Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Different Worlds: Issue #17

Issue #18 of Different Worlds (December 1981) begins with an interesting editorial by Tadashi Ehara. He discusses the need for "careful consideration" in choosing a roleplaying game system if one intends for it to become "a lifetime hobby." Ehara seems to be suggesting that a person might – or even must – choose a single system and then devote oneself fully to it. For that reason, he advocates choosing a system that is "lasting and worthwhile," providing "learning experiences that we can use constructively in our daily lives." I don't disagree in general, though I do find it odd that he doesn't consider the possibility of long-term devotion to multiple systems rather than a single "ultimate set of rules." 

The first article is a RuneQuest solo scenario by Sandy Petersen entitled "Ware Hall." Set in Glorantha, it's presented as a series of short boxed texts found at the bottom of most pages of the issue. The scenario itself is nothing special but I was impressed with its presentation, which is quite clever. Ronald Mark Pehr's "Speed in Melee" is a set of variant rules for Dungeons & Dragons focused on an alternative approach to initiative. I find it difficult to judge articles like this, as I've never cared much about these matters, preferring simpler, if "unrealistic," systems rather than more complex ones.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh's "For Sale" provides three new fighter craft designs for use with GDW's Traveller. Greg Wilson's "Enuk Manamee" is a gateway cult for RuneQuest describing "the fire god of the tundra nomads." Ronald Mark Pehr appears again, this time offering "The Horseclans Player" for use with The Fantasy Trip. It's a short overview of how to set TFT in the universe of Robert Adams's Horseclans novels. As a fan of the source material, I was glad to see this article, even if it's much too brief. "The Log of the Lively Lady" by Gerald Seypura is an adventure for FGU's Skull & Crossbones – a RPG for which I've rarely ever seen articles published anywhere. 

"Questworld" is a lengthy article by Lynn Willis, Sandy Petersen, and Greg Stafford discussing the creation of a non-Gloranthan setting for use with RuneQuest. Ultimately, this setting would be published in the boxed set of the same name. I've long been intrigued by Questworld, which has long seemed to me to have been a path not taken for RQ. Most interesting to me is the article's mentioning of the fact that continents on Questworld had been set aside for Games Workshop and Judges Guild to use in producing their own adventures and support material. So far as I know, neither publisher ever did anything with Questworld, but then neither did Chaosium beyond the initial boxed set.

Robin Wood's "Conversions in Lead" is another lengthy article, this time discussing how to create non-standard miniatures by modifying existing ones. Like most topics pertaining to miniatures figures, I have a great interest in this one but absolutely no experience with it. Also notable is the article's inclusion of an Ahoggyá figure from the world of Tékumel, which is something you don't see very often. "Devious Magic" by Robert Plamondon is another D&D variant. Plamondon offers a number of new ways to use old spells and magic items in order to breathe new life in them. While I can't say I was blown away by any of his suggestions, I certainly approve of his intentions. 

John T. Sapienza also presents a D&D variant, entitled "Non-human Level Limits," which seeks an alternative approach to slowing the level advancement of demihuman characters. Sapienza's approach isn't what suggests – which is fine – but that he repeatedly notes that "the D&D rules are designed for human characters" and "humanity dominates among the intelligent races." It's a perspective that isn't much held nowadays, but I'm always pleased when I find further evidence that it was commonplace in the hobby prior to the 21st century. Issue #13 also reviews Champions, Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords, In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords, and Cults of Terror. 

Gigi D'Arn's column begins by noting that the sales of many RPG companies were poor in 1981 and that many would likely not survive long into 1982. There's no specific support for these claims, however, so I can't speak to their truth. Then there's this story:

Lou Zocchi's ventriloquist dummy, Woody Knotts, was once quite well known in the hobby, so I found this tidbit fascinating. Gigi likewise mentions rumors of a gaming magazine from FGU, Rona Jaffe's upcoming novel, Steve Jackson writing a supplement for Dragonquest, and the first two volumes of the Armies of Tékumel series. 

My exploration of Different Worlds continues. It's an odd magazine, as I've said: when it's good, it's very, very good, but much of the time it's fairly mediocre, or at least of much less interest to me than any random issue of Dragon or White Dwarf. That might say more about me and my tastes than it does about Different Worlds, of course, but there it is.


  1. By 1981, there were several issues of Sorcerer's Apprentice, Flying Buffalo's magazine supporting Tunnels and Trolls, that had what they called "mini-solos," short solitaire adventures formatted as described herein, with boxed text at the bottom or at the sides of the pages in small print. Interesting that Chaosium picked up on the idea and flew it up the flagpole, as it were.

  2. Literally never saw this issue. The FLGS was spotty about getting every issue and younger me hadn't worked out that you could insist on that sort of thing yet. Bemused by the cover blurb about a new TFT "class" (which I assume refers to the Horseclans article) when the game has no classes, not even a hard division between casters and non-casters. I was quite a Horseclans fan in my teens, but made the mistake of re-reading it in the late 80s and it didn't hold up well for me at all. Then again, neither did Remo Williams or Casca.

    Did anything come of the FGU magazine rumor? I don't recall them having one, but maybe I just didn't notice it.

  3. I liked Horseclans as a setting but Adams' penchant for writing schizophrenic characters (this book's hero is next book's villain) drove me nuts.

    1. It was Adams' ever increasing use of reprinted material from earlier books that eventually killed my interest in the series. Got to the point where you'd see whole chapters that were lifted almost unchanged from previous books.

      The hero-to-villain thing was amusing the first time or two it happened but yeah, it got old after a very short while.

  4. I could be wrong and haven't checked the timeline but I always thought the Chaosium/Avalon Hill deal was responsible for killing Questworld and for motivating Games Workshop into dropping RuneQuest and developing Warhammer RPG.

  5. Any perceived uneven quality of Different Worlds vs the Dragon and White Dwarf is probably due to Different Worlds having a considerably smaller pool of authors to draw from. It was a relatively small fish in a big pond. The initial print run of bi-monthly Different Worlds issue #1 (Feb/March 1979) was 1500 copies (followed by a second printing of 1,000 after first printing sold out) at a time when the Dragon's monthly print run was about 10,000 and bi-monthly White Dwarf was > 5,000. By 1981, Dragon had monthly print runs around 60,000 and in 1983 print runs were ~120,000. Different Worlds became sort-of-monthly partway through 1981 and it is very, very unlikely that it was ever printed in anything like these numbers. As an author back then, where would you have wanted your article to appear? Having spent years editing magazines, I can attest that it is a neverending treadmill to come up with new quality material of interest for your readers. Combine that with trying to maintain a reasonable/regular publishing schedule and a magazine's editors can often be faced with running material they'd rather not or authoring pieces themselves under pseudonyms to cover shortfalls and stay on schedule.

    1. The other thing that's going on here is that in 1981, Chaosium was still trying to publish both Different Worlds and Wyrm's Footnotes, so they were competing with themselves to some extent.