Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Different Worlds: Issue #13

Issue #13 of Different Worlds (August 1981) opens with an article entitled "The Land of Faerie" by Scott R. Turner. It's an odd piece, in that it contains no game statistics whatsoever. Instead, it's an overview of a variety of  myths and legends about fairies – mostly from the British Isles – strung together as a semi-coherent whole. There's even a bestiary of sorts, which provides brief descriptions of many fairy creatures. Articles like these baffle me somewhat. They're usually too short to present information that most players of fantasy RPGs don't already know. Likewise, the lack of game-specific information limits their utility.

Strangely enough, Iain Delaney's "The Travellers' Aid Society" follows a similar pattern, being both very short and almost entirely lacking in game statistics. Rather, what Delaney offers is a limited and particular interpretation of the iconic organization from GDW's Traveller game. Even more so than "The Land of Faerie," it's too short to present anything a Traveller fan didn't already know, as well as lacking in game rules that might otherwise make it useful.

 The oddly titled "Role-Playing in the Land of Xanth" by Leonard Kanterman is, for the most part, a book review of first three volumes of Piers Anthony's series of fantasy novels. The review also provides cursory suggestions on how to use Xanth as a setting for a RPG campaign. At the risk of repeating myself, I found the article mostly useless, owing to its short length and lack of game rules. but I suppose it's possible that it might serve as an introduction to the setting to the uninitiated (assuming one considers that a good thing).

Jane Woodward's "The Cult of Erlin the Harper" is a gateway cult for RuneQuest. It's a very welcome counterpoint to the previous three articles, in that it contains a great deal of game-specific information that's useful even in RQ campaigns set on Glorantha. There are not only new music-based rune spells but also details of musical instruments and how they can used in the game. Steven Marsh's "Samurai Swords" follows a similar path, offering lots of details on the schools of Japanese sword-making and the weapons they made. Rather than simply being historical in nature, the article also provides rules for each type of sword, including possible magical powers associated with the weapons. It's more detailed than I expect most people need, but I couldn't help but appreciate the detail nonetheless.

John T. Sapienza reviews "Samurai Figures," focusing on those available from Ral Partha, Archive, and Stan Johansen. The accompanying photographs are quite nice. Lee Gold's Land of the Rising Sun and Dave Hargrave's Arduin Adventure are both reviewed positively, though with a few caveats in the case of the Arduin Adventure. Larry DiTillio's "Sword of Hollywood" looks at two movies, one I've heard of and one I have not. The first is Dragonslayer, which DiTillio liked a great deal. The second is The Archer: Fugitive from the Empire, which he also liked – indeed, he liked it well enough that he wants it to become a weekly television series. Gigi D'Arn's column talks a fair bit about a supposed scramble by various publishers to secure the righs to Conan the Barbarian-related game products, as well as hints of trouble at SPI. 

All in all, issue #13 is something of a disappointment to me. My guess is that the shift from bimonthly to monthly left Chaosium with less quality material to choose from for each issue and it shows. I hope that, as 1981 wears on, things will improve.


  1. The Archer was apparently a TV movie broadcast on NBC as a pilot for a series that was never made, which may explain DiTillio's specific desire for it to continue.

    1. Oh ye gods, that's the one with the Heartbow, isn't it? I'd nearly forgotten that one. There was at least one small gaming zine with an article statting the thing for D&D back then.

      It's not quite Hawk the Slayer levels of camp, but it's certainly bad enough to merit attention from Rofftrax or MST3K.

    2. Ohhhhhh, the Heartbow. I probably haven't thought of that since the night it aired.

    3. @Alec Semicognito Did any of your GMs slip the fool thing into their campaign? I distinctly recall it showing up in the hands of an NPC archer in one of our games shortly after the movie aired.

  2. Had this one, but I couldn't have told you what was in it aside from the Harper cult and the article of Japanese weaponry. The rest just didn't stick at all for me, although I do like the cover art.

    Maybe you're right about "no crunch" content being less than useful and distinctly unmemorable. I've been trying to stay on system-agnostic on my fantasy blog and views and engagement are so low I've pretty much gone to hiatus. The recent bout of writer's block doesn't help any either.

  3. I remember liking The Archer quite a bit; shame it didn't go anywhere.

  4. Though I'm not familiar with this particular issue, I'm generally a fan of material that's less crunchy and more useful for inspiration, different settings, adventure ideas, etc. Sorcerer's Apprentice was like this- A fair amount of T&T crunch (mostly adventures) but also a fair amount of system-less articles, and (generally way better than The Dragon's) fiction. I'm always looking for adventures proper and small-ish doses of inspiration for adventures and worlds/setting. If I'm looking for rules/crunch I'd rather buy a rulebook/supplement that addresses my needs.