Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #11

Once again, Imagine has a very striking cover, this time  by artist Peter Knifton. Also of interest is that issue #11 (February 1984) features the banner "For players of Dungeons & Dragons," which had not been there previously. Previous issues had had occasional articles about other RPGs, but it was still predominantly focused on D&D. I suspect that the addition of this banner was by order of TSR in the USA, based on a news item mentioned later in the issue, which mentions a visit to the TSR UK offices by Gary Gygax and the Blume brothers, Kevin and Brian. I would be quite surprised if there were not a connection, but I am deeply cynical.

"The Adventures of Nic Novice" by Jim Bambra and Paul Ruiz continue, this time focusing on interacting with intelligent monsters in a non-violent fashion. The player characters encounter a kobold prisoner of some orcs they just slew. The kobold offers to help the PCs if they will free him, but Norva Ironarms – Nic's character – wonders whether the creature is leading the party into a trap. This is actually a useful little article, not just in presenting the pros and cons of parleying with monsters, but also for the way it sheds light on how to differentiate characters of the same class through roleplaying. For perhaps the first time, I see some value in this feature (though, as I've repeatedly said, it's not intended for old hands of the game).

Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" tackles the vexing issue of D&D's weights and measures, including units of time. He's right to do so, I think, because D&D has always been a welter of systems and units, often to the point of confusion. "The Cavalier" by Gary Gygax is a reprint of the article that originally appeared in Dragon #72 (April 1983), as is "Social Status and Birth Tables," also by Gygax but from issue #70 (February 1983). These were articles I really enjoyed at the table, but, in retrospect, I have far less positive feelings about them (that's probably a topic for another time). Complementing these Gygaxian contributions are a pair of articles: "Horse Combat" by Chris Felton and "Orders of the Day" by Carole Felton. The first rules for using lances from horseback, while the second discusses a pair of historical chivalric orders. "Black Roses" is a mini-adventure written with cavaliers in mind; it involves the defense of the town of Braeme against invasion.

"In the Time of Meltingice" is a forgettable piece of fiction by Andrew Darlington. "The Private Lives of NPCs" is more interesting, as it offers a series of questions a referee should ask about his NPCs in order to make them more interesting – and fun – to play. We also get new episodes of the comics "Rubic of Moggedon" and "The Sword of Alabron." The "Illuminations" columns offers up gaming news, as well as sarcasm, this time directed at Avalon Hill's soon-to-be-released Powers & Perils. "The Imagination Machine" talks more about the possibility of the then-nascent technology of personal computing, which is of historical interest but little else.

This month's reviews take on the Traveller adventure Nomads of the World Ocean – a favorite of mine – along with Talisman, James Bond 007, and Lost Worlds. Re-reading these reviews, I was reminded that, even ten years after the appearance of D&D, there's still a great deal of vibrancy in the broader hobby. That's why it's intriguing that it's precisely at this time that Imagine decided to rebrand itself as being a Dungeons & Dragons magazine rather than a general RPG periodical. I will be very curious to see what future issues have to offer.

1 comment:

  1. Avalon Hill (particularly Powers & Perils and Lords of Creation) took quite a bit of not-entierly-warranted abuse in magazine reviews back in the day. I'll always remember Fantasy Gamer #6, whose cover featured a "The Giant Jumps In" (to RPGs, in this case) announcement and savage reviews of both of AH's new games. The cover was a Kovalic (I think) piece with a tubby giant wearing an inner tube marked AH leaping into a pond with a "Fantasy Gaming" sign while carrying a cinderblock on a rope. It was petty and mean then, and its petty and mean now.