Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Imagine Magazine: Issue #26

Alan Craddock provides the cover to issue #26 of Imagine (May 1985), which also very prominently features a starburst proclaiming that the magazine is "For players of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game." A banner at the bottom left also proclaims that the issue will include "(almost) live" coverage of Gamesfair '85. From a purely historical point of view, the three-page article devoted to that game convention is by far the most interesting one in the whole issue, if for no other reason than its being a window on the hobby of yesteryear. For that reason, I'm going to save my comments on it till the end of this post. 

"The Adventurers' Guild" by Chris Felton takes the form of a faux lecture delivered by a veteran adventurer to his colleagues about novel uses for magic spells. For example, by casting continual light on marbles, one can determine the depth of a shaft or the contents of an alcove. Likewise, one could cast wall of iron above a target, which then drops on his head. As articles go, it's fine but nothing I haven't seen before in other similar articles. Roger Musson's "Monstermark Revisited" is a revision of the author's famous system for measuring the lethality of a monster that appeared in the pages of White Dwarf. Again, it's fine for what it is, but I've never had any need for such a system (though I understand the Monstermark was well regarded in its day). 

This month's Pelinore material consists of descriptions of the setting's gods and the village of Tellhalter, neither of which grabbed me the way previous entries in this series have – perhaps I'm becoming jaded. "Fellow Travellers" by Paul Vernon treats what it calls "wayfarers" one might encounter on the road for use as random encounters in D&D or AD&D. Wayfarers are divided into groups, such as commoners, dignitaries, or officials and then further sub-divides them, offering descriptions, game stats, and ideas on how to use them in a game. It's a clever little article with genuine utility, which is just what I like to see. "The Great Paladin Hunt" by Mike Brunton is an AD&D adventure, in which the characters are all paladins who have escaped from the clutches of a band of gnolls who were preparing to eat them as part of a celebration. The scenario is basically a wilderness hexcrawl, with multiple keyed encounters, as the paladins attempt to flee to safety while the gnolls pursue them. As a tournament adventure for Gamesfair, it seems like it'd be fun to play.

"Mindmeld" is "a game of psionic warfare" for two players (though suitable for solitaire play), written by Alan E. Paull. Since I didn't have the chance to play it myself in preparation for this post, I unfortunately can't speak to its quality. "Rock Touch" by Sharon Clark is a short story about a geologist and her assistant who encounter something strange while on a survey. This issue's reviews focus on Dragonlance (both its modules and first novel), all of which are reviewed with charity though without much love, if that makes sense. The reviewers are certainly fairer to the series than I have been in the past. Meanwhile, Colin Greenland's "Fantasy Media" takes on Ladyhawke and Brazil (among other things), both of which he liked a great deal. In "Stirge Corner," Roger Musson continues to talk about the uses of fantasy maps and tackles the issue of whether they ought to "make geological sense" or whether it's more important they serve the ends of the referee's campaign – as always, thought provoking stuff. There are comics too, but …

Which brings us to the coverage of Gamesfair, complete with photos. Here's an example of one that, though taken in another country, nevertheless reminds me of my own early experiences of game conventions.

These young lads could have been my friends and I around the same time, a thought that fills me with equal parts wistfulness and embarrassment.

The coverage also provides details of a seminar  to be led by Gary Gygax, described as "the highlight of the weekend." However, Gary was not able to make the event and TSR UK head, Don Turnbull, took his place. Despite this disappointment, Turnbull offered up a number of interesting tidbits and controversial statements, some of which really struck me. First, he mentions that the long-awaited module T2 was nearly complete but had been so greatly expanded that it would probably be released as a hardback book. Turnbull also stated that the D&D toys "have nothing to do with our hobby" and had "harsh words … about some other recent trends in the industry." Sounds like a man after my own heart! The article also notes that the crowd "were concerned about the Dragonlance modules and the direction that modules seem to be taking." Sadly, there was no elaboration of what this direction was, but it definitely piqued my interest, given my own well-known feelings about Dragonlance and its baleful influence on Dungeons & Dragons.

In sum, issue #26 was a fairly middling one, with only the coverage of Gamesfair being a stand out for me personally and, even then, primarily for the nostalgia factor of peering into the world of nerdery circa 1985. Those were the days!

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