Tuesday, August 3, 2021

White Dwarf: Issue #3

Issue #3 of White Dwarf is dated October/November 1977 and features cover art by Alan Hunter, who did a number of illustrations in the Fiend Folio. Its first article is entitled "Solo Dungeon Mapping" and is credited to Roger Moores – please note the terminal "s." I assume, though do not know for certain, that this is a typographical error and that the author's name is, in fact, Roger Moore, better known as Roger E. Moore, who would later go on to become editor of TSR's Dragon. Moore's byline appeared extensively in the pages of gaming periodicals starting in the late 1970s, so it seems very likely that this is the same person, but I could be mistaken.

In any case, "Solo Dungeon Mapping" is an unusual article. First, though intended for use with Dungeons & Dragons, it makes reference to Empire of the Petal Throne as another game for which it could be useful. Second, the very loose system that Moore presents seems intended to create dungeons with few rooms per level but lots of long corridors and passages up and down between levels. Now, there's nothing wrong with this approach, of course, but it's quite different from the much more cramped style I tend to associate with dungeons.

Fred Hemmings offers another installment of his "Competitive D&D," This time around Hemmings presents more details on the chambers of his competition dungeon, Pandora's Maze, which I welcome, given what he implied about it in his previous two articles. The intention here is to provide examples of the mix of encounters, tricks, and traps he uses in scenarios of this style. Likewise, Don Turnbull continues to plug away at his "The Monstermark System," with a third entry. As before, I found the article long and tedious, with an emphasis on mechanical and mathematical minutiae of little use to me. It's odd because, for years, I had heard people speak so glowingly of the Monstermark and assumed it was easy to use – apparently not!

"Open Box" tackles a large number of Judges Guild D&D products: Ready Ref Sheets, The Judge's Shield, TAC Cards, Tegel Manor, City State of the Invincible Overlord, Character Chronicle Cards, and The First First Fantasy Campaign. By and large, these were all well received by the reviewer, Don Turnbull. For myself, I was struck by how much Judges Guild had already released by this relatively early date. Also reviewed was FGU's Citadel, Fourth Dimension (its original, pre-TSR version), and TSR's Battle of the Five Armies. 

Lewis Pulsipher continues his "D&D Campaigns" series, with a lengthy discussion of his philosophy of refereeing. Early on, Pulsipher describes his vision of the referee as a "friendly computer discretion," who interferes in the course of play as little as possible, because "the referee is neither infallible nor completely impartial." It's an interesting perspective and one with which I am largely in agreement. He then elaborates on just what he means by this, offering many examples of how this philosophy operates in practice. I know that Pulsipher is often regarded as smug and stuffy in his approach to gaming, but I found this article engaging and look forward to future installments.

"Colouring Conan's Thews" by Eddie Jones is an overview of miniatures painting – another reminder of this hobby's roots. "The Loremaster of Avallon" by Andy Holt presents more D&D house rules, most notably his card-based combat system, whose use eluded me somewhat. I shall have to re-read it several more times to get a better sense of how the system, which uses 100 cards, each bearing a symbol on it, actually works. John Rothwell's "The Assassin" is a variant of the class presented in Blackmoor, while Ian Waugh's "New Magic Rooms" presents two chambers for placement in a dungeon whose interiors operate according to unusual rules. 

I have to admit that I was less impressed with this issue than I was with the previous one. Aside from Lewis Pulsipher's article, there was little that stood out to me as being either original or useful to me. That's the nature of periodicals, of course, but I had hoped that White Dwarf, compared to Different Worlds, would hit the ground running. I guess it's still too early to pass judgment on that score.


  1. From what I recall of Turnbull's reviews he tended to be generally positive about most things. Some people refuse to do negative reviews, simply avoiding all comment on the product instead, which has always struck me as being counterproductive. I'd rather read about something the reviewer hated and *why* they hated it so I can decide how much I agree with their viewpoint.

    The reminder that 4th Dimension existed makes me wish for a modern reprint. I quite liked that game, and producing it today would sill be fairly inexpensive. Heck, you could make a proper Cheapass Game out of it if you used pocket change or dice for playing pieces.

  2. Judges Guild was definitely a quantity over quality publisher, IMO/IME. Not to say that there were not some real gems, but you had to sift through 3-5 middling to downright awful products for every really good one.

    Also keep in mind that many of those early JG products like RR Sheets, the Judges Shield and others were just compilations of previously published materials in the Journals and such.

    I no longer visit over there, but at least as of a few years back Lew P was publishing monthly articles at ENWORLD- and as you can imagine his articles were quite controversial to that particular audience.

    1. He is still going at ENWorld. When we get to issues in the 40s it will become clear that readers of WD were already pretty ticked off with LP.


  3. Delta wrote an excellent commentary on the Monstermark from the point of view of an academic mathematician.


    We agreed that trying to understand the system was a real incentive to take math(s) at (high) school seriously.