White Dwarf: The First 100 issues. A Read-Through and Review.

Dr Simon

Part Seven: More Breadth, Less Depth (Issues 61-70)

These issues span the period from January 1985 to October 1985, during which time the general appearance and production values of the Dwarf remain much as they were in the previous year. The cover price goes up to 95p, and the main change is the introduction of yet more departments. The old stalwarts of Runerites and Starbase become bi-monthly, alternated with the new columns of Crawling Chaos (edited by Marc Gascoigne) for all things Call of Cthulhu, and Heroes and Villains (edited by Simon Burley) for all things superhero. Everything else continues much as it has done, except for the old Fiend Factory, now limping along, which opens its doors to other systems, and there is one final edition of Steve Jackson’s Crash Course (for Car Wars). Personally, I find that the standard of the covers declines as well but take a look and decide for yourself.

It is during this period that the range of games covered by the magazine increases notably, with the regular inclusion of the new departments discussed above. Notable new releases during this period include Toon, Paranoia and RuneQuest 3rd Ed.. TSR bring out Marvel Superheroes to add to the growing number of supers RPGs, as well as the Conan RPG, the Adventures of Indiana Jones RPG and the Battlesystem rules. Pacesetter games bring out Star Ace and Timemaster to add to their stable with Chill, and the UK company Standard Games brings out the fairly minor fantasy game Dragonroar (most well known as the one with the solo adventure on tape, and for killer penguins and war hedgehogs). Still in the works are the Doctor Who RPG (FASA) and Judge Dredd RPG (Games Workshop) as well as Steve Jackson’s GURPS.

Each issue features two scenarios, and although D&D still dominates as the system of choice there are a range of settings including some of the more niche ones, such as the adventure Starfall for Star Trek by scenario-meister Marcus L Rowland, nicely written as always, with shades of Heinlein’s Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. There’s not too much in it that couldn’t be converted to other SF settings, which is just as well as the pickings are slim for Travellers. Probably the best of the Traveller adventures is Lone Dragon by Phil Masters with a good set-up in which spacefarers from one world pose as gods to the primitive inhabitants of another, with the PCs caught up in a civil war between the “gods” (which also sounds like a Star Trek storyline and could probably be converted to the STRPG). The odds at one point, however, are so heavily stacked against the players that railroading is inevitable; a pity as it mars an otherwise nicely flexible adventure. An Alien Werewolf in London by Jae Campbell takes another hoary SF plotline also seen in Original Trek – Jack the Ripper – in an unusual adventure set in Victorian London. Not an easy one to integrate into an ongoing campaign without completely altering the feel since it requires time travel. Graham Miller’s Smile Please is an adventure guaranteed to annoy your players with its Candid Camera/Big Brother kind of set-up (it reads more like a Paranoia adventure, really). One for Referees to enjoy and players to hate.

There are three Call of Cthulhu adventures set across the English countryside. Marcus L Rowland provides two – Draw The Blinds on Yesterday, a modern day scenario involving the last of the gorgons and depraved Wiltshire yokels whilst The Surrey Enigma is set in the 1920s and involves Jewish archaeologists, a Bronze Age horror and a cheeky Famous Five reference. The latter is more atmospheric, I think, although both feel a little lacking in cosmic horror. Not some of MLR’s better works, and I reckon he misses a trick by setting an adventure in Wiltshire and not utilising Stonehenge. AJ Bradbury’s Horse of the Invisible is a haunted house tale set in Norfolk, although the date is uncertain (from the pictures it looks Victorian). As an adventure it is marred by the narrative requirements of ghost stories – lots of unresolved “encounters” with mysterious bumps and manifestations makes it feel like the PCs are just along for the ride.

Superhero RPGs get a couple of adventures. Peking Duck by Phil Masters is basically a punch up in a Chinese restaurant whereas Reunion (Simon Burley) is more of a campaign involving shards of an alien intelligence and the various factions seeking them. I’m not much of a judge on this genre, but both look like they’d do the job.

To much controversy in the letters page there is another solo adventure (using Fighting Fantasy stats); a three-parter entitled The Dark Usurper (which is quite easy to complete). Fighting Fantasy is also used in Ian Marsh’s Beyond The Shadow Of A Dream, a referee-run adventure involving a mysterious woman loose in a city of thieves. It could prove an interesting campaign-opener but lacks much in the way of exciting atmosphere. The only remaining non-D&D scenario is Dawn of Unlight for MERP, a well-constructed but quite small adventure involving Ungoliant.

And so, to the D&D adventures. Pick of the bunch is A Plague From The Past, by Richard Andrews. This is the winner of a contest set in issue 61 and is all good fun. On the surface it seems like a Scooby-Doo style adventure like The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, but it takes that concept and loads it with all the good stuff you’d expect – ancient curses, haunted follies, mysterious lighthouses, family curses - and adds more, like a ghostly Miss Haversham character and a giant whose corpse forms a major part of the adventure landscape. Good stuff, meaty but with a light touch and plenty of flexibility in play.

There’s obviously something about coastal adventures in 1985, as most of the others revolve around the sea. Michael Heaton’s Murder at Flaxton is a low-level adventure involving smugglers, whilst The Sahuagin Heel (Graham Drysdale) and In Too Deep (Peter Blanchard) involve islands and underwater caverns. Both of these last two have complicated backstories that don’t really play out in the adventures (a notable difference to Plague), which are fairly standard dungeon crawls in the end and both wimp out of being too aquatic with their air-filled chambers. The non-aquatic adventures are also pretty standard dungeon crawls with something added. In the case of The Philosopher’s Stone by David Whiteland it’s a lengthy treatise and rules for alchemy in AD&D (with one location an alchemist’s lab where PCs can mess around with mysterious compounds) whereas in David Marsh’s Star of Darkness it is the Artificer class, a machinist in a magical world. Star has a good theme of nature vs. technology and the underlying concept of a magical symbol etched across the countryside is a good one, but the execution is nothing special, with a sequence of more rather tired-looking dungeons. The artificer class, like most new classes, seems to be very restricted in its scope.

Not a great batch of adventures – the best are Plague From The Past (by a long chalk) and Lone Dragon (which may need tweaking). The usually excellent Marcus Rowland produces some admittedly solid adventures but not up to his level of excellent invention. It feels a little like the adventures writers are feeling their way through the range of new genres.

There’s the ongoing mix of hardware and sage advice, and the most notable addition are the Crawling Chaos and Heroes and Villains departments. Call of Cthulhu and Supers RPGs are also well-served in the feature articles as well. I’m not a player of supers RPGs myself so most of these articles don’t interest me much, although some bits of sage advice on running games could be extracted. Simon Burley writes an introduction to superhero gaming and there some advice on types of non-player character by Phil Masters which is printed with an overwhelming background and almost unreadable (due to the printing, not the writing). The best of the “generic modern” articles is Dark Agents of This Night by Phil Masters, following on from the ninja articles from the last batch and updating the idea to discuss using ninjas in pulp, spy, superhero and science fiction settings, with some usable scenario ideas.

Another broadly usable concept comes from a Crawling Chaos article by Steve Williams and Mark White – the Bearers of The Mark. These are cultists who bear a mark on their foreheads that only other initiates can see. The aims of the cult aren’t specified but there are some useful spells and magic items to go with such a concept and could be ported into a fantasy campaign. Haunters of the Dark (Graeme Davis) is a good study of ghosts in Call of Cthulhu that could easily be adapted to RuneQuest or other systems.

