Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Different Worlds: Issue #18

Issue #18 (January 1982) features a very striking cover by Kevin C. Ellis, which presages the issue's heavy science fictional content. The first example of this content is Paul Montgomery Crabaugh's "Swords on Deck." It's a very short article focusing on melee combat in Traveller, offering expanded rules for archaic weapons like swords and animal attacks. A second Traveller article immediately follows, "Changes for Trillion Credit Squadron" by Doug Houseman. Houseman reflects on the first year of GDW's Trillion Credit Squadron convention tournaments and makes some suggestions on how its rules could be changed in light of what he has observed. 

More science fiction content follows, in the form of another article by Crabaugh, this one for Heritage's Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier. His article, called "Beyond the Final Frontier," provides seven pages of new and expanded rules for use with the game. It's a very good article, filled with many good ideas. Within a year, though, FASA would produce its own Star Trek roleplaying game and Heritage's version would become a forgotten relic of the early days of the hobby. John Sapienza follows up Crabaugh with an in-depth study of the Star Trek miniatures available from Citadel. 

Sapienza is the author of a second article, "Is It Magic? What Does It Do?" This is a D&D variant on how to handle the detect magic spell. As with many such variants, what Sapienza offers is more detail and complexity through the use of a series of random tables. I have mixed feelings about such variants. On the one hand, I recognize that some campaigns genuinely benefit from such elaboration; on the other hand, I've personally found the opposite to be the case. Henry J. Padilla's "Starfreighter Athena" presents a well-armed merchant vessel for use with Traveller, including a set of deckplans. Mart Connel's "Fast Towns" harnesses the idea of chronographs – graphic representations of how long it takes to travel between points on a map – to aid the referee in quickly generating towns for use in a fantasy roleplaying game. An interesting idea! Meanwhile, Patrick Amory's "How to Design Cities" looks to history and geography as a guide toward its titular purpose.

 "The Tale of the Jolly Soldier" by Ken Rolston is a lengthy, non-Gloranthan scenario for use with RuneQuest. Greg Stafford reviews the infamous Fantasy Wargaming under the title "Another Editorial Blunder." Its a lengthy – and brutal – review and deservedly so, I think. That said, Fantasy Wargaming remains one of those objectively awful RPGs with which I nevertheless retain a weird fascination and even fondness. The majority of this issue's other reviews are science fictional, most focused on Traveller, like Ordeal by Eshaar, High Passage, Simba Safari, and Action Aboard. It's a reminder of just how significant Traveller once was in the RPG world that so many products could be published to support it. 

Gigi D'Arn's column includes a report about the ongoing legal disputes between Metagaming's Howard Thompson and Steve Jackson. This is something of which I was not aware at the time, so I find these contemporary accounts intriguing. D'Arn also notes that, when the economy is bad, sales of games tend to rise, as people stop traveling and instead stay home to do things with close friends and family. Consequently, she predicts that 1982 will be a good year for the hobby. 

Given my science fictional predilections, I really enjoyed issue #18 of Different Worlds. Even so, I also think this is one of the best issues published to date, filled with plenty of good and useful articles. I hope it presages more to come.

12 comments:

  1. On John T. Sapienza's articles, in the APA realm he became known as John T. (Tables) Sapienza... Note that he is a professional lawyer... A really good chap overall though...

    And he did give me some good advice on running RQ when we crossed paths at a convention, he suggested that rather than counting strike ranks one by one asking if anyone had an action, to collect what SR folks were doing stuff on. Or something like that... Advice I immediately took to heart and have run SRs that way ever since (which is why I'm not exactly sure how I ran it before).

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  2. Another one I missed back in the day, which I think I regret since it sounds right up my alley. Snazzy cover there, young me would have bought it in a heartbeat.

    Steve and Howard were feuding over the rights to Ogre, GEV and the as-yet unreleased One Page Bulge, all of which had been bought by Steve as part of The Space Gamer purchase when he left the company (in 1980 IIRC). That and other legal issues may have led to Howard starting up the "Games Research Group" which appeared to be some kind of shell company, possibly intended to confuse rights issues to other games. The name showed up on the last few Metagaming releases in 1982, and the company was shut down the year after.

    I think Gigi was a bit premature, I recall 1984 being a bigger year for gaming than 83...but it was a long while back, so maybe I'm wrong.

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  3. I'd like to know more about the chronograph idea and how it works!

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    1. This issue and some others are in the Internet Archive:

      https://archive.org/details/DifferentWorlds02_201801/Different-Worlds-18/mode/2up

      I do wonder whether this is legit; I suspect not.

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    2. Mostly not. There may be done things that have gone public domain but Different Worlds is not one of them. grodog at one point was working on getting these out.

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    3. Who owns the copyright now? They should be notified so they can take action if they want.

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    4. Trying to get illegal PDFs down is a big challenge, what we can do as fans is NOT post links and consider carefully when we hint something is available.

      http://www.diffworlds.com/ is an active website by Tadashi Ehara (and he still has many back issues).

      I think archive.org tries to legitimize itself as a "library", I don't know how solid their claim is (their wayback machine also provides technical copyright violations but I don't see any but the most adamant copyright holder going after them for that part of the site).

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    5. Point taken. I will send an e-mail to info@diffworlds.com regardless.

      I wonder why he doesn’t sell PDFs of at least the out-of-stock issues on DriveThruRPG or some such.

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  4. I think you mischaracterize Stafford’s review of FW: he praises the historical content, decries that it falsely advertises its accessibility to beginners, and otherwise discusses the rules not at all.

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  5. The “Beyond the Final Frontier” article has been hugely influential for me. It is essentially the Players Handbook for my Star Trek game. It really hits the sweet spot, fleshing out STAGFF just where it needs it. The resulting ruleset is very playable, and surprisingly similar to what FASA came up with, albeit a degree less crunchy across the board.

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    1. That's terrific. I never even saw, let alone played, the Heritage game at the time of its publication, so it's good to hear that you got good use out of it.

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