White Dwarf Book Club Issue 77

Rattle, rattle, rattle the d100 has rolled again, but this time James ‘Humakti’ over on the Discord channel has a -1% adjustment, because he rolled an issue that has appeared before.

This is a classic issue, not least for its concealed poetry from Ian Marsh (find out more Episode 14 of the GROGPOD). This was a point when the magazine was transitioning into something more interesting, more challenging than the versions of the magazine that had gone before.

Miniatures were beginning to get increasing prominence, but so was more rigorous writing from Colin Greenland, Pete Tamlyn, Graeme Davis and Graham Staplehurst… the migration from Imagine was in full flow.

Not sure about some of the adverts (what was Ringquest about?).

Let me know what you think in the comments …


P.S. If you look at the comments under the link to Issue 33 you’ll find a link to a copy – shhhh!

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 77”

  1. Dirk- got to give it to you, your Photoshop skills in mocking up a cover are really improving. And congratulations on recycling that Chris Achilios art.

    White Dwarf 77- as if!

    Fake news.

  2. Am pretty sure it wasn’t long after this one that the magazine really started wandering off into Games Workshop catalogue territory. A damn shame, really… and after Imagine folded the previous year, I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like either of these two magazines ever again. There were several efforts (excl. Dragon magazine of course), but I think only No Quarter and an earlier mag from Steve Jackson Games were the closest things to a generic RPG magazine, but obviously these were aimed at specific games, too… 🙁

  3. May 1986. Chernobyl is happening. Top Gun is released.

    Really didn’t get on with that cover. I think the heavy makeup is what really moves it from naff to terrible, well into “if you are not a teenage boy this is Not For You” territory.

    The suggestion at the time was that the relocation was at very short notice, and GW wasn’t offering any moving expenses. (Quite apart from the problem of “I have a life in London which I don’t particularly want to throw away”.)

    Open Box: DC Heroes with Greg Gorden’s first use of the exponential scales that he’d bring down a bit in Torg. (And it wasn’t the mess that was Marvel.) But everyone still thought you needed a licence to have a superhero game that wasn’t Champions. Never played the FASA DWRPG (complicated even by the standards of the day). YCBBB: yes, great fun to read, but all the best jokes are for the GM.

    Oriental Adventures! (Nobody really seemed to know what to do with that. It was a lot more serious and a lot less “ninja in fantasyland” than people expected, I think.)

    Critical Mass: good fun as always but nothing that really stands out.

    2020 Vision: Colin takes a minority position on The Jewel of the Nile (the film that killed the franchise), and it’s still the most memorable of the ones he reviews here. All right, I remember Young Sherlock Holmes but only with disdain.

    The Crazy File: I didn’t run JD, but this was good fun and adaptable to other settings.

    Spellbound: an excellent analysis of magic-in-superheroics, with a certain defensive polemic against people who’ll say it just doesn’t fit.

    The Final Frontier: Alex could still write “realism is the cornerstone of the Star Trek phenomenon” without laughing, but those of us who could still read didn’t agree. Decent introduction to the game though.

    The Travellers: always enjoyed this, and the art stands up well now.

    A Secret Wish: an adventure with an actual backstory! Great stuff.

    Thrud: eh.

    A Cast of Thousands: more great stuff, moving carefully into the dangerous waters of “not all NPCs are just there to be fought”.

    The Cars that Ate Sanity: nice lightweight vehicle rules for a game that needed them. Shame about the page decoration.

    Treasure Chest: how can we attract women? (In far too many cases the answer was “bathe occasionally, and don’t treat women as creatures to be fawned over”.) Pretty basic stuff, but I dare say it caused a lot of noise at the time, particularly when people were praising that cover. Also notable near the end, the innovation of setting your game in an actual working civilisation rather than “the sword is the only law”.

    Tabletop Heroes: nice trick.

    Gook: more fun than Thrud this time.

    Fracas: Ghostbusters, the first iteration of the d6 system. (And out of date by the time the contents page was being put together.)

  4. The famous ‘Sod off Bryan Ansell’ issue. I would never have spotted it if I didn’t know it was there – and even then it took me a while!

    I really enjoyed the Spellbound article of magic in superhero games. Cast of Thousands was good too.

    All round, a pretty decent issue with a bit of everything

  5. Oh! It’s the one with the Achilleos cover of the orgasmic lass on a bat thing. Now more commonly known as the ‘S.O.D.O.F.F.B.R.Y.A.N.A.N.S.E.L.L.’ issue. To be fair, that’s a masterclass in title manipulation.

