Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #15

Issue #15 of Imagine (June 1984) is a special issue devoted to coverage of that year's UK Gamesfair. The cover features an illustration by Glyn Wyles and a photo of a game of Illuminati be played, presumably at the Gamesfair. Paul Cockburn's report on the convention leads off the issue and is accompanied by numerous photographs. From the vantage point of 2020, looking back on Gamefair is incredibly fascinating. The article boasts that 350 people attended, which is about one-tenth the number that attended GenCon that same year. Being on the wrong side of the Atlantic, I know next to nothing about the history of UK conventions, including Gamesfair, which is why reading articles of this delight me. Graeme Morris follows this with an account of a game of En Garde! he played (a game I tried to run a few years ago and at which I utterly failed). 

The report of Gamesfair also includes a poll of attendees about their favorite games, miniatures, magazines, etc. Looking over the ranked listings is intriguing. They seem to comport with my sense of what was popular in the UK RPG scene at the time – for example, the popularity of Traveller and RuneQuest is clear – but I nevertheless wonder whether the poll is indeed reflective of anything other than the particular tastes of those present at Gamesfair that year.

The previous year, there was a fiction contest held at another convention, Mythcon. The two winning entries, "Trial" by Linda Morgan and "After the Storm" by Pauline E. Dungate, are printed in this issue. "The Marsh Idol" is an AD&D adventure by Mark Davies. The scenario includes a new monster, the marsh dragon, which is detailed later. Curiously, the creature is explicitly noted as being "unofficial." Also included in a competition adventure, "Round the Bend" by Jim Bambra, which was used at Gamesfair that year. It's a fun little scenario, in which the players all take the roles of half-orc thieves who have been caught by a wizard from whom they were attempting to steal and, as a punishment, are reduced to two inches in height and then tasked with recovering a magic item the wizard accidentally dropped down his drain. How's that for an adventure set-up?

"The Imagination Machine" reviews the game Pi-Eyed and discusses the state of the software industry at the time. The game reviews are equally split between reissued SPI wargames and RPG materials. The comics "Rubic of Moggedon" and "The Sword of Alabron" have new installments and I still cannot bring myself to care. Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" talks about the importance of mapping, which I find fascinating, because I know there are many players for whom mapping is a chore and one of the least interesting aspects of D&D. Yet, here we are, in mid-1984 and it's still a topic that Imagine considered worthy of an article. 

Ian Knight and Graham Fuller present "In Search of Dragons," which is an exploration of the myths and legends of dragons across the world. "Illuminations" announces the latest gaming releases. One of them caught my eye: The Character Generator, a computer program designed to generate AD&D characters. I know nothing of this program, which was produced by Triffid Software Research. I doubt it was a licensed program but perhaps who knows? The column also discusses the adventure modules published by Grenadier Models, such as The Horrible Secret of Monhegan Island. One day, I should really revisit the other entries in that series.

Colin Greenland reviews media, starting with the movie, The Right Stuff, followed by the novels Fire in the Abyss (by Stuart Gordon), The Follower (by Stephen Gallagher), and Frost (by Robin W. Bailey). Rounding out the issue is Derrick Norton's "It's like this … only different," in which he talks about the risks and rewards of expanding one's RPG repertoire beyond the games with which one is already familiar. It's an unusual topic, particularly for those of who've always played lots of different roleplaying games, but I suppose, when the hobby was still new, it might have been an issue with some players. 

Imagine continues to be equal parts captivating and confusing to me. Some of that no doubt comes from not having read the magazine at the time and not having lived in the United Kingdom. But a lot of it, I suspect, comes from the editorial team's attempts to find a distinctive voice for the magazine, something that set it apart from the more well-known Dragon and White Dwarf. Each issue is thus an attempt to discover just what Imagine is and what it should include. I'm now halfway through its run and I must admit I'm still not entirely sure if there are any answers to those questions, but I'm happy to keep reading to see how things unfold.


  1. Thanks for the review. I've always favored Imagine over Dragon and White Dwarf.

  2. Round the Bend was such a great setup but sadly suffered from the usual tournament module problem - it's unbelievably linear in order to give all parties the same experience. From memory there are only two branches in the "dungeon" and both are setup to very quickly punish a party that takes the "wrong" one. Shame really.

  3. Character Generator was written for the ZX Spectrum and is available (to run on emulators) here - https://spectrumcomputing.co.uk/entry/15558/ZX-Spectrum/Character_Generator

  4. I ran Around the Bend at Grogmeet 2017, it went down a treat. At its heart it's a simple adventure with some nice set pieces and a great finale. I really need to run it again. I'd say it's the highlight of this issue which is missing the focus other issues have benefited from

  5. Imagine seemed to me to be a competitor for White Dwarf, but seemed more focussed on DnD , rather than the (then) more diverse WD, which covered RQ & Traveller. At that point, I think Dragon was import only, so very expensive in comparison to WD (& Imagine)

  6. 'Round the Bend' was fun purely on the strength of the old-style (pig-faced) orcs, as drawn by Euan Smith. I miss those piggy guys!