As with the previous batch of issues, there is a trend away from hardware to articles full of ideas and concepts, particularly related to character in society. Jon Smithers’ News Of The World is an interesting and lengthy article on using politics and war to drive events in a campaign setting and Worldy Wiles by Anna Price is a very well-written Starbase article discussing cultures in Traveller, and how giving different worlds unique cultural quirks can make them more interesting (and spark adventure ideas). It’s scary how long it’s taken for someone to voice this opinion, really.
Peter Blanchard pens a series of three articles (Beneath The Waves) discussing underwater adventures in AD&D, although I find them a bit lacking in imagination. Strangely dismissing potions of water breathing out of hand as an uninteresting method of allowing surface dwellers to explore, he is also quick to reject many other more fantastic concepts in favour of scientific feasibility. Writing, for example, argues Peter, is not likely for underwater civilisations and thus they can’t have much in the way of culture. This ignores such possibilities as knot-writing (with kelp?) or complex whale-song style oral traditions, or runes etched in stones, or sculptures grown in trained coral, etc.
My favourite of the “ideas” articles, however, is Garth Nix’s Place of Damp And Darkness, imagining a culture of bargees who live in the sewers and underground watercourses of some ancient and mighty city. Very evocative.

As far as hardware goes, the best articles come from Runerites, with some more Celtic-themed spells (Dave Morris and Robert Dale), some RQ-specific divining skills (Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson) and barbarian magic involving daubing with runes (Barry Atkins) that allows for the woad-painted, naked savage kind of barbarian. Treasure Chest and Fiend Factory continue to do the usual kind of thing with few real stand-out articles. Graeme Davis’ alternative rules for poison are probably the most useful for the time, updating the “save or die” option of AD&D. James Carmichael presents some humourous yet useful items for Halflings, including different magical (smoking) pipes and the “Wayfood of the Matriarch” (a packed lunch!). There are some interesting new spells too; Martin Fowler and David Marsh come up with some “spells for friends” such as Life Candle (which burns with a bright flame as long as the person who lit it is safe) and Blood Brothers which gives the two participants the ability to sense each other and bonuses when fighting side by side. Know Value by John Rudd and Steven Cairns is a useful low-level spell that one would think would be essential adventuring preparation for appraising treasure.

Despite becoming open to all game systems, Fiend Factory continues to focus on AD&D, except for a group of superheroes described in issue 70 (The Starlight Pact, by Pete Haines and David Smith). Most creatures are pretty uninspiring, although some come with scenarios or useful information. Amongst the more interesting are the O Caber by John Chapman, elfish pine spirits with a detailed background and some scenario ideas, with potential for eco-warrior style adventures whilst the Noegyth Nibin (Steven Prizeman) take their inspiration from the Petty Dwarves of the Silmarillion, with a detailed tribe of individuals inspired by Mim’s gang. More Tolkien influence can be seen in Steve Palmer’s Vivimancer, something akin to the Maian Wizards with potent abilities of healing and inspiration, but with a rose theme as well. You could combine all three in a “standard” fantasy setting to give a twist to the common ingredients of elf, dwarf and wizard.

Open Box, Thrud, Gobbledigook, The Travellers, Tabletop Heroes and Critical Mass continue to do what they do with consistency except that Gobbledigook goes to a full page size with no evident need – it works best as a short joke (perhaps Bil was getting jealous of Critchlow and Harrison?). For those interested, Issues 68-70 include stats and background for the Travellers characters. A couple of significant publications pass under Dave Langford’s gaze in Critical Mass. He gives a glowing review to a new comedy fantasy novel called The Colour of Magic by Terry Something-or-Other. I can’t see that catching on myself. On the other hand, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the thin end of TSR’s wedge of novels gets a glance but he finds it so bad he can’t finish it!

General Thoughts
There’s a sense of treading water and trying to find a way of coping with so many new games in these issues. The release of RuneQuest 3 in a prohibitively expensive boxed import set, and the slow-down in Gloranthan support material, means that interest in RQ has stalled, with many people waiting and seeing what will happen next (including former RQ-regular Oliver Dickinson). The fading popularity in Traveller is unusual in that there are no really popular SF RPGs that have taken over from it; my guess would be a combination of the slowdown in published material, and perhaps the old game is feeling a bit tired. Many people may well have moved to other systems and other genres – certainly Cthulhu is thriving, as are the superhero RPGs if one goes by the coverage in White Dwarf.

Elsewhere there are many changes going on afoot in the RPG world. TSR UK closes Imagine magazine as a “rationalisation” of its products. Some former TSR employees form Pacesetter games, and in the times to come we will see the migration of TSR UK employees to Games Workshop including Jim Bambra and Phil Gallagher. Steve Perrin leaves Chaosium, according to one news items, and Games Workshop itself is set to move to Nottingham, with the mail order department leading the way. It feels a little like the innocent early days are well over, but there is still energy in the industry.

The letters pages are lively as ever, with some people still exhibiting the “That’s not proper D&D” attitudes as always, including Peter Murawski who complains about the ninja articles, John English who complains that the Cthulhu articles aren’t “Cthulhu enough” and George Stepanek who writes a very mean-spirited letter saying that younger gamers (i.e. those allegedly enticed in by Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks and the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon) have no place in the hobby and should not be allowed. I predict this’ll generate some lively response! And speaking of lively responses, Shirley Carbery writes in issue 70 to complain about the portrayal of women in fantasy RPGs and artwork. Oh, the fun this letter generates! But that’s for next time….
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Dr Simon

Part Eight: A New Era (Issues 71-80)

This period covers November 1985 to August 1986 and sees some big changes in the appearance of White Dwarf. Ian Livingstone leaves as editor and passes the reins to Ian Marsh (ex- of the Dragonlords fanzine). The reality anyway has been that Jamie Thompson has been doing the main editorial work for a while, whilst Livingstone has been off writing Fighting Fantasy books and running the company, but Jamie Thompson also went off to write gamebooks (according to the editorial. I didn’t know which, but there are some ninja-based ones with his name on them). Marsh’s tenure doesn’t last long, however, as he decides not to move to Nottingham with the company, and the editorship is handed on to former Imagine editor Paul Cockburn. With this change in command comes a change in internal style. The old system-based departments, which have been gradually phased out during the beginning of this period, vanish altogether. Open Box and Critical Mass remain as regulars, as do the cartoons and the news features. Tabletop Heroes morphs into ‘Eavy Metal, which begins with highlighting the figure-painting work of various artists and designers in the Citadel stable. This, along with more colour adverts for Citadel figures, can be seen with hindsight as the beginning of the miniatures magazine that the Dwarf will eventually become. Critical Mass is joined by a new column, 2020 Vision, a bimonthly feature by Colin Greenland that reviews films with a roughly SF/Fantasy slant. You know what though? The cover price remains the same, 95p.

Tie-ins are the order for 85/86, with the release of the Doctor Who RPG (FASA), Judge Dredd RPG (GW), DC Heroes (Mayfair), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Palladium) and Ghostbusters (West End Games), as well as Pendragon (Chaosium) and the D&D Master Set. Other releases that have little impact in White Dwarf are the Dragon Warriors RPG (released in paperback format and probably hindered in its initial impact by distributers sending one of each of the three books to different areas of the country), the Palladium RPG and Fantasy Hero, precursor to the Hero System.

Plenty of support is released for Call of Cthulhu (which is updated as a 3rd edition and sold in the UK by GW under license) including the epic Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign, and there is plenty of material for Paranoia and MERP (also both distributed in the UK by Games Workshop). Chaosium suddenly start supporting their Stormbringer game, several years after it was first released, with scenarios and background material, and TSR enter a new phase of AD&D releases including Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures and the long-awaited (but disappointing) T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil. It seems like every month the news section (currently titled Fracas) reports the progress of the Warhammer Role-Playing Game, but it has a long gestation and isn’t released in this period.

