Tuesday, April 4, 2023

White Dwarf: Issue #70

Issue #70 of White Dwarf (October 1985) has a very striking cover by Brian Williams. Though the idol in the back recalls gaming's best cover ever, I find myself drawn to the blindfolded barbarian in the foreground. Why is he blindfolded? What is the significance of the runes written on that blindfold? What is that glowing device in his left hand? It's a very evocative piece and all these unanswered questions only makes it more compelling.

Ian Livingstone's editorial mourns the loss of Imagine magazine, which ceased publication with its thirtieth issue. His words seem genuinely heartfelt, especially when he notes "the good relationship between the White Dwarf staff and their opposite numbers." At the same time, Livingstone uses this occasion to downplay any suggestion that there is a decline in interest in the hobby of roleplaying. He likewise crows that "White Dwarf's circulation continues to increase," which, while undoubtedly true, seems – to me anyway – to be in slightly poor taste, given the circumstances. 

"Tongue Tied" by Graeme Davis deals with the questions of languages and literacy in AD&D. Davis offers a simple but "realistic" system for handling fluency and the learning of new tongues. It's probably more than is needed by most players of AD&D, but it looks to do a good job at emulating "the polyglot flavour of Howard's Hyborian Age or Moorcock's Young Kingdoms." I may look at it more closely as I ponder similar issues in The Secrets of sha-Arthan.

As usual, we get new installments of "Thrud the Barbarian," "Gobbledigook," and "The Travellers." The latter concludes its series of presenting Traveller statistics for the comic's many characters by giving us a look at "the galaxy's most repugnant pervoid," Jason Dinalt – no, not that one – and Felix the Dawlri, an "albino koala bear/tribble." We also get several superhero-related features, starting with Paul Ryder's "The Coven," a cabal of villainous magicians for use with Golden Heroes. There's also "Reunion" by Simon Burley, an adventure dual statted for both Golden Heroes and Champions. The scenario is a follow-up to the introductory one included with Golden Heroes, so I suspect it would hold much less appeal to a Champions referee (unless he happens to own GH as well).

"Open Box" looks at a lot of D&D-related items, starting with three Expert-level modules: Quagmire!, The War Rafts of Kron, and Drums on Fire Mountain, all of which receive scores of 8 out of 10. Dragons of Mystery for the Dragolance series does not fare nearly as well, receiving only 6 out of 10, which is frankly a much higher score than its text would suggest. The reviewer says that "its actual use and value is questionable" along with many other harsh truths. Battle System, meanwhile, gets a better hearing (8 out of 10). I was surprised by this, given that Battle System was something of a rival to GW's own Warhammer rules. Finally, there's The Lost Shrine of Khasar-Khan, the second entry in "The Complete Dungeon Master" series (8 out of 10).

"The Price is Right" by Marcus Rowland is a follow-up of sorts to last month's "The Surrey Enigma." The article describes in full the pre-decimal UK monetary system, along with a price list of common items. I'm a sucker for articles like this, so I found it quite useful. Dave Langford's "Critical Mass" is here once more and, as usual, I couldn't muster the interest to do more than skim its three columns. Oh well. "Dead or Alive" by Diane and Richard John presents a new career for Traveller: the bounty hunter. Along with the usual information on terms of service and skills, there's also a nice variant of the classic type-S scout ship – with deckplans!

The third part of Peter Blanchard's "Beneath the Waves" series focuses on "creatures from the depths." This includes not just the usual underwater menaces, like cephalopods and sharks, but also sentient species, such as aquatic elves, mermen, and sahuagin. As with earlier installments, this is a solid article but much too short; it only scratches the surface of its subject. "In Too Deep," also by Blanchard, is an AD&D adventure for 4th–5th level characters. The scenario concerns a maritime expedition for spices, the politics of the merchants guild, renegade mermen, and other submarine shenanigans. There are plenty of twists and turns in the adventure and I think it does an effective job of showing how to integrate underwater threats into an AD&D campaign.

"Monstrous NPCs" by Paul Ormston offers up three fully fleshed-out monster NPCs, each a unique individual with his own personality, history, and goals. There's a lizard man prince, a jovial stone giant, and an intellect devourer masquerading as a human. Though each description is short, they're all interesting. They also nicely demonstrate that even monsters can benefit from characterization. "Chop and Change" is Joe Dever's article on modifying miniature figures by adding or subtracting elements from the original molds. He includes several photos of conversion techniques in action, including one of a dinosaur playing a saxophone that I found rather amusing for some reason.
All in all, I mostly enjoyed reading this issue of White Dwarf, though I continue to see signs that the magazine is in the midst of its transformation into the Games Workshop house organ it will one day become.


  1. "Battle System, meanwhile, gets a better hearing (8 out of 10). I was surprised by this, given that Battle System was something of a rival to GW's own Warhammer rules."

    Battle System in this edition was much closer to traditional historical mass combat rule sets, while early Warhammer was a bit more skirmish oriented and very committed to 1:1 figure representation (the cynic in me insists that was due to it potentially selling a lot more minis) even for larger battles. The two systems were quite a bit more different than it might seem at first glance, and weren't really competing for market share much.

    "He includes several photos of conversion techniques in action, including one of a dinosaur playing a saxophone that I found rather amusing for some reason."

    For some reason I keep stumbling over images of reptilian/draconic critters playing woodwinds and brasses lately. Some disturbance in the modern zeitgeist stirring them to the surface, perhaps.

  2. You might be interested in this piece of gaming history trivia. The chap who drew the deck plans for the bounty hunter's starship in this issue was Nic Weeks.

    He played the Hayes character in the real life campaign on which The Travellers was based, and as depicted in the strip is a caricature of him.

  3. Yes, the Travellers were all caricatures of real people playing in Mark Harrison's actual home campaign. I know three of them. The other two, Captain Flynn (real life, Paul) and Syrena (real life, Petrina) also played in my Champions campaign at the time, set in contemporary Birmingham (UK, not Alabama).

    1. The Travellers is perhaps my favorite gaming-related comic of all time, so I am mildly jealous of your brush with fame :)

  4. I'll send you my autograph ;-)

    If you didn't know, Mark released a free colourised version quite some time ago.


  5. Would like to see the text for the language article - sounds interesting! :-)