Tuesday, June 21, 2022

White Dwarf: Issue #39

Issue #39 (March 1983) of White Dwarf sports not only a cover by Nicholas Bibby (who also did last month's cover) but also a new cover logo and non-justified text, the latter of which makes its articles much easier on the eyes (or mine, at any rate). Another addition is a book review column by Dave Langford. In addition, Ian Livingstone mentions in his editorial that this issue is just the start of changes to the magazine. Future issues will include more original fiction, a comic strip, and a column devoted to boardgames. 

Kicking off the issue is part one of "Inhuman Gods" by Phil Masters. The article presents a half-dozen gods for various nonhuman D&D monsters, such as the aaracokra from the Fiend Folio and the desert raiders from issue #12 of White Dwarf. This is the kind of article I ate up when I was younger and, even now, I can appreciate the creativity that went into imagining the types of deities "lesser" species must worship. Nowadays, my natural inclination is toward greater simplicity when it comes to gods and cosmological questions, so I don't favor the "a god for every monster" approach employed here. 

"Open Box" reviews four of TSR's "Endless Quest" choose-your-own-adventure books, including Dungeon of Dread. The reviewer, Marcus L. Rowland, judges them individually, with the lowest receiving 5 out of 10 and the highest 7 out of 10. All, he says, are clearly geared toward younger readers and suffer from "a surfeit of lucky coincidences, cute talking animals, and lousy dialogue." I can't really disagree. Also reviewed is Citybook 1 from Flying Buffalo (7 out of 10) and four Traveller adventures. The first two are by FASA: Rescue on Galatea (6 out of 10) and The Trail of the Sky Raiders (8 out of 10). The other pair are from GDW: Prison Planet (5 out of 10) and Double Adventure 6: Divine Intervention/Night of Conquest (9 out of 10). I'll readily grant that Prison Planet isn't among GDW's best work, but I likely wouldn't judge it as low the reviewer, Andy Slack. 

"Runeblades" by Dave Morris presents rules for creating rune weapons for Chaosium's non-Gloranthan RuneQuest setting, Questworld. I can't say it impressed me much, since it's effectively just a collection of magic swords, none of which stood out as unique in the annals of RPG history. Similarly, part four of "An Introduction to Traveller" by Andy Slack is a bit of a letdown. This installment focuses on campaigns, specifically the kinds of decisions a referee must make before starting a new Traveller campaign. I suppose an utter neophyte might find its discussions of size, scope, the presence of Earthlike worlds, alien races genuinely insightful. For myself, it's more of the same I've read many times in many different places – too bad, as Slack often produced some of the best Traveller material to be found anywhere.

"Slayground" by Marcus L. Rowland is a Champions scenario set at a London fun fair, where three supervillains are causing mayhem. The main attraction here (pun slightly intended) is the environment, which offers unique options for superheroic fisticuffs. It's also interesting to see a Champions adventure in the pages of WD, something I can't recall being a common feature. "Stand By to Repel Boarders" by Andrew Miller is a good, if short, article about starship security in Traveller. Miller discusses airlocks and iris valves, as well as tactics for fighting in enclosed spaces aboard spacegoing vessels. It's a niche article but a useful one, especially if your Traveller adventures sometimes include a little Snapshot-style action.

"The Daughter of Danu" by Alan E. and Charles M. Paull is an AD&D adventure that makes use of the faerie information presented in issues #37 and #38. The scenario is geared toward characters of levels 2-4 and concerns the troubles experienced by a rural village beset by two different tribes of warring goblins, each of which is trying to curry the favor of Black Annis. It's a classic set-up, trite even, but the faerie lore details add just enough spice to make it seem fresh. 

Dave Langford's premier "Critical Mass" column reviews several science fiction and fantasy books, the most significant of which are Arthur C. Clarke's 2010: Odyssey Two, Isaac Asimov's Foundation's Edge, and Robert Heinlein's Friday. Langford likes the first book and has mixed feelings about the second two. Having read all three, I can't say I disagree with his assessment, though I think I probably disliked Friday more than he seems to have. Reading this column is fascinating, primarily because it engenders strange feelings of nostalgia of the time before science fiction and (especially) fantasy literature had become as big as they are today. Also, am I really old enough to remember new books by Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein? Yikes.

"A Day in the Life of a Monster" by Lewis Pulsipher is an examination of monster intelligence and how it might influence their motivations. Pulsipher even includes a simple system to aid the referee in deciding the goals of a monster (or group of monsters). "Monster Mash" presents two new monsters for use with RuneQuest and "Non-Player Characters" by Roger and Georgia Moore presents three detailed NPCs for use with AD&D (including Konun the Halfling (the joke should be obvious).

All in all, it's a good issue, with lots of varied content. This is quite close to what I think of when I remember White Dwarf: a mix of long and short articles for use with many games but with D&D, RuneQuest, and Traveller predominating, as God intended. What's not to like?