Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #13

Issue #13 of Imagine appeared in April 1984, with an unusual cover by Terry Oakes. Oakes is perhaps best known for his Fighting Fantasy work, including the covers of several gamebooks. 

The issue begins with a three-page article by Steve Norledge entitled "Put a Little Terror into Your Life." It's an overview of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game for those unfamiliar with both it and its source material. Paul Cockburn follows it up with a short biography of Howard Philips Lovecraft who, believe it or not, wasn't as widely known in 1984 as he is today. Brian Lumley, who found fame with his Necroscope series in the 1980s, wrote a number (in my opinion) awful Lovecraftian pastiches in the '70s. Issue #13 reprints one of his stories, "The Mirror of Nitocris," which is thankfully short. Rounding out the Lovecraftian coverage is a Call of Cthulhu mini-adventure by Simon Redgrave called "Darklaw." 

The "Illuminations" column announces TSR's plans to revise the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons "perhaps as late as 1987." These plans do not involve a Players Handbook II or a Dungeon Masters Guide II but rather a new, expanded PHB with new classes "like the savant and jester [that] will appear in Dragon and Imagine." Would that that were so! Also included in this issue is an article by Gary Gygax and Len Lakofka new attack, saving throw, and experience tables for use with AD&D. These are reprints from issue #80 (December 1983) of Dragon magazine.

"The Imagination Machine" continues reviewing "micro-computer" games, in addition to discussing the improvements in technology at the time. In 1984, these improvements consisted of affordable 16-bit computers! The "Philosopher's Stone" contests continue as well. Whenever I read over these sections, I am reminded of Pacesetter's Sandman: Map of Halaal and Grenadier's "Wizard's Gold" competitions from around the same time. Chris Felton has penned an AD&D adventure called "Solstice at Castle Falkens." Game reviews focus on new materials for Gamma World, Top Secret, and Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes (a game I have still have yet to read, let alone play – I must rectify this).

"The Adventures of Nic Novice" by Jim Bambra and Paul Ruiz deals with the process of finding and dividing up treasure. Dave Pringle's book reviews tackle a number of contemporary releases, the most notable of which is Anne McCaffrey's Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern. We also get new episodes of the comic "Rubic of Moggedon" and "The Sword of Alabron." I wish I were more interested in these, but both comics has failed to grab me and I find myself skimming them. No doubt I am missing out due to my laziness.

Issue #13 is tightly focused on Lovecraft and Call of Cthulhu. When I was a reader of Dragon and White Dwarf, I often disliked such "theme issues" when they covered subjects that mattered little to me. Being a fan of HPL and CoC, I enjoyed this issue, but I wonder what readers at the time thought. Regardless, the evolution of Imagine advances; where it will lead next I do not know.

7 comments:

  1. Calling Lumley's work a "pastiche" of Lovecraft is being generous IMO. The Mythos is barely recognizable under his pen, and he certainly didn't grasp what cosmic horror was. His Necroscope stuff is marginally better (or at least more original) and actually managed to get its own RPG from West End.

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  2. Anyone saying that 16-bit computers weren't affordable until 1984 didn't have a TI-99/4A (and the best home port of Donkey Kong you could get anywhere in the early 80s)!

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    1. FWIW, Imagine is operating in a British context. I believe the figure cited in the article is £650, which a quick check reveals to be about $2600 US at the time. Whether that's affordable or not, I guess, depends on one's circumstances.

      How much did the TI-99 cost?

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  3. White Dwarf and Imagine managed to print Call of Cthulhu scenarios within a month of each other. 'Darklaw' is little remembered though, whilst 'The Watchers of Walberwick' in White Dwarf 50 the month before is only slightly more memorable. Probably because it was set in the UK.

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    1. I remember lots of CoC scenarios from White Dwarf. There were some really excellent ones, including an adventure set in the future on another planet. I wish I could remember the name.

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    2. Scenarios like ‘Draw the Blinds on Yesterday’ and ‘Curse of the Bone’, both by Marcus L. Rowland, are classics and fondly remembered. The scenario you are thinking of is ‘The Last Log’, from White Dwarf #56.

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    3. Marcus Rowland is a treasure -- an underrated RPG writer who deserves more praise.

      And, yes, that's the one! "The Last Log" really inspired me back in the day. I later adapted it for a Traveller: 2300 game I ran in college.

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