Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ares Magazine: Issue #7

Issue #7 (March 1981) of Ares features a cover by John W. Pierard, depicting a scene from Rescue from the Hive, the integral game included in this issue. Pierard created art for a number of sci-fi magazines, including Asimov's, so he's in keeping with the trend in Ares to employ non-gaming artists to do the magazine's covers. I don't know if that says anything about Ares or SPI, but it certainly lends a very different esthetic quality to the magazine, especially when compared to the Dragon issues I remember reading as a kid.

Speaking of art, issue #7 marked the debut of a "Gallery" feature in which a science fiction or fantasy artist shows off a single piece of text-free color artwork. The idea behind the new feature was that it simultaneously provided an illustration to inspire gamers and served as an advertisement for up and coming artists. In this issue, the artist in question is Tom Kidd, whose name is unknown to me in any other context.

Issue #7 also saw an increase in coverage of DragonQuest. In addition to David Ritchie's "DragonNotes" column (which answered rules questions and provided errata), he, along with Redmond Simonsen, provide a complete adventure, entitled "The Housse of Kurin." The adventure is described as a "capsule adventure," meaning its fairly short and limited in scope. Its focus is on an attempt to rescue some prisoners from the stronghold of a bandit named Kurin, making it very combat-heavy. Still, its maps are terrific (like all DQ maps in my experience) and there was clearly a lot of thought put into the tactics of the bandits and their allies, which would probably make it exciting to play (assuming, unlike me, you could actually your head around DragonQuest combat).

There's more "Facts for Fantasy" and "Science for Science Fiction." I appreciate the intention behind these regular features, but, for the most part, I don't find them especially inspiring. As mentioned earlier, this issue's wargame is Rescue from the Hive by Nick Karp and Redmond Simonsen (seriously, did this man do everything related to Ares?). The game focuses on an attempt to free two Terran hostages being held by a radical faction of the insectoid Znon race. The most intriguing aspect of the game is that Znon queens are telepathic and control their minions remotely, which gives them certain options and advantages in play. In addition, the queens can attempt to mind control Terran rescue units, throwing the Terran player's plans into chaos. Also, Znon units are placed on the map face down to simulate the fact that, initially, the Terrans have no idea what they'll be facing or where. Henrik Nordlie provides some fiction to accompany the game.

John Butterfield has a short article providing some designer's notes to the upcoming RPG, Universe. Meanwhile, Eric Goldberg offers two positive reviews(!) of Japanese themed RPGs, Bushido and Land of the Rising Sun. Naturally, there's a negative review, too, this time of a game I've never heard of before -- The Complete Fantasist. Goldberg writes:
Every once in a while a reviewer will come across a product so truly awful that he has no qualms about savaging it in print. It is an even rarer occasion when he will reconsider a stinging attack, because he is afraid people will think less of him for admitting that he read and/or played the product in full. I resolved for the New Year to be courageous and tell of my suffering through The Complete Fantasist, in hopes that unsuspecting gamers would not accidentally subject themselves to such inhumane treatment of their sensibilities.  
Never having read The Complete Fantasist, I can't say whether Goldberg's introduction above is warranted, but it's amusing to read nonetheless. 


  1. IIRC, The Complete Fantasist wasn't a game unto itself, but a bunch of tables to convert stats and mechanics from one game to another (D&D to Runequest to T&T, etc.).

  2. That's correct. The Compleat Fantasist was written by "fantasy role playing veteran Mark Wagner." It gives guidlines for converting AD&D, RQ, T&T, and Arduin Grimoire character stats and abilities between systems.

    Magic ("a highly contraversial (sp) area included in all FRP systems") is not covered in this volume. Neither is psionics. These were planned for a later volume, along with stats for Chivalry & Sorcery and Empire of the Petal Throne.

  3. Yep, TCF was a book to allow conversion of characters to various FRPGs of the time. I owned it, but don't recall ever using it, as I was always the DM in my groups.

  4. House of Kurin was one of the first DQ/Ares adventures that I adapted into my Rolemaster campaign of the late 80s. Kurin ended up being the father of one of the PCs (a half-elf) and Black Rupert the real villain of the piece (he turned out to be a Spider Cultist - a sort of Lloth/Ungoliant hybrid cult). The Inn still stands on a caravan route to this day. :)

  5. Tom (or Thomas) Kidd is a painter who has done a lot of fantasy and science fiction book covers, among them "The Waterborne" and sequels by J. Gregory Keyes. He's won the World Fantasy Award and the Chesley Award (7 times). If I were to compare him to other artists, I might describe him as a cross between James Gurney (of Dinotopia fame) and Vincent di Fate.
    He also does artwork under the name Gnemo, often featuring airships and intricate city-scapes.
    His work is fantastic in both the beyond-the-fields-we-know sense and the incredibly-good sense.

  6. I think I remember reading about this.Was it the one that treated T&T's Luck as equivalent to D&D's Wisdom, apparently just because they were the 'spare' attributes?

  7. "...seriously, did this man do everything related to Ares?"

    Substitute SPI for Ares and your assertion is probably correct.