Tuesday, August 30, 2022

White Dwarf: Issue #48

Issue #48 of White Dwarf (December 1983) boasts what is, I suppose, a winter-themed cover illustration by Alan Craddock, though someone ought to give the poor woman something a bit warmer to wear! The issue begins with "Open Box," in which a passel of game products are reviewed, starting with several D&D and AD&D modules. They are Beyond the Crystal Cave (9 out of 10), Dungeonland (9 out of 10), The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror (9 out of 10), and Curse of Xanathon (7out of 10). The Traveller Starter Edition is given 8 out of 10, because it lacked a few things (rules for drugs and self-improvement) that other editions of the game included. Two adventures for use with Call of Cthulhu (published by TOME), Arkham Evil and Death in Dunwich score 7 and 8 out of 10 respectively. Finally, there are reviews of Autoduel Champions and the Car Wars Reference Screen, rated at 8 and 6.

Dave Langford's "Critical Mass" brief tackles a number of different books this month, including novels by Robert Silverberg, Tanith Lee, and Brian Aldiss. One of the things I always liked about Langford's reviews was the coolness of his praise, while his criticisms frequently ran very hot indeed. Nowadays, I find his reviews a bit more mean-spirited than I did in my youth, but that probably says more about my middle-aged softness than it does about Langford, many of whose reviews are still fun to read.

"By the Gods!" is a short article by Lewis Pulsipher – did he write something for every issue of White Dwarf? – in which he touches on the questions of the extent to which the gods might involve themselves in the outcome of mortal battles. Pulsipher marshals several arguments, based largely on Earth mythology, that the gods won't interfere much, but I'm not convinced myself. After all, why should the gods of a fantasy world follow the pattern laid down in The Iliad or Norse sagas rather than a logic all their own? That said, I understand why he offered this answer and am somewhat sympathetic to it. On the other hand, divine intervention is a possibility in many fantasy RPGs and it seems a shame not to consider it.

"Stomp!" is a fun little article by Rick Priestley, in which he presents rules for adding giants into Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Of particular amusement is the section entitled "Giants and Alcohol," which explains that "giants have a very irresponsible attitude towards alcohol" and then notes that elves believe this is due to "'environmental factors' and 'widespread social and economic deprivation'." Because giants are likely to be drunk when encountered, the article provides procedures for simulating their staggered movement. As I said, it's great fun and a pleasant reminder of when fantasy gaming put greater stock in whimsy and humor.

"The Dark Brotherhood" by Chris Felton is a collection of advice on better integrating assassins into an ongoing AD&D campaign, along with sketches of a few scenarios involving this deadly character class. The article is nothing special, but not everything in an issue is going to be gold, is it? "The Game of the Book …" by Charles Vasey touches on the extent to which various wargames accurately reflect the books that inspired them. This is a topic of some interest to me, though my lack of direct familiarity with many of the games Vasey cites limits it utility to me.

"Database" by Marcus L. Rowland is a sensible expansion of the computer rules in Traveller, something that nearly everyone who played the game felt was necessary. Even in the early 1980s, before personal computers were ubiquitous, gamers found Traveller's approach to the topic inadequate, leading to a plethora of articles like this one. "Ice, Desert, and Swamp" presents three new monsters for use with RuneQuest, including the Cactus Devil, show here:

"The Lone and Level Sands" by Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson is a scenario for use with both AD&D and RuneQuest. As I recall, this was a common practice in the pages of White Dwarf, suggesting, I think, just how popular RQ had become in Britain by this time. The scenario itself involves a trek across the desert to explore a partially buried temple complex, populated with all manner of deadly enemies, including several that appear in this issue's "Fiend Factory" installment. The whole thing is atmospheric and well done, but then I'm a sucker for a good old fashioned excavation in the desert sands.

"The Demonist's Grimoire" by Phil Masters is a collection of new spells for use with the demonist class introduced in issue #47. I wish I could say that any of the spells was so good that it changed my mind about the utility of the class itself. Instead, this is just another filler article of the sort that all gaming magazines published regularly. Fortunately, there are more installments of the comics "Gobbledigook," "Thrud the Barbarian," and "The Travellers" to keep me happy. 

Issue #48 is perhaps a bit of a letdown compared to its immediate predecessors. That was probably inevitable, since issue #47 marked the conclusion to the excellent "Irilian" series and there was nothing this time to rival it. Even so, the AD&D/RQ adventure is memorable and the Traveller article welcome. With luck, issue #49 might better grab my attention.


  1. "but then I'm a sucker for a good old fashioned excavation in the desert sands."

    You and I both.

    They were pretty generous there with the ratings given to the AD&D modules.

  2. Those are some very generous grades they gave those modules.

    1. Only in retrospect. You have to mind blank everything that has been published since, and see them afresh with young eyes.

  3. “…though someone ought to give the poor woman something a bit warmer to wear!”

    She looks just fine to me. :)

  4. I don't know what the original price of Starter Traveller was, but these days, it's often available for free which is awesome because you basically get Classic Traveller for free. The lack of the drug and self improvement rules is almost insignificant, and you can always figure out vector space combat yourself, in the meantime, range band space combat is a nice system (and only available in Starter Traveller).

    I placed the Lone and Level Sands in the Dead Place in Prax in my 1990s RQ campaign. I don't recall if the PCs completed the adventure or not but it was a welcome adventure option.

  5. Rick Priestley’s humorous take on Giants reminded me of a scene from the short BBC Radio series “Horde of the Things” (first aired November/December 1980) of two yokels in a tavern complaining about giants moving into the area, particularly: the “wild parties, all night” the smell from “half a dozen armpits the size of the New Forest” moving in next door, and that they “tread on our houses”. The two go on to ridicule the supposed benefits of the giants, such as “pruning sequoia with their teeth”, “blowing wolves off cliffs” and “lying down in fields under the new sheep-squashing scheme”.
    While I don’t suppose that this was a direct influence on Priestley’s “Giants and Alcohol” it would have been part of the milieu he drew inspiration from (the humorous fantasy/UK socio-political commentary mash up would become more evident in the Warhammer background fluff).