The GROGNARD Files

Table-top RPGs from back in the day and today.

Another low roller, this time the d100 was rattled by Bud from Bud’s RPG Review, the ‘First, Last and Everything’ contributor for the latest episode of the GROGPOD. In the episode we celebrate 5 years of producing the pod which all began with Runequest. In the first episode, @dailydwarf declares Lair of the White Wyrm to be the best Runequest scenario: it’s a classic zoo-dungeon showing off the Gloranthean bestiary to the full.

It may feel a bit slight compare to some of the other issues we have looked at, but it’s a significant issue not least because Ian Livingstone, fresh from a trip to Origins, includes an interview with Gary Gygax. In the editorial, Livingstone wonders if Brits will ever have the stomach for a three day convention.

Last weekend, it was the virtual version of UK Games Expo, which included streamed-seminars where former member of the editorial team of White Dwarf Marc Gascoigne gave a shout out to The GROGNARD files. Much has changed over the past 40 years, not only can the Brits stomach three day cons, we can enjoy them from the comfort of our own homes.

If you’d like to play Lair of the White Worm, then come and join me and others at Glorantha Games where I will be running it using 13th Age Glorantha.

Let us know what you think of this issue by responding in the comments below.

P.S. You can find links to the issues in the comments of the first Book Club.

11 thoughts on “White Dwarf Book Club Issue 14

  1. Daily Dwarf says:

    The first bonkers White Dwarf cover from the artist Emmanuel. To compare it with his other bonkers covers, grab a magnifying glass and head over here: https://dailydwarfblog.wordpress.com/2020/08/12/the-white-dwarf-covers-compendium/

  2. Marc G says:

    You’re very sweet, but I was never the editor of White Dwarf (tho I did sit very close to several of them in my times at GW London and Nottingham). — Marc G

    1. Dirk says:

      I knew that obvs – amended to what I meant to say – thanks for the mention. Dirk

  3. RogerBW says:

    Fascinating to see these advertisements for games which had faded from memory a mere few years later. (Particularly the wargames. When I started there were still a few wargamers around to complain about RPGs taking people away from their hobby. And then the golden age of RPGs ended when Magic came along.)

    So many adverts with dollar prices, “or contact Games Workshop”.

    A few years ago when Expo was asking the traders whether they wanted to extend to Friday, they all said no – they’d have to take staff away from a normal business day in their shops and warehouses. But Expo did it anyway.

    Expanding Universe: good stuff as always from Andy, though perhaps without quite as much thought for the shape of the resulting universe as would be usual later. (Sure, every starship is a multimegaton bomb.) And the obligatory nuclear weapon rules. But a four-page article, gosh – wouldn’t see that in the later days for anything except adventures.

    Fiend Factory: notable to me because of the mention that Fiend Folio is shortly going to be published.

    Open Box: Don admits he was wrong about the appeal of Traveller, but mostly seems to dislike everything not published by TSR.

    Lair of the White Wyrm: yeah, it’s a bit of a zoo but that’s what people wanted.

    Treasure Chest: those traps look a lot like what Grimtooth would do later.

    Letters: White Dwarf is not as good as it was!

    Gary Gygax interview: more blatantly self-promotional than I expect, but it was 1979. (Which is also the excuse for the back cover, really.)

  4. Wow. An advert for The Sorcerer’s Cave. I remember loving that in my pre-RPG days. For an ad that claims that roleplaying games need “too much setup” I find that kind of cheeky for a game that used to hog most of my mum’s living room carpet…

    The whole “chance of failure” calculation for Traveller showed that RPGs hadn’t quite made a clean break from their wargaming roots at this point. I also love that one of the Traveller tables talks about “rolling thrice” which I almost expect to be followed by “hey nonny, nonny”.

    In this day of over the top CG graphics, there’s something very comforting about the black and white images in Fiend Factory, complete with matching fonts.

    What is interesting in Open Box is the fact that most modules are reffered to as “dungeons” and the concept of the “contest dungeon” – in those cases are the GMs really expected to remain impartial?

    It’s a sign of the times that there was a Citadel miniature available that was advertised as “Naked Girl in Stocks”.

    The Gygax is really interesting to a modern reader. To see Gary saying that TSR might grow to “even 40 people” made me chuckle. Also, “there are probably 30,000 D&D players in the UK…” Simpler times 🙂 It is curious, though, in the section talking about magazines that he’s almost dead against upsetting what he sees as a perfectly balanced game.

    Finally though; that Gamme World Advert……

    1. Wayne Peters says:

      “It’s a sign of the times that there was a Citadel miniature available that was advertised as “Naked Girl in Stocks”.”

      These days she’d be only half naked, the other half being in some form of BDSM gear and she’d be partially built into something called a ‘penitent pain engine’ or something. Plus skulls and big guns.

  5. Wayne Peters says:

    That cover is proper 70’s. I can imagine the art direction was something like,’Hey, maaan. Like, draw me a terrified naked Leo Sayer on like a big lizard cat thing and, I dunno maybe a snail or… are those my feet? Woah!’

    Globetrotter Ian Livingstone rubs our noses in it and ponders if us Brits have the guts and finances to stomach a 3-day convention. I have to admit, though, the concept of affordable accomodation sounds appealing.

