White Dwarf Book Club Issue 78

GROGSQUAD, pay attention, the next issue to study is this one from June 1986.

I’m not sure what you were doing in that month, but I was at the Milton Keynes Bowl watching Marillion at The Garden Party. It wasn’t a concert, it was an event. Jethro Tull, Gary Moore, Magnum and Mama’s Boys performed too in a brilliant day.

It was held on the same day as the Wham! farewell concert and our coaches met at Watford Gap. Two tribes. Us in our black Assassing! tees with long-hair and the Wham! lads in dressed in white wearing straw hats.

Nazis in Bolivia, boeing (R) in The Meg, life after death and Cosmic Encounter cards … what did you make of it?

Author: Dirk

Host of The GROGNARD RPG Files podcast. Talking bobbins about Runequest, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, T&T, AD&D and others from back in the day and today.

44 thoughts on “White Dwarf Book Club Issue 78”

  1. love the marillion memories. they never caught on here in the states but a few of us in our gaming group loved them.

  2. It seems so long ago! I was 12 and had been fully immersed in the hobby for about a year or two. Sadly, my dad had passed away the previous September, and although these would be very difficult years for me, my growing interest in music, RPGs and fantasy fiction would keep me going.

    We were almost exclusively playing AD&D, but also delved into Fighting Fantasy, miniatures, board games (Talisman, etc.) and computer games (Elite, etc.).

    As for White Dwarf, we were still only buying the odd copy, but it would have been around issue number 70 to 80 that I bought my first one. Since we were quite young, we didn’t have a lot of money, and so we’d buy rule books, mags and modules between us – ideal really.

    Anyway, those are my memories of the time. I would later own a whole load of issues going back to the 30s, and I had the one featured here. Reviews of the latest Dragonlance module, Gobbledigook, Thrud the Barbarian and Judge Dredd – it brings a smile to your face, doesn’t it?

    1. Big Audio Dynamite! There’s a blast from the past, i’d forgotten about them, i saw them at Rock City, probably around second album time. Loved them, and The Smiths (soon to split) and Big Country at this time.
      Was just waiting to go to Sixth Form in June 86. Lots of gaming being done.
      Thanks for that memory. I’ve made a start on the issue, like Paul M says it’s more of a solid read, but the magic, the amateur enthusiasm? the 70s fantasy hangover? is gone. I suppose it was just absorbing the 80s vibe more, slick and professional, but it does seem to have lost something. Anyway, more dribs and drabs later.
      Got to keep over 10 comments or it blows?This is like SPEED with magazines!

      1. Big Audio Dynamite were fantastic, saw them in The State which was always more of a nightclub than a gig venue. Also saw sons of Liverpool The La’s and pop oddities Sigue Sigue Sputnik there…

  3. No essay from me this time. I thought it less time consuming for me and more readable for everyone else if I just post my thoughts in bits and pieces.
    A heck of a jump from last issue to this. How the mag has changed in just 40-ish issues. It feels much more solid, professional and competent and a little bit more colourful.
    An evocative cover from Chris Achilleos – if a little dish-water brown – He was, to be fair one of my art gods at the time, along with Boris Vallejo, Frank Frazetta and Ron Cobb.
    A fairly insipid editorial this month so that Mr Livingstone can hand over to Paul Cockburn with his lovely 80’s trim beard and mullet.

    1. Good idea to break it up. If the feature goes below 10 comments, I’m going to quietly drop it. Good way to game it!

  4. Bittersweet time for me. I was finishing A levels which meant no more school (Yay!). But no more school meant no more d&d as all my mates dispersed. We managed a couple of games in summer hols but I got diverted into other “hobbies” at Uni and life moved on. I kept my WD sub up until issue 100 but the increasing focus on GW content meant I gradually lost interest over time and ket it lapse at the convenient round number.

    Undoubtedly the content got more professional but I always had a hankering for the older stuff. For me the tarnish started appearing on the “golden age” of WD at about this point.

    1. Issue 100 does seem to be a very hard transition between RPG White Dwarf and 40K White Dwarf with many folk ditching it pretty much at number 100. I do wonder what it’s sales figures were like around that point. Did they suddenly plummet and slowly pick back up or was the slack instantly picked up by Warhammer newcomers?

