Tuesday, October 19, 2021

White Dwarf: Issue #13

Issue #13 of White Dwarf (June/July 1979) features a cover by Eddie Jones that recalls Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian (or at least the version of him that graced many a panel van in the '70s). Ian Livingstone's editorial concerns itself with the fact that many readers write in asking him for advice on where to find players for various RPGs. His reply is to make use of the free "Help!" column to locate them. He adds that "gaming as a hobby is still in its infancy," it will take some effort to make contact with others who share one's own interest in it. Again, not living in the UK at the time, I can't speak to the truth of this. I can only say that, six months later, when I would first enter the hobby in the USA, I had no difficulty finding people with whom to play, first in my own neighborhood, then in school, and even farther afield.

The issue's first article is "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Combat Tables," a four-page excerpt from the forthcoming Dungeon Masters Guide. I believe Dragon had a similar feature around the same time – proof, I think, that the release of the final volume of AD&D was much anticipated by D&D players, as it would finally provide many much needed tables, charts, and rules to replace those found in OD&D. "The Fiend Factory" also appears in this issue, providing more monsters for use with D&D. Most interesting to me were the collection of elemental monsters called "imps" in this issue, but renamed "mephits" in the pages of the Fiend Folio

Of very great interest to me was "Expanding Universe" by the excellent Andy Slack. This is the first part of a series of articles intended to, as its title suggests, expand the universe of GDW's Traveller. Slack offers new and supplementary rules for skills and poisons, some of which (like the rules for languages and learning by experience) are quite useful. I fondly remember Andy Slack's contributions to White Dwarf, which were among my favorite parts of the magazine. Seeing the very first installment, which I never saw back in the day, is thus a small thrill for me.

"Open Box" presents only three reviews: the D&D modules In Search of the Unknown and Tomb of Horrors. Since Don Turnbull is the reviewer of these products, he rates them very highly – 9 and 10 respectively – and his criticisms are few (he complains about the use of Roman numerals in module B1, for example). The third review is of the Games Workshop's Dungeon Floor Plans, which would seem to be something akin to Heritage USA's Dungeon Floors. They're a collection of sheets intended to be cut apart and used in conjunction with miniatures to represent the layout of a dungeon. The reviewer likes them very much and gives them a score of 9. Never having seen them myself, I have no basis for agreeing or disagreeing with this assessment.

Next up is Brian Asbury's "The Houri Character Class," an alternate female-only magic-user sub-class that relies on charm and seduction. Here's the class's advancement chart, followed by its spell list.

In the interests of space and good taste, I will not reproduce the seduction table here. While I'm not especially fond of … specialized character classes such as this, I can't completely condemn it either. Pulp fantasy is, after all, filled with femmes fatales and enchantresses, so I can understand why some referees might see utility in a class such as this. Even so, the houri isn't an especially interest take on the archetype in my opinion. It's both prurient and puerile, but that's far from unexpected. As I said, I'm not offended by it, simply bored (though the magic items, manual of advanced lovemaking and lipstick of irresistibility, are ridiculous enough that I might be persuaded to change my mind).

Part six of Rowland Flynn's "Valley of the Four Winds" is here, as is another installment of "Treasure Chest." This time there are fourteen new spells by a variety of authors. One such author is Richard Nixon, which I initially thought a joke, but, reading his contributions – catatonic control, rope control, and spell store – it's clear that he simply had the misfortune of sharing his name with the disgraced US president. Go figure!


  1. Slack's Traveller articles were some of the best content in WD back in the day, although I never realized they started quite this far back. Got another year or so before we start hitting issues I actually read, if not owned.

    There's something terribly wrong with that cover art, although I can't quite identify what. The woman's anatomy seems off - her left hand in particular probably couldn't be at that angle, and the perspective on her legs is wonky. Also pretty sure if she was standing upright she'd be quite a bit taller than Not-Conan there, which probably isn't intentional.

    The houri class seems just generally tasteless and the idea of what some teenage boy playing one back then would get up to makes me shudder - although an equally young GM forcing a female player to use the class seems even more dreadful. OTOH, I quite like the idea of a whole raft of spells applied (I assume) via kissing the target, which seems like it could fit a less sexualized theme nicely. Your fey enchantresses or fairy godmothers or grandmotherly village wise women could benefit from something like that.

    Runequest has had rules for playing as a cultist of Uleria (Glorantha's love-in-all-its-forms goddess) for decades, which handled the touchy subject a bit better than expected. Helps that she's solidly rooted in multiple cultures' mythologies, each of which has different opinions on her many aspects. Plus they get access to what may be the best-named spell in the history of roleplaying, Erotocomatose Lucidity - straight out of Aleister Crowley's playbook, no less. Puts the Excellent Prismatic Spray to shame, that one does. :)

  2. I think this is the version of the Houri class which was translated in french by Casus Belli magazine.

  3. I used the WD help page to get into my first club. We'd played for several years as a group of school kids, but sometime around issue 40 or 50 I put an ad in there, and got a call from a guy who was involved in a local club that we'd known nothing about. Was with them for about 5 years before moving away from the area, but still used to pop in when I visited home.

  4. I want to see the alternate universe where Richard M. Nixon wrote fantasy game material in-between wonky political discourses in his "retirement."

  5. Andy Slack maintains an excellent blog called Halfway Station.


  6. I think this was my first issue of WD. Even as spotty adolescents my mate and I looked at the Houri article and thought "...nah..."

  7. I used those tables to jump start my AD&D campaign in spring of 1979. I may have had the Dragon ones first, but I think these are the ones I photocopied to put on my GM screen as they ended up being laid out on pages a bit better than the Dragon installment. I also remember a Houri PC entering The Village of Homlet in one of my first AD&D sessions run at MIT that spring. I don't remember much other than there was trouble...

  8. I wish I'd known about the Houri class back in the day, I would have gotten some mileage out of it. I don't consider it tasteless at all. As long as your group is comfortable with the material, that's all that matters. In more recent years, I used some of the spells from the fan-made Book of Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, for an evil high-level NPC seductress, and it worked well.

  9. Interesting about the houri class: it comes in later in one of the Rolemaster Companions (same spells, too).

    1. I'd forgotten about that. Companion 4, FWIW. Variant profession of the Bard class, so a martial/mentalist semi-spell user. They appear to have some disguise spells as well as stuff that parallels the D&D list above. The class description is, um, let's say "uncomfortably dated in many ways" and leave it at that:

      "A Houri is a semi-spell user of the Realms of Arms and
      Mentalism who specializes in seduction and the manipulation of members of the opposite sex. Normally, female Houri are alluring to most humanoid men, while male Houri are alluring to most humanoid women. However, racial hatred will make this less likely in certain cases (e.g., Orcs hate Elves, so an Elven Houri would have a hard time seducing a Orc)."

    2. Well, one can always update the material so as to include LGBTQ characters (as well as demi-human-/humanoid-curious) . . . .

  10. I remember it well. Living as I did in the far off Pacific, in
    a thousand years of pre-internet solitude and waiting months for my next fix, I was able to forgive the occasional lapse. There were more than a few in truth, but I loved it all the same.