Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #9

Issue #9 of Imagine is dated December 1983 and features a terrific cover by Rodney Matthews. I say terrific, because, in addition to simply being moody and evocative, it also features weird fungi and I'm a sucker for such things. In any case, it's a lovely piece and probably my favorite cover so far.

Jim Bambra and Paul Ruiz turn out another installment of "The Adventures of Nic the Novice," in which the titular character and his companions attempt to cross a shallow river at the edge of a dark forest. The entirety of the article consists of a dialogue between the players, as their characters decide how best to proceed. Interspersed throughout are some brief comments about how the players have chosen to portray their characters, based on class, alignment, etc. Like all the other entries in this series, it's well done for what it is, but it's tough going for someone who's been roleplaying for four decades now.

On the other hand, Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" held my attention with its discussion of monsters. Musson's first contention is that D&D works best with a small selection of monsters rather than including every single one found in the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and other sources. He thinks a smaller range of monsters is both more naturalistic and makes the occasional unique monster even more special. His second contention is that what makes a monster special anyway is the way it's used in a scenario. He's of the opinion that Tucker's Kobolds should be a referee's model and I'm hard pressed to disagree with him. 

Gary Gygax presents cantrips for illusionists in this issue and I can't say I'm any more fond of them than I was when I first saw them in the pages of Dragon (never mind Unearthed Arcana). "The Purple Parrot" is a humorous little story about a wizard who learns about the abduction of his wife, Miranda, after reading about it in the Morning Chronicle and Thaumaturgist's Advertiser. "Illuminations" is far less witty than previous installments, alas, but it does include a reference to a product I'd forgotten about, namely Grenadier's line of miniatures for The Dark Crystal. It's a good reminder of just how weird the 1980s were. The issue also includes an original board game (with paper board) called Scarlotti.

Jim Bambra also turns in "Lyndum," an adventure for 0-level magic-users and illusionists. Though the adventure is intended as a companion to the two articles on cantrips, I find it more interesting in the unfolding rules pertaining to 0-level player characters. AD&D included many scattered rules pointing in this direction and Unearthed Arcana (then unpublished) would add further fuel to this fire (never mind James Ward's Greyhawk Adventures from 1988), but this adventure predates them both. There are also further entries in the comic series "Rubic of Moggedon" and "The Sword of Alabron" as well as reviews of contemporary new books, like Gene Wolfe's The Citadel of the Autarch and Michael Moorcock's The War Hound and the World's Pain. 

If want a real glimpse into the past, "The Imagination Machine" column about "micro computers" is a treat. Accompanying the column is an announcement that, starting with issue #11, there will be regular reviews and news about "micro gaming." The past really is a foreign country! Rounding out the issue are reviews of TSR's Operation Fastpass for Top Secret, scenarios for Daredevils, Merc, and Chivalry & Sorcery, plus two different sets of cardboard dungeon tiles (Endless Plans and Dungeon Floor Plans, the latter produced by Games Workshop). 

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