Each issue contains two full scenarios for a range of systems, probably the biggest variety in the run of the magazine (without specifically counting). Notably, of twenty scenarios, only eight are for AD&D and of these two are really for MERP with AD&D stats attached, one is really for Dragon Warriors and one is for AD&D and Call of Cthulhu, leaving four dedicated AD&D adventures. There are only one Traveller and one RuneQuest adventure, the rest being Call of Cthulhu, Judge Dredd and Golden Heroes/Champions.

It doesn’t feel like there are any truly great adventures in this batch but a few stand out, mostly by the ever-reliable Marcus Rowland. First of his is Tower Trouble, the sole Traveller adventure. This is ambitious in scope, an attempt to hijack a space elevator (of the Fountains of Paradise kind) with all the details needed and in typical Traveller fashion letting the players and referee unfold the action by themselves. Marcus’ Fear of Flying is a short Call of Cthulhu adventure set aboard a 1920s passenger aircraft. The plane is presented in some good technical plans and is a real aircraft, although this particular make was never really used for passenger flight (although it could have been). Fun and madness in an enclosed space, a good filler for a longer CoC adventure. The Spungg Ones (still Marcus) is the first Judge Dredd scenario to be published; a bank heist with a typical Judge Dredd twist (bouncing fatties). I think it works quite well. Marcus’ other scenario, Ghost Jackal Kill, is a prelude to GW’s Statue of the Sorcerer adventure, featuring Dashiell Hammet and the Hounds of Tindalos. It’s quite straightforward, unusually for Marcus, but famously he massively underestimates the distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles with a character driving there and back in one night. Oops.

A Box of Old Bones by Dave Morris is predominantly for Dragon Warriors (the only thing published for that system) and is an atmospheric mystery/role-play adventure set in an abbey, with quite a good “real” mediaeval feel to it. The Dragon Warriors versions of the magic items are really good, feeling magical and strange rather than a set of mechanical bonuses. The Whispering Hat (that’s Whispering, not Sorting...) is good enough; placed in a doorway it creates a shadowy illusion of a person, but the creepy and dangerous Casket of Fays makes the Wand of Wonder look like a carnival sideshow with its random selection of dangerous contents.

Castle in the Wind by Venetia Lee with Paul Stamforth is an Arabian Nights flavoured high adventure for AD&D with disguised princes and flying castles, a mix of roleplay and free-form action, good stuff. Terror at Trollmarsh (Peter and Janet Vialls) is another quite free-form AD&D adventure set in a sprawling manor house populated by characters inspired by Shakespeare (and, one case, prog-rock group Marillion!). Several intertwining plots and mysteries serve to keep the players on their toes. Interesting, but probably challenging to run and I found the various references too cute for my tastes.

Graham Staplehurst’s Things Ancient and Modern has an intriguing idea at its core – players have two sets of characters. One set are AD&D characters in the Hyborean-style setting of Theem’hdra (based on the writings of Brian Lumley and very much in the style of Lovecraft, Ashton-Smith, Vance etc.). The other set are modern characters (set in some undefined time between 1900-1940, to be decided by the gamesmaster). These use Call of Cthulhu mechanics. An intertwined plotline involving the usual kind of eldritch evil creature results in the two groups swapping places in time, and events in one timeline influencing another. This is the first part, the second (and final) part is published in Issue 81. The ideas are good, and the setting evocative, but much of it is quite storyboarded and weighed down with lengthy speeches by NPCs. The idea could be expanded, though, for a longer campaign and these days you could have more mechanically compatible characters for the different time zones. There’s just enough detail on Theem’hdra to whet the appetite and allow a referee to run a longer campaign in that setting.

The RuneQuest adventure, Hide of the Ancestor by Chris Watson, is simple but effective, basically involving a raid on a troll camp to recover the eponymous Hide, a tribal artefact for a new race, the ithillian-fane. These are lion-centaurs described in some detail and the article is as much a culture article as it is an adventure. A potentially good filler for an evening’s play.

Two MERP adventures are given, both written by Graham Staplehurst, with AD&D stats included but they are both deeply entrenched in Middle Earth. The better one, in my opinion, is A Secret Wish which seeks to explain how Glorfindel is seen getting killed at the Fall of Gondolin (in the Silmarillion) yet turns up to rescue Frodo in Fellowship of the Ring. The answer here is that after Gondolin he’s been “rescued” by a Maia of Ulmo (i.e a nymph) who has fallen in love with his sleeping/hybernating form. A neat ethical dilemma, then, revolves around “rescuing” him. There are some interesting ideas on the way, including some tree-dwelling hobbits and The Osier, a relative of Old Man Willow. Replace Glorfindel with a legendary hero of your own campaign and it’s a very adaptable scenario. Graham’s other adventure, Star Spray, deals with Elwing, (wife of Earendil, mother of Elrond), and her ploy to be reunited with her husband. It’s a bit more storyboarded than A Secret Wish and so less successful, but there are some interesting encounters especially the odd trio of monsters occupying the island of Tol Thule.

The two superhero scenarios seem okay. An American Dream by Simon Burley involves, ultimately, a fight on an aircraft carrier and a woman bred to be an all-American poster girl superhero who has gone renegade. There’s a bit where the player characters are captured because the plot requires them to be; I’ve never trusted this kind of plotting but maybe its acceptable in superhero RPGs where the play should be more like a comic book, I dunno. Pete Tamlyn’s Pilcomayo Project involves secret Nazi weapons in the jungles of Bolivia and erupting volcanos. Still story-boarded but less so than An American Dream, and all nicely over the top.

That leaves Glen Woe (by Richard Halliwell) which is a short Warhammer skirmish to go with the larger MacDeath pack produced by GW. More bad puns on Shakespeare. The Necklace of Brisingamen (Graeme Drysdale) and Nightmare In Green (Graeme Davis) are by comparison to the others very simple (and a bit old-fashioned) dungeon crawls for D&D, Necklace being very full of set-piece rooms and Nightmare being heavy on the plant-based monsters. Functional, but neither very exciting, almost like some subtle propaganda to make D&D seem old and tired compared to other systems. Nightmare is actually the kind of adventure I would have expected from the Pool of the Standing Stones way back in issue 12. Maybe a mash-up could be performed?

The old “Departments” quietly run to an end, to be replaced with much the same sort of articles but not specifically highlighted. This allows for a greater range of material to be published, and potentially of a more consistent quality without needing to fill a particular niche each month. Longest to stay is Treasure Chest which for this period is less about hardware and more about subsystems. For example Chris Felton gives a system for generating character background and Ian Berridge expands on musicianship. Like many things associated with AD&D this is a needlessly complex subsystem that tries too hard for “realism” over actual playability. A worthy attempt, nonetheless. Also of interest is an article title Life’s Rich Pageant (I can find no credit) which gives a random table of “down-time” events, something that also exists in Oriental Adventures but these tend to be more personal. One of the last bits of hardware published is the Destruction spell by Wesley Phoa, which destroys the universe. Its reverse, Creation, creates a universe but takes six days to cast. It’s like being back in the first issues!

Fiend Factory bows out with an unremarkable selection of jungle creatures but before that it hosts an article by Ian Marsh called Just Good Fiends which discusses what makes a good monster, which is useful advice even if he does try to sneak in his “woods vampire” from Beyond a Shadow of a Dream again! (Thinking about it, this is yet another iteration of the Fey Stirge/Leanan-Sidhe that we saw back in the 30s).

There are many more discursive articles, both about gameplay in general and about ideas that could be included in game settings. In the former camp, standouts include Peter Viall’s very well argued essay on alignment. This doesn’t just drag out the same old saws, but delves into different systems to see how they handle ethics and morality in a mechanical sense, if at all, and if not, how it affects play. Gamesmanship by Martin Hytch looks at how the mystery can be put back into gaming, particularly AD&D. I don’t agree with his conclusions that only the DM should keep track of mechanical things, but it’s an interesting read.

