White Dwarf Book Club – Issue 41

This week, the dice have revealed another gem from The First Golden Age of White Dwarf, as defined in the 7 Ages of White Dwarf by Daily Dwarf (more about that in the next GROGPOD).

So True, funny how it is, Spandau Ballet were top of the charts in May 1983. It was a month where Polish people demonstrated against military rule in a show of Solidarność and the retro-virus we now refer to as HIV was discovered to be the cause of AIDS by two independent research groups

The Return of the Jedi was released in the US (we would have to wait until the Summer to see it).

I was on holiday on a campsite in Morecambe, reading novelisations of The Professionals into the night using my torch (my mum got them off one of those racks spinning in the wind next to the fishing nets, refusing to get me a Gor novel). I was also reading the Five Eyes Temple scenario for Borderlands as we were about to spend weeks in there (hard to believe that I eventually did the whole campaign in 24 hours 34 years later).

If you’ve listened to the GROGPOD 29 you’ll know that Blythy refers to a couple of items that appear in this Issue. Have you played The Snowbird Mystery? Is anyone else surprised at the amount of Car Wars we’ve seen in the issues so far? Did you encounter Phil Master’s Inhuman Gods? What did you think of Oliver Dickinson’s Grisselda stories? Yay, finally, I can use the disc as a weapon in D&D! Plus, Another amazing cover!

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.

15 thoughts on “White Dwarf Book Club – Issue 41”

  1. The cover was used (at least in the US) for Ender’s Game (OS Card). Car Wars–something I bought a bit of, but never got into. It certainly seemed to be a core at SJG (I was a bigger fan of the Ogre series and the Illuminati series was something that my wife enjoyed as well–she even was in an Illuminati tournament at Origins one yet).

  2. White Dwarf covers like these were great inspirations for Traveller for me. I think I purchased this one years after it came out, as part of a job lot at Con in 1989 charity auction – for a fiver for 40 issues! Sadly, these and the wider collection were all turfed during that dark interrugnum where I believed I was done with gaming. If folk enjoy Dickinson’s Grisselda story here, there is a complete anthology of them published a while back. Highly recommended, and a lively window into life in Glorantha – not your typical fantasy theme by any definition. The lack of Car Wars articles in particluar, and of Steve Jackson Games in general, was always a sad omission (where’s The Fantasy Trip, or Ogre!?)

  3. Issue 47, I mean 41 *hem hem*

    The cover is a bit generic spacey. Not much of a wow factor.

    Flicking through the first set of ads, nice Dredd splash with an Ian Gibson illustration. Ugbash Facesplitter is still not making me subscribe to the mailing list. Best of WD Scenarios and Articles on sale – bought! Finally, a full pager for the game that eventually ate the world and saved / destroyed the industry depending on your POV – WARHAMMER!

    A bit in the editorial about SPI and Heritage going into liquidation and ‘has the bubble popped’ for big companies churning out ‘mediocre games’. Not yet, but I hear that train a comin’.

    I’ll forgo anything else that ended up a single line comment in the first draft. :o)

    Battleplan is a way of grafting Ancients Wargaming onto the Fantasy Genre – cardboard frontages in a 1:100 scale of figures to units, et. al. Never used it, not the later TSR War Machine mass combat rules. the Warhammer rules themselves were a bit ropey, especially when magic rears it’s ugly head(s).

    Critical Mass is, as always, a fun read. Feedback is requested – Would you like to see more or less on books/awards/fiction/nonfiction/rude gossip about easily embarrassed SF authors? I voted heavily for the latter, of course.

    Open Box – Traveller Supplement 10 gets a bit of a backhanded compliment from Andy Slack – Scores 9 for a novice, 2 for an Expert. Men, Myth and Magic was something seen many times in ads, but nothing ever made me think I should really buy a copy, though there was an ad this issue for players wanted in Wimbledon / Putney, so someone was mad keen on it.

    Sigils in D&D – clever idea and would be useful now, should you want a bit of left field PC boosting, though it might not take off given the current edition is obsessed with balance in all things. The past is another country.

    The Letters Page – Seconds Out! Don Turnbull returns to clarify points made in WD37 and subsequently commented on in WD38 AND 39 – man, what was the problem?. After much discussion about evil in D&D, he admits he no idea what an Anti – Paladin is. Surely he was conversant with Dragon 39, three years prior? Dave Morris manages to get a punch in after the bell in the next letter, though. Some nice requests for different / multi system adventures. I agree(d).

