee I'll share one of my favorite in house jokes.

    Dm asks, "How does the traditional AD&D party open a closed door?"

    Party leader replies, "We listen at the door, check for traps and then slowly open it."

    GM asks, "How does the WHRP party open a closed door?"

    Party leader replies, "We knock the weakest party member unconscious. We quickly open the door, toss him in and shut the door. We listen for screams or the sounds of monsters/daemons/spawn eating the party member. If we don't hear anything we wait for the party member to wake up and tell us it's ok."

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  10. In the 80s why wouldnt any sane cutpurse not want to start as a Ratchatcher?! Hell, the pic alone was enough fer me

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  11. need to convert pelinore into a D&D Gazetteer format.

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  12. My local gamestore occassionaly

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  13. I miss the connections between the gods of Pelinore and WFRP... I think there is no Pelinore legacy in Warhammer, apart from the art and graphic style (peculiar to the entire production TSR UK), but I'd like to learn more.

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  14. Imagine magazine was mana from heaven for us in the UK in the Eighties. Pelinore and the removable scenarios were consistently excellent and the articles actually inspired us compared to what Dragon was churning out (endless pages about the quality of rope, useless NPC classes and yet more spells/dragons/monsters, etc). Imagine was Tiswas to Dragon's Swap Shop if you will. It was a tough choice between this and White Dwarf every month, Dragon barely got a look in. When Imagine closed shop I bought The Adventurer, wish I still had 'em. It was a great if short lived magazine but them's the breaks I guess.  

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  15. More pertinently, you can't seperate WFRP from TSR corporate practices of the early 80s. As I understand it many of the decisions made at that time led to a funneling of talent towards the younger, punkier GW. Bambra,  Gallagher, Davis et. al. jumped ship; if they hadn't things may have gone very differently.

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