Tuesday, September 14, 2021

White Dwarf: Issue #9

Needless to say, I love Christopher Perigo's cover to issue #9 of White Dwarf (October/November 1979), but then I am a fan of non-equine mounts in fantasy. Ian Livingstone begins the issue with an intriguing editorial. He broaches the subject of "realism" in fantasy roleplaying games in a somewhat negative fashion. He wonders whether this drive toward a "realistic game" serves any useful purpose and indeed whether it comes at the expense of fun and enjoyment. He then muses that "Taken to its logical conclusion, it would necessitate … rolling for the percentage chance of being stung by nettles whilst picking blackberries or bleeding gums whilst brushing teeth." In conclusion, Livingstone concedes, "If people want this, fine, but they should try to force their method of play down somebody else's throat, claiming that they are 'authorities'." As ever, I really have to wonder what was going on in the late 1970s UK gaming scene.

Complaints about the experience rules – or lack thereof – GDW's Traveller are commonplace and have been since the release of the game in 1977. Mike Ferguson's "The Experienced Traveller" introduces a system for in-game skill improvement, if one is so inclined. While I have never had a problem with this aspect of Traveller, I don't object to its introduction in campaigns where the referee deems it appropriate. However, Ferguson's system is odd in that it makes use of percentile dice to determine whether a skill improves after successful use. Traveller uses only six-sided dice, so the use of percentiles seems profoundly off to me, but I'm a purist about such matters.

"The Fiend Factory" gives us nine more monsters for use with Dungeons & Dragons. Most of these did not see publication in the Fiend Folio (unless my memory is poor – a distinct possibility!) and some of those that did saw changes (such as Svarts becoming Xvarts for some reason). I should also note that the feature's habit of using unique, hand-drawn typefaces for each monster's name is frustrating, as it's sometimes difficult to read the names. Part Two of Rowland Flynn's "The Valley of the Four Winds" story continues in this issue and I don't have much to say about it or, for that matter, the next installment of the "Kalgar" comic, which has completely failed to hold my attention.

On the other hand, Albie Fiore's "The Lichway" is well worth your time. It's an excellent trap-filled dungeon, intended to test the mettle of 1st-level characters. Most interesting to me is the presence of several groups of NPCs already present in the dungeon, including one made of man-beasts. The prospect of having to deal with so many mutually antagonistic factions sets this apart from many other introductory adventures, as does its general ambience of death and decay. It's not for nothing then that this is perhaps the most famous adventure ever published in the pages of White Dwarf. 

"Open Box" reviews Superhero 2044, Legions of the Petal Throne, the three Gygax-penned giants modules, and Citadel of Fire. All but the giants modules receive middling reviews (6 out of 10). Following it "Foresters" by Trevor Clarke and Ed Simbalist, which is in fact an extract from the Chivalry & Sorcery Sourcebook. The article deals with what are effectively Tolkien-style rangers for use with C&S. Meanwhile, this month's "Treasure Chest" offers up seven new "tricks & traps," along with an amusing percentile table of "useless items" (like an Albanian dictionary, a sack of stuffed voles, and a copy of "Greyhawk on 10 g.p. a Day"). There's also a handy chart for quickly generating the ability scores of monsters, should they be needed in play.  

This issue of White Dwarf feels a little thin to me. I certainly observed many pages devoted to advertising, a trend that's been building over the past few issues. I can't say for certain that there actually are more ads than before, but it certainly seems that way, a perception helped in no small part by the largely lackluster content of the issues ("The Lichway" being the primary standout). But, as I have said many times before, this has always been the nature of gaming periodicals. Perhaps next issue will be more impressive.


  1. I'd give Legions of the Petal Throne a solid 8 out of 10 myself, but I may be biased. It was one of the first miniatures gaming rules I owned (and definitely the first I bought myself, using allowance money) and did a great deal to put me on the road to decades of playing similar mass-combat rule sets.

    "Lichway" is famous enough I'd heard of it even back in 78 or 79, although I think my first playthrough was 1980 at a local club. Quite a standout for its era, and solid even today.

    I know you're not a big miniatures fan, but if you want to see some fairly creative fantasy mounts you might want to take a browse through GW's catalog pages. I'm no fan of the company here in 2021 but I'll concede they've got some interesting riding beasties in their Age of Sigmar range, for ex:









  2. Thinking back to the relevant "Grognard Files" episode, it sounds like at least some Traveller GMs were jealous of other games' funny dice. Maybe this was a sneaky way for them to move beyond Snakes & Ladders randomisers ;)

  3. One of my favorite issues on the strength of The Licheway.

    I really need to look at converting the Licheway to RuneQuest...

  4. I have heard alot about the Licheway. Does anyone know what is the best way to get a copy?

  5. The Lichway remains influential to the modern day, being a significant, and uncredited, source of inspiration for the original Death Frost Doom.