Issue #3 (June 1983) opens with an editorial that I find interesting.
A few people will, on occasion, complain about something they term 'censorship'. By this they mean that the publication does not carry the obvious references to sex and violence that appear in some other publications. We can assure them that no external body or individual holds censorial powers over the magazine; where we consciously alter or withhold anything, it is because we believe that is what most readers would prefer, if we were able to lay the choice before them. This is a hobby based on fun -- what purpose can there be in offending anybody?It's an intriguing paragraph, not merely for what is say but what it claims to be responding to. What are these "some other publications" to which it refers and why did anyone, in 1983, think that Imagine was censoring itself? I can't help but think there is some aspect of the UK gaming scene at the time with which I'm not familiar and that might better explain this. Or was it simply a sense that TSR was already beginning to whitewash D&D and its corner of the hobby?
Jim Bambra and Paul Ruiz provide new installments of "The Beginners' Guide to Role Playing Games" and "The Adventures of Nic Novice." Neither is especially noteworthy, being, as you'd expect, discussions of very basic aspects of RPGs without much that'd be deemed insightful nowadays. Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" elaborates on what it means that RPGs' rules are more open-ended and open to interpretation compared to other types of games. It's basically a primer on trusting the referee and being willing to accept his judgments in matters where the rules are vague or non-existent -- again: solid stuff but not exactly world-shaking.
On the other hand, Noel Williams tackles the thorny question of "Basic or Advanced?" This is a very fascinating article, since it deals head-on with the differences between the two different strains of Dungeons & Dragons. Ultimately, Williams concludes that
The DM in Advanced can add more detail (more monsters, more treasures) but not much in the way of rules or the system becomes unbalanced. On the other hand, because it is so well balanced, new contributions of detail are easy to make ...I'm not sure I'd have stated this the way that Williams does, but I think he's definitely on to something. While I've met my fair share of Basic rules lawyers and free-form AD&Ders, the general thrusts of the two games, as Gygax stated on more than a couple of occasions, comports with what Williams says above.
With Basic, more is left to the DM. He has greater freedom but less guidance. There is less research for him to do and less to attend to in game, but additional work may be needed to make scenarios credible, and imagination is essential.
Peter Tamlyn's "Tavern Talk" continues to discuss the local gaming scene in the UK. Doug Cowie provides reviews of multiple D&D and AD&D modules (assisted by Jim Bambra and Ian J. Knight). These reviews are, on the whole, quite positive, if not necessarily effusive, so, clearly, at the beginning at least, Imagine didn't go out of its way to promote an independent editorial stance for its own sake. Mike Brunton provides an AD&D adventure called "A Box for the Margrave" for levels 4-7. We also get more official rules answers in "Dispel Confusion," Don Turnbull's editorial about "the Pub Game" about which Gygax often talked, and another "Rubic of Moggedon" comic.
Mike Costello's "The Imagination Machine" is an overview of computer gaming at the time. It's a short but thoughtful pieces that declares
In the end, the success of a computer game is not dependent on programming skill but the quality of the underlying design, and there are fewer good designers than good programmers.How little has changed in the last three decades!
Dave Pringle reviews several books, including Robert Heinlein's Friday and Stephen R. Donaldson's White Gold Wielder. Dave Langford, whom I first encountered in White Dwarf's own book reviews, pens a fantasy short story called "Too Good to Be." There are also letters, fanzine notices, and another comic, part three of Ian Williamson's "The Sword of Alabron."
Issue #3 is a decent one, though it's clear that Imagine is still finding its feet. I continue to like its references to the hobby side of roleplaying and wish that many of its articles were longer. I've also noticed that there seem to be a great many more advertisements per issue than in Dragon, though it's possible that this is simply because ad space was cheaper. Regardless, I increasingly find myself regretting that I never knew about Imagine back in the day. So far it impresses me and it gives me a different window on what gaming on the other side of the Atlantic was like back in the early '80s.