Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #14

As you can see from the cover, issue #14 of Imagine (May 1984) is an interesting one. The cover illustration is by Bryan Talbot, creator of the comic, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. Though the comic is highly regarded, both now and then, it wasn't well known, even in the UK, at the time this issue appeared. In his editorial, Paul Cockburn comments on this fact but notes that "After this month, I hope we will all hear more of him again." As it turns out, it'd still be three more years before Talbot returned to the comic and completed its story. 

The Adventures of Luther Arkwright form the core of this issue, with a special section devoted to the comic. Talbot is the author of an article entitled "Firefrost" that presents an overview of the comic's setting and central conflict. He follows it up with a two-page comic that serves as a briefing for a Traveller scenario – "The Fire Opal of Set" – in the world of the comic (and co-written by Talbot and James Brunton). The adventure also includes conversion rules so that it can be used with the Star Frontiers game. 

Ed Dovey presents a very interesting article entitled "Campaign Diaries" that, literally, borrows an idea from Tony Bath's Setting Up a Wargames Campaign by recommending that referees keep a log for tracking of the passage of time in a setting. Dovey uses the examples of birth, deaths, marriages, public events, and weather, but his advice could just as easily be applied to other matters. Speaking as a referee running a multi-year, eight-player Empire of the Petal Throne campaign filled with all sorts of significant events, I welcomed the reminders this article (and Bath's guide) offered. Meanwhile, Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" discusses the utility of NPCs in establishing the details and tone of a campaign. Again, a useful article, even for an experienced referee.

This month's fiction piece is quite noteworthy from a historical point of view. "Featherquest: The Tale of a Dreamer" is the very first piece of published fiction by Neil Gaiman. He would have been twenty-four at the time. "Illuminations" once again provides current game news. Here's the most significant item in the article in my opinion:

The article goes on to mention two other licenses that TSR has acquired: Indiana Jones and Dynasty. While the Indiana Jones game certainly did come out – and was not as dire as memory would suggest – I cannot recall a game based on Dynasty's ever appearing. There was SPI's Dallas RPG and I have a vague recollection of TSR's having produced an All My Children boardgame but not Dynasty. Perhaps the deal fell through? 

"The Imagination Machine" keeps readers abreast of the latest from the world of micro-computers, including a review of a game called City by Terminal Software, which sounds like a precursor to Sim City. There are new installments of both "Rubic of Moggedon" and "The Sword of Alabron" comics, in addition to a letters page and a review of fanzines. "Insane Swords" follows up on Chris Felton's article in issue #12 about making magic items. This article considers what happens when the process of crafting goes wrong and produce a cursed item. Brian Creese continues to look at play-by-mail games in "Chain Mail." 

"The Adventures of Nic Novice" by Jim Bambra and Paul Ruiz seemingly comes to an end with this issue's discussion of experience. I can't say that I'll miss it. There are seven game reviews in this issue, five of them being "TSR" wargames, which is to say, TSR re-issues of classic SPI wargames. The others are Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective and Horror on the Hill for D&D. Colin Greenland reviews three movies I've never heard of, the most notable being Invincible Barbarian, which he calls "third-rate nonsense." He also reviews Fred Saberhagen's novel, Empire of the East. 

This concludes issue #14 of Imagine, which I quite enjoyed, though that may have something to do with my fondness for Luther Arkwright. It's intriguing to look at these issues as a microcosm of what must have been happening at TSR UK at the time – simultaneously trying to follow the dictates of the parent company back in the USA while also trying to forge its own path. I'm keeping this in mind as I read future issues in the weeks to come.


  1. I think you're right about Dynasty never going into production, but I did find a photo of a prototype over here:


    This issue must be worth a mint to Gaiman collectors. Had no idea he started out in Imagine.

    I assume you already know Design Mecahnism has a range of Mythras-based Luther Arkwright RPG products, but for anyone who hasn't seen them:


    1. I do know about the Luther Arkwright RPG but I have not looked into it at all. Is it any good?

    2. It's a Mythras variant, self contained in one book. I have not run it but Loz and Pete love Luther Arkright and if you like Mythras it's a full and lovely implementation.

    3. It is certainly better than the original Luther Arkwright RPG.


  2. I think a Dynasty or Dallas rpg would be awesome. Not sure how TSR would have handled it in the 80s but it seems a perfect for many modern approaches.
    Chris Felton was a friend of mine, BTW.

  3. Thanks for the review, this issue was the one that turned me on to Luther Arkwright. My first dip into Luther Arkwright RPGs was before my 20 year hiatus, I ran an adventure set in a Roman Ascendency parallel using 23rd Parallel's Luther Arkwright system.

    I played the Fire Opal of Set at my first con after that hiatus (possibly my first con ever), Convergence at Stockport, UK. The GM was Dirk the Dice of the Grognard File podcast who had converted the adventure to use Mythras Luther Arkwright.

    Mythras is a great fit for Luther Arkwright, but my overriding memory is of the adventure itself which is excellent, jumping between a number of different parallels trying to stop the Disruptors.

  4. Like many, Imagine #14 was my introduction to The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and the possibilities of cross-parallel adventuring. The setting was intriguing, the artwork exquisite, and the adventure a lot of fun. I would later read the first few issues of Psst! which a friend had before collecting the issues of the comic as they were published. I even wrote an adaptation for GURPS in the late 1990s.

  5. I reviewed 2001: A Space Odyssey for Star Frontiers back in 2018.