Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #10

You can't hit the ball out of the park every time. Issue #10 of TSR UK's gaming magazine, Imagine, published in January 1984 is something of a let-down in my opinion. That's perhaps an unfair judgment, colored more by the quality of some of its predecessors than any lack of the same in this issue. Still, I can't deny that this issue, despite its colorful cover by Bob Lazell, held my attention far less than did previous ones.

Jim Bambra and Paul Ruiz offer up yet another installment in "The Adventures of Nic the Novice," this time focusing on combat. I know I write this in every post about Imagine, but this series simultaneously baffles and intrigues me. Who was the target audience of this series? Would a complete neophyte unfamiliar with RPGs actually pick up a copy looking for guidance about this strange new hobby? If so, I suspect these articles might have some value, though I am certain that, had I been a regular reader at the time of their publication, I would probably have been annoyed by two pages being "wasted" on introductory material of this sort. On the other hand, this month's chapter does include the following piece of artwork by Ruiz.

Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" tackles the question of stocking a dungeon, with an eye toward balance. He takes some exception to the randomness of OD&D's dungeon stocking tables, particularly with regard to the prevalence of empty rooms. His larger concern is ensuring that each dungeon level has the right mix of risk, reward, and general interest. In this, he praises AD&D's approach over OD&D's, though not without some qualification. It's actually an interesting little article, mostly full of good sense and practical advice.

"Phantasmal Forces" is also interesting. Author Chris Felton argues that the 3rd-level magic-user spell phantasmal force is vaguely described and thus open to abuse. The two-page article goes on to offer concrete advice and examples of how to adjudicate its use in a game. I appreciate practical articles like this, though I can't deny that they tend to be hit or miss in their appeal. As someone who regularly struggles with how best to handle illusion spells in his games, I welcomed this article.

We get another contest puzzle with "The Philosopher's Stone," as well as fiction in the form of Hilary Robinson's "Starwing and Enler." "Illuminations" touts the latest releases for RPGs, while the comics "Rubic of Moggedon" and "The Sword of Alabron" trundle on. I feel bad taking so little interest in either of them, but neither has ever piqued my interest the way that "The Travellers" or "Wormy" ever did. Perhaps I am overlooking lost masterpieces of the hobby.

"Thunder Crag" is a mini-module for AD&D that's notable mostly for its amusing artwork, which reminded me of the illustrations you'd see in the pages of Oubliette. Colin Greenland's film reviews are an odd collection, consisting of Twilight Zone: The Movie, Xtro, and, if you can believe it, Woody Allen's Zelig. More engaging is Matthew Birkle's article providing rules for introducing snooker into AD&D. It's both a joking rejoinder to similar articles about chess in the pages of Dragon (such as issue #70) and completely serious. This is the sort of thing that British games magazines did so well. The issue rounds out with reviews of Chaosium's Scorpion Hall solo, Games Workshop's Battlecars, Steve Jackson's Sorcery! books (which I should write about some day), GDW's Blue Max, AD&D miniatures, and The Cleansing War of Garik Blackhand.

There's frankly nothing wrong with this issue; it's fine. With a couple of exceptions, I found it mostly filler. I hope future issues will be a return to form for Imagine.

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