  5. Been reading my copy over the last couple of days.
    Wow, memories came flooding back. I was a very po-faced 16 year old when I first bought this.
    My teen self loved the eavy metal JD article but looking at the pics now the work was so basic, twitter and instagram would now be quite derogatory about the level of work involved!
    Loved the JD scenario, but then Marcus Rowland can do little wrong.
    The GH adventure was a surprise to me. BITD it passed me by but reading it now it was an excellent one shot, Nazis, American superhero team and lava -, awesome. (even discusses racial issues in a low-key sensitive manner).
    So what else is there, flicking through again. Cosmic Encounter – bleh.
    Thrud and Gobbledegook – they are what they are. Travellers – this has my name written all over it and still has. Widely available on t”internet highly recommended.
    Critical Mass – none of the books interest me much but Dave Langford is a great writer and worth following generally (Google Ansible to follow Dave if you don’t already).
    The short story was quite entertaining but nothing new.
    Resurrection in D&D – nothing new here.
    Letters page and small ads -, guess there were a lot of equally po-faced teens writing in – what the hell was wrong with us?
    Fracas – industry news from only one source – your expectation was?!
    Lastly, adverts, sooooo many adverts. What fun though looking through and wondering why I made the purchase choices that I did. Not many of these places still exist and to be fair Games Workshop is a bit of a different beast now.

    So that was it, a brief biased review. I’m definitely in for the next one

  6. Looking at 78 I remember getting it. Open box was of little interest to me that issue. We had Cthulhu by Gaslight knocking around our group but it was one of those games that was bought but never played. We’d long given up on Dragonlance, so DL-11? I don’t think so. We did play Pendragon once or twice but I think our teenage hack and slash selves did not know what to do with it. I’m not sure I’d know what to do with it now.

    Ashes to Ashes brought up the resurrection problem but we used to play the fact that resurrection could bring back anybody completely no matter how little of the body you had. It didn’t get used very often but we never usually got players that high level to use it.

    I can’t remember if we played the Judge Dredd adventure, it looks good and it’s a game we used to enjoy. I now live in Australia and my gaming group is mostly much younger than I am, they’d only have an idea of Dredd from the Stallone movie or more likely the Urban movie so I’m not sure we’d get the feel.

    The Pilcamayo Project is something we definitely played. For some reason we always had really OP heroes, normal adventure villains were not strong enough. The inevitable clash of the rival superhero groups happened and the considerably weak Mr Magic got hit so hard that his knockback sent him flying through the trees to his death. I don’t remember anything else from the adventure but that will always stick in my mind. The character who hit him was called B.F.O.

    Overall a good issue and I miss having the magazine print in my hands, they went to landfill.

  7. Firstly, I too was at that Marillion show – there must be some genetic predisposition for Prog / RPG / SFF.

    Anyways, Issue 78.

    This was probably at the upper end of the numbers I read / collected and re-reading it I can understand why. Times they are a’ changing and all that or writing on the wall? I think then I was a bit “Oh, Ok” with the Dwarf about then, as they moved away from my standard D&D / Traveller / RQ base.

    Much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the Letter Pages which shows a subtle shift from ‘If you want see in WD, why not write something and send it to us’ to ‘It ain’t selling, we don’t care about it.’ Interesting to see that Dredd, MERP, Golden Heroes and *Star Trek* are the sticks to beat Runequest and Traveller with. The GW RQ3 edition is just over the horizon, of course!

    Thrud is Thrud, Gobbledigook is overlong and Travellers ends with both a whimper and a bang.

  8. It’s funny but on the strength of the bit in this issue I actually bought Cosmic Encounter, didn’t play it until 5 years ago. What the hell was I thinking?

  9. From memory, I got to see Marillion twice BITD – one gig in 1984 at the legendary Glasgow Barrowlands, and then again in December the following year at the less than legendary Scottish Exhibition Centre – though I enjoyed the second gig much better as I felt brave enough / had filled out enough at that one to get right down to the front and tolerate the crush. Good times !

