Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #23

Issue #23 of Imagine (February 1985) features a cover by Carl Critchlow of Thrud the Barbarian fame. As if that weren't enough to endear it to me, it also features Crusader great helm, something for which I've long had an inexplicable affection. The cover also boasts that this issue will highlight ghosts and so it does in an article by Chris Barlow entitled, naturally enough, "Ghosts." Much like last issue's article on vampires, this one seeks to expand the possibilities for ghosts. Unlike its predecessor, "Ghosts" includes no new mechanical options for these insubstantial undead, but instead devotes its three pages entirely to other options, such as appearance, actions, and origins, with an eye toward individualizing ghosts in this manner. I approve of this approach, which is buttressed with a follow-up AD&D scenario, "The Curse of Arivale," also by Barlow, dealing with an aristocrat's hall haunted by a variety of ghosts, including two new types – good stuff in my opinion.

This month's Pelinore article "The Big Wide World" expands beyond the City League to give readers an overview of the entire setting. A large scale map of the whole world is provided, along with information on geography and timekeeping. As described here, Pelinore is "a symbol of the central struggle of Opposites: Law and Chaos, Good and Evil, Beauty and Ugliness, Happiness and Misery." While most people in the setting are unaware of this cosmic struggle, it nevertheless colors everything that happens in it, though, as the article notes, "Harmony is the route to peace." I'm fascinated by this, since I've long felt that works best in Dungeons & Dragons when tied to a metaphysical battle á la Moorcock or Anderson. I'm curious to see if this idea is developed more in future articles. Accompanying this article is a single-page one by Venetia Lee describing the Basilisks, a criminal gang in the City League.

Paul Vernon's "Languages in AD&D Campaigns" is a fine, if broad, article on this subject. Its most interesting sections concern how languages can be used to establish facts about a campaign setting, as well as its musings on alignment languages. (I find it fascinating that so many Imagine articles take up the question of alignment and take it seriously, of which I approve. Makes me wonder why this was so.) "A Knight to Be King" by Chris Felton discusses the various ways a player character might acquire a royal title, including seizing it from an existing monarch. It's an interesting mix of advice and history, with some vague mechanical guidelines on how to handle the military conflicts that would inevitably follow any such seizure of power. Meanwhile, Carl Sargent's "The Multi-Character Campaign" discusses the pros and cons of a campaign where each player controls a "stable" of PCs of various classes and levels. I personally like this model of campaigning and have found that, if a campaign lasts long enough, it's almost inevitable that each player will have multiple characters. This has happened in my House of Worms Empire of the Petal Throne campaign, for example.

"The Shedu's Hall" by Matthew Parker is a D&D adventure set in Pelinore, which also centers around a hall haunted by a unique ghost. Roger Musson gives us "An Introduction to Board Wargaming," which is a very good sketch of this rather large subject. Most interesting, I think, is Musson's note toward the end that "wargames" need not be about wars or even military conflicts at all, which is absolutely true in my experience and probably explains why many contemporary wargames call themselves "historical simulations" or some variant thereof. "Getting In" by Paul Mason concerns itself with how one much become involved in the hobby of roleplaying, with an emphasis on the types of activities outside of playing at the table on might pursue, from fanzines to convention attendance.

This month's game reviews focus heavily on adventures "suitable for use with AD&D," such as those produced by Role Aids and Grenadier. There's also a very positive review of Chill and some Traveller supplements by FASA. "Fantasy Media" by Colin Greenland includes reviews of the movies Metropolis and Romancing the Stone, the latter film being one I'd completely forgotten existed until now. Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" focuses on wilderness travel and its pitfalls, a topic in which I have a great deal of interest, having run several sandbox campaigns over the last decade. There are also new installments of "Rubic of Moggedon" and "The Phalanx" comics, though, as I repeatedly say, I've done little more than glance at them.

There's some good material in this month's issue, particularly the overview of Pelinore, but, overall, it's a much more middling issue than I had hoped. Mind you, as someone who's put out twelve issues of a fanzine, I understand very well how hard it can be to ensure that every issue is as good as, if not better than, the last. Still, I'm finding Imagine a good read overall and I look forward to future issues.

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