Graeme Davis wades in with a couple of good quality articles. A Cast of Thousands examines the role of NPCs and looks at how to make them not only more interesting but also to give them a bigger role in the game world. Crime Inc. looks at organised crime, indispensible advice for any modern era game but also adaptable to fantasy Thieves’ Guilds. Issue 76 includes a couple of thief-related articles by Jon Smithers and Oliver Legrand which are also worth checking out. Jon’s is sage advice to thief characters regarding tactics and Oliver’s looks in more detail at Thieves’ Guilds and how they would work.

Runerites rolls to a close with a couple of monsters and a look at non-combat skills, topped off by some ruminations by Oliver Dickinson regarding RQ3. He seems very cautious about it. RQ is replaced as “second tier fantasy game”, as far as material published in White Dwarf goes, by MERP, with some articles that do for MERP what Lew Pulsipher did a lot of for D&D back in the early days – ways of setting up a campaign (Graham Staplehurst) and worrying about how to explain going up levels (Micheal Veart). The first is interesting, the second less so.

Meanwhile, over in science-fiction land there are a few Traveller articles, ending with the useful Mass Media by Andrew Swift all about, well, mass media and communications in Traveller and SF in general. Star Trek and Doctor Who get an article each, serviceable but limited in interest, both articles are a miscellany of rules tweaks. Judge Dredd boots his way in; the first article is an oddly useless one by Marcus Rowland concerning the Justice Department Accounts Division. Probably the most useful of the batch of articles is Hugh Tynan’s Something Special, a crunch article with new Special Abilities (although why the Two Heads one? It’s a bit like some of those “special abilities” from F.A.T.A.L.). Also potentially useful as a source of ideas is Pete Tamlyn’s Crazy File, with some new fads for citizens (not crazies, as you might expect).

There’s plenty for Call of Cthulhu players. Marcus Rowland introduces some neat car chase rules in The Cars That Ate Sanity – useful for any BRP-based game with vehicles, I’d say. Gentlemen and Players by Richard Edwards and Chris Elliott gives two backgrounds for 1920s British investigators who want to emulate Bulldog Drummond or Richard Hannay; an entertaining and atmospheric read. AJ (Andy) Bradbury writes a mini-series on Cults of the Dark Gods, a sort of conspiracy theorist’s version of the historical links between the Assassins, Knights Templar, Freemasons and Nazis. Handy if you want a Dan Brown feel to your campaign. This is topped by an adventure, of sorts, called the Heart of the Dark which uses some of these theories. It’s intriguing in that it uses no stats or maps at all, but is ultimately a bit of a drawn-out shaggy dog story. Like I said - Dan Brown.

Pete Tamlyn and Phil Masters give us plenty of meat on how to play superhero RPGs and how to incorporate elements such as superscience and magic into superhero settings. Well written and I like Pete’s section on how different UK papers would report on superheroes, a nice bit of satire.
Talking of satire, Dave Langford provides a couple of fictional pieces alongside his usual Critical Mass column, the best of which is Play It Again, Frodo, where he takes various well known SF/F books and films and re-writes the plot as it would run in the hands of role-players. He does a good impersonation of Stephen Donaldson’s dense prose. Aside from some cosmetic changes, where the titles of reviewed books are highlighted, Critical Mass continues much as before, with reissues from the likes of Jack Vance, Robert Silverberg and Robert Heinlein and new authors like Guy Gavriel Kay, MIichael Scott Rohan, Kim Stanley Robinson and even some with just the two names like Judith Tarr and Barbara Hambly setting off on Book One of an Epic Quest to….

As for the other review column, 2020 Vision, although not popular in readers polls its okay. Colin Greenland, then Alex Stewart, review some minor indie films as well as blockbusters such as Highlander and Back to the Future. Anyone heard of an animation called The Victor, or a film called Shadey?

General Thoughts
I was less able to pick out any truly stand-out articles for this period, and it may be in part that the sheer breadth of games covered means that each issue includes something of little relevance to many gamers. The trend towards more discursive, system-light or systemless articles is useful, however and I agree with the decision to retire the rather shoe-horned departments. The Travellers cartoon strip finishes forever, Thrud and Gook continues with Thrud widening its field of parody (getting a driving lesson from Mad Max, for example, and more prominence for the character of Carl the Artist, busting that Fourth Wall wide open). Tabletop Heroes becomes ‘Eavy Metal, a glossier-looking production that starts off by highlighting painting and modelling work by Citadel staff.

Most fun comes from the letters pages, where several controversies rage. First off, Shirley Carbery’s letter complaining about the preponderance of chainmail bikinis and sexist attitudes sparks a reactionary response that comprises variously “it’s only a bit of fun”, “if you don’t like it go elsewhere”, “that’s what fantasy is supposed to be like” and “it’s a realistic portrayal of women in pseudo-mediaeval society” (This latter causes some confusion until it is clarified that whilst most of us would think of “pseudo-mediaeval” as meaning a made-up version of the middle ages it can mean a very specific period of history. That still doesn’t account for the presence of elves and dwarves in this “realistic” portrayal). Dragged into the light, these unreconstructed attitudes are exposed for what they are and we move forwards. Until, that is, Laurielle Miller writes from America to say that she’d be proud to pose in a chainmail bikini. Oh, the dribbling this provokes! I notice, however, that since issue 50 or so there have been more articles written, or co-written, by women.

Controversy number two – young gamers. This seems to be founded on a couple of premises – that Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, TSR’s bendy toys and the D&D cartoon have led to an influx of “juvenile” players who are somehow watering down the hobby by “playing it wrong”. Also by widening its distribution and adding an estimated 20,000 new readers White Dwarf has somehow contributed to the “downfall” of roleplaying. There seems to be a subsection of older gamers who want to take their football and go home, because these damn youngsters with their 33rd level wizards didn’t have to work out hit points with a slide rule and walk uphill to their gaming both ways etc. etc., ignoring the fact that new blood is always a good thing and that, in fact, the hobby at this point in time thriving, with loads of new games and companies appearing. There’s even a rather unpleasant letter from Phil Masters on the matter, a surprise to read such words from him.

The final controversy stems from Marcus Rowlands’ review of Twilight 2000 which he mostly spends deploring the American attitudes to foreign policy and the “Theatre Europe” nuclear war scenario. The two camps on this one basically fall into those who think that Marcus should have kept his personal politics out of the review, and those who agree with him and want to “America-bash”, quite unedifying all round. This is the first of a wave of “Better Dead than Red” games that came out around this time (just a few years before Glasnost and the fall of the Berlin Wall). However, those are for next time.
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Dr Simon

Part Nine: The Rise of Games Workshop (Issues 81-90)

This is the period, September 1986 to June 1987, when the magazine morphs into an almost entirely house magazine, a fact stated explicitly at one point by Marc Gascoigne in the letters page. At this point in time this isn’t so bad, since Games Workshop is either printing or distributing a large number of games, which now includes RuneQuest 3rd Edition as well as Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia and Middle Earth Role-Playing. However, alongside the usual range of RPG articles there is a creeping influx of articles for Games Workshop boardgames such as Blood Bowl, Chainsaw Warrior, and Rogue Trooper. This is not a new thing historically and most articles don’t significantly take up space that could be used for RPG coverage, so it can’t be entirely said to be a bad thing either although the articles are generally less useful and carry an air of advertisement about them. The review policy in Open Box changes so that Games Workshop products no longer receive reviews as such, but instead are designer’s notes – the rationale being that the objectivity of an in-house review would be suspect. For the moment, though, the Dwarf does continue to review non-GW products as well and the reviews seem reasonably fair to me.

