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White Dwarf (Issue 12 - Apr 1979)» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Stross's Githyanki, Magic and Mundane Items rss

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Eric Dodd
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Here’s Issue #12, including the second real dungeon adventure.

The 12th issue of White Dwarf came out in April 1979, still on the bi-monthly schedule. Ian Livingstone highlights the cover by Eddie Jones, a reward of a sort for him winning the award for best cover of the first 10 issues. The reward for readers is the four extra pages, not all given over to advertising. Finally, Livingstone directs his ire towards ‘photocopier fanatics’. Yes, games were already being ripped off, even before scanners and cheap website storage. As prices for RPGs will ‘never be as low as ‘mass market’ products’, photocopying games is keeping prices high and preventing companies and designers from getting their fair reward. All this is true, but back in the 1980s I didn’t have money available the same way I had access to a photocopier. If it makes anyone feel better, I don’t think I ever used any of the rules or games I photocopied in a game.

The magazine is now 32 pages long at this stage, with a full colour cover and rear advert, with black and white inside.

PRESENTATION:

The cover is by Eddie Jones, showing a couple of space ships hovering over a polar base on an alien planet. No Fantasy at all in the image, perhaps to offset the lack of SF in the magazine. The rear page is an advert for TSR’s Gamma World, featuring that alluring silver-suited space lady again. There are Fiend Folio monster illustrations in this issue, plus just a few odd drawings for Treasure Chest, and the articles by Polly Wilson, Alan Hunter, Robin Hill and Russ Nicholson. There are photographs of miniatures in Molten Magic as well as the adverts this month.

Most of the issue is in two columns, with text justified on both side, and is nicely readable. The story is in three columns. The story, Classifieds and Help! columns are in slightly smaller text, though they are still readable.

CONTENTS:

The Features:

Useful Dungeon Equipment by Lew Pulsipher provides illustrates the point of view of those who argued for realism in dungeons. Pulsipher discusses non-magical equipment that your party should have ready for your next dungeon visit. Deciding that making weapons out of solid silver is impractical, Pulsipher discusses silver-coated swords and manacles for dealing with were- creatures, plus more normal items such as crowbars, pitons, eye patches, gags, nose and ear plugs, hollow tubes, horns and bells and chalk. his seems redolent of puzzle games, or variations of the ‘Apollo 13’ puzzle - ‘this is all the men up there have, so this is all we have to solve the problem.’ I’m guessing that few groups adventure in this style anymore, but some people really enjoy puzzle solving and would enjoy this two-page article.

Pool of the Standing Stones
by Bill Howard is a 4 page adventure for D&D, designed for 6-8 5th and 6th level adventurers. The adventurers are called in to help a village that has lost its maidens to a Druid and his pursuit of ‘the balance’. Once the players have reached the dungeon (and it isn’t hard to find), the dungeon is mostly humanoid or human character classes, and the instigator of the crisis has mysteriously disappeared. A DM who cares about consistency and realism will have to make numerous changes to make this work. If your group doesn’t care about loose ends, then great! This is still a bit dull and not very interesting as an adventure. The map is OK, but not very inspiring, either.

Part Five of the Valley of the Four Winds by Rowland Flynn takes the heroic band into conflict with wizards in a mountainous area. There’s a twist in the plot as the villain from the start is defeated, and a new menace rears its ugly head. The race to save the King’s life and protect the forces of good is on! Maybe it’s just familiarity, but I’m starting to enjoy this series.

Don Turnbull takes A Dip into the Players Handbook over the course of 2 pages. This is more of a ‘heads up’ article, that attempts to underline the difference from OD&D to the first AD&D rule book. The effects of characteristics has changed, as have class and race powers. Turnbull gets Gnomes and Hobbits confused (Hobbits becoming Halflings here for copyright reasons). Spells have a lot more attention in the Players Handbook with components and casting times apparently new in these rules. The full effect of the AD&D rules were not apparent until the DMG was published, but this should at least have inspired people to compare rules and see how this would affect their campaigns.