    First page has an advert for Citadel minis including an Earthshock Cyberman. I still have that figure (and his two comrades) on the shelf next to me. I painted two of them as futuristic robot policemen for some reason. Probably Traveller or Cyberpunk related.

    Ian Livinstone bids us farewell. Although, if the Grognard Files interview with Paul Cockburn is to be believed (and there’s no reason it should not), he hadn’t really had much to do with the magazine beyond the editorial column for some time.
    It obviously passed me by at the time but this was a milestone for the Dwarf, really.

    Then straight into it with Open Box. Have I ever mentioned how utterly and completely disinterested I am in Super Hero RPGs? Stealer of Souls sounds interesting. I’ve been looking at Stormbringer recently and I’m quite interested to see what an official scenario/campaign would actually look like.
    I don’t recall ever knowing of the Master and Daleks supplements for the FASA Dr Who RPG. It’d be interesting to have a read through them as they would be quite quaintly outdated now. Alone against the Dark sound very interesting. I think there was an updated version published a few years ago. I might see if I can procure a copy and have a go.
    One final note. In the review of Yellow Clearence Black Box Blues, Mr Rowland declares in summary, ‘…the author of this adventure should be justifiably proud. It’s a must for any Paranoia referee.’ and then gives it an overall of 7/10!!

    Spellbound. Have I ever mentioned how utterly and completely disinterested I am in Super Hero RPGs?

    I was looking forward to the Final Frontier, but I was disappointed. Far from being an insightful essay on how to capture the feel of Star Trek in your roleplaying game, it’s really an introduction and overview to the FASA RPG. Useful at the time, probably and interesting to read about a Trek RPG in a world where TNG has apparently not yet happened (it came out about then but there’s no hint of it in the article).

    I still adore Travellers. I still can’t make out what the hell is going on.

    The Letters page is the usual collection of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I always hope that letters will contain thought provoking ideas on RPG theory. Instead it tends to be ‘That article two issues ago was great/crap’ or WD contributors throwing shade at each other. Apparently, according to one letter, what was a forum for discussion is becoming just a place to have a slanging match. If only they knew.
    One letter was, well, maybe ‘interesting’ is too strong a word, but worth commenting on. Jeremy Burdock from Alton, a Christian is concerned about companies advertising Tarot and other items associated with the occult in the magazine. It’s easy to forget that the Satanic Panic back in the day was a real problem, but reading that an age limit was placed on the purchase of Tarot cards and other occult paraphernalia helps to illustrate how absurd the whole thing was.

  6. Wow – Ian Livingstone’s last issue. Truly the end of an era.

    I love that in Open Box it mentions that DC Heroes comes with “pre inked dice”. Also of note is the fact that the Dr Who RPG seems to be an absolute mess of coordination… Oh, and apparently “The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues” is a MUST HAVE for any Paranoia GM…and scores a 7?

    2020 Vision still strikes me as odd every time I see it. If it was entirely sci-fi and fantasy focused I could get it…but Jewel of the Nile? Young Sherlock Holmes? Saying that, it did review Biggles which I absolutely loved back in the day. It probably doesn’t hold up well…

    In the McDeath advert it’s interesting to see that what would go onto become GW’s flagship product is reffered to as “…the Warhammer game from Citadel…”

    The crossover MERP / D&D adventure was fun. I liked when they used to do this as you felt like you could get more out of the magazine rather than looking and thinking “Oh, nothing for me this month”.

    My favourite advert came from Heroes Minatures. In their range they included VROOF that are described as “Winged Canines”. I want in on that maddness.

  7. Onto the second Half and A Secret Wish, which might be a fun one-shot to use with The One Ring.

    Thrud: Critchlow is really phoning it in this month. I get the distinct sense he was told to do a Supers themed strip and he really didn’t want to.

    A Cast of Thousands is probably my favourite article this month. A lot of what is included is pretty standard practice these days, but advice on making NPCs more interesting and memorable, with greater depth is always welcome. The three P’s is a nice, simple little system.

    The Cars That Ate Sanity! Exciting Call of Cthulhu car chases of speeds up to 30 miles per hour!!! No-one can live at that speed!
    Is it just me or does constant dice rolling and table referencing actually kill the excitment of a car chase, rather than enhance it?