    I love Traveller. Or, at least, I used to love Traveller. I’ve kind of found it lacking as a setting in recent years but even when I did love it, I was never interested in all the minutiae and realistic physics. That’s why Star Wars and Star Trek appealed more – You could fly your cool-looking brick to the forest planet at the speed of plot. Simple. No need for quadratic equations.

    Fiend Folio: I’ve been reading Elric recently and that’s the kind of psychedelic shit Moorcock would come up with. It must’ve gone down a treat in 1979.

    Open Box has some Judges Guild stuff and I have to admit finding JG a bit of an enigma. They seemed to be prolific back in the day producing all manner of stuff for D&D and Traveller and Runequest amongst others. Everyone seems to know them and know their stuff but I must confess to them almost entirely passing me by.

    Lair of the White Wyrm has too many rooms for my taste. When I see networks of a dozen or more (often a lot more) roughly the same size rectangular rooms my heart sinks. It looks so boring. The other thing that strikes me is that, as has been mentioned, it’s a bit of a zoo and that feels weirdly disrespectful to Runequest and Glorantha. Repetitive zoo dungeons were the mainstay of D&D. Don’t you feel dirty running it, Dirk?

    Simon Shaw’s Pit and Magnet trap in Treasure Chest actually made me chuckle with its complexity and deviousness. It’s genius and I must throw it at some players soon.

    I had a chuckle at Roger’s comment about the letters page above but in actual fact it features only three letters (a quarter of the page taken up by an ad) and they consist mainly of what appears to be TSR alumni arguing about monster capabilities.
    Out of interest, the Monster Mark caused such a fuss, did it actually work?

    Nothing particularly surprising in the Gygax interview. I’ve never looked at Greyhawk. Back in the day I played BECMI Basic D&D and used Mystara from the Gazeteers (I had a map of Karameikos and its surrounds made up of six A1 sheets on my bedroom wall). These days I use the Sword Coast in the Forgotten Realms. I can well imagine though, that Greyhawk, like every other D&D setting feels pretty much the same with minor cosmetic differences.

    Finally, there’s that back cover. Altogether now…’I lost my heart to a starship trooper! Flashing lights in hyperspaaaaaace!’

  6. Paul Le Long says:

    Short isn’t it? I was reading away happily and suddenly we’re at the end. I think this is the earliest issue I’ve ever read.

    The Gary Gygax interview is the highlight I think. I have long thought that he never really understood his creation and this interview supports that thesis. When asked about applying the concept of role-playing to fantasy, there’s no mention of role-playing per se, just applying fantastic elements to skirmish wargaming. I’m convinced he thought he had written a wargame in which players simply took the role of the soldiers – that’s not really role-playing; it’s more akin to the Braunstein wargames run by Dave Wesley in the 1960s.

    Gary also says that the inspirations for D&D were Chainmail (a skirmish wargame) Dungeon (a boardgame that is usually cited as coming out after D&D and using the latter as its own influence) and Dave Arneson’s campaign (he wasn’t saying that in the courts when fighting Arneson for the royalties!). Interesting stuff.

    1. Wayne Peters says:

      I don’t know that he didn’t understand it, but it’s clear from the interview that he had a very different idea of what a roleplaying game was than we do now. In it’s purest form, I think D&D was intended to just be a Co-Op deathmatch with spells. Storytelling or narrative wasn’t even part of the equation. You make your move, you cast your spell, you kill the monster and you take its stuff and you win the game. Nothing more.
      What I found really interesting was the fact that these days, Arneson is credited as the other half of D&D whereas he barely gets a mention in the interview.

  7. Yajster says:

    Particularly enjoyed the Gygax interview – put a face to the stuff I’d read on how he was far from the easiest chap to work with, with the various legal issues that followed him post-TSR. (Shannon Applecline wrote quite a bit about Gygax’s adventures in the legal game in Designers &Dragons).
    Wonder what the stats are like now for, TTRPG in the UK and the US, and elsewhere? Anyone know?

    Andy Slack’s piece on Traveller, expanding how things fail, breakdown and explode was well-written, but how many of us would want to add more crunch to an already crunchy game!?
    I miss a magazine that delivers that level of thought though.

    Fiend Factory – notable for an early published piece by Charlie Stross, of the Atrocity Archives fame.

    Open Box – competitive D&D games blows my mind.
    Especially “Of Skulls and” scenarios – ‘The adventure is suitable for 10-12 characters’ – did each player have a mini-team of characters (wargame-style), or a GM with an awfully big table?

    RQ Lair of the White Room – an odd wee dungeon crawl, liked the entrance, hidden within a giant tree.
    And the blinding spell incident in the Temple. A Zoo very much of its time.

    Treasure Chest – I may re-use the Bell Room trap for devilment.

    Letters – a shame that these were the best of the bunch delivered by the postie.
    The Monstermark system chat takes up far too much airspace!

    Gamma World ad – why did the 70’s and 80’s find it difficult to attract girls to the hobby (no one asks)?
    As an advert, it’s pretty terrible too.

    1. RogerBW says:

      When Michael Cule and I talked with Michael Mornard (Old Geezer) for our podcast in 2013, he made it clear that in the early days those large parties were pretty much what was expected. And that’s why the “caller” was useful – their job was to coordinate 10-15 people and present a single message to the DM of what they were going to do.

      (Of course, in a group that size you can’t do a whole lot of what we would now call role-playing…)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: