White Dwarf Book Club – Issue 85

I was preparing the final touches on Episode 29, part 2, of the GROGPOD last night when the sad news of Mike Brunton’s sudden passing came through via Paul Cockburn.

Mike was very keen to be interviewed for the podcast and very gracious with his time. He enjoyed sharing the stories from his days at TSR (UK), working on Imagine, editing White Dwarf, acting as ‘the fixer’ for the Games Workshop design studio, finishing the colossal work on The Realm of Chaos supplement for Warhammer and his days working in the computer games industry. He conveyed his humour, his thoughtfulness, his imagination and industriousness in the short time we were together.

Our condolences to his family and friends for their loss.

In a change of schedule, we will release the full interview as a tribute to Mike in a few days. Part 2 of Episode 29 will follow later.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate his work with this week’s week’s Book Club with issue 85 from January 1987. Daily Dwarf refers to this as The Second Golden Age of White Dwarf, as Mike cleared the decks and injected a new lease of life into the magazine.

As ever, we look forward to your comments and contributions.

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.

12 thoughts on “White Dwarf Book Club – Issue 85”

  1. Probably the issue of WD that I remember most. No doubt due to the Runquest 3 cover and the super adventure “A Tale to Tell”.
    WD was responsible for me getting into RQ and this issue sealed the deal. Up until RQ 3 I had only played RQ 2 off and on, our group preferring Stormbringer.

    I actually looked this one up a few months ago as I was looking for WFRP4e inspiration. The “On The Road” feature is very handy.

    This is one of those great issues that I wish I still had in physical form.

  2. GDQ1-7 review – yeah, but I already had the first reissue, of G1-3. D1-2, D3 and Q1. I seem to remember lots of stuff about the factions in the Drow lands, and it seemed like a waste just to steamroller through.

    More Than Skin Deep – I’d mostly got away from straight D&D by this point, and if I was going to have house rules I’d write my own.

    On the Road – good stuff

    To Boldly Go – never been a huge Trek fan (TV or games) but this makes sense.

    Entertainers – didn’t play Bushido (I’m not sure a lot of people did by 1987) but by reputation it would chew these guys up and spit them out.

    A Tale To Tell – well-integrated with Glorantha (which makes it harder to steal for other settings). What a pity the budget didn’t run to an original map. But there’s still stuff worth borrowing here.

    Swords of Pendragon – great stuff!

    Letters – a solid piece from Dave Morris. I was always a little dubious about the d100 letter: 5164 rolls with a mean of 51.64 seems like a remarkable coincidence, though obviously possible.

    Fracas – I gather that these days the industry is basically 90% D&D, 90% of what’s left is other fantasy, and all the other games have to fit in that last 1%. Congratulations, we’re an élite…

  3. My first issue of WD I purchased. Reading it, and the review of RQ3, I purchased it.

  4. I recognise this issue but I think it was from when I started to drift away from it. Certainly it was past peak Dwarf for me.

    Open Box has a couple of interesting things but front and center is Blood Bowl. It took me 25 years to finally play Blood Bowl and I was hugely disappointed. It was so slow and complicated which felt utterly at odds with the subject matter. Maybe 1st edition was simpler. The reviewer seems to think so.

    Talking of pointlessly, excruciatingly overly-complicated, there’s also Traveller Book 8: Robots. Yeesh!

  5. The last ever (according to Mr Brunton in the editorial) Movie Review page tells us of Short Circuit (‘a remake of ET starring R2D2’) and David Bowie as a Goblin King? It’ll never catch on. 😀
    ‘More Than Skin Deep’ is long since redundant but an interesting read. Shame about repeating the same, somewhat odd illsutration on all four pages, though. Filling space much?
    Thrud (blimey is he still haunting the pages of White Dwarf?) takes on Judge Dredd and to be fair, this was, I think the way most folk played the Judge Dredd RPG. :/

  6. Crikey that Readers Poll opens up several cans of worms – you could do a whole pod about that. I never had this issue but I remember reading it – particularly the fact that people wanted more MERP, and I naively thought that was going to happen.

    My impression was that a lot of people – at least in the UK, had abandoned AD&D by this point because not only was it a broken, patchwork of contradictory systems and rules (which a reading of More Than Skin Deep would support), but that *many* other, cheaper games with more logical rules systems had come along. But the poll says otherwise.

    That’s a *glowing* review of the Wilderness Survival Guide, which seems weird because a) it’s not a GW product and b) it sounds *really* boring.

    1. I bought the WSG – I may even still have it somewhere – but I don’t think I ever used it in a game. There did seem to be a remarkably long section on exactly why you don’t want to use a Flame Strike to light your campfire (short version: you get dozens of little campfires scattered through your camp), which had never occurred to me, so perhaps it wasn’t aimed at players like me.

      To the best of my recollection at this point I was playing a bastardised homebrew of RuneQuest combat with AD&D spells and a spell point system. So I was expecting to have to convert things into it, whatever they were written for. Soon afterwards I’d get into Rolemaster.

    2. Yes, I think I’d abandoned AD&D for the most part at this point and was playing MERP with one group and WFRP with another. We got back into AD&D with 2nd edition. Oddly, I’m now involved with two 1st edition AD&D campaigns – there’s really no accounting for taste is there!

  7. To Boldly go was probably useful with FASA Trek. I can imagine not allowing players to beam down until they say the magic word would eventually result in a table-wide mutiny rather than them ‘getting the point’.
    ‘Eavy Metal does Dragons. It’s extraordinary how pedestrian the paint jobs on these models seem these days. It goes to show how much materials and techniques have advanced in the last 30 years.
    Next a nice double page spread of some of Tony Ackland’s work. I’m not a huge fan but it’s certainly competent.

  8. On to the letters page and it’s just a lot of whining about whether the mag was deliberately appealing to the lowest common denominator in order to boost sales and too much Judge Dredd. With such a limited space, why were they wasting it with pointless whining instead of intelligent and reasoned questions and discussion about the hobby?
    Also, bloody hell! Jason Mills clearly had far too much time on his hands. (mind you I did the same thing with some custom D6s I made a few years ago to check that they still had an even spead).

    Lastly there’s the poll and some interesting results. Traveller had gone from being second fiddle to D&D to 7th most played game. It’s still above Runequest, though which honestly surprises me. Golden Heroes gets a total shoe-ing in the ‘we want less of’ poll! And who were the three people who played Indiana Jones more than anything else!? Then there’s the gender split: 5259 males, 61 females. 86-1. I’m glad that that has improved considerably in modern times but that’s far worse than I would have guessed!

    1. The Star Trek article is interesting in its focus on getting the game to feel like Star Trek. I suspect that comes from a GM’s exasperation that his players were just going around phasering everything in sight. You would have thought all this kind of stuff was in the rule book but I have very little memory of how it was written. As with so many games I only played it once.

      By contrast the WEG Star Wars rpg was full of stuff about making the game feel like the movies, but that was a far less proscriptive world to be in. No Prime Directive, just blow some stormtroopers up and run like hell.

  9. Gah sorry I didn’t get round to this one, walking trip and holiday got in the way. I half read it, and had just started ‘A tale to tell’ which looks good. I’ll come back to it I think. We only just got over the 10! That was close.

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