The game of editor shuffling continues, with Mike Brunton getting the hot seat for most of this run, and new staffers such as Jim Bambra and Phil Gallagher joining GW from TSR UK. A new comic strip is introduced (from the defunct Warlock magazine); Derek the Troll alternates with Gobbledigook but thankfully doesn’t last long – it’s very weak. Thrud continues (his Barbarian-o-gram in Issue 90 pretty much repeating the joke from his first appearance in Issue 45), as does ‘Eavy Metal and a new column, Illuminations, begins. This is another introspective column looking at the various artists currently working on GW games, each week highlighting a different one. Nice to look at, but carries the air of an “advertorial”.

One of the most notable occurrences as far as I was concerned with White Dwarf is the successful acquisition by Games Workshop of the license to print RuneQuest 3 in the UK. This results in an upswing of RQ material in the magazine, and it’s generally as good as it was in the old days of Runerites. GW also publish, under license, Paranoia, Call of Cthulhu and MERP (released in a 2nd Edition), and finally their own Warhammer FRP sees the light of day after months of teasing news items, the other significant occurrence whose full force will be felt in later issues. TSR are on another burst of releases, unleashing their third wave of hardback books including the Dungeoneers and Wilderness Survival Guides as well as the Immortals set, and there are rumours of some campaign set called Forgotten Realms in the works. It’ll never catch on.

Elsewhere in gaming land, Steve Jackson releases GURPS, which is reviewed in issue 83 but WD never produces any material for it. Skyrealms of Jorune also gets a favourable review; I had it and it was okay, I think it was the Empire of the Petal Throne of its time, beloved by aficionados but never achieving more than cult status, partly due to a clunky game system. Lovely illustrations though. There’s also an advert in one of the issues for the intriguingly named “Teenagers from Outer Space” – anyone ever play this? Elsewhere in SF, GDW releases Traveller 2300, ICE release Spacemaster (the SF variant of Rolemaster) and again there is news that West End Games have got the license for a Star Wars RPG.

Games Workshop release a range of new boardgames including Blood Bowl, Chainsaw Warrior and Rogue Trooper and there is a run of “Beat the Commies” games including the (hopefully) tongue-in-cheek Price of Freedom from WEG, the less tongue-in-cheek Delta Force and the Vietnam game Recon (a revised version of an older game) which add to the post Theatre-Europe Twilight 2000. These provoke controversy in the letters page over their tastefulness, with WEG’s Greg Costikayan himself getting involved to defend his publication.

Again a bias towards GW-printed games, but luckily there is a wide variety. Of the twenty scenarios published in this period, only five are for AD&D, and of these only two are specifically AD&D and no other system. There is an emerging style in scenarios over this period for fairly complex plotlines, and many of them have a tendency to lead player characters by the nose through a series of events. Compared to some of the early greats (like Tizun Thane) there’s a lot less choice for players and GMs, but also very few dungeons in sight. Some of the game systems used unfortunately have such individual settings that the adventures are not easily converted to other systems (Paranoia and Dredd in particular) and so the general utility of the adventures is less than in earlier times.

Top of the pile is Jon Quaife’s A Tale To Tell, a massive 16 page RuneQuest adventure set in Prax that forms a sequel of sorts to the Borderlands campaign. Being RQ, a few of these pages are stat-blocks but it is a good adventure with plenty of scope for player action, although it needs quite high-powered characters if the PCs are to succeed. This was later reprinted as part of the Shadows on the Borderland scenario pack, along with Issue 52’s Black Broo of Dyskund. The other RQ adventure is When Mad Gods Laugh (Barry Atkins), a small scenario involving the schemes of an evil satyr with the twist of his followers being happy hippies who don’t take kindly to the music stopping (they remind me of Thulsa Doom’s followers in the second half of the Schwarzenegger Conan movie). Simple but fun.

Also good is Graham Staplehurst’s Taurefanto, a MERP scenario involving a land-travelling ark full of entwives and those who would seek to capture or destroy them. Although steeped in Middle Earth lore, I can see this one being adaptable to other fantasy campaigns and it’s quite freeform.

There are three Judge Dredd scenarios – the vaguely interlinked A Day in the Life of Sector 255 and A Night in the Death of Sector 255, and Tales From Mega City One which is really a trio of adventure outlines rather than a scenario proper. All of these are by Hugh Tynan. The Sector 255 adventures are really a sequence of encounters that occur on a typical Judge’s patrol. Inventive and funny but also marred by their sequential, story-boarded nature (an early encounter gives the Judges no option to change events, purely so that a later encounter will occur, for example). Nice cartography, though.

Paranoia also gets four scenarios. The All New Computer Action Horror Show by Robert Lyn Davies, Happiness is Laser Shaped by Pete Tamlyn, Do Troubleshooters Dream of Electric Sheep by Marcus Rowland and Operation SNAFU by James Wallis. All are of the silly style of play with punning names and nods to other genres. They’re okay, I guess (I played in Sheep), but I prefer a slightly straighter style of Paranoia. All are written in a slightly annoying jokey style (“Won’t this be fun?”) and there is a tendency for the magazine to print Paranoia material with portions of it upside-down or back-to-front, which thankfully they stop doing.

Marcus L Rowland provides two Call of Cthulhu scenarios. The Curse of the Bone is a modern day scenario involving ghouls, African folk beliefs and a used car salesman. Solid, but lacking any truly great twists. The Paddington Horror is a devious adventure involving zombies (not bears from Darkest Peru), discussed more below.

There is one Traveller adventure, the last published by the magazine. Mercy Mission by Simon Lewis is reminiscent of early Star Trek and is interesting in that the PCs are sent to help cure a disease – less mercenary than the default Traveller style adventure. The disease, on a primitive planet, is being caused by the power plant of an old crashed spaceship. Trouble is, it’s the holy object of the local tribe.

Warhammer FRP sees the first scenarios written for it. On the Road by Graeme Davis is not an adventure as such but a couple of extended encounters which can be slotted into an ongoing campaign (for example, why not try The Enemy Within campaign available from Games Workshop?) The first fully Warhammer adventure is Night of Blood by Jim Bambra which tells of an inn which wouldn’t get a very good Trip Advisor score. The gory, cartoonish, full-page illustration is a bit off-putting, and in common with many adventures around this time it is a bit storyboarded.
Warhammer shares a couple of adventures with other systems. The Black Knight by Bryan Sturdy is for WHFRP, AD&D and Pendragon, an Arthurian tale of renegade knights, bandits and monsters. It reminds me of Ogre Hunt from issue, what, 19? and is quite a nice little adventure. On Ealden Byrgen by Jim Bambra is for WHFRP, MERP, Fantasy Hero or AD&D and is a Robin Hood themed adventure, inspired not a little by the mysticism of the Michael Praed/Jason Connory TV series. Again quite adaptable – personally I would have preferred it to be a bit less linear but it has some good ideas.

And so the only two adventures purely for AD&D are Shadow Magic by Carl Sargent and A Killing in Silk by Matt Connell. Shadow Magic is quite simple, really focussing on three antagonists and their particular abilities. There’s a bit of arm-twisting to the hook which may not work with all players. A Killing in Silk is a simple murder mystery that is pretty easy to resolve. One of my group at the time took the basics of the set-up and morphed it into an excellent game involving the dirty dealings of rival merchants (played by us), and I think this was a far superior scenario to the published adventure.

The majority of articles over these issues tend to be discursive in nature rather than rule additions, particularly those applying nominally to AD&D. These cover themes or ideas that are of use generically in fantasy RPGs, and sometimes other genres. Wolves of the Sea, for example, by Graeme Davis looks at pirates and sailing with a mix of technical and historical notes and scenario ideas. It’s A Kind of Magic (Steve Palmer) is an interesting essay on mixing high-tech and fantasy, drawing particular influence from Gene Wolf’s Book of the New Sun. No specific rules or items are given, unlike articles of old, but it is well-written and full of inspiring ideas. Recently I looked over Appendix N in the 1E DMG, a bibliography of works that inspired Gary Gygax. Given the nature of many of them, more pulp horror/SF than fantasy, it’s surprising that this concept isn’t more fully ingrained in the game. It’s certainly something I return to quite a lot.