    The Snowbird Mystery – I always thought that the long form adventure, Sable Rose / Halls of Tizun Thane etc., were very well done and always a great selling point for the magazine. This was one of them, though you did need WD40 in order to get the ship the scenario requires and it uses the Covert Survey Bureau from the current issue. Still one of the go-to Traveller scenarios.

    Freeway Death-ride – clever bit of world-building with the players set as a group of illegal policing units, taking on the psycho’s of Tucson Arizona. A bit of light RPG and four good missions should keep all duelists happy, including me.

    Final Ads – D Hulks and D Barnes put a bit of thought into it this month, hope it worked out for them. Buy Me: Car Wars! Traveller! Why didn’t I buy Pavis!?

  4. Did anyone ever take seriously the warning that all of these super duper new character classes were for NPCs only and that the list of experience point levels were for DMs only? It seems to have caused a lot of heated debate over the years judging by the letter columns, especially the one in this issue. The other thing that made me chuckle was the bit in the Car Wars scenario where the players (almost certainly boys in those days) would either need to play as women or dress up in women’s clothing to fool the disabled psycho auto duellist villain in a motorised wheelchair. Different times.

  5. Also just noticed the advert for Games Centre staff in the small ads – this was the job I applied for from that very advert and had for about three months just before they went bust owing me a month’s wages. The recession in the games industry didn’t take long to hit after Ian Livingstone’s warning.

  6. Just a quick comment from me. Sadly, as with last week’s I’m too busy to read the whole thing (plus I’m currently reading WD55 and Imagine 16 in my monthly re-read), so I’ve just given it a skim. This is another that was before my time. In fact, a whole year before I would become aware of the hobby, so I have no memory of it back in the day.
    Interesting that the industry was going through a bust part of the cycle with companies closing their doors. It feels all too relatable to the video games industry (and why I’m no longer part of it).
    Car Wars! We played it BitD. My mate, Chris was really into it (I still remember the look of abject glee as he read the words, ‘…see the Fire and Explosions chapter.’) but I never got on with it. Some genres need to play fast and frantic and I think cars with guns is one of them. Car Wars always felt too slow and complex. I was a Dark Future lad. Also, what was the deal with drivers getting out of their cars and shooting at each other with handguns? No! Like Battletech, as soon as the characters step out of their vehicles, to my mind it’d just as well be Traveller.
    The Necromancer thing is still clearly causing problems on the letters page and I really can’t see why. A different time, I suppose.
    The Snowbird Mystery is one I’ve never read but have heard good things about. I’m planning to run Traveller at my regular club (once I’ve wrapped up Call of Cthulhu: Day of the Beast) and I want to run it as a series of episodic one-shots rather than a campaign so I’m looking for short scenarios to run. I might add this to the list and give it a read.
    The article at the start on non-human species tactics looks like fun too. Another one for the pile.

  7. I’ve only been able to skim read this issue as well.

    The hilight of this one, by reputation, seems to be the Traveller adventure, ‘The Snowbird Mystery’ (admittedly the cover is rather good too).

    But here’s the thing – does anyone else find that filing cards layout presentation a barrier to actually reading the scenario ? I found the fabled ‘Sable Rose Affair’ equally frustrating when it appeared – (I wanted those floorplans clean and larger dammit). Ok – I’m a grognard with less than 20/20 vision now, but I never had great eyesight back then either (even with the NHS specs – us gamers like to conform to stereotype don’t we ?) and I remember finding it distracting BITD as well.

    All part of Travellers’ ‘hard to get to grip with’ mystique I suppose (and I say this with affection as its the first game I ever bought and attempted to GM).

    Another ‘average’ issue for me. I still get fond nostalgia from the flick through but again its not a classic.

    Still hope we can keep going with this though……

    1. The thing that’s annoying to me about the “Files” layout is that it starts with two Referee Only bits, then all of the players info, THEN more pages of Ref info. It would make more sense to me that the first page has the player’s info and the rest Ref Only. Then you could easily photocopy just the first page x times to hand out. Simples.

      One benefit of the modern age is that I can zoom the PDF file!

    2. I think a similar layout was used for Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia and Judge Dread adventures in later issues. Maybe it was supposed to be more engaging or evocative.

