Thursday, November 29, 2012

Imagine Magazine: Issue #5

Issue #5 of Imagine appeared in August 1983 and features a rather striking cover by Tony O'Donnell. In general, I've found the covers of Imagine much more compelling to me than those of Dragon. They're quirkier and more diverse, which appeals to me these days, though I don't doubt that, as a younger person, I probably wouldn't have appreciated them to the same degree. The issue kicks off with an editorial by Kim Daniel on the perennial favorite of "women in gaming." I reproduce the bulk of Daniel's words here:
A woman coming fresh into this hobby feels somewhat excluded. Women are provided for in TSR's game rules (the USA being more sex-egalitarian than the UK), but the language belies the truth -- look at 'Dungeon/Games Master', and all the him- and his-ing that goes on in articles we receive. Mere convention of speech, you may say -- but if that's true then why are articles about nurses, secretaries, and teachers full of she and her? No doubt about it, your average gamer is expected to be male. And it's clear that most gamers are: attend any convention, visit any club or hobby shop, and most of those present will be male.

But why should this be? Perhaps it stems from the roots in wargames. War is traditionally a man's game, so it follows that the simulation of war is, too. There's a theory in sociological circles that war only becomes acceptable while the women remain at home to be 'defended' ... However, if wargamers are mostly pacific people, as Don Turnbull asserted last month, such considerations should not be prohibitive of women. And if, as common mythology has it, women are artful and cunning dissemblers, then surely we should be good tacticians and role-players?

Eureka! I get it -- women must be excluded from gaming because otherwise we might beat men at that game too. It's obvious!
I'm not foolish enough to offer any commentary on Daniel's editorial. I'll only say that, nearly-thirty years later, these same concerns persist and "women in gaming" remains a topic about which many feel strongly.

Jim Bambra and Paul Ruiz provide further installments of "The Beginner's Guide to Role Playing Games," which discusses how spells work in D&D, while "The Adventures of Nic Novice" touches on other game systems, in this case Traveller. Roger Musson continues to talk about adventures in his "Stirge Corner" column. This time he addresses the differences between an "adventure dungeon" and a "main dungeon." Though the terms he uses are different, the difference Musson is recognizing is the difference between a "lair" and a "campaign" (or mega) dungeon many in the OSR have also noted. Unlike the OSR, Musson tends to denigrate the "main" dungeon, saying that encourages "dungeon bashing" and "it resembles nothing in life, history and literature. It is certainly not role playing at its best."Here is, I think, a clear example of the shift in tastes that characterizes the transition between the Gold and Silver Ages of D&D.

"In a Class of Their Own" by Chris Black looks at the historical origins of the druid and attempts to apply that knowledge to the AD&D character class. The issue also reprints a number of new druid spells by Gary Gygax, spells which had previously appeared in Dragon and would later appear in Unearthed Arcana. Peter Tamlyn's "Tavern Talk" continues to keep readers abreast of local cons and game clubs. Doug Cowie and several others review recent game releases, including the modules Dungeonland and Master of Desert Nomads, both of which are treated favorably. Graeme Davis pens a Celtic-themed AD&D scenario called "The Taking of Siandabhair," which largely takes place on a remote island.

"Dispel Confusion" continues to provide answers to game rules questions, once again focusing on AD&D, Star Frontiers, and DragonQuest. Don Turnbull's "Turnbull Talking" briefly talks about the history of wargames and how D&D grew out of that environment. The only really noteworthy thing about the piece is that Turnbull wrote it at all. By 1983, my own experience was that wargames were increasingly uncommon in the games shops I frequented and were seen more and more as a separate hobby from roleplaying. But then perhaps that's the reason Turnbull felt it necessary to talk about that history.

The comic "Rubic of Moggedon" continues. Mike Costello offers up "The Imagination Machine," where he talks about computers. Dave Pringle tackles several book reviews. Carole Morris's "Lay, Lore, and Legend" is a treatment of Celtic mythology for roleplaying purposes, which seems to be something of a theme in issue #5. There are more letters, con and club announcements, and ads aplenty, along with another episode of Ian Williamson's "The Sword of Alabron" comic.

Issue #5 is solid, especially in the way that it further helps to establish Imagine's unique voice, compared to Dragon or even White Dwarf. I can definitely understand why TSR would grow increasingly worried about that voice, since it's not merely different from that in TSR's other publications but also a bit too "independent." In time, as I understand it, that independence would lead to clashes between the two branches of the company and would ultimately lead to the demise of Imagine. But that's still far in the future at this point.

Comments on this post can be made here.