Monday, May 20, 2024

Ever Want to Be a Vampire?

As a kid, something I really enjoyed about reading Dragon magazine was looking over its advertisements. Most issues had a couple of dozen (or more), often from companies I'd never heard of offering products I'd never seen. In too many cases, the ads were vague to the point of being cryptic. Consider this one that I saw in issue #80 (December 1983):

What exactly is this advertisement for? Is Wizards World a roleplaying game or something else entirely? At the time, I had no way of knowing, since I wasn't willing to risk $10 (over $30 in today's inflated currency) on a whim. I wouldn't find out the truth until nearly three decades later, when Goblinoid Games acquired the rights to Wizards' World, making it available in both print and electronic forms. 

Wizards' World is nothing special. It's similar to many other independent RPGs produced at the time in being amateurish and derivative but nevertheless made with great enthusiasm. Still, I'm glad to have solved this particular mystery. Do any readers recall any other similarly enigmatic advertisements? If so, I'd be interested in knowing what they were.


  1. Not so much from Dragon, but throughout the 1970s Analog used to run ads for obscure wargaming products on a regular basis. It was often hard to tell whether you were looking at a board game, a miniatures rules set, or a play-by-mail game from the ad. That was further complicated by the number of tiny publishers on the fringe of the industry, which tended to absorb each other like amoeba and carry on selling their victim's stock as though nothing had happened - and sometimes re-naming them and printing new covers to slap on old games.

    I recall drooling over some of this stuff but never had the money to mail order any of it. Which is probably for the best, because now that I've seen some of them via BGG and other internet wargame archives they were mostly terrible even by the standards of the day. By the late 70s I was already pretty spoiled by the output of companies like Avalon Hill and SPI, and even the supposedly "cheap" Metagaming microgames put a lot of this stuff to shame in terms of quality.

  2. I couldn’t open gaming magazine in the late Nineties without seeing ads for C.J. Carella’s Witchcraft, which was first published in 1996, just a couple years after White Wolf’s World of Darkness line got started. Back then, I didn’t pay much attention of the names of authors of game products so I didn’t really know who C.J. Carella was or why these ads were stressing that the name of the game was “C.J. Carella’s Witchcraft” and not just calling it “Witchcraft.”

    But I did know it had really intriguing ads with really cool artwork in ‘Dragon Magazine’ and similar publications. Foolishly, I dismissed it without ever reading it as a “WoD Ripoff.” With the benefit of hindsight, I think it was the superior game. The Unisystem is a lot more polished that early Storyteller System and the metaplot of Witchcraft is a lot more grounded than that of the similarly themed Mage: The Ascension… Too bad I never read it until 2020, long after any friends of mine would be interested in playing a game in this genre!

    1. Our local store back then was home base for the folks that published the game - and later Conspiracy X, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Buffy/Angel, etc. IIRC part of the reason for using Carella's name was legal - they couldn't copyright just plain Witchcraft but CJ Carella's Witchcraft was no problem at all.

    2. Conspiracy X is high on my list of “games I loved but never got to play,” as for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get my high school gaming group to bite. I also liked AFMBE, but only ever got to play it as one-shots at various cons.

      I loved Buffy and Angel and actually got to play those! One of the very few licensed properties to get a really good TTRPG.