    Now then, Treasure Chest and ‘Gaming for Heroine Addicts’. An odd entry for a department usually given to magical artefacts for D&D and, as Roger pointed out, particularly ironic given the cover. How to get ladies to play D&D. It’s well-intentioned to be fair if somewhat simplistic and occasionally patronising in its own way. My main concern is toward the end when he gives an example of a power gamer that was patronising two women in his group. His solution was to victimise the player’s character and essentially bully him out of the group. A pretty shitty solution as far as I’m concerned even if he was an asshole.
    I might look up letters in response to this article in 78 and 79. I can well imagine it being the usual mysoginist shit-show.

    ‘Eavy Metal and that seems like a lot of effort to go to when you could just stand the black cutout behind the figure. The results are pretty pedestrian too. Meh.

    Gobbledigook proving again that more than three frames outstays its welcome.

    Fracas and the (understandable) bitterness about the move to Nottingham continues with the final entry, ‘Road to Nowhere’.

    Finally, the classifieds are a feast this month.

    It’s riddled with comedy entries from PCs. These always used to bother me. It just seemed to be a waste of money and space in the magazine. Now they’re my favourite part of the classifieds.

    There are actually three contenders this month for the ‘There’s Always One’ award, the most brazen of which is ‘Desperate’ 15 year old Daniel Longdon who seeks attractive female penpals.

    Two ads from Orcs in Tonyrefail c/o Chris Backway who is a stalwart of the Radyr roleplaying club now RP Haven Cardiff North

    ‘Are you ready for adventure?’ asks Carol of Norwalk California. Her standards must have been low as we became penpals – not from this ad, though. I posted an add in (I think it was) Dragon magazine asking for American penpals and she responded.

    Good times.

    1. Skipping ahead to 78 and 79 nobody mentions the Treasure Chest article in letters because they’re all kicking off about the Tarot card letter and tearing their hair out about changes to the magazine. I’ve got to be honest, I was hard pressed to see any significant changes between 77 and 78, but there you go.

  8. The thing that really strikes me about reading these old issues is how important Open Box was, and I think I get the most enjoyment out of rereading them, as I must’ve pored over them at the time. It was, basically, the only way to engage with 90% of the material that was being released because it was all so expensive. There was no way I could buy a new game or even a supplement on a whim – the ones I did have were as a result of an enormous amount of careful consideration and soul searching. We were a small group of players with a fair few games between us but we never even scratched the surface of what was out there.

    As a hardcore MERP player I’m really surprised I never tried to run A Secret Wish. I didn’t get the title reference at the time but I do now – that album is amazing! Tim Sell was best known to me as the illustrator of House of Hell and those Star-Shadow D&D ads. He’s swiping an Alan Lee illustration from “Faeries” with that evil tree though.

    The Crazy File is a great read – sums up the appeal of Judge Dredd for me at the time – I’d never read the comics but the game really set that world in stone for me as essentially a black comedy, so I’ve never been able to get on board with some of the more po faced takes on it in the intervening years. Is that a Mazes & Monsters reference?

  9. Interesting to see Mark Harrison (creator of The Travellers) illustrating the Judge Dredd article – doing his best Mike McMahon impression – given that he’s now a regular 2000AD artist. His latest work currently running in the prog is for Dan Abnett’s The Out, a tale of deep space, that’s recently taken a surprisingly existential twist. Mark Harrison has produced some impressive alien landscapes for that one.

    1. I remember Harrison illustrated a Judge Dredd article about the accounts division and for years it was my favourite picture of Dredd I’d ever seen. Having viewed it recently I don’t feel quite the same but I’m still a big fan of Harrison’s Travellers strip.

  10. An interesting issue, particularly as my modern self views it in very different light to my teenage self all those years ago. Back then , aside from the cover, which I recall particularly enjoying (It was also a cover for the Heavy Metal comic/magazine as well I think?) I would have probably dismissed the issue as a bit unappealing. Beyond the scenario and Tabletop Heroes, nothing else would have appealed as interesting to me – I despised Super Hero games, and never really liked Sci-fi ones (I enjoyed reading sci-fi, but never wanted to absorb myself in a sci-fi world like I did with fantasy worlds in my imagination. And articles for “noobies” and ones talking about making the game more female-friendly were to be treated with contempt. even the art style I found unpleasant and “modernistic”, much preferring the older more “hippy” style of earlier magazines.

    Now though I appreciate the quality of the writing. My tastes in art have broadened, as has my imagination, and also my understanding of sexism, which as a teenager growing up in a boys school was pretty much non-existent.

    How times change eh?

  11. ‘Aftab The Greek Takes Over’ the perhaps less subtle version of the title page on the Letters Page ‘Letter’, complete with new address in Notts.
    I do love those letters, different theme in every issue.

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