Tuesday, July 19, 2022

White Dwarf: Issue #42

Issue #42 of White Dwarf (June 1983) is one of a handful of issues for which I have particularly strong memories, in large part because of the two articles that feature on the cover: "Irilian" and "Cthulhu Now!" The magnificent cover by John Blanche also likely played a role, as it nicely incorporates the historical, creepy, and goofy elements I so strongly associate with British fantasy in the '70s and '80s (and that Warhammer honed to perfection). Ian Livingstone's editorial notes that he'd received a certain amount of what he describes as "hate mail" concerning the changes to the magazine's appearance that began with issue #39. Long-time readers apparently preferred the "quaint" look of the earlier issues. As a proud hater of change, this does not surprise me to say the least.

The issue kicks off with the first part of "Cthulhu Now!" by Marcus L. Rowland. The purpose of the article (and the series it inaugurates) is to provide rules additions and expansions to make playing Call of Cthulhu in the 1980s possible. This issue's installment focuses on new skills, firearms, and careers (including rock musician). While I am no longer as enamored of the idea of playing Call of Cthulhu in the present day, I simply adored this article in my youth.

"... to Catch a Thief …" by Graham Staplehurst is an article devoted to crime prevention, detection, and perpetration in Traveller. It consists entirely of new technological items, such as alarms, locks, IDs, and personal gear of various sorts. The article is fine for what it is, though, even in 1983, I felt that the last thing Traveller – and, by extension, most SF RPGs – needed was yet more technological items. "Shamus Gets a Case" by Oliver Dickinson is another tale set in New Pavis featuring Griselda. Like its predecessors, this is a fun story that offers a unique spin on Glorantha's most famous city and its denizens.  

"Open Box" begins with a review of SoloQuest 3: The Snow King's Bride for RuneQuest. The reviewer, Oliver Dickinson, has some minor quibbles with the solo scenario but is otherwise quite pleased with it, giving it a score of 8 out of 10. Marcus Rowland is similarly pleased with two new Fighting Fantasy books, The Citadel of Chaos (9 out of 10) and The Forest of Doom (10 out of 10). I have a particular fondness for The Forest of Doom myself, so this pleases me. On the other hand, FASA's Grav Ball – a game I only know from old advertisements in Dragon and elsewhere – gets a mere 4 out of 10. Neither The Morrow Project nor its scenario, Liberation at Riverton, do much better, earning 5 and 6 out of 10 respectively.   

In his "Critical Mass" column, Dave Langford offers his opinions on the nominees and winners of various science fiction and fantasy awards, including the Hugos. I remember a time when I not only recognized but had read many of the books on such awards lists. Nowadays, like so much else, I have no knowledge of them. "Castles in the Air" by Lewis Pulsipher is a short but interesting article in which he muses about why dungeons might exist in a fantasy setting. In the process, he implicitly raises the equally relevant question of why so many fantasy worlds resemble copies of medieval Europe, despite the presence of magic and monsters that would, for example, obviate the utility of traditional castles. "Careers in Traveller" by Marcus Rowland presents the code for a computer program that will randomly generate Traveller characters – a staple of 1980s gaming magazines.

Daniel Collerton's "Irilian" is the first part of a six-part series describing the titular city of Irilian. Each part includes a scenario that introduces a new aspect or portion of the city, along with additional information about Irilian's society and culture. The first part, in this issue, is mostly an overview of the city, detailing its laws, calendar, diseases, religion, and so on. What stands out is that Collerton makes use of Old English words to name the people and places of Irilian, which gives it a unique flavor. I adored this article in my youth, along with its sequels. I read and re-read them many times and even placed Irilian into one of my old campaign settings.

Phil Masters continues his "Inhuman Gods" series, this time giving us information on the deities of norkers, svirfneblin, and trolls, among others. "Rune Rites" presents "Horses" by Graham Cobley, a collection of RuneQuest game statistics for different breeds of horses. In principle, I've long liked the idea of such details; in practice, though, it's rarely been the case that any player has cared as much as I did. "The Sorceror's [sic] Spell Book" by Gary and Terry Saul is a fairly typical collection of new spells for use with D&D. The only truly memorable one is Valin's Total Inversion, which kills its target by turning him inside out. The spell was quite infamous in many of the gaming circles in which I moved back in my youth and understandably so.

It's difficult for me to be objective about this particular issue, since it was one of my favorites of old. "Irilian" remains the issue's centerpiece and I think it holds up quite well, even after all these years. I look forward to re-reading the next five issues, which further develop the city and its inhabitants.


  1. It should be noted that 'Cthulhu Now!' by Marcus L. Rowland is the first piece to explore Call of Cthulhu out of its default setting of the twenties. Without this, there would be no Cthulhu Now! or Delta Green. It was truly groundbreaking.

  2. If today someone released a source book for Cthulhu set in 1983 it would be a huge hit.

  3. If I remember correctly, this was the first issue of white Dwarf i bought. The cthulhu now article was key for me. 4 years later chaosium will publish a book using the same name.

  4. I'm late to comment but felt I had to. This issue was groundbreaking for me because it had an advert for a gaming club in a nearby town. All the gamers I had known previously had all been from the one group, hell we were even all in the same year. Suddenly there were more like us. I made contact and was introduced to traveller, rune quest and many other games. It was the best of times and it was all down to this issue.