Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Imagine Magazine: Issue #25

 Issue #25 of Imagine (April 1985) is the "Far Eastern Special," presenting numerous articles whose content derives from myths, legends, and cultures of Asia. Without context, I'd have assumed that the issue's contents had been chosen to complement the release of Oriental Adventures, but I'd have been wrong. That AD&D hardcover, the last to bear the byline of Gary Gygax, wasn't published until late 1985 (Gary's preface is dated September of that year). Indeed, there's nary a mention of Oriental Adventures in this issue, which suggests there's no connection between the two whatsoever or, if there is, it's an unacknowledged one. 

Graeme Davis opens the special with "Monsters from Folklore of the Philippines," a collection of seven new creatures for use with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (as well as notes on local versions of standard AD&D monsters). Davis also penned ""Japanese Bujutsu in the AD&D Game." The article presents more than a dozen new weapons of Japanese origin, in addition to brief disarming, archery, and judo. Though brief, the article is one I'd have enjoyed at the time, during a period when I was very interested in Japanese history and legendry. David Knowles, meanwhile, offers "Ogre Magi," an examination of these Asian-inspired monsters with an eye toward fleshing them out both as monsters and as a playable, if evil, character race. What's most interesting to me is that Knowles presents Ogre Magi as Dai-Bakemono rather than a kind of Oni, as would eventually become standard in AD&D. The distinction between the two classes of supernatural beings is a subtle one and I don't claim to understand all the nuances involved but I note it nonetheless.

"Dragonlore of China and Japan" by Carole Morris is a three-page overview of how dragons were viewed in these two Asian cultures. There are no game stats provided anywhere in the article; it's simply a discussion of the topic from the perspective of Chinese and Japanese myths and it's quite good for what it is. "The Words of Go-Guji" is a mini-module by Mike Brunton that's intended for use with both AD&D and Bushido, though it seems to have been intended for the latter. I say this because the text of the adventure provides Bushido stats while an accompanying article, "Using The Words of Go-Guji with the AD&D Game," offers conversion notes for the former. The scenario involves a cursed village terrorized by deathless samurai and I imagine it could serve as a fun kick-off to a Japanese fantasy campaign. "Moshigawa's Homecoming" by Gordon Linzner is a piece of short fantasy fiction inspired by Japanese culture – nothing special but unobjectionable. Graeme Davis provides yet another article, this time "Pentjak Silat: The Martial Arts of Indonesia," which, despite its title, is mostly a list of Indonesian weapons for use with both AD&D and Bushido. 

This month's reviews include Timemaster from Pacesetter, Halls of the Dwarven Kings, and Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. I find it notable that the latter gets a fair amount of criticism for the inexplicable oddities of the dungeon (such as "traps with no real explanation"). Agree or disagree with those criticisms, I nevertheless find it laudable that Imagine, though a house organ of TSR UK, had sufficient editorial integrity that they published reviews of TSR products such as these. Colin Greenland's "Fantasy Media" tackles The Terminator (which he loved) and 2010 (which he also liked, though he sarcastically notes that the film is "for everyone who was mystified by 2001"). Roger Musson's "Stirge Corner" talks about maps and the difference between modern maps, with their high level of detail and precision, and historical maps that are more vague and situational in their presentation and how these differences can be put to good use in RPGs – good stuff.

This month's Pelinore article treats "The Cornucopia," a gambling den owned and operated by the nefarious Cottonwood family. More interesting is the gazetteer of the County of Cerwyn, location of eth City League. Included along with the gazetteer is a map of the town of Darkmoor, a trading settlement of a few thousand people. The gazetteer is a useful little article, since it fleshes out the wider world beyond the City League, something I find very useful when starting a new campaign.

Issue #25 is a good one, filled with some excellent, if very specific, articles and ideas. As I've noted before, special issues like these are hit or miss with me, as I suspect they are with most readers. If you happen to be interested in the subject matter of the issue, they're amazing; if you're not, they're tedious. Consequently, how much one might appreciate this issue depends, I suspect, on how much you like Asian-flavored fantasy.

1 comment:

  1. At risk of coming off as spamming, I literally just now posted on my blog an appendix of works and concepts from Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese Mythology which inform the setting for the game I'm working on, Maximum Recursion Depth:


    Again, apologies if this comes off as spam, but I hope you find it interesting if you are at all interested in these things.