Tuesday, April 5, 2022

White Dwarf: Issue #33

Issue #33 of White Dwarf (September 1982) features a strangely compelling cover by Andrew George. I'm honestly not sure what it's supposed to be depicting, but, whatever it is, I find it interesting. The issue contains quite a pair of Traveller articles, starting with "Weapons for Traveller," which is a collection is new weapons for the game submitted by readers. Relatedly, there is "Guns for Sale" by Steve Cook. Though brief, this is a useful article that looks at the availability of various Traveller weapons through normal channels, taking into account factors such as tech level and law level. My main complaint about the article is that, like others in White Dwarf, it makes use of percentile dice, which are wholly unknown in Traveller. 

Continuing with the Traveller theme, "Open Box" reviews Striker, giving 6 out of 10, which I think is quite fair when one considers its complexity and general utility. Also reviewed are all four modules in the "S;ave Lords" series, which are collectively given 7 out of 10. Chaosium's Elric boardgame receives the same score, as does Flying Buffalo's Grimtooth's Traps. Perhaps I am seeing something that's not really there, but I've noticed that the reviews in "Open Box" are becoming somewhat more critical than they had been at the start of the column. I think that's a good thing overall, since the whole purpose of reviews in my opinion is to discuss, as objectively as one can, the good and the bad of a product so that a reader has a solid basis on which to decide whether to buy the product for himself. I'll be keeping a closer eye on "Open Box" in future issues to see if indeed my sense of things is borne out.

Part III of Paul Vernon's "The Town Planner" series focuses on "Running Towns and Cities," with special attention being paid to government, local customs, laws, calendars, events, and urban encounters. Taken together, these topics are among the most interesting and immediately useful ones that Vernon has tackled in this series. Consequently, I really enjoyed reading his thoughts and ideas. "Rumble at the Tin Inn" by Michael Cule is a mini-scenario for use with RuneQuest that's explicitly inspired by Lewis Pulsipher's "A Bar-Room Brawl" from issue #11. Like its predecessor, it includes a map with cut-out counters and game statistics for all the potential combatants. 

Speaking of follow-ups (and Lewis Pulsipher), we get Part II of his "Arms at the Ready" series, the first part of which appeared in issue #31. Readers are treated to eight more weapons cards for use with AD&D. Oliver Dickinson's "Rune Rites" column looks at "Invisibility and Magic." In addition to presenting a magic item, "The Cap of Sight," the article includes a small piece written by Greg Stafford himself, entitled "Spells Which I Don't Use in My Campaign." Stafford explains that he finds spells like invisibility, concealment, and vision "make it hard for [him] to referee a decent game which includes drama and tension." For that reason, he does not make these spells "general available to regular people or adventurers." Fascinating!

"Brevet Rank for Low Level Characters" by Lewis Pulsipher is an odd article. The whole thing is premised on the idea that convention referees often encounter people who wish to join their adventure but who lack characters of sufficient level to do so. Pulsipher then puts forward a system by which the referee can "pro-rate" a low-level character so that he can participate in a high-level adventure. I have no particular objection to the guidelines Pulsipher offers, but why bother? Had not referees in the UK at the time heard of pre-generated convention characters? Chalk this one up to another installment in The Past is a Foreign Country.

"Fiend Factory" this month looks at psionic monsters with "All in the Mind." As is usually the case, the monsters are a mixed bag and include some truly bizarre creatures, like the Psi-Mule and Giant Mole (which is inexplicably possessed of several mental powers). More interesting, from a historical perspective if nothing else, is Zytra, Lord of the Mind Flayers, created by future science fiction author, Charles Stross (who also created the githyanki and githzerai). Finally, "Treasure Chest" is a true miscellany of material for D&D, from a new potion to a new spell to a system for handling wear and tear on armor.

All in all, it's a fine issue, with a good mix of material, though not quite as strong as the previous one. Even so, this coming issues match up with the period of my youth when I was an avid reader of White Dwarf. For nostalgia alone, I expect I'll enjoy re-reading them and, if my memories are not mistaken, they will contain a fair bit of material well worth re-visiting.


  1. Some of the MIT gamers used brevet rank, and were used to porting characters between campaigns. Perhaps Pulsipher got the idea from them or maybe visa versa, or maybe both got it from someone else. Lots of cross pollination. You would have to collect ALL the fanzines PLUS figure out who attended which conventions to trace all the possible paths for idea sharing...

    1. That's very interesting! Thanks for pointing this out.

  2. I'd always understood that one of the functions of the old exponential experience tables was to enable a level 1 character to catch up with the rest of the party; the level n characters will reach level (n+1) in the same time it takes the level 1 character to reach level n. Maybe the rules could have been a bit more explicit about that, and of course keeping the level 1 character alive long enough might be it's own challenge.

  3. "...Giant Mole (which is inexplicably possessed of several mental powers)"

    Surely inspired by the brain mole from the Monster Manual, only a super-sized version?

    "Continuing with the Traveller theme, "Open Box" reviews Striker, giving 6 out of 10, which I think is quite fair when one considers its complexity and general utility."

    Reasonable for its usefulness as roleplaying supplement, but I'd be more inclined to rate it a 7 or 8 when used as a miniatures game. It's really quite versatile, has a realistic command & control system, and is a far better simulation of modern, near and far future combat than most similar efforts. Biggest let down for a purist minis gamer is the fiddly vehicle construction rules and the space used on RPG related material.

  4. Psi-Mule - Any chance this is based on the Mule from the foundation trilogy?