Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Imagine Magazine: Issue #6

Issue #6 of Imagine dates from September 1983 and features cover art by Emmanuel, who's probably best known in D&D circles for having provided the cover to the Fiend Folio, though he also did a lot of covers for White Dwarf as well. The issue kicks off with Jim Bambra and Paul Ruiz's "The Beginners' Guide to Role Playing Games" and "The Adventures of Nic Novice." The former briefly discusses "thieving skills." For old schoolers, it's interesting to see how the authors approach both the thief class and its abilities (Spoiler: thieves aren't ninjas). The latter discusses how to roll up characters in games other than D&D, with both Boot Hill and Bushido being featured as examples.

Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" focuses on how to keep your character alive, with the author providing five "morals" to aid inexperienced players in this endeavor. His morals are:
  1. Don't split the party.
  2. Don't go deeper than you can handle.
  3. Plan beforehand.
  4. If the party becomes seriously depleted in strength, exit fast.
  5. Don't get into unnecessary fights.
These are all good bits of advice if you're playing in an old school dungeon crawl campaign. I find it gratifying that advice of this sort was still being given out in late 1983, especially given Musson's earlier disdain of "dungeon bashing." Also included in this issue is a reprint of Gary Gygax's preview of the thief-acrobat class, which had previously appeared in Dragon. I've never been a huge fan of the concept or the execution of this "split class" and seeing it again didn't change my mind on the topic. Ian Watson provides a surprisingly good science fiction short story called "Dome of Whispers," which ends with the following rather evocative paragraphs:
Which is why the planet Suf is known as the Whispering World, or the Ghost World nowadays; and why the brown people with flashing teeth wear plugs of wax in their ears and converse in sign language, and why tourists pay visits to Suf, to be haunted. Generally the constant haunting is too much for the curious tourists, so that after the first five or six hours they will seek refuge in the inappropriately-named Dome of Whispers, where alone in all the world there is utter silence.

That silence has its guardians, who will not as a rule let visitors so much as whisper anywhere inside their fractured holy place. Though sometimes, for a truly golden consideration, they will allow a person to shout aloud and hear his or her own voice vanish without even an echo.

Nowadays there are a hundred guardians. People are eager to escape all the whispers in the world.
 I know the feeling.

Graeme Morris provides "Jack of All Trades," which is an adventure dual-statted for D&D and DragonQuest. I know lots of people hold a grudge against TSR for the way it handled SPI and its properties and I'm sympathetic to that. At the same time, I grow ever more convinced that TSR was simply incompetent when it came to business matters and only the phenomenal success of D&D kept the company afloat as long as it did. A good case in point is that much of TSR's "support" of DQ was in the form of dual-statted D&D adventures like this one, which suggests they simply didn't understand the properties they had acquired or had any idea what to do with them. The adventure itself is noteworthy, being a fairly generic one about a raid on a bandit leader's headquarters, but it does include a bit of artwork that looks to me like someone having a bit of fun at Gary Gygax's expense:
Or maybe I'm just seeing things.

"Dispel Confusion" focuses solely on AD&D questions this month. "Turnbull Talking" takes up several topics, but most interestingly replies to the editorial in issue #5 of Imagine regarding gender parity in the hobby. Turnbull states his own opinion:
Simply, I believe that fewer females play games than males. Full stop. This has nothing to do with sex-typing, the liberation of the female, or male porcine chauvinism. It's just a fact so far as my own observation goes. Similarly, I guess that male drivers and female primary school teachers are in the respective majority.
Regardless of what one thinks of Turnbull's claim, it's interesting to see some disagreement within the pages of Imagine among its editorial staff. That's not something I remember ever seeing in the pages of Dragon, which presented a much more "unified" front on such matters. Personally, I like reasoned disagreement within an organization, since it suggests openness to persuasion, but that's neither here nor there.

We get more "Rubic of Moggedon" comics, movie reviews by Colin Greenland (including Return of the Jedi, which he liked with some qualifications), and a new feature called "Chain Mail," dedicated to "the postal gaming hobby." As I've said many times elsewhere, I never played a game by mail back in the day, but I was always intrigued by the concept of it. I'd have thought that, by nearly 1984, PBM gaming would have been on the wane. Shows what I know! There continues to be lots of coverage of local cons, fanzines, and other happenings, which is very fascinating. Peter Tamlyn's "Tavern Talk" is a big part of this. In issue #6, he takes on the question of whether or not TSR is developing a bad reputation because of its heavy-handed ways by referencing a column by John Harrington in a Tunnels & Trolls fanzine called Take That, You Fiend. Tamlyn jokingly responds, "What do you expect from someone who plays Tunnels & Trolls?" before admitting that Harrington has a point and that "TSR's marketing department could do with the feedback."

Geof Hogan and Cathy Pash provide new cards for "European Illuminati," which is good fun, especially if you're at all familiar with UK politics at the time. There are reviews of Thieves' World and SoloQuest (both broadly positive), as well as spotlights on new miniatures. The issue ends with another installment of the comic "The Sword of Alabron."

With issue #6, Imagine continues to find its footing and evolve. I notice a lot more advertisements in this issue than previous ones (or so it seemed anyway), which makes me wonder about the financial realities of publishing a games magazine at the time. On the other hand, I very much like the fact that Imagine has its own voice -- or, rather, voices -- that helps to distinguish it not only from Dragon but even from other UK publications. I'm really enjoying reading these issues and look forward to seeing what the future brings.

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