Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Different Worlds: Issue #21

I don't usually write about the letters column of Different Worlds for a number of reasons. However, in the case of issue #21 (June 1982), I want to draw brief attention to a letter by Steve Perrin, in which he responds to an article in issue #20 about heraldry. Perrin is quite complimentary about the article by Robin Wood but wishes to point out a handful of errors and misapprehensions based on his longtime association with the Society for Creativity Anachronism. In looking at the history of roleplaying games, we often forget the role played by the SCA as a crucible for many ideas that would later become important in the hobby (especially on the West Coast of the United States). Seeing this latter reminded me of that, as well as my own ignorance about this aspect of the hobby's prehistory.

"Racial Sight Differences" is the first article of the issue and it's an odd one. To start, it's author is credited simply as Shadowstar, which I can only assume is a pseudonym. Its subject matter is the differences between "human and non-human ways of seeing," starting with infravision but going beyond that into theoretical notions such as texture and vibration sensitivity. The article is short and peculiar – a bit like me, I suppose – and, while it doesn't include any game mechanics, it raises some interesting questions in a Gygaxian naturalistic vein. Also of note is that the article is illustrated by an artist credited as "Michael Mignola," who, at the time, was still a student.

"Healing Plants and Other Herbs" by Robin Wood is an amazing article. Seven pages in length, it's filled with many helpful illustrations of leaves and flowers to accompany straightforward, interesting text about various plants and herbs with healing properties. Most useful, though, is a series of tables at the end of the article to help the referee in designing unique (and fantastical) healing plants for use in his campaign setting. These are the kinds of articles I really enjoy seeing and this one is no exception. "Pistols" by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh offers up a few new handguns for use with GDW's Traveller, while John T. Sapienza's "Grenadier Hirelings, Fighting Men & Specialists" is a review of three different sets of AD&D miniatures.

Larry Best's "Fantasy Is Reality" is listed as a "philosophy" article, which tells you what you're in for. Best recounts his experiences as a graduate student in medieval English literature studying older texts and how what he read in, say, Beowulf or the Greenlander's Saga clashed with his everyday experience of the world. He knew there were no such things as monsters or spirits of the dead and yet all these stories spoke of them as if there were. Best states that 
I realize that technology, education, and shoes have caged me, kept me from a realm too often considered mere fantasy, a world through which I might perceive medieval literature, and all literature, and my entire life from a new and visual standpoint, a beautiful and fantastic world of pure reality.

I really don't know what to make of this article, so I won't even try.

Ken St. Andre's "The Elric Saga: See Battle Near Melniboné" is a solo adventure for use with Stormbringer. It's a fun little scenario based on events from the works of Michael Moorcock. "Creating Jolanti" by Michael Malony and Greg Stafford is a RuneQuest piece describing the constructed race known as the Jolanti. "Making a Magic Staff" by Gerald M. Schmitt is a D&D variant that offers rules and guidelines for making the ubiquitous wizard's staff much more mechanically useful. As is often the case with the articles of Different Worlds, it's not something I'd make use of myself, but I nonetheless appreciate variants of this sort.

This month's reviews highlight Waspwinter and Legend of the Sky Raiders, both for Traveller. The latter is rightly lauded, while the former is not. Also reviewed are Journey to the Center of the Circle (which I do not know) and Descent into the Depths of the Earth. John T. Sapienza's "An Expanded Cleric vs. Undead System" seeks to alter the turning system in order to better take into account the disparity between a cleric's level and that of the undead he's attempting to turn. Gigi D'Arn comments on how hard it is to write a monthly column, with which I can sympathize. Nevertheless, she comments upon the fall-out of the end of SPI, starting with its acquisition by TSR and the establishment of Victory Games. There's also mention of TSR's purchase of Amazing stories and a needlework company, as well as the (unrealized) rumor that Chaosium had obtained the rights to produce a game based on Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. 

I continue to enjoy reading Different Worlds and am curious to see where the magazine goes as the 1980s wear on.


  1. Never saw this issue in the wild. Not quite the striking cover I've come to expect from the mag, but far from awful either. Must be worth a mint to Mignola fans, I had no idea he illustrated anything for Chaosium in the 80s.

    "...author is credited simply as Shadowstar, which I can only assume is a pseudonym"

    Probably true but you never can tell. There was a "Duke Arioch" in my local phone book for most of my life, and it really was his legal name. And that's not even mentioning the Zappa kids. Parents do weird things to their children. :)

    "...rumor that Chaosium had obtained the rights to produce a game based on Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories."

    The alt universe where that came to pass would be a nice place to live - unless it comes with poor Mandela dying in prison thirty-odd years early or some similarly awful divergence.

    1. On the subject of unusual legal names: the artist formerly known as Darlene Pekul now has the legal name DARLENE (everything except the D should be small caps but the comment software apparently can't handle that).

    2. True, but I'm no more inclined to ALLCAPS her name than I was to use that ridiculous squiggle Prince (or Prince Rogers Nelson if you prefer his full name) used to go by.

  2. That's wild Mike Mignola illustrated for an issue of Different Worlds. I wonder if he did any more work for the magazine?