Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #7

Issue #7 of Imagine appeared in October 1983 and its cover proclaims that it is "A DRAGONQUEST game special edition." That alone is quite intriguing to me, since DragonQuest is a game for which I still have a strange attraction, even though I never really got the chance to play back in the day. Furthermore, it's rare to see a gaming magazine outside of SPI's own Ares devote much space to supporting it. Of course, not long before this issue was published TSR had picked up DragonQuest, along with all of SPI's intellectual property, through a self-serving financial arrangement that ultimately resulted in SPI's shutting down for good. This issue was likely an effort – I believe there was a similar one in the pages of Dragon – to drum up support for TSR's latest RPG acquisition.

We'll get to the DQ content shortly. First, there's another installment of Jim Bambra's "The Beginners' Guide to Roleplaying Games," accompanied, as were previous ones, by a comic, "The Adventures of Nic the Novice," drawn by Geoff Wingate, under the pen name of Paul Ruiz. This issue's chapter shows what it's like to assume a role in a game. Looking back on this from the hindsight of 2020, when the idea of RPGs is so well established, it's difficult to understand why an article like this was necessary. Yet, it clearly was and it's an important reminder of just how strange and indeed revolutionary this hobby was even in the early 1980s.

Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" also returns. This time, he discusses the importance of planning to the success of a D&D adventure. It's a fascinating little piece, because so much of Musson's advice seems rooted in an understanding of D&D where dungeon exploration is a foundational activity. For example, his advice concerns matters such as healing, avoiding combats, and treasure seeking, among others. Nearly a decade after the release of Dungeons & Dragons, these were still important considerations to players of the game.

"The Quest for the Perfect Game" is a lengthy, four-page article by Robert Kern, discussing the strengths of the DragonQuest game, both in general terms and in comparison to D&D. Now, it's worth noting that Kern wrote an introductory adventure for DQ, which was included in the second edition of the game. Nevertheless, he states early on that he "was asked to write an article introducing the DRAGONQUEST game to people perhaps more familiar with the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game." Asked by whom he does not say, but, as I noted above, my guess is that it was TSR who did so in order to promote their newly acquired RPG. Kern provides some support for this interpretation at the end of his article when he says:
The good news is that TSR now own the DRAGONQUEST game so that it no longer directly competes with the D&D game in the marketplace, and therefore can be given the full marketing and creative force that TSR can muster. 

Sadly, that never happened and DragonQuest effectively died after TSR took over its publication. Even so, this issue offers a mini-adventure by Michael Brunton for DQ that, unlike the one that appeared in issue #6, is not dual-statted for AD&D.

"The Philosopher's Stone" is an ongoing competition, with a monetary prize of £40 to whoever can correctly answer six questions based on a two-page illustration filled with strange symbols and imagery. "Illuminations" provides news from around the world regarding to the latest happenings in roleplaying games, especially releases. Graeme Davis offers a short story, while Don Turnbull talks about trademarks. The "Dispel Confusion" column answers reader questions about D&D, AD&D, and RuneQuest. There's another entry in the comic saga of "Rubic of Moggedon and "The Imagination Machine" discusses the possibilities to be achieved with more advanced home computers (such as those with 256K of RAM!). 

As with previous issues, there's a page devoted to the latest fanzine releases. I continue to find this remarkable, particularly now that I have produced fanzines of my own. I don't believe Dragon ever took note of these kinds of grassroots publications and it suggests a significant way that the hobby in the UK might have been different than in North America. This issue also includes reviews of Frank Mentzer's D&D Basic Rules, Dave Trampier's Titan, and the second edition of Gamma World. Peter Tamlyn criticizes "rule playing" in a two-page piece that reminds me very much of discussions found in numerous periodicals around the same time. This is another fascinating snapshot of where the hobby was in the early 1980s.

I never read Imagine at the time of its release, White Dwarf being my main window on what was happening in gaming on the other side of the Atlantic. Consequently, reading through these issues continues to be educational, filling in gaps in my knowledge and providing insights I otherwise would not have had.


  1. Hi James,

    Welcome back! It's a real pleasure to read Grognardia again. I've been enjoying these recent articles very much.

    To answer a question you asked above, Dragon magazine did occasionally mention fanzines, but not often. The first time I can see is in issue #22, where Gygax reviews two fanzines called "Apprentice" and "Phoenix." He is quite harsh with them!

    M.T. Black

  2. Imagine Magazine wasn't even on my radar until a decade or so ago. I too am rediscovering it.