Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #12

It's true that, over the course of its run, Dragon magazine had a lot of exceptional covers, many of which I continue to hold in high regard. Nevertheless, I have to say that, especially when you consider its relatively brief existence. Imagine punched well above its weight. A case in point being the cover to issue #12 (March 1984) by Rodney Matthews. I love everything about this illustration, from the lighting and color palette to the expressions on the two figures' faces to the small but fierce dragon. It's a great piece that would have made a fine alternate cover to a Basic Set

The issue kicks off with "At the Mountains of the North Wind" by Gordon Barbour, which discusses the importance of weather, terrain, and climate in fantasy roleplaying games. It's a solid enough overview of a Silver Age staple, though not as extensive as other examples of the genre. Roger Musson's latest "Stirge Corner" examines the role of alignment in determining how to roleplay a character. It's fine but nothing special, though, as is so often the case with Imagine, I get the sense it was aiming at a much less experienced audience than is typical for gaming magazines.

David Langford, whom I remember from the pages of White Dwarf, provides a humorous science tale entitled "Lost Event Horizon." Meanwhile, Philip Briggs has designed a two-player boardgame called "Moranme Jobswurf," intended to simulate backstabbing interdepartmental rivalries. Not having played it, I cannot comment on much on the game itself, except to say that, although I recognize the dialectical spelling of "jobsworth," the meaning of "moranme" is lost on me. Included is a paper board and some playing pieces with very idiosyncratic portraits on them that I rather suspect depict employees of TSR UK.

This issue's game reviews are interesting, in that several are for unauthorized AD&D support products, something with which TSR always had a very complicated relationship. One discusses the module No Honour in Sathporte published by an outfit called Chaotic Intellect. Another treats the magazine Tortured Souls! In both cases, the reviews are positive and recommend the products to players of AD&D. There are also reviews of the Monster Manual II and the second edition of Chivalry & Sorcery. Both these rules are more qualifiedly positive. I found it particularly intriguing that the reviewer (Doug Cowie) considers many of the monsters in the Monster Manual II "silly," a charge I've frequently leveled against the contents of the Fiend Folio. 

Brian Creese's "Chain Mail" column discusses post gaming, a part of the larger hobby that baffled me at the time but that, with the benefit of hindsight I wish I knew more about. Gaming by mail was quite popular once upon a time and played a role in incubating many things that would one day become features of RPGs as we know them today. Similarly, "The Imagination Machine" reviews a pair of games for "micro computers," entitled Groucho and Vampire Village, neither of which I recognize. 

"The Tombs of the Kings" is a solo adventure by Mike Brunton. That's unusual in itself; even more unusual is that it uses three systems: D&D, Tunnels & Trolls, and its own simple system intended to aid those unfamiliar with RPGs. Once more, I find myself wondering about the intended audience of Imagine. The issue also includes an article by Lew Pulsipher in which speaks somewhat well of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series – though "well" in this case is short for "well, it could have been worse." There are also fanzine reviews, something that I greatly appreciate, even if all of the reviewed 'zines are unknown to me. If nothing else, it's a much needed reminder of how much bigger the hobby is than the material produced by game publishers. 

The comics "Rubic of Moggedon" and "The Sword of Alabron" continue, though neither has much hold over me. Compared to their counterparts in either Dragon or White Dwarf, these barely register with mem, sadly. Chris Felton's "Enchantment for Beginners" is another entry in the genre of "how do magic-users make magic items?" The article focuses primarily on the crafting of magic weapons, but also provides examples of "artifacts" too (the word in the case being used to describe any unique magic item rather than truly world shaking items). Graeme Morris penned a mini-adventure for AD&D called "The Mound in the Ring," which looks quite clever. 

"The Adventures of Nic Novice" has been relegated to the back of issue #12. I'll be curious to see its fate in future issues. This month's column covers combat and, like most of its predecessors, doesn't notably illuminate the topic. Colin Greenland's movie reviews offer a little more interest, at least if you enjoy negative reviews. He pans Krull, whose visuals he liked – he memorably describes one set as looking like it had been "carved out of bone by Salvador Dali" – but found the plot tedious and unimaginative. He thinks even less of Never Say Never Again, Connery's return as 007 after years away from the role. Finally, Greenland also reviews the video release of Roger Corman's The Raven from 1963, which he liked only a little more than the other two and mostly for its unintentional humor.

I continue to enjoy reading Imagine, which I did not see at the time of its original publication. The magazine is still a lot less polished and consistent than either Dragon or White Dwarf, but it's only a dozen issues in. I am very curious to see how it will mature in the issues to come.


  1. I think that cover art is by Rodney Matthews.

    1. You are correct. I'll update the post accordingly. Thank you.

  2. I'm enjoying your reviews of Imagine issues, it was my favourite RPG magazine back in the day. I really should read them all again.

    Btw, "Moranme Jobsworth" = "More than my jobs worth"...

  3. The phrase you are looking for is "More than my job's worth."

  4. I think you were overthinking the title to "Morennme Jobsworf", James. Think of how a Cockney might say "More than my job's worth" (as in "I'm not paid enough for this").

  5. Hi James

    Moranme is a contraction of "more than me" or "more than my" add in "job's worth" and you have the meaning. One of those weird dialect things that hasn't made it over the pond! Cheers

  6. "Moranme Jobswurf" is a pun on "more than my job's worth", which is a fairly common saying in British culture, made popular in the 70's and 80's by a TV programme called That's Life!. I will borrow from the Wikipedia article:

    "Jobsworth" is a British colloquial word derived from the phrase "I can't do that, it's more than my job's worth", meaning taking the initiative and performing an action that is beyond what the person feels is in their job description. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "A person in authority (esp. a minor official) who insists on adhering to rules and regulations or bureaucratic procedures even at the expense of common sense." Jonathon Green similarly defines "jobsworth" as "a minor factotum whose only status comes from enforcing otherwise petty regulations".

    I've worked in places where departments have sabotaged each other's efforts all because it wasn't "their job" to help out so I can understand where the designer is coming from!

    I'm pretty sure Corman's The Raven is intended to be a comedy, so I wonder what the reviewer considered "unintentional"!

  7. "moranme jobswurf" = "more than my job's worth"

  8. Thanks to everyone who filled in the blanks regarding the name of Philip Briggs's boardgame. I am quite dense sometimes.

  9. James, I am enjoying the new columns. Thank you.

  10. I have a review of No Honour in Sathporte here: