Tuesday, February 15, 2022

White Dwarf: Issue #27

Issue #27 of White Dwarf (October/November 1981) features a science fictional cover by Allan Craddock, an artist who'd later do work on the Fighting Fantasy series. Ian Livingstone's editorial notes that 1982 "should be the year of monthly WD," thanks in no small part to the large number of submissions made to the magazine in answer to last month's appeal for them. The advent of monthly White Dwarf coincides precisely with my own awareness of the periodical, so I look forward to re-reading those issues with which I have contemporary acquaintance.

The issue begins with Part 3 of Roger Musson's "The Dungeon Architect." This month's installment discusses "The Populated Dungeon," by which Musson really means how and why the dungeon is the way it is. He starts, for example, with the "cybernetic dungeon" – an odd turn of phrase, to be sure, but one that refers to a computer-generated, which is to say, random dungeon. Such a dungeon is contrasted with the "ecological dungeon," whose layout and contents make sense according to naturalistic principles. Musson discusses other types of dungeons, too, like the "silly dungeon" and "improvised dungeon," among others. His overall point, though, is that the referee's approach to designing his dungeons has consequences for not just its final form but also how players might receive it. Like its predecessors, this installment is filled with excellent food for thought, even for experienced dungeon makers.

Robert McMahon offers up "The Imperial Secret Service," a new career for use with Traveller. This is an advanced career like those found in Mercenary or High Guard and covers the civilian secret agents of the Third Imperium. It's fine for what it is, but nothing special. Meanwhile, "Open Box" reviews the Deluxe Edition of Traveller (10 out of 10 for newcomers to the game; 4 out of 10 for old hands), Griffin Mountain (9 out of 10), Starfleet Battles (8 out of 10), IISS Ship Files (9 out of 10), Traders and Gunboats for Traveller (9 out of 10), and the GDW boardgame Asteroid (8 out of 10). That's a lot of science fiction gaming material! It's precisely because of White Dwarf's heavy SF focus that I relished any copies I came across in my youth, since that was my own preferred genre (and Traveller my favorite RPG).

Lewis Pulsipher's "An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons" with its fifth part, this time dedicated to "Characterisation and Alignment." This is a much short part than the previous four and is mostly filled with the usual sorts of advice one might expect on the subject of "how to roleplay a character." The main points of interest (to me anyway) are that he recommends that the referee give experience to characters that are roleplayed well and in accordance with their stated alignments and that he suggest character decisions need not be done in "real time." That is, Pulsipher sees nothing wrong with a player who takes his time to determine what his character's actions might be rather than making a quick decision on the fly. I find this interesting in that it suggests Pulsipher doesn't see any necessity in a player's strongly identifying with his character; there's still some psychological "distance" between the two and this affects how a character is played.

Marcus L. Rowland's "The Dunegon at the End of the Universe" is a follow-up to last month's "DM's Guide to the Galaxy," which talks about D&D in space. This time, Rowland focuses on the intricacies of zero-G combat, ship-to-ship combat, and new spells and magic items that make sense within the context of outer space adventures. "Hell's Portal" by Will Stephenson is a short AD&D scenario about two groups – one the PCs, the other rival NPCs – attempting to find the arms and armor of a dead revolutionary in the ruins of a prison known as Hell's Portal. The competitive aspect of the adventure is an interesting one (and common in many White Dwarf scenarios). Also noteworthy is how many of the adventure's monsters are to be found in the Fiend Folio – British pride, no doubt!

"On the Cards" by Bob McWilliams is a short article recommending the creation and use of index cards to handle the details of weapon statistics in Traveller. "Summoners" is a new spellcasting class by Penelope Hill. As you might imagine, the class is based around the summoning of elementals, demons, devils, and other extraplanar beings. I actually like the idea behind classes like this, but I've long felt they tend to be too narrowly conceived to be generally useful and this article does little to change my mind. 

"Fiend Folio" features five "near misses" – monsters that were almost included in the Fiend Folio but ultimately rejected, largely for matters of copyright. For example, there's the white ape from the Barsoom tales and the wirrn from the classic Doctor Who episode "The Ark in Space." How much one likes monsters of this sort depends, I think, on how tolerant one is of the blatant ripping off of ideas from other idea. For myself, I find them charming artifacts from a simpler time. Finally, "Treasure Chest" details seven new D&D spells, including a couple by Roger E. Moore.

White Dwarf's quality has, by this issue, acquired a degree of consistency that approaches that of other professional gaming magazines of the time. What sets it apart is the types of articles it publishes. They're generally a bit more off-beat than those in US periodicals and often focus on games, like Traveller, that don't get as many articles devoted to them in, say, Dragon or Different Worlds. That holds great attraction to someone such as myself, which is why I'm looking forward to the issues to come.


  1. "The advent of monthly White Dwarf coincides precisely with my own awareness of the periodical..."

    I'd imagine their distribution got a serious bump when they went monthly. Assuming the system worked somewhat like it did in the 90s and early 2000s (when I was familiar with it) distributors were much more willing to take a chance on carrying monthly mags than bimonthly or quarterly ones. Definite perception that less frequent publications were more likely to fold without warning, and monthly sales are obviously better money too.

  2. "For example, there's the white ape from the Barsoom tales... "

    Yeah, seems like they got over whatever reluctance kept the concept out of the FF in the first place.

    1. Dangit, botched typing - meant to point out that the girallon is a Barsoomian ape in all but name, and has been around for decades now. Might even pre-date this article, which would explain why the WD version didn't make FF?

    2. Surely the girallon was first published in the 3E Monster Manual in 2000?
      That'd be a long, long time after Fiend Folio.

    3. Didn't it show up in the 2nd ed Monstrous Compendium days? Still post-FF, but I could have sworn I'd seen it long before WotC.

      Regardless, it's a Barsoomian ape with a different name, so whenever it showed up D&D did finally wind up with one.

  3. "Robert McMahon offers up "The Imperial Secret Service," a new career for use with Traveller. This is an advanced career like those found in Mercenary or High Guard and covers the civilian secret agents of the Third Imperium."

    It would be interesting to compare this old take on the concept with the "Agent of the Imperium" novel Miller recently wrote. I haven't gotten a copy yet myself but the reviews sound promising, although it plays havoc with some canon game elements.