Tuesday, July 5, 2022

White Dwarf: Issue #41

My memory of White Dwarf is of a magazine whose articles were largely devoted to Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, and RuneQuest (and, later, Call of Cthulhu), hence my great enjoyment of it. This estimation is especially true of issue #41 (May 1983), which includes material for all three of those RPGs (CoC material is in the near future, however). John Harris provides the issue's cover illustration, another science fiction piece of the sort that, to my recollection at least, was much more common for White Dwarf than for Dragon. 

Ian Livingstone's editorial mentions the closures of both SPI and Heritage Models as evidence that the faddishness of roleplaying and wargaming may be fading. He opines that, in the 1970s, it was much easier for a company "to churn out mediocre games" and not suffer financially as a consequence. In the '80s, though, businesses that engage in such behavior is no longer sustainable as consumers become more selective in their purchases. There's definitely some truth to what he says, though, at least in the case of SPI, its demise was partly due to enemy action by TSR. Still, it's useful to be reminded of the cyclical nature of the hobby's popularity.

"Battle Plan!" by Allan E. Paull is an adjunct to last issue's "Dungeon Master General" article, in which he offered up a simple mass combat system for use with D&D. This time he presents both game statistics and tactical information for the armies of dwarves, elves, kobolds, and orcs. Not having made use of Paull's rules, I don't know how well they work in play, but the information he provides in this article strikes me as quite helpful. Dave Langford's "Critical Mass" takes a look at several novels of the time, the only one of which that I recall ever reading is Frank Herbert's The White Plague. Langford likes the novel, with some reservations, which, in my opinion, is a blanket statement that could be applied to most of the author's oeuvre.

"Open Box" reviews three products, starting with GDW's The Solomani Rim. Reviewer Andy Slack likes it better than The Spinward Marches, giving it 9 out of 10. In large part, his preference relates to the much higher production values and ease of use in the later product. Marcus L. Rowland reviews Yaquinto's Man, Myth, & Magic, along with its first two adventures, Death to Setanta and The Kingdom of the Sidhe. He didn't think too highly of any of them, giving them ratings of 5, 4, and 6 out of 10 respectively. Finally, there's a review of FGU's Star Explorer, a boardgame derived from its RPG, Starships & Spacemen. The reviewer, Allan E. Paull, found the game fun and well balanced, giving it a 9 out of 10.

"A Tasty Morsel" by Oliver Dickinson is another installment in his series of Gloranthan fiction, in which he tells the story of Griselda's exploits in New Pavis. Like most of these stories, it's quite enjoyable, particularly if you like Glorantha or picaresque tales. "Sorcerous Symbols" by Peter Hine is a fascinating article devoted to introducing magical marks and sigils into D&D as an alternative to scrolls and other expendable magic items. Hine presents not only examples of such sigils but a system for producing them, including the costs and time required to do so. It's a solid set of variant rules that a referee might find useful in certain types of campaigns.

"The Snowbird Mystery" by Andy Slack is an espionage-related adventure for Traveller. The scenario makes use of both the Explorer Class Scoutship introduced in issue #40 but also an accompanying article, "The Covert Survey Bureau." The Bureau is an Imperial spy agency that occasionally makes use of freelance operatives, hence their utility in an ongoing Traveller campaign. The adventure itself revolves around a corrupt governor's efforts to hide his illicit activities from the Empire, as well as a rivalry between the CSB and Naval Counter Intelligence. The resulting adventure is quite complex and includes plenty of scope for further development.

"Unarmed Combat II" by Oliver Dickinson is based on a collection of submissions and comments by readers regarding the best ways to expand and further develop unarmed combat in RuneQuest. It's an interesting article in that it doesn't settle on a single approach, but instead offers a number of options from which to choose. Being something of a rules tinkerer myself, I can't help but appreciate this approach. "Assignment: Freeway Deathride!" by Marcus L. Rowland is a scenario for use with Car Wars, a game I don't recall seeing supported much in the pages of White Dwarf.

Part III of "Inhuman Gods" by Phil Masters offers up yet more monstrous deities, like the lava children and grimlocks of the Fiend Folio. I don't wish to be too critical of this series, because I know I would have adored it as a younger person. From the vantage point of today, though, I nevertheless question its utility, especially for the more obscure (and rarely used) monsters of AD&D. Inspired by the movie, TRON, Paul McCree has penned "Discs as Weapons in AD&D," which does just that. He presents eight magical disc-shaped throwing weapons, a few of which have unique uses and effects. The biggest takeaway from this article for me, though, is a reminder of just how much of the content of D&D and other RPGs depends on "borrowing" from other media. The hobby is and always has been a creative goulash.

Issue #41 certainly held my attention, anchored by its superb Traveller material. As I have no doubt said on several occasions previously, White Dwarf published some of the best Traveller material outside of GDW's own. If you were a huge fan of the game as I was (and am), this was frequently a must-have periodical. I look forward to seeing more such material in coming issues, along with support for some of my other favorite RPGs. Speaking only for myself, we are entering the Golden Age of White Dwarf.  


  1. "largely devoted to Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, and RuneQuest (and, later, Call of Cthulhu)" . And later still to GW's own Judge Dredd RPG.

    1. That's largely after I read the magazine regularly.

  2. "largely devoted to Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, and RuneQuest (and, later, Call of Cthulhu)". And later also GW's Judge Dredd RPG. I only remember that because we're playing Judge Dredd at the moment (albeit not the GW one).

  3. That painting was originally used as the cover for a 1982 UK printing of the Fred Pohl novel Drunkard's Walk. A variant of it was then famously used as the original cover art for Ender's Game.