    As for this issue of WD at hand, a re-read is most definitely a trip down memory lane. Stand-outs for me are a) the review of ‘Cthulhu by Gaslight’ which doubtless sent me scurrying off to buy it – I certainly recall acquiring it just as soon as I could and the I still have the boxed set on my shelf ; b) ‘The Spungg Ones’ Judge Dredd scenario which I’m certain I ran at one point (I do love those Sector Briefing / Crime Reports which became a feature of kicking off JD scenarios).

    Am surprised that ‘The Pilcomayo Project’ doesn’t feature more strongly in my personal memory bank – I was certainly playing and then running a lot of Golden Heroes then – perhaps I couldn’t think of a way of getting my PC group to Bolivia !

    Amused at some of the letters – a Scottish Tolkien fan being particularly pedantic (gasp ! Who’d a thunk it ??) and someone called ‘A Wally from Bolton’ making a juvenile joke – anyone we might know (you did say you, Blythy and Ed were the only gamers in the village) ???

    1. Good grief – scanning through the small ads for this issue I can see a girl looking for a ‘preferably good looking, nice natured male’ pen-pal. Said girl was/is the sister of the guy who used to run the Golden Heroes game I played in, and she was the best friend of a girl who became my first ‘proper girlfriend’ through meeting that group !

      I’d no idea she’s placed such an ad but she was always super keen to meet my other gaming friends 😉

  10. You do realise I can’t say ‘Open Box’ without using a strained Bolton Accent now don’t you?

    Also, Open Box on page 2!? Where are the adverts? I feel lost!

    Anyway, first up for June ’86 is B/X1 Night’s Dark Terrors which sounds terrific. One of the things I liked about the way basic D&D was structured was that box one, the beloved ‘Red Box’ focused on levels 1-3 and was entirely about dungeoneering and introducing the mechanics. The second box, ‘Expert’ was all about leaving the dungeon and exploring the wide world outside. I remember the Expert set fired my imagination like nothing else had and might have been the point that I fell in love with D&D. The trouble was, given the best part of a continent on the world of Mystara to explore, my tiny, young, naive, inexperienced mind couldn’t really think what to do with it, so this module might have been perfect. The title might have put me off, though as it sounds like a horror game. Did anyone ever play it? How was it?

    Next up is Cthulhu by Gaslight. I’ve never played Cthulhu in the Victorian era and I really must sort that out as that and World War 2 are the only eras beyond the default 20’s that I’m interested in.

    Something else I’ve never played is Pendragon (for which the Nobles Book is reviewed) so I’m looking forward to joining the game at Owlbear and Wizard Staff in September run by Smart Party’s Gaz (or is it Baz? I always get them confused, like roleplaying’s answer to Ant and Dec)

    Finally, by far the most column inches is given over to what appears to be the least liked product on the page, Dragonlance – Dragons of Glory. Not a module but a ‘simulation game’. I must confess that despite being in the hobby for 35 years, this is the first time I’ve encountered the concept. What is a ‘simulation game’?
    I’m fairly ambivalent to Dragonlance. It was a neat concept: TSR felt there weren’t enough Dragons in their game about Dragons and so created a world where there were all the Dragons. The artwork was high quality and evocative, especially Larry Elmore – another of my art gods and I even read some of the early novels which were fairly bland, bog-standard fantasy fayre. Unfortunately the release rate became what I can only describe as torrential and so I quickly lost track of Raistlin, Goldmoon and that obnoxious Kender prick.
    As far as I understand it, they weren’t really proper modules anyway. You had to play characters from the books and were never allowed to stray too far from the plot.
    Sounds ghastly.

    1. “Open Box2 without using a strained Bolton Accent…! Yes! I too always have that in my head now. 😀

  11. June 1986 . Almost 16 and about to finish school with not much idea what to do next. (I eventually went to college then dumped it for a job!)

    I have issue 78 (pdf) so I’ll have a read and see what pops up for me.