Friends in High Places (Simon Nicholson) looks at using politics and intrigue in RPGs, be it amongst nobles, merchants or other dignitaries. As with Graeme’s article it gives a handful of brief ideas with game use, leaving the individual gamesmaster to do with it as he or she needs. Ley of the Land by Graham Staplehurst is an interesting article concerning leys and ancient monuments, and possible uses for them if their supposed mystical properties were real. This is of use in anything from fantasy games through Call of Cthulhu, even in SF games. Note to CoC players; the concept of leys was first put forward by Alfred Watkins in the very Cthulhoid time of 1925.

Greg Stafford himself provides a couple of articles for Pendragon. Swords of Pendragon is a fascinating account of various swords of Arthurian legend. Again, no mechanics are given but reputed properties of the swords are described. Very good for mining ideas to give magic swords in any setting more depth. His other article is more mechanical, giving solo rules for running jousts in Pendragon. This is paired in Issue 81 with rules for jousting in AD&D by Stephen Gardner. Short, but potentially useful particularly if coupled with Simon Nicholson’s article to give a game of knights and courtly intrigue (and then run the Black Knight adventure as well – funny how certain concepts seem to have their day).

Chris Felton provides two articles that are also worth a look. Dogs of War examines the role of mercenaries and A Dark Brotherhood looks again at assassins, challenging some of the inherent assumptions in AD&D. Despite the same title and author it’s different to the article from the 40s.

Warhammer FRP is officially released at around the same time as Issue 87 (Feb 1987). Graeme Davis provides some articles for it, mostly discussing design choices and elaborating rules for Fate Points and Character Advances (along with an article on Career Changes by the other WHFRP designers Jim Bambra and Phil Gallagher). Most novel, however, are Graeme rules for Gnome characters which come with a gnome-specific career (the jester, inspired no doubt by the famous miniature Corbit Shortstuff - see Figure 10), details of gnomes in the Empire and of the gnome god.

Marcus L Rowland is supplier of most of the Call of Cthulhu material, the best being a lengthy article on zombies, including both the Haitian kind where the victim is alive but drugged, to the true necromantic types. This is followed up with his adventure The Paddington Horror, where a hapless investigator is turned into a zombie (I’ve spoilt the twist, I’m afraid). Marcus also gives some rules for getting knocked out, a sample from the Green and Pleasant Land sourcebook for speaking the generic yokel accent known as Mummerset and a mock exam from Miskatonic U. Carl Sargent wades in with some new and unusual phobias, with entertainingly hysterical explanations on why they would suit Cthulhu investigators.

SF-wise, Traveller is ignored. Ron Currie gives a few rules tweaks and comments on running Star Trek, the rest being divided between Judge Dredd and Paranoia. Best of these is probably Carl Sargent’s article on playing perps in Dredd which gives some suggestions for rules changes and campaign outlines. Carl’s article entitled Narks by some enthusiastic sub-editor is actually about informers, defined as specifically distinct from narks (which require a special ability to acquire). Marcus L Rowland’s article on time travel in Judge Dredd covers ground that not only Marcus himself has covered back in issue 29 but also recently covered in issue 81 by Steve Palmer. I guess it is designed to tie-ion with Marcus’ campaign coming up in the next batch of issues.

The lengthy debate on sexism in the letters pages, which by this point has mostly blown over, has evidently sparked a couple of articles from women on the female character. Erica Lidman’s The Difference is a breakdown of different types of female archetype and, whilst interesting, has a bit of an air of a gender politics essay. Alison Brooks’ A Monstrous Regiment is a fascinating article looking at real examples of female warriors and soldiers in history.

That Terry Pratchett fella generates some interest. Not only is a section of The Light Fantastic printed in the magazine, but Ashley Shepherd writes A Stroll Across Discworld, attempting to convert aspects of Discworld to AD&D. I think he (she?) is only partly successful in this, mainly because 1ed AD&D is a pretty poor engine for anything other than AD&D. Light Fantastic and Equal Rites are reviewed in Critical Mass, which reaches its 50th column in Issue 88, and it’s around this time that Iain M Banks makes his official SF debut with Consider Phlebas.

Almost lastly, there are a range of rules add-ons for some GW boardgames such as Blood Bowl and Chainsaw Warrior. Finally Ian Livingstone returns in Issue 90 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of White Dwarf with a column looking back at the start of Games Workshop and White Dwarf, when he and Steve Jackson were living in a van and thought selling thirty copies of D&D was a lot. Definitely worth a look.

General Thoughts
This period more than any other heralds the shift from Old White Dwarf to New White Dwarf, towards an almost entirely GW house magazine and a shift away from RPGs towards wargames, boardgames and miniatures. The change isn’t complete yet, and the transition continues to happen gradually over the next batch of issues as well, but the seeds are evident with hindsight.

That isn’t to say that the quality goes down; there are some excellent articles, but the overall feel you get reading this batch of issues is that the writers are bored with the older games and turning to something new and shiny. I can’t say I blame them for this, I was experiencing the same thing at the same time – new games with new concepts made D&D seem unwieldy and complex (at around this time I was playing mainly RQ3 and WHFRP, and we occasionally threw in a game of Dredd or Paranoia as a palate cleanser). The decision to openly become a house magazine makes sense to me too, shame though it is to lose the cosmopolitan feel of the earlier years. At this point there are so many games to keep track of, to try to do justice to them all would mean slim pickings for many rather than quality for a few. As it is, there is still a pretty solid range of games covered over this period, and still a lot of widely usable material, despite the creeping influx of chainsaws and chaos spikey bits and the letters page degenerating into a discussion of how many miniatures can be balanced on top of the Thrud the Barbarian figure.
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Part Nine: The Rise of Games Workshop (Issues 81-90)There’s also an advert in one of the issues for the intriguingly named “Teenagers from Outer Space” – anyone ever play this?
I played a demo game at an Origins when it came out. A fun game of the fairly silly kind. Toon players would have liked it, I think. The basic premise was that the characters were teenage aliens, mutants, etc., attending a sort of Supers High School, getting up to various hijink like saving the school, etc. I had fun with it, as did everyone else who played it there, that I know of. Never did pick it up though, although I thought about it every time I saw it in a game shop or at a con. Don't know why.

Dr Simon

Sounds a bit like Tale From the Floating Vagabond, which could have been fun but tried a little too hard to be wacky for my tastes. The premise sounds like a laugh for a one-off, might mix something up with Mutants and Masterminds....


Great stuff, thanks - I threw away my White Dwarfs 90+ on the basis that the end of staples made a good cut-off point, but this has reminded me of the huge density of great stuff to mine from the magazine that I could use for my current games.

There were giants in the Earth in those days...

Dr Simon

You're welcome. There is a lot of good stuff in those older mags, and I've been tempted whilst writing these articles to set up an old school campaign using various adventures and bits of hardware. I tried incorporating the Halls of Tizun Thane into my Iron Heroes PbP on these boards, but the game folded before that part really got going. Shame.
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Dr Simon

Part Ten: Warhammer Takes Over (Issues 91-100)

I should come clean at the beginning and state that, although I used to own them, I’ve been unable to consult issues 91 and 92 for this discussion. Looking at the table of contents on RPGNet didn’t help and since none of them rung any bells it may be safe to assume that none were that memorable.

