Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #16

Issue #16 of Imagine (July 1984) represents, I think, a turning point in the history of the magazine. Starting with this issue, the magazine has expanded its page count to 56 (from 48), which is a not insignificant increase. More interesting – to me anyway – is that this issue also sees the first installment of the Imagine magazine campaign world, Pelinore. Pelinore is quite highly regarded (and justifiably so) by those who know it, but, given its limited availability, there are many roleplayers who know nothing about it. Before we get to that, though, let's look at the other contents of issue #16.

This issue's cover is by Tony Roberts and nicely prepares the reader for some of its contents. There is, for example, an article by Rod Stevenson entitled "The Magic of Ancient Egypt," which briefly discusses the real world beliefs of the ancient Egyptians about magic. It's not a game article per se, as there are no stats for any game, but it focuses on several inspirational aspects of Egyptian belief, like magical stones, amulets, and names. "The Mythology of Ancient Egypt" by Graeme Davis is similar in that it's entirely "non-fiction." Davis follows this up with a Deities & Demigods-style write-up of the Egyptian deity Sobek, which is paired, oddly, with a similar description of the Persian deity Mitra by Graham R. Drysdale. Finally, Davis presents "Sethotep," a low-level Egyptian-themed adventure scenario for D&D, AD&D, and DragonQuest. Among other things, the adventure has a terrific map of an Egyptian temple that I might just steal for use elsewhere (such as my House of Worms campaign). 

Outside of the many Egyptian-themed articles, there are quite a number of other intriguing ones. First up is Chris Felton's "There and Back Again," which is not about hobbits but "alternative ways of travelling," more specifically riding animals other than horses. Needless to say, I heartily approve. Richard W. Lee's "Goroghwen" is quite unusual. It's a three-page description of a new monster that has very few actual game mechanics but lots of advice for using it successfully (a bit like Arnold Kemp's false hydra). In this case, the Goroghwen is a fear parasite that uses illusion to intensify those feelings in its potential prey. It's definitely a clever idea well presented but it's hard to say if it plays as well as it reads. 

"The Priests of Aphor" by Robert P. Scott is a piece of short fiction about the servant of a sultan seeking out the source of forged coins. The "Philosopher's Stone" competitions continue, with the answers to last issue's puzzle and a new one to ponder. Game reviews consist predominately of TSR products, along with battlemats, clear hex overlays, and related miniatures paraphernalia. "Illuminations" is very notable because it references a game that never came out and that, so far as I can recall, I never heard of: Liege Lord, a fantasy RPG by GDW. I shall have to turn to my usual sources on these matters to learn more. 

This issue, Rubic of Moggedon is replaced with another comic by the same author called "Interlude," which I found no more compelling. There's also another installment of "The Sword of Alabron." Brian Creese's "Chainmail" column reviews several play-by-mail games, none of which are familiar to me. Colin Greenland's "Fantasy Media" looks at the latest books and movies, which are similarly forgettable. Pete Tamlyn, meanwhile, reviews Seacon, which occurred in Brighton during the month of April 1984. This brings us to Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" and the issue of measurements in D&D, specifically how they relate to the use of figures, counters, and different kinds of grids. Derrick C. Norton has some interesting things to say about welcoming newcomers to the hobby in "Getting Started." 

This brings us to Pelinore, which introduces the basic concept of this fantasy setting. Pelinore is a flat world at whose center lies the Worldheart – whatever that is, since it's made clear that there are a lot of opinions on the matter and little hard evidence. Its lands consist of the Theocratic Principalities, the Splintered Lands, the Tradecities of Xir, and the fallen kingdom of Varit, among others. Little else is said about the setting other than its central design feature is that it's intended to be open-ended and flexible with just enough detail to inspire but not too much to bog down the referee. A sample organization, the Order of Heralds, is briefly described, as is the City League. There's a promise of more articles in every subsequent issue, along a general call for submissions to develop the setting. As of this issue, there's not much to work with, but I look forward to seeing where these articles go.

As I'd hoped for some time, issue #16 presents an Imagine that's found its footing and knows what it's about. The magazine now has a clearer editorial voice and the quality of its articles is quite high. I'm quite excited to see what the next issue holds; I think it's going to be a good one.

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