    Hummm Ian Livingstone’s last editorial. 🙁
    Open Box – Cthulhu by Gaslight. I wont get this until its second edition, but its one of my favourite sourcebooks.
    Advert – 3 Earthshock metal Cybermen for £1.95. If only I could still get them for this price!
    Thruddd goes a bit Tolkien. He he.
    The Spung Ones. I remember running this a few years later. Brilliant. I loved all the Judge Dredd stuff in WD.
    ‘Eavy Metal – More Dredd for me to drool over.
    Letters Page – Comments about sexism in RPG!
    A wonderful advert from Grenadier Models UK. Making me wish again I had a time machine.
    And finally the silly messages in the Small Ads. Oh how we tittered as young un’s reading these. We even thought up some to send of ourselves, but never did. Shame.

    Excuse me missing AD&D and Golden Heroes stuff. I never played them then, and only occasionally read the AD&D stuff if I could convert it to MERP or RQ.

    So a good issue. Not one of the best, but solid and probably something for most people.

    It’s a shame magazines don’t exist like this anymore, but we have the internet of wonderful (and terrible things) things. Online places like Grognards are great online resource or just place to read and chat, so I do count myself lucky that we have them.

    Agent Pumpkin.

  12. This was an issue I had. I think maybe the second to last of my subscription, and I can maybe see why I didn’t resubscribe. Not much here I could see using. We played a lot of Dredd but I don’t recall using any of the WD stuff for it. Always enjoyed reading it, though.

    I remember seeing Paul Cockburn on some Central TV debate show, defending GW against accusations of, if not outright satanism (shame), then corrupting the nation’s youth with violent tosh like Chainsaw Warrior (which I presume was a little while after this issue). They also had a Dracula game out at the time, and all he could muster regarding that was to ask “what’s wrong with Dracula?”.

    Never quite realised what a puff piece the Cosmic Encounter “article” was until now. Looking back I guess there was a lot of this.

    I enjoyed Thrud, mostly because I understood that reference (for once). I’m not saying Carl Critchlow watched the Bakshi LOTR as often as I did – roughly about three times a week at this point- but on this evidence, he at least must’ve given it a look.

    When I look at these old issues I go straight to the reviews and letters. I see here the latter was well into its “for God’s sake don’t let women or children play RPGs” era. Gotta keep them gates! I was 14 so I don’t know if I identified as a newbie at this point but I certainly rankled at the suggestion that Fighting Fantasy books were a blight on society, even though (checking the publishing order) I’d given up on them by now (the “Trial of Champions” period I guess).

    I feel like I had a tape of that Marillion show, or maybe I’m mixing it up with their Monsters of Rock show (“Childhood Memories” to the bootleggers). Did they do Grendel? I bet they didn’t.

    I definitely had a tape of the Jethro Tull performance as Alan Freeman played it on radio 1 a few years later. Am I crazy or is the keyboard player shoehorning some Frankie Goes To Hollywood into Locomotive Breath? The 80s were weird.

    1. I remember that regional show. Something about them Dungeons and them Dragons being the end of civilisation as we know it. Some beardy bloke who was staunchly agin it, opened a copy of White Dwarf to the title, ‘Blood Bowl, Bloody Blood Bowl’ to prove the level of depravity it was dragging our young innocents down to.

  13. Never played Cosmic Encounter. I seem to be typing ‘never played’ a lot today. I’m really not much of a board game fan, though.

    I remember a time when I thought Thrud the Barbarian was pure genius. I occasionally smirk at it these days. Not this issue, sadly.

    A couple of the novels in Critical Mass sound interesting. In particular, Michael Scot’s The Ice King and Gwyneth Jones (no relation) Escape Plan.

    Now then. Solar Power. It’s only two pages but for me, fiction in roleplaying mags was always a waste of space. Pages taken up by some run of the mill purple prose when they could be dedicated to new rules, monsters or spaceships, just narked this teenage philistine even though I was perfectly happy for three pages to be given over to comic strips. What did everyone else feel?

    1. I used to complain about fiction in White Dwarf (I wasn’t that keen on the Griselda stories shh, don’t tell anyone) but Imagine used to do a better job of it. Their strips weren’t as good (Vop was ok)

  14. Talking of which, Gobbledigook follows and whilst I adore the little rapscallion very much, this issue he has about 25 frames too many.

    Also, it’s the end of the Travellers. It most definitely wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but for me and my mates it was a source of extreme tear-inducing mirth around the workbench in our woodwork registration classroom. We adored it and we were very sad to see it go.