That said, this is the period where White Dwarf becomes almost entirely given over to wargaming and miniatures, mostly after Sean Masterson takes over as editor. Not quite, but by the end of this batch only Warhammer FRP remains as the RPG content. Look at the covers, you’ll note the “Games Workshop Presents” logo which becomes steadily more prominent. Those covers, in my opinion, lack the beauty of the earlier issues and lose something by being about something in the magazine, rather than a simple flight of imagination. The magazine itself is perfect bound (I think, my knowledge in such things is hazy) and costs £1.25. Issue 94 comes with a flexidisk by the band Sabbat, which I don’t think I ever played (I’ve got a feeling the dog chewed it!). Was it any good?

In-house, GW continue to support some of their roleplaying products, releasing the Land of Ninja and Griffin Island hardbacks for RuneQuest (although the content was good, the binding quality, at least of the copies that I had, was poor with pages tending to come out easily). They also release the 2nd Edition of Paranoia and further episodes of the Enemy Within campaign – Death on the Reik, Power Behind the Throne (and its companion volume Warhammer City), with Ken Rolston handing in the manuscript for Something Rotten in Kislev. However, it feels like the biggest events for the magazine are the release of Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy Battles 3rd Edition.

The magazine gives little coverage for other games, even in the news sections (known variously as Awesome Lies, Stop Press and Culture Shock) only looks at matters occurring in Games Workshop/Citadel. We have to look at adverts for GW mail order and the long-running Esdevium Games to discover that WEG has released the Star Wars RPG. Other games with ongoing support material include MERP, Battletech, Twilight 2000 and Star Trek.

There is an intriguing mention in the news in issue 94 of Mournblade, an Elric-related supplement for WHFRP. Anyone know if this ever came to light?

As you might expect, most of the scenarios are for WHFRP, but there are a couple of multi-part adventures for other GW systems too. Marcus L Rowland gives us To Live and Die in Megacity One, as far as I can tell his swansong for WD. This is an epic three-parter and is sort of a love letter to the Dredd comics in the way that the Age of Worms campaign is a love letter to Greyhawk. It involves the time paradox centred on Owen Krysler, the Judge Child/Mutant and the possible return of this powerful evil being, but involves Judge Anderson and elements like the killdozer, a trip into rad-blasted MC-1 South, free robots and over-zealous Citi-Def members, recalling elements from Dredd epics like The Cursed Earth, Judge Child, Apocalypse War and City of the Damned. It’s good, but as is typical with this kind of adventure the ending is a bit of a disappointment.

Surprisingly there’s also a lengthy adventure series for Stormbringer, The Madcap Laughs by Matt Williams. This is also a three-parter, but spread over four issues with an introductory section. It’s good at evoking Moorcock’s writing, with lots of exotic locales, larger-than-life NPCs and a bit of dimension-hopping. There’s nothing in it that’s really unusual when stripped of the chrome, but it’s a solid adventure nonetheless. Again, though, it has a disappointing set-piece ending.

Before I get to the WHFRP adventures there are a few more for other systems. Issue 93 sees Getting Away From Most Of It by James Wallis (later of Hogshead?) which is a tremendously silly AD&D adventure with lots of spoofs of English seaside holidays and surreal humour (the central artefact, the Rock of Aegis, is a pink peppermint-flavoured stick, and is guarded by a were-gannet armed with a loaded herring, for example). If you like Python, The Goons or Mighty Boosh, you’ll appreciate this. Although silly, it’s not as annoying as the early nonsense like the Stair Stalker! I think it may be the last AD&D adventure published in White Dwarf.

The Beast of Kozamura (by Graeme Davis) is a RuneQuest adventure using Land of Ninja. It revolves around a mysterious monster menacing a small village, and the Lady Macbeth-esque machinations of a kitsune. A simple plot, but atmospheric and for once it is a bit more open-ended and flexible than most adventures of this time.

Graeme also provides A Trilogy of Terror for Call of Cthulhu, three mini-scenarios entitled The Book, The Seance and A Capital Offence. The first two are pretty standard CoC fare, the last contains a good adventure seed, whereby a murderous cultist escapes execution by transferring his consciousness to a hapless prison warder. A nice twist. The Spirit of the Mountain, from Jon Sutherland, is classic CoC fare, set in an archaeological dig in Arizona. Graham Staplehurst’s Letters From A Foreign Land is an unusual multi-system adventure that can be used for MERP, CoC or WHFRP, involving monks and cultists. It’s a bold move, but by trying to be too many things at once it loses a bit of focus, and like most adventures of this time it is very storyboarded.

The WHFRP scenarios are a mixed bunch. Largest is The Grapes of Wrath by Carl Sargent, intended as a linker between Death on the Reik and Power Behind the Throne. It’s a mash-up of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with A Cask of Amontillado, and good fun. It is, however, very detailed compared to older scenarios. In some ways it’s nice to have a bit of depth to, for example, NPCs, but it is a feature of this era for the level of detail to become almost stifling. Just as much character is imparted to Dark Odo, the evil sorceress of issue 9’s The Lichway in a couple of sentences as to most of the NPCs in Grapes of Wrath in a couple of paragraphs, and the GM is left with a bit more leeway to interpret – the old adage “To suggest is to create, to define is to destroy” holds true in this case, I think. Does it work as an adventure though? Yes it does, although at this stage in The Enemy Within campaign it may feel like an unnecessary side-step for the players.

The Ritual, by Philip Wells, is an alternative opening to the Enemy Within (or, indeed, any) campaign, involving skaven and necromancy. It’s quite straightforward, with one encounter area leading on to the next. Okay, but nothing earth-shattering. A Rough Night At The Three Feathers (Graeme Davis) occurs in one night in an inn with about ten separate plotlines running at the same time, giving the feel of a farce going on. A good idea, although I think it needs more hooks to get the PCs directly involved; I can see many groups not wanting to get mixed up in what seem to be mostly petty issues. Eureka is another location-based adventure, by Paul Hargreaves; reminiscent of the old RuneQuest adventure Gringle’s Pawnshop (from Apple Lane), the PCs must protect the home/laboratory of an eccentric DaVinci-esque inventor. Silly German names abound (the inventor is Herr Kugelschreiber - that's a ballpoint pen for those of you who don't know any German), and for some reason the author suggests that Kugelschreiber be portrayed with an exaggerated German accent – but surely all PCs from the Empire will have the same accent, so why make him stand out?

In issue 100 is a lengthy adventure from Games Day ’87, The Floating Gardens of Bab-Ehlonn by Basil Barrett. Set in Lustria (the South America of WHFRP) it uses a set of pregenerated pygmy PCs (with silly names - Banga Gong, Billa Bong etc.) sent to investigate the eponymous phenomenon, an ancient Slann artefact now occupied by an evil wizard. Some good ideas to be mined, even if the adventure itself is mostly really just a dungeon crawl.

Issue 93 sees the last articles for AD&D, although they are both largely systemless and could be used for other fantasy games. Simon Nicholson’s excellent Vance’s Evocation of Arcane Delight considers the magic of the Dying Earth series (largely Rhialto the Marvellous). His thesis is that although AD&D magic is frequently referred to as Vancian, it doesn’t really capture the baroque oddity of Vance’s work, and he gives ways in which this can be brought in without actually changing the rules of the game in any way. Sounds Familiar? by Alison Brooks and David Flin, takes a look at the reputed properties of “real” familiars, in this case, cat, crow, owl, weasel, toad and hawk, with some suggestions on how these could be emulated in AD&D. Worth reading.

Simon Nicholson reappears with another excellent article, Scenes From Courtly Life. Although nominally for WHFRP it’s really systemless, a followup to his Friends in High Places article with more details on how to survive politicking at court. Well written, with lots of entertaining examples.