A tiny section on survey results reveals that Magic Users won 23.3% of the popular vote, followed by Fighters at 17.7%. Clerics at 11.1% and Thieves at 10.2%, and that Eddie Jones beat Chris Perigo and John Blanche for best cover of the first two years.

Regulars:

The Fiend Factory features some of the classic Fiend Folio monsters this month. The Assassin Bug, Grell, Hook Horror, Githyanki and Giant Bloodworm all made it into the Fiend Folio, many with more development than shown here. Of the other monsters, the Iron Pig is a cut-down Golem, Desert Raiders are Freemen from Dune and the Three-Headed Skrit is a kind of Hydra with illusionary powers. Future famous author Charles Stross created the Githyanki, a race of former slaves now opposed to their former masters the Mind Flayers. They make for an cool bad guy or ‘enemy of my enemy’. Despite Don Turnbull worrying about their powerful swords, most of what is written here made it into the Fiend Folio. A good range of monsters usable in a variety of D&D campaigns.

In News is the confirmation of the second volume of monsters from the UK under the name Fiend Folio. The first Dungeon Floor Plans, Hex and Character Sheets from Games Workshop are announced, along with Animal Encounters and Double Star from GDW, a tranch of Judges Guild adventures, early Chaosium RuneQuest releases. The 37th Annual World Science Fiction Convention is announced for Brighton, 22nd-27th August 1979. Registration was £11...

Nothing of lasting importance in Open Box, but some interesting products, nonetheless. Rapier and Dagger by FGU gets a 6 out of 10 from Don Turnbull, but a written grade of ‘recommended’ as a set of man-to-man paper and miniature rules. The second volume of All the World’s Monsters from Chaosium gets 5 but is appreciated more than the first volume. Too many Terrasques and not enough Stirges, and probably the last thing Chaosium ever did exclusively for D&D. Speaking of which, volumes II & III of the Arduin Grimoire contain more of everything for OD&D, without mentioning or acknowledging the base game. You really had to want extra stuff for your game, and be prepared to sort the wheat from the chaff, to get any value from this product. Pellic Quest was the state of the art in computer moderated Play By Mail games at the time, and received the highest mark of the month at 7. Finally, Spellmaker was a card-based board game similar to the later Wiz War, which is notable here for a separate comment from the designer, discussing how the game was changed by the publisher in such a way as to draw out the game and lead to stalemates, against his original design. T’was ever thus...

Molten Magic
is covered in 2/3rds of the page nor covered by the News column. Asgard, Greenwood and Son, Ral Partha, the new Citadel and Miniature Figurines are the companies featured. The figures are almost life-sized in this article - that is, too small to make much detail out of.

Treasure Chest features a large number of magical items, plus an amendment of the Barbarian character class accounting for the new AD&D rules. Most of these items are fairly standard, though Roger Coult designs a number of interesting items from another plane that are not magical, just very good at killing people. I like the Earing of Control, which only works if worn as an earing and not as a ring, and the Rod of Electricity could be fun to uncover in play (‘which end do I hold...ouch!’) Brian Asbury looks at his Barbarian character class in light of the Players’ Handbook, making some small changes, adding some new potential powers and giving the options for having Barbarians being a human sub-race all of their own. This is interesting to see how designers reacted to new rules coming out for their favoured creations.

No Letters this month, but half a page of Help! and Classifieds covering a good range of local D&D groups, books and RPGs wanted. I hope the guy writing from Troon, advertising figures painted to ‘an incredible standard’ got some business from his advert.


VERDICT:

Some good monsters and interesting articles, but the D&D dungeon and magical items were pretty disappointing in this issue. A good glimpse into how D&D was played in those days, though.
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Alex Nguyen
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Love that old-school sci-fi art on the cover.
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