White Dwarf Book Club – Issue 51

One of my all-time favourite covers! Issue 51 was a personal favourite back in the day, not least because of its great RuneQuest content. I’ve said before that Cults of Terror was my favourite ever supplement and it’s deployed wonderfully here.

I’m going to enjoy revisiting this one, what about you?

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.

6 thoughts on “White Dwarf Book Club – Issue 51”

  1. March 1984. Just starting to panic about O’level revision before the Easter holidays. This would have been one of the “good” issues to me I think. I liked the “essay” style articles such as “Gifts from the Gods” and “Runequest Economics”, A Griselda short story was always interesting, and a mini-module for AD&D (even though pitching it at as many as 8 PCs always seemed silly to me – who had gaming groups that big?). Yup, deffo worth my 75p (that would have been 7-and-a-half “10p doubles” from the ice cream van at lunchtime, so the bar was high!

  2. The sorcerous woman on the cover obviously has magic to spare to keep her tin foil boob covers attached. The Black Broo of Dyskund rates, in my memory at least, as one of the highlights of the RQ scenarios published in the Dwarf. It and A Tale to Tell even made it into Shadows on the Borderland when Chaosium published some Praxian adventures during brief but glorious RQ Renaissance. With the inclusion of the Griselda story this was a strong RQ issue. Even the Runequest economics article in Rune Rites was useful if not particularly exciting. Curiously, the latest edition of Runequest from the newly invigorated Chaosium has reduced the quantities of silver coin (lunars etc.) by a factor of ten, while increasing their value by the same amount, which alleviates some of Russell Massey’s original problem.

  3. This and issue 47 are probably my two favourite issues of White Dwarf. Certainly visually.
    47 just wins but that’s for another day.
    A beautiful Iain McCaig cover, and the brilliant looking Black Broo Of Dyskund. Great WD layout and illustration, and a great read even for a non-runequest player. Once again that fascinating game that for some reason we never played.
    I had this issue back then but lost it somewhere along the way.
    But on holiday a few years ago in Oban, looking in the Oxfam there, in among a pile of newer Dwarfs was this issue. I won’t say the find was the highlight of the holiday, we did walk the hallowed streets of Balamory after all.
    Not done a full re-read, but the Dave Morris scenario looking back is definitely showing the beginnings of the Dragon Warriors vibe. Dark Ages kingdom, Anglo Saxon names and Celtic faerie creatures like the Vough, and consequences if magical gifts like the water in the pool are over-used.

  4. I was at peak WD reading during this time, old enough to be playing regularly and young enough not to be cynical about it. So I remember this one well.

    As has been said, it’s a great looking issue – not an all-time great cover but a very good one and there’s some special stuff inside.

    I really like the AD&D Scenario, A Ballad of Times Past. As written it’s incredibly rail-roady with the players moving through a series of set scenes. But I don’t think it needs to be unsatisfying – a good DM could easily shake it up a bit without losing hold of the plot. On the subject of unreasonably large gaming groups (“for about eight players”), I wonder if these authors were used to running games as part of a university club where big tables were likely, and indeed probably something you couldn’t control.

    The letters page features an aggressively rude one from “Dave Stone” – wasn’t he a pseudonym used by some of the fanzine editors or did he actually exist? His point is that WD is stupid and the people who read it are stupid so even when WD isn’t stupid, its stupid readers won’t notice. Thanks Dave!

    Open Box features a Chaosium game that I I know nothing about, Superworld. I might be wrong but I don’t think they ever supported it so it must have crashed pretty quickly – there weren’t many superhero games at the time and Chaosium was generally successful at that point, so odd.

    The rest of the articles are a mixed bag. The one on developing religion and magic in AD&D to make clerics less cleric-y is a really interesting read even now if you play 5e. I came to “Runequest economics” with a heavy heart but it has some good ideas on making loot more evocative and realistic rather than just being heaps of Gygaxian coinage. I can only assume the word search was dropped into Treasure Chest as an emergency – sure Dave Stone had something to say about it in the next issue.

    As always I like reading the small ads – all those little cries out for companionship from 12 year olds in Skegness. One that sprang out was a Morrow Project only convention being planned – a good game but “30 people approx” sounds a bit optimistic, especially when it was “dedicated players only”. No worries about gatekeeping in those days!

  5. This one fell a bit flat for me, since I didn’t yet speak RuneQuest or Warhammer. A truly superb negative review from Langford, though (“A real running sore of a book, this”).

    I rather like the extended UPPs for Traveller NPCs – a quick way of determining “is this someone you persuade, bribe, or intimidate”.

    The D&D adventure is a bit linear, but fun – I might convert this to Dragon Warriors at some point.

  6. Not a Golden Age issue for me, but an interesting one nevertheless. Because of the Book Club, I’ve begun reading WD from Issue 1 onwards, and no surprise that #51 has come a long way from #1.
    Probably a year or two before I came across WD, one thing that stuck me was how tight the typesetting was – luckily, I can expand out the PDF, but a tough read. Was paper expensive in them their days?
    I like how the pages of ads and classified give an indication of how much energy and activity in the gaming scene there was at the time.

    Gifts from the Gods was a great example of a world-building tutorial, not lumbered by crunchy tables, although a lot of work to actually apply it AD&D.

    Dave Langford’s Critical Mass was a keenly read department, his acerbic biting reviews sometimes more entertaining than the books themselves.
    “Despite lumpish prose and wooden characters (motivated by either unfathomable caprice or arbitrary monomania), the book livens up as Dunstan injects gratuitous nastiness.”

    Oliver Dickinson’s Griselda stories gave a real flavour to Glorantha and was a window into a cultural environment that embraced and gave justification to the role of adventurers, ie ‘murder-hobs’.
    Back in the day, Chaosium produced a collected works of Griselda’s short stories that’s worth looking out for.
    Oddly , in that, Oliver Dickenson noted he loved Glorantha, but never really played it.

    Starbase – a handy wee ruleset for rounding out NPC personalities and drives, and in true Traveller style noted as flavour-less numbering. Still has value today for Mongoose 2e.

    The Black Broo of Dyskynd – never heard of it before, but an excellent combo of dungeoneering within the context of Gloranthan religious sectarianism.
    With a wee tweak, re-usable for a Warhammer adventure, with equal horror at battling Chaotic cultists.
    I particularly liked the Crystal Garden, filled with valuable magic crystals, intermingled and indistinguishable from flawed and dangerous ones. Sorts out the greedy PCs from the heroic ones.

    Letters page – a mix of thoughtful and space-filling, I particularly like Martin Sheppard’s defence of MSPE – under-rated pulp fun!

    A Ballad of Times Past – this would fit quite happily in a fantasy one-shot, although a lot of effort to make it less rail-roady.
    A preliminary adventure in that milieu would warm the players up to the world.

    Fiend Factory – the conversion of May’s Saga of the Exiles is a much better use of the space than random entrants.
    Forgot I’d even read this, back in the ’80’s. The books have long since gone to the charity book shop in the sky.

    Runequest Economics – a campaign rarely lasted long enough to deal with the Monty hall problem of being overburdened with loot.
    PC mortality sorted that problem out.

    Treasure Chest – imaginative yet not bothered. Drowning rules quite handy, although I’m sure most GMs would fudge the result.
    Not the most heroic end for a PC.

    Off the Record – a throw-away page, I liked it as a window into the people behind the scenes.

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