Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Different Worlds: Issue #10

Issue #10 of Different Worlds (October/November 1980) features a cover by Rick Becker. Tadashi Ehara's editorial discusses the increased scrutiny roleplaying games were receiving in the media at the time, some of it quite sensationalistic and negative. Interestingly, Ehara's chief concern is not that others will believe the worst about the hobby and its participants but that roleplayers themselves might come to believe them. It's an odd perspective to me, but, as I've said in the past, I never encountered any significant negativity to my involvement in roleplaying games, so perhaps my perspective is skewed. 

The issue proper begins with Larry DiTillio's "You Gotta Be Fiendish," a collection of six "rules" to aid the referee in "bedazzl[ing] the hell out of his or her players." As is so often the case with articles like this, it's good for what it is, but I doubt anyone who's been playing for more than a couple of years will find it all that insightful. Referee's advice articles tend not to age well and this one is no different, even though DiTillio's advice – for example, "Think before you build" or "Delayed action pays off" – is just fine.

"Traveller Mutations" by Iain Delaney offers up some brief rules for adding mutant abilities to Traveller. Leaving aside the possible inappropriateness of such abilities in a relative grounded SF RPG like Traveller, the article is decent and could prove useful to referees simply looking to model certain common superheroic powers. "Dungeon of Pelius Mright" by Ken Rolston is a simple "adventure for novices," intended to be used as a brief (90 minute) D&D scenario accessible to people with no prior knowledge of roleplaying games. While the adventure itself is very basic, I enjoyed Rolston's commentary, in which he talks about his experiences initiating newcomers into the hobby and how those experiences influenced his choices in designing this "quicky" adventure.

John McEwan's "Fantasy Gaming and Scale" is two-page article in which the author talks about the various scales used for miniature figures, terrain, buildings, models, and so on and provides a chart to aid gamers in choosing pieces that are properly scaled to the others in their possession. Though not a big user of miniatures myself, I found it an interesting, potentially useful little article. "The Usefulness of FRP Games" by Steven Horst is an odd "theory" article of the type that Different Worlds seemed to publish often in its early days. Horst discusses all sorts of potential benefits to playing RPGs, particularly when it comes to enabling one to view the world from a different perspective or to experience things one might otherwise not have the opportunity to do. I have no objection to such benefits, of course, but, for me, RPGs are more about the fun of exercising my creativity with others. They're an entertainment, first and foremost.

"Another Look at RuneQuest Movement" by Morgan O. Woodward III is a set of variant rules and guidelines for adjudicating movement during combat. Being something of a novice when it comes to RQ's combat rules, I must confess I have little ability to judge how useful Woodward's variant might be. Kathryn E. Shapero's "Gem Types and Values" provides a d1000 table for gems, with each entry including a description, usual cut, usual mass in carats, and value. John T. Sapienza's "Metal Marvels" installment this issue focuses on Grenadier's wizards and halflings figures and Dragontooth's "personalities" line. Articles like this are fun to read, because they include lots of photos of old school minis that really take me back to my earliest days in the hobby.

"Aspects of Gaming Culture" by Glenn F. Blacow is another "theory" article, this time focusing on what he considers the four main "emphases" of those who get involved in the hobby, namely power gaming, role-playing, wargaming, and story telling. This is an early example of the now-common discussion of different gaming "styles" and how best to satisfy players of each one. I have no specific objection to articles of this type and can see how they might be helpful to some referees. However, like other referee advice articles, they're less useful to referees with any experience and a little limited in their focus. 

Anders Swenson reviews The Temple of Athena, a scenario book by Kenneth Richert and published by Dimension Six. He didn't think much of the adventure, which considered poorly written and conceived, with numerous errors and sources of confusion. Gigi D'Arn's gossip column is sadly lacking in the kinds of juicy tidbits I'd come to expect from it. That's understandable, I suppose; there are bound to be "slow" issues when there aren't as many rumors to report and this seems to have been one of them. Maybe next month!


  1. We've come to an issue I remember owning, although most of the articles have long since departed my memory. I do recall using that table for gemstones in various games for years and years, and I think I used the Traveller mutation article somewhere in the late 80s to model genetically engineered colonists. Might be wrong though, that might have been from The Space Gamer instead - DW wasn't the only magazine to cover mutants in Traveller over the years.

    FWIW I can dimly remember a couple of players who pulled out of the local gaming club around this era because of bad press about RPGs. One of them was concerned about losing his job at a religious bookstore, and the other was getting heat from relatives about his hobby. So maybe there was something to gamers internalizing the nonsense the Immoral Minority hypocrites were spouting. Both of them came back to gaming after a few years, although AFAIK they stuck to minis and board games thereafter.

    The bookstore guy committed suicide about ten years later after a very ugly divorce, so perhaps he was just prone to worrying too much about other folks' opinions.

  2. I remember the negative press about RPGs back then, but it never had any impact on my gaming. But I was firmly established playing at the MIT games club. The one bit about it that I do remember thinking was that my church was one that wouldn't have any objection to gaming.

    Glen Blacow's article at the time was significant, though I was already thinking in those terms since he had published an earlier version of the article some months before in The Wild Hunt (and also A&E I assume). But I have an outsized opinion of the article because Glen was my RPG mentor and good friend. These days there has been so much discussion of play style that these early articles seem of less broad interest, but at the time, it may have been the first exposure of many to the existence and validity of other play styles.

  3. Peterson argues that the Blacow articles are seminal in The Elusive Shift. He deals less admiringly with Pulsipher’s opinions. The latter got plenty of flak in the letters pages of White Dwarf too, IIRC.

    1. Meh. Pulsipher wrote Heritage's Dragon Rage boardgame. That excuses a multitude of sins in my book. Although I admit I'm surprised it's the only one of those eight microgames they did that got a modernized high-quality reprint. Must be a rights thing - Star Viking certainly merits a similar re-do, and arguably Grav Armor and Demon Lord. The "adventure path" games (Barbarian Prince and Star Smuggler) were maybe even better, but they work fine as just pdfs.

    2. Yes, it's a rights thing. Most of the Dwarfstar Games line were in-house design by Heritage, but Dragon Rage and Star Smuggler were by outside designers who retained the rights. Pulsipher got Dragon Rage reprinted. The rights to the six in-house games are now owned by Reaper Miniatures, I assume because they have the rights to Heritage's output now. All of those plus Star Smuggler are now available as PDFs here: https://dwarfstar.brainiac.com/ds_webfaq.html