    1. Favourite moments in Travellers include Gavin’s Swan Song, Dinalt taking Felix for a float, Giger’s alien being interviewed by Barry Norman and Luke in the Cantina shouting, ‘Hey, Everyone! He’s got the death sentence in twelve systems’ and the whole cantina erupting in blaster fire. There were many more.

      1. You know the story of Baz from the Smart Party making an appearance in the strip?

    2. I was definitely too young to appreciate The Travellers. When I got to university, I’d realize that I’d essentially missed out on a work of genius.

      From another issue:

      “We come in peace–We don’t mean to ridicule the game–merely show you that it can be fun and humourous–D+D can co-exist with Travellers!”
      “Didn’t go down well Jim–They’re waving poles at us.”
      “That’s not so bad.”
      Readers survey polls Jim–We came last remember–Below the blank page.”

  15. Ooh! I skipped right over Ashes to Ashes. Now that might have been super useful for my mate, Adrian who played a necromancer in our D&D game.

    I’ve not read the Pilcomayo project. I’m not really interested in superhero RPGs (don’t tell Simon). I’m sure it’s great, though.
    The Judge Dredd scenario on the other hand looks terrific. For a start, as someone else said, Marcus Rowland can do little wrong and Mark Harrison’s artwork brings the whole thing to bouncy (or should that be Boingy™?) life. Rowland captures the whimsical over-the top silliness of classic Dredd perfectly and the ‘Hill Street Blues’ style morning briefing is genius. I don’t know who first started doing that in Dredd scenarios but it appeared to be ubiquitous and works beautifully. I really REALLY want to play some Dredd. I missed the opportunity to join Orlanth Rex’s online game which appears to have turned out to have been the greatest roleplaying game ever! He used Nights Dark Agents to run that one. I’m not sure what I’d use. The classic GW RPG, whilst I used it a lot back in the day, is, I think very much ‘of it’s time’ and I find myself largely uninspired by the flavourless mechanical WOIN or the Mongoose version. I might use Fate Accelerated if I do it or Savage Worlds might actually be a better fit for pulpy, shooty action.

    1. I used Savage Worlds (Deluxe edition) for my Dredd scenario at the last Grogmeet. I think it worked pretty well – fast moving combat, dramatic tasks, chases – all seemed to fit with the comic-strip aesthetic.

  16. I forgot to mention Ed in the Shed. Was he talking about Geddy Lee from Rush? Made my Canadian ears prick up. Not a fan myself but I do acknowledge their talent and accomplishments. The only prog rock I liked was by Klaatu. 3:45 EST is a perfect album IMHO.

  17. ‘Eavy Metal covers the construction of an entire Citi-Blok for a Games Day Judge Dredd RPG demo. At 15’x4’ it sounds absolutely epic. So it’s a shame we just get a handful of photos with closeups of just a couple of tiny sections. Let’s see the whole thing, dammit. Fewer words, more pictures!
    I always remember being envious of that spaceship model, though and wanting one myself. (it’s also the only thing I remember about this issue)

    The letters page! I gave up reading half way through. I was losing the will to live. It was just endless whining. Worst of all, it was endless whining about the endless whining on the letters page! Cockburn, get your axe!

    1. I saw the Citi Block in real life at a Northern Games Day. The rest was mainly polystyrene packing sprayed grey. The article shows the best bits. Sorry to disappoint.

  18. Read the Pilcomayo Project, a nice set up, with lots of opportunity for interpersonal/motive clashes between the NPCs.
    For non superhero gamers it would also make a good Cthulhu setting, Mi-Go and native cultists in jungle mountain tech base, throw in Nazi’s to suit and Israeli team, or a Traveller, set on jungle planet with Zhodani base and alien natives, Imperial dam company with employees behaving strangely under mind control etc. Dam behind schedule, PCs to investigate.
    There was an interesting bit in the Fracas news page, Graeme Davis a new hire, working with Paul Vernon on WARPS (was that WFRP?) what did Paul Vernon do on it? Also i’d never heard of his Fate Master books, did anyone play them?

    1. …or an Ancients base, protected by degenerate Droyne or Chirpers and a Kurtz-like Imperial, threatened by the dam. I’ll stop now.

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