Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #17

Issue #17 (August 1984) of Imagine features a cover by Pete Young. Its kick-off article, "What to Do With a Dragon's Treasure," by Chris Barlow is a fascinating one. It starts as an examination of the XP for treasure system of Dungeons & Dragons and then proposes an alternative. Barlow's point is that, under the system as presented, treasure gets counted twice: first as money and second as XP. To avoid this, he proposes that, to be counted as XP, the treasure must be spent. This is a common house rule in old school circles and, reading this article, I wonder if perhaps it is the ultimate source of it. However, Barlow expands upon the idea to create a system by which a character can use his treasure to buy training, which is to say, the abilities of other classes. It's an interesting idea, but it does a lot of violence to D&D's traditional class structure, which will limit its appeal.

David R. Knowles presents "The Drow," which is an expansion of the information on the Dark Elves available at the time. "Pelinore: The City League" presents a home base for characters in the setting. Included with the article are seven locales within the City, each of which gets a map and NPC descriptions. "Magic & Mayhem in Celtic History and Literature" is an overview of this topic by Graeme Davis. It's paired with "Lore, Lay & Legend" by Carole Morris, presents brief summaries of important stories from Celtic myth. "Tir Nan Og" by Chris Barlow is an AD&D scenario that involves an expedition to an island people by fairies and fairy creatures.

"'Zine & the Art of Editing" by Mike Lewis is an intriguing article from a historical perspective. Imagine has always covered fanzines, which is a notable way that it differentiated itself from Dragon. This article, though, is about the process of producing, and printing a 'zine, according to the technology of the time. It's short and not deep in its coverage, but it's a window on a bygone world. Game reviews focus on new TSR releases, as they usually do. There are, however, a number of early Games Workshop releases, too, one of which – Battlebikes – brought back memories of the time for me. Frank Mentzer's D&D Companion Set receives a three-page preview that had a similar effect, as I am quite fond of that boxed set, despite its flaws. 

Colin Greenland's "Fantasy Media" is the usual mix of movie and book reviews. Interestingly, he reviews the movie Splash very favorably while he has only harsh words – very harsh words – for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. While Temple of Doom is an awful follow-up to Raiders of the Lost Ark (which is practically irreproachable), it's not as bad as Greenland makes it out to be. Plus, it's opening sequence in the amusingly named Club Obi Wan is terrific. On the other hand, Greenland is contemptuous of the third volume of the interminable Belgariad and loves Thieves' World, so he can't be all bad. 

Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" provides some tips to the novice DM in preparing a dungeon and Derick Norton's "Identity Crisis" speaks true about characters. Aimed beginners, Norton says a number of things worthy of repeating, chief among them being

In part the desire for good [ability] scores is caused by a clouded view of what a character represents. For some players a character is basically a vehicle with which to propagate their own ego.

Ouch! "The Sword of Alabron" comic is gone, replaced by "Phalanx," a new series. "Rubic of Moggedon," unfortunately, continues.

Taken together, this issue was something of a disappointment to me, particularly after the highs of last issue. There are a handful of worthy articles, but, overall, it feels lackluster. I hope issue #18 will be more enjoyable.


  1. Arneson's system in the original Blackmoor campaign was for experience points to be awarded only for gp spent, as captured under "Special Interests" in Judges' Guild's "The First Fantasy Campaign":

    "Instead of awarding points for money and jewels acquired in the depths of the dungeon or hoarding items against the indefinite future, the players will receive NO points until they acquire the items listed below unless it happens to already fall within the area of their interest."

    Like many of Dave's original ideas, this approach has a lot of merit.

  2. You might be interested to know that in The Dragon issue 35, published in March 1980, Len Lakofka suggested a rule variant where players had to spend their GP on training in order to convert it to XP.