Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ares Magazine: Special Edition #2

And now, at last, we come to the final issue of Ares magazine, Special Edition #2. It's undated, but it must have appeared sometime between Summer 1983 and Spring 1984, when Ares became an integral section of Dragon. Its layout and general appearance match that which appeared in the pages of Dragon at any rate, so there's clear continuity between what TSR was attempting here and what we later saw elsewhere. I view that as a good thing, since I was a huge fan of "the Ares Section." Indeed, it was that section more than any other that kept me interested in Dragon. Special Edition #2 is actually very good and contains a number of excellent articles (and some oddities).

The issue kicks off with David J. Schow's "So you want to write the ultimate SF film book, huh, kid?"It's frankly a very strange article that I assume was an attempt humor. By "SF film book," Schow means a book about science fiction films. His article is a tongue-and-cheek examination of the pitfalls of such an endeavor, but it's neither funny nor informative. Fortunately, it's short. David Stover offers up a science fact piece entitled "New Worlds," which discusses the major planetary satellites of the solar system. Though purely factual (based on then-current data), it's nicely done and includes healthy doses of speculation to inspire SF gaming scenarios.

The first of two short stories is Douglas Borsom's "Tales of the Sky, Tales of the Land," which takes the form of a story told by a father on a far-off colony world to his children. The second, "Latent Image," by Gary Woolard, is about two tourists who come across a shop filled with antique photographs that exert a weird influence over them. Of the two, I like Woolard's story better, but it's not particularly science fictional -- more like an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.

"Home Sweet Home" is a terrific article by David Cook -- lots of Davids writing in this issue -- that provides random charts for generating new star systems for use with Star Frontiers. It's a surprisingly meaty article that does more than provide astronomical data; it also gives the referee cultural and other details he can use as a springboard for creating adventures. Meanwhile, Dale L. Kemper provides an entire sector for use with Traveller, the Far Frontiers sector, which was the home sector of all of FASA's excellent licensed adventures. I had a photocopy of this article in my "DM's binder" years ago, since I liked the idea of a campaign set farther away from the Third Imperium than even the Spinward Marches.

Mark Graham Jones provides "Revised Psionics for Traveller Gaming," which is an attempt to simultaneously make psionics less powerful and more flexible than as presented in the rulebooks. This stems from the author's desire to present a setting in which there is not the rampant anti-psionics prejudice of GDW's Third Imperium. While I can understand that desire, I'm not sure how that desire necessitates revising the psionics rules. Continuing in this theme, James M. Ward provides "It's All in Your Mind," which is a collection of new mental mutations for use with Gamma World. Jon Mattson's "New Frontiers of the Mind" is an optional system for psionics in Star Frontiers. I'd never read this article before, though I knew of its existence from a rejection letter I received from Dragon when I submitted a similar article to them for inclusion in the new Ares Section. Truth be told, Mattson's article was much better than my own.

Kim Eastland reviews some science fiction miniatures, while various other writers (including Roger E. Moore) review science fiction gaming products. Michael Lowrey is this issue's book reviewer and Christopher John continues to review movies. Roger Raupp's sci-fi comic, "Ringshipper," gets one more installment -- its final one as it turns out.

There's a lot to like in Ares Special Edition #2, at least from my perspective as a fan of space opera and post-apocalyptic gaming. I wish I had had this whole magazine back in the day, as I suspect I would have gotten a lot of mileage out of it. And while it's sad to note that this is the true end of Ares as an independent periodical, it did spawn my favorite section of Dragon for the next several years, so its legacy lived on.

Next up: Imagine.

2 comments:

  1. this was the best issue and became a core text in my star frontiers and gammaworld games - and yes ares section kept me into dragon a few years longer - i think i quit after ares section died

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  2. I have used the Star Frontiers psionics rules for a long time, and even added to them. They were easy to use and flavourful, couldn't ask for more!

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