Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Different Worlds: Issue #3

Issue #3 of Different Worlds (June/July 1979) features a positively delightful cover by Tom Clark. It's exactly the kind of weird, "out there" art, neither clearly fantasy nor sci-fi, that I associate with the 1970s. Beautiful! The issue begins with a review of Bushido by Steven Lortz. The review is quite positive, praising the game for providing players with more to do than "kill and pillage." Immediately afterward come the next two articles in the "My Life and Role-Playing" series, this time offering up articles by two truly heavy hitters: Dave Arneson and Steve Perrin.

Arneson's contribution is both long and filled with details, most of which are probably well known nowadays. He states early on that "Blackmoor was not the first RPG that I was in. Not by a long shot." He then goes on to relate tales from earlier campaigns, such as the Napoleonic one set in the town of Brownstein [sic] and his adventures stirring up trouble in South America, two events discussed at greater length in the Secrets of Blackmoor film. The rest of the article is filled with biographical details, insights into Arneson's personal perspective on RPGs as an activity, and additional bits of history. Steve Perrin's article is similar, though the details differ, of course. Of particular interest to me is Perrin's reminiscences about the foundation of the Society of Creative Anachronism in 1966 and his involvement in it – involvement, I might add, that played a role in his development of both the Perrin Conventions for OD&D and the rules behind RuneQuest

"Research and Rules" is a short article by Steve Marsh, offering five steps for the creation of good RPG rules: Define the Thing to be Written About, Define the User/Situation, Get Acquainted with the Material, Simulate the Rules in Your Present Situation, and Understand the Whys. The article is brief, so none of these steps gets much attention, leaving the end result less satisfying than it might have been. Mike Ginderloy's "Specialty Mages" variant for Dungeons & Dragons gets a third part, this time presenting lightning, crystal, acid, and wind mages. 

"Role-Playing: How to Do It (An Immodest Proposal)" is a lengthy article by Clint Bigglestone, in which he offers his thoughts on both playing and GMing, with an emphasis on the former. Bigglestone is very interested in the creation of plausible characters based on all the factors that describe him, from his physical and mental game stats to cultural background. He also reminds readers that a RPG is a game and one should never lose sight of that fact, no matter how attached one becomes to a character. Dennis Sustare's "Druid's Valley" is an overview of his Bunnies & Burrows campaign setting. I found it incredibly fascinating, because he not only details the setting and its characters but also talks about events from his campaign and his reasoning as a referee. I love this kind of stuff and continue to find these articles some of the best material in Different Worlds.

"The Three Feathered Rivals Cult" by Ray Turney is, of course, a new cult for use with RuneQuest. "A Letter from Gigi" includes numerous bits of then-current gaming gossip, such as the ongoing lawsuit between Arneson and Gygax. Speaking of Gygax, the column comments on the advertisement from White Dwarf featuring Elise Gygax. Also mentioned is the appearance of "yet another article on pole arms" in the pages of Dragon. Apparently people were making fun of Gary's obsession even back in the day. "Different Views" is a collection of letters from readers, one of whom, John T. Sapienza, provides the issue's last article, "A New Cleric Cure System." A variant for D&D, Sapienza effectively rewrites the cleric class, turning it into more of a flexible healer class than a warrior-priest with some healing ability. I'm not sure I like it, but it's an intriguing take on the subject.

Issue #3 of Different Worlds is another good one, particularly in those articles were writers and designers of the hobby let us peak in on their own gaming. That's a topic of which I never tire and hope that future issues will bring more of this. Though I do appreciate rules options and variants, those can be found anywhere. What Different Worlds offers that I've rarely seen elsewhere is a glimpse of what it was like to play in the early days of the hobby and that is worth a great deal to me.


  1. Another one I missed out on to my regret, would probably have loved that Bunnies & Burrows setting article back in the day.

    I always forget the SCA was "born" the same year I was. Could have done without the Marion Zimmer Bradley mention, seeing her name these days makes me feel a little sick and a lot like punching things.

    1. I also find Marion Zimmer Bradley repulsive, but the issue did come out twenty five years before her daughters accusations. So it's quite possible Clint Bigglestone didn't know himself.

    2. Oh, sure. Outside of a few people that knew her personally or had heard about her testimony at her husband's trial I don't think anyone had a clue about what she was doing until well after she was dead, and even those who had suspicions probably (hopefully) didn't think things were anywhere near as bad as they were. Like to think there was no mass cover-up anyway. Not criticizing Bigglestone, I just don't like encountering her name unexpectedly. Or at all, really.

  2. Different Worlds had such great covers. It is a type of sci-fi & fantasy you don't see much of these days.