Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Different Worlds: Issue #6

Different Worlds #6 is the December 1979/January 1980 issue and features cover artwork by Rick Becker. It begins with a brief editorial by Tadashi Ehara lamenting how hard it is to get writers to turn things in on time – or at all! – which leads him to extend an invitation to readers to submit their own articles. Speaking as both the producer of a fanzine, for which I've struggled to find submissions, and as a writer, for whom punctuality is not my great strength, I have sympathy for Ehara's frustrations. It will be interesting to see if future issues of Different Worlds feature a broader range of writers than the first six.

Leonard H. Kanterman, author of Starships & Spacemen, reviews Gangster!, a "cops and mobsters" RPG from FGU. Being a Gangbusters devotee myself, I actually know very little about other games of the genre, so this was a useful article to me. Brian Wagner's "Super Rules for SUPERHERO: 44" is a collection of rules expansions for Superhero: 2044, the first superhero roleplaying game ever published. "Finding Level in RuneQuest" by Rudy Kraft presents a system for converting characters between Dungeons & Dragons and RuneQuest. The purpose of this is to facilitate the adoption for the RQ rules by referees running D&D campaigns, allowing beloved player characters to continue to adventure under the new rules. I can't speak to their actual utility, but it's an intriguing article nonetheless (and an early example of a genre of article that continues to this day).

"How to Make Monsters Interesting" by Lee Gold is a good but short article on the matter of restoring "newness" and "surprise" to monster encounters, a perennial topic in RPG circles. Gold counsels, among other things, variability in monster abilities so that not every troll or ghost possesses the exact same powers, thereby throwing players' expectations into question. Meanwhile, John T. Sapienza offers a lengthy 10-page D&D variant called "Vardy Combat System, Part I." The system Sapienza presents here looks very similar to the combat system in RuneQuest and other Basic Role-Playing games, right down to being percentile rather than D20-based (though Part II, to be presented next issue, apparently includes a more traditional D20 approach). On first glance, the system looks decent enough and, even while including more detail about things like shields and weapons expertise, it retains most of the contours of D&D combat (like armor class). I'll have to look at it more carefully to decide my final feelings on the matter.

"The World of Crane" by George V. Schubel is an overview of the play-by-mail game The Tribes of Crane, whose advertisements I used to see in the pages of Dragon. I can't say the article told me a great deal more about the game or its setting, but I enjoyed reading it, if only for the peak it offered me of an aspect of the hobby of which I have limited experience. Lewis Pulsiphr's "Insanity Table" is a percentile table intended for use with D&D, on those occasions when a curse or other effect results in a character's going insane. Greg Costikyan's "The Cult of Gestetner" is a tongue-in-cheek cult for use with RuneQuest that should get a chuckle out of anyone who's ever been involved in old school printing or publishing. 

Gigi D'Arn's column contains a number of fascinating tidbits and then-current rumors. For example, she mentions that Chaosium will be producing a H.P. Lovecraft RPG entitled Dark Worlds, to be designed by Kurt Lortz. Then there's this section about Gary Gygax and TSR:

Lots to talk about there! Mention is also made of SPI's upcoming fantasy RPG, Dragonflayer, which is presumably an early title for DragonQuest, and Lou Zocchi's attempts to purchase TSR's remaining stock of Empire of the Petal Throne. It should come as little surprise that Gigi's columns are favorites of mine. Leaving aside their frequent wit and sarcasm, they provide useful historical information about early games, companies, and designers that might otherwise be forgotten. Anyone interested in the history of the hobby should appreciate their value. 


  1. In reading this and following the link to your "Prehistory..." I wonder if anyone has told you anything about Steve Lortz whose work appeared in Different Worlds and who authored a couple of games for Chaosium (Panzer Pranks and Perilous Encounters). Steve and his brother Kurt were from Anderson, Indiana. Steve was a navy veteran and after retiring worked in a local Muncie, IN hobby shop. Brother Kurt worked in a hobby shop in Indianapolis. I knew them both through that connection and gamed occasionally with Steve. They were both lifelong gamers who enjoyed many table top games. Sadly both have passed.

  2. Interesting. This was another one I missed out on back in the day. Tribes of Crane was one of the bigger PRM games back in the day, and The Space Gamer ran updates on in-game events for years as part of their ongoing PBM coverage. Never actually played but I feel like I know more about the politics and major players than I really should - something that I could also say about EVE Online, a game I've only experienced through gamer osmosis.

    DW seemed to be fond of doing "joke" cults for Runequest over the years. There's one in an upcoming issue that was themed around California surf culture - or at least Hollywood fantasies of it. :) I assume Gestetner was all about offset printing - some Mostali innovation, perhaps?

    1. Gestetner is presented as a "gateway" cult, meaning it's not for use with Glorantha, but it's still amusing (and, yes, about offset printing).

    2. Interesting. The surfer cult (worshipping the demigod Indlas Somer, IIRC) was explicitly written to be Gloranthan IIRC - based out of Pamaltela, I think. Not a lot of surfers in Dragon pass or on the Plains of Prax. :)