  8. Got a brief window of peace last night and dived in. I’ve browsed this one from the back for some reason and only half way through so far.
    I like the cover, it’s very tranquil, you can imagine the starport control tower burbling away on the comms. Which brings me to the Snowbird Mystery, visually I like the tabbed info style, they were ahead of their time there, its all tabs on t’internet now, although that blue is a bit ‘on the nose’ compared to the usual off beat palette of WD.
    I can remember really enjoying reading this at the time, the flow is really nice, you EVA over and then go through the ship movie style, it all seemed full of sci fi ‘realness’.
    But I was ultimately disappointed, there was no monster on board, no other baddies for the players to shoot, no enemy ships hoving into view, lasers blasting, so knew that it wouldn’t go down well with our Star Frontiers group. It was too mature for us/me.
    But I’m sure the brilliant Explorer ship from the issue before got used, (even though unlike a Star Frontiers ship which had the decks across the direction of thrust), this used Artificial Gravity, who’s the hard science game now? (I think).
    But reading it now, it’s a cracker, it would make a great start to an agency skulduggery campaign. So many potential rival factions and double-crosses possible, the players could easily get into a lot of trouble, (always the best place for players). It’s a great piece of work, mostly wasted on me back then.
    The CSB is likewise good.
    Freeway Deathride however, lovely layout, and Marcus Rowland doing his best, but at the end of the day, as I felt back at the time, there was too little to hang an RPG on, ultimately it was a prelude to fiddling about with those multitudes of counters on a black and white map and checking drift and which phase you could shoot in. Maths lesson. Which was why we stuck to Battlecars.
    The RPG part of the CW deluxe set at least always felt tacked on, and I never got a ‘feel’ for the world as people would have lived it. I suppose it was kind of Mad Max, things breaking down. But then as now I’d need more pointers.
    Good to see the variety in content though as ever.
    Not read the sigils yet, but Gary Chalk never disappoints, and noticed that the guy in the turban is ‘Honest Abdul’ this must be where the name for the owner of the chain of eponymous armourers in all the cities of our 80’s Warhammer RPG campaign came from.

    1. The Car Wars RPG was GURPS Autoduel which I used to run the ‘people-y’ bits of a CW Race Season. It made the players care a *bit* more before ramming another car head on at 60mph.

      1. Yes, it looks full of interesting background stuff, a good way in through the sport part.
        A future sports RPG campaign would be good fun, where the PCs are the team and manager, running them through the usual 2000ad Harlem Heroes/Inferno/Mean Arena plot points, deranged enemy from the past, sniper, mo pad crash, dodgy promoters with other agendas. Just have to work out how to handle the match part.
        I can only speak for Battlecars, but i’m sure it was the same in Car Wars, but there were few greater gaming pleasures than delivering the head on ram, after firing a missile first to soften them up for the monstrous damage fest.

  9. Hmm. 1983 in 4th form and I was blissfully unconcerned by O’levels so was at the height of my D&D-playing powers. I had started art O’level which gave me access to acrylic paints and for a lark tried my hand at painting up some of my rich mate’s miniatures which had had started bringing to our games and found that I quickly took to it and really enjoyed it. Being a poor teenager on 50p pocket money a week at the time though I couldn’t afford many models of my own (although I managed to scrape 25p together to buy a single dwarf model for my own D&D PC), let alone the whole £6 for a copy of Warhammer! Battleplan in WD40+41 was consequently rather intriguing. My mate and I gave it a whirl as a stand-alone game one long wet weekend and found we quite enjoyed it, although we never found the time to play it more than once. it inspired me though and thus began my quest to collect and paint a metal Orc army – which consumed my pocket money for a large proportion of the next few years, but never saw an actual game until many years later, long after I had left school, and university even!

    I also felt inspired by the pictures of Treasure Trap in the news page. I always wanted to go, but never managed to. By the time I had the money and the ability, the place had long closed down, and anyhow, I abandoned the desire to LARP once I had discovered re-enactment and the joy of metal weaponry… but that’s another story!

  10. I tracked down Man and the Planets on the basis of Langford’s review, and got good gaming material out of it.

    Looking at Snowbird now, it seems kind of anticlimactic. I’m not saying it should end with a fight, but working out what’s happened to the crew should be pretty straightforward (the big obvious note in the log is clearly a help here), there’s only a 1-in-6 chance that the NCI mob turn up, and if they do it’ll be a walkover for them. I’d much rather give clues as to how the smuggling is happening, which smart PCs could trade in to either their boss or the Imperial Inspectors.

    Assignment: Freeway Deathride is oddly displaced – because it’s out of the usual CW time, you can’t merge it into an existing campaign (and people certainly had them in those days). It’s a decent set of missions though.

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