Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Different Worlds: Issue #19

Issue #19 of Different Worlds (February 1982) is filled with tentacles, starting with its cover by Roland Brown. Inside, many of its articles are devoted to Chaosium's then-new horror roleplaying game, Call of Cthulhu, which of course pleases me, as it's one of my all-time favorite RPGs. 

The issue kicks off with two excellent side-by-side articles by Sandy Petersen and Lynn Willis, in which each of them discuss the process of creating Call of Cthulhu from their perspective. These are both excellent articles and I wish I could do them justice with a brief summary. In general, Petersen focuses on the design of the game's rules and setting, while Willis talks about the "nuts and bolts" of making the game as a physical product, though each touches on other aspects as well. I already knew some of what was presented in these pieces, such as the origins of the game, but there was much more I'd never heard before. Good stuff!

"Guns Against Cthulhu" by Dick Wagenet presents variant rules for handling firearms in Call of Cthulhu and other modern Basic Role-Playing games. "Underground Menace" meanwhile is a Call of Cthulhu scenario by Sandy Petersen, set in and around Lake Superior in northern Michigan. Following it is a single page of errata and "second thoughts" on the rules of Call of Cthulhu. Not specifically related to Call of Cthulhu but relating to the 1920s time period is "The Gang Leaders" by Glenn Rahman. It's a collection of biographies and game statistics for famous criminals like John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd for use with FGU's Gangster! I enjoyed reading it, even though I've never played Gangster!, helped no doubt by the terrific contemporary photographs of the gangsters themselves.

"Safe Storage for Figures" by John T. Sapienza reviews several cases and storage containers intended to hold and protect miniature figures, complete with photos. "Thieves of Sparta" by B. Dennis Sustare presents guidelines for adapting Task Force's Heroes of Olympus to the setting of Thieves' World. The article is notable for the fact that Sustare is himself the designer of Heroes of Olympus. This month's reviews include Call of Cthulhu (very favorable), Adventure Class Ships, Volume 1 (for Traveller, also favorable), and Palace of the Silver Princess. The latter review is interesting in that the reviewer, Anders Swenson, comments on its conflation of "player" and "player character," a pet peeve of mine, which Swenson calls "the perennial FRP identity crisis." That said, his overview opinion of the module is positive.

There are also reviews of the notorious roleplaying game, Spawn of Fashan, other reviews of which I recall from my youth. Amusingly, the reviewer, Charles Dale Martin, spends the entirety of his review criticizing various aspects of the game, but still concludes "it may be still worth buying" on the strength of its referee's section. No similar charity is extended to Patrick Amory's review of Deities & Demigods. Amory lambastes it for its overall approach, saying it "contains monsters not religions." While I largely agree with that particular point, he is much harsher than I, concluding that it "is not of the slightest interest to anyone in the FRP market and should be avoided like leprosy." Ouch!

The issue ends with Gigi D'Arn's column. Most of this issue's gossip is filled with ephemera but a few rumors stand out. Among these are Richard Snider's hiring by Avalon Hill, Lawrence Schick's hiring by Coleco, the upcoming D&D video game for Intellivision, and GDW's cease-and-desist order filed against Edu-Ware for computer games illegally derived from Traveller. There's also talk of an upcoming RuneQuest supplement by Ken Kaufer called Dorastor. A product with a similar title would eventually appear, featuring some of Kaufer's work (along with many others), but it would not appear until more than a decade later during the brief RuneQuest Renaissance of the early 1990s masterminded by Ken Rolston.

Being a fan of Call of Cthulhu as I am, I enjoyed this issue a great deal. I hope I'll be similarly impressed with issue #20.


  1. Well, now I'm sorry I missed this issue completely, sounds like a great read. A few thoughts:

    I see FGU still sells Gangster! as a pdf, so anyone who wants to spend $6 can try the game even today. Myself, I preferred FGU's Daredevils RPG or Call of Cthulhu for Prohibition Era gaming, or maybe TSR's Gangbusters if I really wanted to lean into the mobster/bootlegger/noir film thing instead of more generalized pulp stuff.

    Unless memory fails me, that Adventurer Class deck plan set for Traveller was the very first thing FASA published, way back in the day when they were still using the "Freedonian Aeronautics and Space Administration" name instead of just the FASA shorthand. Quite a significant bit of gaming history, and an attractive product for its days. The boxes for the two deck plans series were notoriously flimsy but the black-and-white art on them was striking and very effective at drawing the eye to them. Fought many a Snapshot battle on those maps back in the day.

    I'm sorely tempted to vilify Patrick Amory for his review of Deities & Demigods (probably my favorite of all the AD&D hardbacks, although Oriental Adventures gives it serious competition) but time has already shown that he was very, very wrong in his assessment of its utility and popularity.

  2. You brought back memories of the savage but hilarious review of Spawn of Fashan in the Dragon magazine.

    How much of the eventually published Dorastor (a great supplement) was based on Kaufer’s work? It seems like such a key Glorantha document, what with its history of Nysalor and Arkat, plus details on Illumination.

    1. Re: Kaufer

      I wish I knew. I only know that his name is credited in the Avalon Hill version. How much of his original work made it into that book I do not know.

    2. The Space Gamer review of Spawn was somewhat less critical, although I'd hardly call it glowing either. I had a chance to read a friend's copy way back when and recall it being pretty bad, but it really didn't reach the same level of incompetent weirdness as Realm of Yolmi did - at least in my opinion.

      I wonder if Spawn (which described the land of Boosboodle as its setting) managed to (perhaps subconsciously) inspire the Dragon Mag game Flight of the Boodles in 1982. Probably just a coincidence - although I do wonder if either author was aware that "boodle" is an actual (albeit outdated) English word.