Tuesday, December 13, 2022

White Dwarf: Issue #61

Issue #61 of White Dwarf (January 1985) has a very strange cover by Chris Achilleos. I'm not sure if the armored bird (?) man with a whip is supposed to be a hero or a villain. Perhaps the ambiguity is the point. In any case, it's certainly striking, if a bit confusing to a man of my limited imagination. In his editorial, Ian Livingstone announces that, starting next issue, WD will include regular columns devoted to both Call of Cthulhu and GW's own Golden Heroes. I recall CoC content being a staple of the magazine during the period when I was a subscriber, so this is no surprise. Likewise, by the mid-80s, Games Workshop was well on its way toward becoming more than just a distributor and publisher of UK editions of American games, so shining the spotlight on Golden Heroes makes a great deal of sense.

Oliver MacDonald's "The Spice of Life" for RuneQuest offers an expansion of the alchemy rules in game's rulebook. It's fine for what it is, though, in my opinion, it focuses far too much on the details of the Alchemists Guild than it does on the products of its members. I'd personally have preferred more alchemical substances than the article provides, but that's a matter of taste, I suppose.

"Open Box" kicks off with a review of the Dungeons & Dragons Companion Set, to which the reviewer gives a very fair 7 out of 10. Also reviewed is Pacesetter's Timemaster RPG (7 out of 10) and an adventure for it, Crossed Swords (7 out of 10). Pacesetter's Chill is here too, scoring 7 out of 10, along with the scenario Village of Twilight, which only nets 6 out of 10. The much more obscure Witch Hunt from Statcom Simulations receives 5 out of 10 because of its "limited" scope, with the reviewer suggesting that he couldn't "imagine players wanting to bother playing it more than once or twice." Finally, there's the review of The Adventures of Indiana Jones, which gets – and I know you'll be surprised by this – a 7 out of 10 (yes, yes, I know the reviewers weren't responsible for the numerical scores). More interesting to me is that the reviewer is quite evenhanded in his treatment of Indiana Jones, a game that's usually viewed with utter revulsion. While recognizing its limited nature, reviewer Adrian Knowles nevertheless found it fun and understood that it was written "entirely with a young market in mind."

Dave Langford's "Critical Mass" is what it is, for good and for bad. For me, it's rough going, not merely because I frequently disagree with Langford's assessments of the books he reviews, but also because I find it difficult to muster much interest in brief reviews of books from more than three decades ago. This issue, he tackles, among other books, Robert Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice, a book about which I have decidedly mixed feelings (like most of Heinlein's oeuvre). Reading Langford's comments, I found myself wondering what I'd think of Job were I to delve into again (not that that's very likely).

Part 3 of "Eye of Newt and Tongue of Bat" by Graeme Davis continues, focusing on rings, armor, and shields. Like its predecessors in the series, this one is fine – neither inspired nor terrible but perfectly adequate for its quixotic task of making the crafting of magic items in AD&D interesting. Andy Slack's "The Motivated Traveller," on the other hand, is much more intriguing. In it, he puts forward an alternate experience system for use with Traveller (and other SF RPGs, like Space Opera, Star Frontiers, and Universe). The system is built on the idea that each character can have up to three "motivations," such as adept, altruist, hedonist, killer, miser, and so on. A character earns "victory points" (VP) based on his pursuit of his motivations, with success bringing him an increased "victory level" (VL) that brings with it reputation and influence. Slack's system is really only an outline, but it's an interesting one that might work well in games that are about more than fighting and looting (not that there's anything wrong with that). 

Ian Marsh's "Beyond the Shadow of a Dream" is a fantasy scenario that's remarkable for the fact that it is dual-statted for both Fighting Fantasy and D&D. However, it's not a programmed adventure but instead a traditional one that requires a referee to play. The scenario takes place in an unnamed city and involves the hunt for a youthful storyteller who's gone missing after appearing several nights, to great acclaim, in a local inn. The characters are tasked with unraveling the mystery of what happened to the storyteller. It's a surprisingly moody and expansive adventure that includes lots of interesting details, not to mention twists and turns. 

Meanwhile, "The Dark Usurper" by Jon Sutherland and Gareth Hill is a straight-up, 104-entry Fighting Fantasy solo adventure. The player assumes the role of a knight wrongly imprisoned, who must escape the tower where he is held – fairly conventional stuff. Simon Burley's "Days of Future Past" is the final part of his article looking at setting up a superhero campaign. This time, he focuses on how on to make use of adventure modules for other games (and genres), converting them to the conventions of superheroism. It's an admittedly odd approach and one I wouldn't have expected, but I think Burley does a good job with it. 

"All Creepies Great and Small" is a collection of new bugs for use as D&D monsters by Russell May. Most of these are wholly imaginary insects rather than simply being giant versions of terrestrial arthropods, though we do get a few real-world examples, like the giant mosquito. I'm a well-known fan of vermin monsters, so this article definitely caught my fancy. "Treasures" is a collection of four unique magic items for RuneQuest. They range from the relatively mundane (stones that glow in the dark) to the mythological (fang warriors who spring from hydra's teeth) to the epic (the helm of a hero of old). I'm also a sucker for unique magic items, so I enjoyed this article as well.

"Prize Competition" announces an adventure design competition. Entrants are to use a map (see below) provided by White Dwarf and then write a 4000-10,000-word scenario for a game of their choosing. The winner's submission will be published and he will receive a cash prize of £150. 

I'll be curious to see the winning entry.

"High and Dry" by Gary Chalk and Joe Dever looks at dry-brushing techniques for miniatures. As usual, the article is accompanied by lots of color illustrations, which is a delight to a guy like me, whose painting skills have always been poor. The issue also includes "Gobbledigook," "Thrud the Barbarian," and "The Travellers." Needless to say, I enjoyed them all, particularly "Thrud," which pokes fun at the well-worn trope of a weakling spending years developing his body and unarmed fighting skills to seek vengeance against those who mocked him. Mind you, "The Travellers" is great this issue too, as it continues to parody every science fiction franchise Mark Harrison can think of.

All in all, White Dwarf continues to impress. The magazine is now in a very comfortable spot, with a very diverse coverage of games for every taste. 


  1. This same art was used as a cover to The Suns of Scorpio by Alan Burt Akers (Kenneth Bulmer).

    1. Does the cover make any sense in that context? Or is it a typical SF book cover of the era that has little or no connection to the book on which it appears?

    2. Yup, it would be a rarity if a 1970s SFF paperback cover bore any resemblance to the contents.

      Chris Foss, I'm looking at you.

    3. It would make some sense, since I believe there are bird-men in the Dray Prescot series (of which Suns of Scorpio is a part). It's been a long time since I read any of them, though, so I am perhaps wrong.

    4. It's actually a decent (if generic) portrayal of part of the book's contents. Prescot spends some time as a slave with bird-headed diffs as taskmasters, something that happens to him pretty regularly in the parts of the series I've read. Which aren't much - at 52 volumes I think I got through about five of them.

  2. I remember reading about the scenario competition in a subsequent WD issue, but I don't believe that I've ever seen the map nor any of the scenarios. So I'm curious.

  3. The winning scenario turns up in #69 and is one of my favourite D&D adventures. At least one other entry was published in 2019, "The Saltwater Inheritance", for Call of Cthulhu. I'm not aware of any others but I'd be surprised if they are not out there somewhere.

    1. I too love that adventure, and I'd go so far as to call it my favorite non-WFRP White Dwarf scenario. I'm surprised it doesn't seem to have much of a following.