Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Different Worlds: Issue #5

Issue #5 of Different Worlds (October/November 1979), featuring a cover by Tom Clark, begins with an editorial by Tadashi Ehara in which he alludes to the fact that "role-playing has been in the news more and more recently." Whatever could be driving this increase in coverage? Ehara also explains why nearly all published game reviews are positive, namely that "most reviewers write on games they like and enjoy." That's more or less been my philosophy since I started this blog and why I only rarely accept copies of RPG or other materials to review. Given my limited time, I prefer to write about products I like and there's no guarantee something I've been sent cold will be among them.

"Arduin for the Masses" by Mike Gunderloy is an interesting article. Ostensibly, it's an overview of The Arduin Trilogy, which Gunderloy calls "Dave Hargrave's masterwork." In point of fact, though, it's a defense of Arduin against those who criticize its rules, style, and general approach to gaming. Even if one disagrees with Gunderloy's many points, there's no question that it's an article worth studying more carefully and I intend to do just that in a separate post.

Rudy Kraft offers "Games to Gold Update," a follow-up to his article in issue #4. The update consists primarily of a listing of nearly a dozen additional game publishers one might consider as potential markets for one's designs. Of those listed, I don't believe of them are extant in the present day and, with the exception of Eon Products and Yaquinto Publications, none had any lasting impact on the hobby. John T. Sapienza's "Developing a Character's Appearance" is six pages in length, consisting of many random tables for determining eye color, hair length, voice quality, handedness and more – all divided by race. Two of the article's six pages are defenses of his design choices (such as randomly determining gender and race). It's exactly the kind of article I've come to expect from Sapienza and, while not my style, may be of interest to those for whom randomness is a way of life.

"Some Greek Gods" by Geoffrey Dalcher provides guidelines on using Greek deities as the basis for RuneQuest cults. It's limited in its scope but reasonably well done. "My Life and Role-Playing" continues with essays by John Snider and Scott Bizar. Snider was a player in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign (his character was Bozero the Drunkard), as well as the designer of Star Probe and Star Empires. His essay is filled with fascinating bits of early gaming history and deserves a post of its own. So too does the essay by Scott Bizar of Fantasy Games Unlimited, which contains some intemperate remarks about TSR's games and their "infantile" designs. Stephen L. Lortz's "Encounter Systems" is the latest in his "Way of the Gamer series" and examines the random encounter systems of four games – Arduin, Bushido, Chivalry & Sorcery, and Dungeons & Dragons – with an eye toward producing a general random encounter system suitable for use in multiple games. The end result is not bad, actually, though it's clearly geared toward fantasy. 

James M. Ward a Gamma World variant entitled "To Be or Not to Be a Pure Strain Human That is the Question!" The variant is an entry in Ward's regular tinkering with Pure Strain Human rules, based on the not unreasonable notion that, compared to mutants, they are underpowered. "Clippings" reproduces a couple of news clippings related to the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, both of which emphasize that he'd been found and that D&D played no role in the affair. Gigi D'Arne's gossip column is back to form, with more inside information on upcoming games and game company doings. Among the tidbits that caught my eye was that producer Hal Landers was planning to make a D&D movie starring Robbie Benson and Tatum O'Neal with a $6 million budget; the arrival of Ares from SPI; the publication of the Dungeon Masters Guide; and rumors of a new Tékumel RPG to be published by Gamescience.

It's another engaging issue, filled with multiple articles deserving of greater examination. "My Life in Gaming," as always, remains a highlight of Different Worlds and I look forward to each new issue because of it.


  1. I used to do video game reviews, and my philosophy and outcome were the same: the overwhelmth of what I wrote was positive reviews, because I didn't care to spend time or money playing lousy games enough to review them.

  2. Ah, we've gotten to the very first issue I ever owned. Bought it mostly on the strength of the cover art, although I recall enjoying the contents. Also bought Star Empires right around then IIRC, although I don't think I registered on the author being in the issue.

    Myself, I kind of prefer neutral or even negative reviews to positive ones as long as they're sufficiently detailed and the complaints are objective rather than subjective ones. I can make up my own mind about whether the game sounds good or bad to me with enough data, and glowingly positive reviews always make me feel like I'm being sold on something and some flaws may be getting glossed over. Negativity generally feels more honest even when I don't agree with the reviewer's conclusions or tastes.

    1. Re: negative reviews

      There's definitely truth in what you say. The trick, of course, is not allowing one's negative opinion to spill over into invective or obloquy, which many people cannot do.

    2. True. Many of the old negative reviews (helpful as they might have been for avoiding iffy purchases) were rather mean-spirited or displayed obvious bias. OTOH, when a reviewer really grinds an obvious hate-axe it tended to make me take a second look at the product, which led me to buy a few things out of curiosity or sheer contrariness. Telling me I definitely shouldn't buy something makes me feel like maybe I should. :)

  3. (I thought I had something worthwhile to contribute here but upon further reflection I realized it lacked applicable merit. Instead I'll go back to swilling cold gin and wondering how our daughter was accepted to eleven Virginia universities without even taking an SAT. Pardon this senseless interruption.)