There are a few articles for RuneQuest. The Coliseum part of Avalon Hill’s Monster Coliseum is published here (the Monster part having been included in GW’s RuneQuest Monsters book). Rules for gladiators and chariot racing, quite useful. In Iron Warriors, Jon Quaife provides some more NPCs for use with Griffin Island (although they could be used in any campaign); an interesting party of dwarf agents. Finally in Issue 99 there is an article on martial arts in RuneQuest by some idiot hack and his dyslexic friend. Yes, that was me and my friend Tim with an expansion for the Martial Arts skill, plus a martial artist profession. I have a few comments – first, we had nothing to do with the title (Eeeyaargh!) and in fact didn’t intend for it to be published. We sent it in as a taster for a martial-arts themed scenario we were working on (Enter the Dragonewt) and only discovered it had been published when we looked at the magazine in the newsagents. The cheque came a week later. Second, John Pitts of Glasgow in the letters in Issue 101 points out that we gave the Martial Artist profession too many percentiles. I can only hold my hands up for this – we did count how many the other professions get; I guess an error crept in there somewhere. I like his suggestions for different styles, a good addition.

And so, the rest is Warhammer in its various forms, or miniatures.
The new column On The Boil covers miscellany for Warhammer, both Roleplay and Wargames. The first edition includes rules for giants in WHFB3, by Rick Priestley, Jim Bambra and Graeme Davis) which are a call-back to the 40s, and the following edition features a Bar-Room Brawl for WHFRP, a call-back to the very early years. None of the characters want to rape anyone in this one, though, thankfully. Other items include Otto’s Printworks which not only gives a location and some NPCs but a few scenario ideas as well, a trio of artifacts for WHFRP, rules for elven wardancers and slann for WHFB and a lengthy extract from Realms of Chaos with hundreds of chaos mutations.

Warhammer 40K spawns the column Chapter Approved which has a range of additions to the game, both crunch and fluff, from rules for Dreadnoughts to the origins of the Space Marines. This column then gives rise to Index Astartes which goes into merciless detail on different chapters of the Space Marines, and by issue 100 the WH40K material has spread again into individual articles, mostly giving the rules to go with new miniatures.

‘Eavy Metal gives rise to Blanchitsu, which is more of a hints and tips column for painting and modelling whereas ‘Eavy Metal remains a showcase for pretty painting. Miniatures too engender their own individual articles, notably Fantastic Immigery which highlights the work of Michael Immig in Issue 100. Other articles are also quite introspective, covering the first Golden Demon awards for painting, the WHFB championships and the new range of plastic miniatures as well as expansions for various GW-produced boardgames like Blood Bowl and Block Mania. Thrud, Illuminations and Critical Mass continue but Gobbledigook, after a spell in the 40K universe, is reduced to a marginalia character, stealing page numbers and the like (which is actually quite a good use for him)

The standard of scenarios remains high, despite a tendency to over-detail everything, but elsewhere the general utility of material in the magazine diminishes. The imagination of Rick Priestley begins to inform a lot of the content of the magazine with his many articles discussing the WH40K universe in exhaustive detail, but there is a steady trend towards supplements for the miniatures wargames at the exclusion of all else, and the rise in features where articles on new mechanics for Warhammer and adverts for figures begin to bleed into one another. It’s probably not a coincidence either that the cover for Issue 100 features photos of miniatures. Whereas Issue 50 had the stats for White Dwarf personalities and Issue 90 had a retrospective article by Ian Livingstone, Issue 100 has nothing to mark the milestone, and no call backs to earlier issues.
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Dr Simon


I originally chose issues 1 to 100 as that's (a) a nice round number and (b) pretty much the limit of role-play content in White Dwarf.

But not entirely.

Issue 101 features three scenarios. John Quaife proves another add-on for Griffin Island with Trouble at the Number One Inn, a flexible scenario involving slarges, pirates and dwarves all after the same Plot MacGuffin. It's mostly a set of NPC stats, with attached motivations, but that just makes it a bit more usable than the more typical story adventures that have been popular in the last couple of years of publication.
There's a WHFRP adventure called The Affair of the Hidden Jewel by Lewis Page, which is very high adventure, not so much a typical Warhammer Old World style adventure but full of interesting twists. Finally there is Clone Day Surprise, a Paranoia adventure from Games Day '87, where the referee is expected to get the players (that's the players, not the characters) doing aerobics and throw shaving-foam pies in their faces. All sounds quite annoying to me.

After that, scenarios proper fade from the magazine. They are replaced, for a while, by "Brief Encounters", which are adventure components for WHFRP. There’s a One-Eyed Fellow Hiding to the South of Kammendun by Graeme Davis can be used to introduce the fimir into a WHFRP game, and also features rules for using WH Battles to resolve some aspects. The Vermilion Pawn by Ken Rolston is a pawn shop for magical items, usable as a resource for PCs, or for somewhere they may want to rob - in that respect it recalls Gringle's Pawnshop from the Apple Lane scenario pack for RuneQuest, from way-back-when. With a Little Help From My Friends by Carl Sargent is a hostage situation and introduces a Poirot-esque gnome detective. Element of Risk by Ken Rolston uses the underdeveloped Elementalist specialist magician and is a nice little location-based adventure centred on some free-willed earth elementals. Finally Terror in the Darkness introduces the ambull, an umber-hulk type creature from WH40K, into the WHFRP setting. All quite simple but also all quite flexible in use. Morglum's Marauders, by Paul Murphy, is billed as a WHFRP campaign outline but may be more suitable to WHFB; it's a detailed description of an orcish warband and the goals of the leader.

Articles are all pretty much aimed at GW games, and the roleplay content peters out, mostly a series of (actually quite good) articles extracted from Realms of Chaos. The game Dark Future is released, a sort of Mad Max wargame that they really try to push. I vaguely recall it being around; the cars look really dated now! Dave Langford calls time on Critical Mass, which continues for a few columns under the pen of Dave Pringle before finishing altogether - a shame, but book reviews really don't mesh with the new direction that the magazine is taking. Once, when all and sundry were mining fantasy and SF fiction for ideas, it worked really well as a component of the magazine - remember that run back in the 50s where it seemed every issue had stats for creatures from a fantasy series, be it Majipoor, Many Coloured Land or Belgariad? By this stage in the magazine's history, however, everything has to be related to the Warhammer universe and it feels like there's little or no room for reader input. Which is probably why Enter the Dragonewt was never published, and why my Call of Cthulhu scenario set in modern gangland London (a sort of Guy Ritchie does Lovecraft kind of mash-up) was rejected (or it might have been that they were crap).

And on that note it's time to draw this trip down memory lane to a close.

In my opinion, if you look in any issue between about numbers 18 and 60 you are bound to find something good, and something that you could adapt to a modern game quite happily. In retrospect I'm impressed by how "modern" some of the ideas were, even if they tended to be couched in the AD&D mentality that you need lots of tables and finecky modifiers for every last subsystem. I've been inspired more than once whilst writing these articles with campaign ideas which I will probably never get to run.

The following are how many covers there are that feature each of these items. Correct me if I'm wrong, I may well have missed some:

15 Chainmail Bikinis (That also includes the leather bikini of issue 24, and I think I also counted the woman on the cover of issue 94 who is wearing sensible armour on her top half, but has forgotten to put her trousers on).
3 Skin-Tight Spacesuits
10 Conan Muscle Men
16 Evil Wizards (14? There are a couple of morally ambiguous wizards; if in doubt assume that they are evil)
15 Spaceships
17 Orc-y Things (ugly humanoids of medium-size)
15 Demons (roughly humanoid monsters of large size or greater, but also includes Cthuloid monstrosities)
8 Dragons
6 SF meets Fantasy (generally involving a person with a sword watching a high-tech thing pass overhead)
3 Space Marines (includes Chaos Marine on issue 99)
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