White Dwarf Book Club Issue 87

Wait for one woman in a bikini flying on a strange thing and another one comes along shortly afterwards. It seems women in bikinis riding on strange things was deriguour in the 80s. This time the magic d100 was rolled by Wayne Peters, a very active member of the Book Club.

At this point, it was clear that the magazine was repositioning the adventures as the core of its content. Following the popularity of the RuneQuest special (number 85), the editor Mike Brunton had almost removed the regular departments and replaced them with more substantial pieces covering fewer games. Dungeons and Dragons was being purged in favour of games on the Games Workshop roll-call.

Derek the Troll by Lew Stringer had found a new home in White Dwarf, a refugee from Warlock, the Fighting Fantasy magazine. He’s even muscled in on the White Dwarf icon. Shocking.

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.

9 thoughts on “White Dwarf Book Club Issue 87”

  1. At this point I was still buying WD because I was a roleplayer and WD was a thing that roleplayers bought; I’d enjoy reading it, but I’d get very little actual use out of the issue.

    Open Box: RuneQuest III, Affordable Edition. (To be followed by Advanced RQ and RQ Monsters for the rest of the content from the Avalon Hill set, but I’m told this on its own was a playable version even so.) Green and Pleasant Land, a British supplement written by an actual British person (many companies took a while to catch on to this idea), and also I think the first published reference to that vitally important question: what did you do during the War?. Mekton/Roadstriker, notable now mostly as the predecessor to Cyberpunk, but I never knew anyone who played it even at these relatively cheap import prices.

    Critical Mass: probably only Equal Rites has lasted out of this lot.

    Open Box Xtra: yay, let’s promote original WFRP. (Currently on the Bundle of Holding, by the way.) Interesting to see the thinking behind things like the career system and the perilous magic.

    Derek the Troll: the art style is very kid’s comics, as is the plot really. Thrud: har har har Thrud has doomed a species to extinction.

    With a Pinch of Salt: “But… Zombies aren’t in Lovecraft!” Neither are non-evil women, but this is a great way of making them work anyway. In fact, several ways.

    Night of Blood: yes, though if the party acts like dungeon-bashing psychopaths and attacks everyone on sight that’s actually a pretty good solution to the adventure. Fairly easy to adapt to other settings.

    Taurëfantô: flexible, but that inevitable conclusion annoys me. I tend to feel the PCs should determine what happens, not an unbreakable plot.

    Happiness is Laser Shaped: it’s a bit reliant on coincidence but hey, Paranoia, what can you do? Looks pretty workable.

    Letters: an unsourced Greg Costikyan confession…

    1. As well as Equal Rites, there are a couple of other books reviewed in the Critical Mass column that I’d recommend to the members of the Grogsquad:

      1) The Hungry Moon by Ramsey Campbell. Britain’s finest horror writer gives us a tale that mixes British folklore, ancient horrors, and scariest of all, religious fundamentalists.

      2) Dark Gods by T.E.D. Klein. Four short stories / novellas with a Lovecraftian feel. All good, particularly Nadelman’s God.

  2. Quite a good issue considering how late it is.

    I find the Middle Earth scenario baffling and unreadable. The Paranoia scenario looks good fun & I’d certainly run it if I could find anyone willing to play Paranoia! The jewel in the crown though is the WFRP scenario which I think is terrific – I’ll certainly be running this in my WFRP inspired 5e game.

    The zombie article is good too – I like the focus on real-world zombie stories (check out the Hypnogoria podcast for a fascinating series on zombies).

    Solid issue. That cover though – Ride of the Valkyries but on giant metal mosquitoes…hmmm…

  3. Open Box:

    It’d be interesting to compare the original review of AH’s RQ3’s rules with the summary of the rules here in the “Affordable Edition” (hat tip to Mr. RogerBW).

    I still have my copy of Green & Pleasant Land–it’s still quite good but I doubt the binding would hold up, were I to use it at the table.

    More than thirty years later, I’m still slightly surprised that Day of Al’Akbar gets a slagging for its cover (justifiably!) but Ravenloft II’s saucy cover goes entirely unremarked upon. In the same review spot and by the same reviewer.

    Wintersfarne sounded interesting at the time but was the kind of thing I was never going to be able lay my hands on in Ye Olde Days Before Ye Internette. Looking at RPGGeek, it seems the sequels never appeared. A great shame.

    Mekton: The oldest lad in my gaming group–who was gainfully employed in the local wool / textile mill (I am THAT Northern, me), had far more money than was good for him, and acquired new games at a ferocious rate–bought Mekton and we generated characters for it. That was as far as we got. Mekton II is (and its three books are) one of my favourite SF RPGs though. It’s lovely and concise, adaptable, and evokes the genre nicely. And, with Roadstriker, you can even use it as a supplement for Cyberpunk.

    Comics: Derek the Troll was probably a little “too young” for the magazine’s audience and possibly would have been happier in The Beano or Dandy. Amusing enough, though (and I’m more charitably inclined towards it now, in my late forties, than I was as a teenager). IMHO, Thrud peaked with “The Three Tasks” — I never quite liked Mr Critchlow’s later style for the comic. [For the others not in this issue: I only grokked The Travellers, when I looked back on it in my university years. It is, quite possibly, the finest comic to appear in any gaming rag — I think I rank it above “Sword of Alabron” and “Once Bitten.” Gobbledigook is possibly the only comic of which my opinion has been consistently high over the years. It’s silly and knows it but is also quite sly. IMHO, Bil actually made the 40K jokes work in later issues.)

    With a Pinch of Salt: I think we can probably assume, at this point in our gaming “careers,” that anything that Mr. Marcus Rowland (seemingly) cranked out is going to be high quality stuff. I’m pretty sure that I bought games because of stuff he wrote.

    Night of Blood: Fabulous floor plans and architectural profiles of the coaching inn. Stealable set up for pretty much any FRPG with demons or other extra-planar entities lurking in the background.

    Taurëfantô: I never quite knew what to do with MERP — the time period in which it was set seemed too early for fans of the books and the rules seemed too wedded to established RPG conventions to evoke Middle Earth successfully. Still, people do seem to have written (and drawn and painted) lots of nice material for it. This is the kind of scenario that I wish the teenage me had had the nous to either run in a heavily researched Middle Earth campaign or file the serial numbers off for BECMI D&D.

    Happiness Is Laser Shaped: Always nice to see stuff by Mr. Pete Tamlyn but, as with all the UK-produced Paranoia material at this time — There. Are. Too. Many. Joke. Names. Oh, Friend Computer, will the teeth-grindingly awful puns never end? Generally, Paranoia features in the British gaming press made the Judge Dredd pieces look like a masterclass in subtle satire.

    Letters: The scuttlebutt in Adventurer magazine was that this was the letters column that led to Mr. Marc Gascoigne moving on to pastures new. [See: Adventurer, issue 9, p. 26 — penned by Mr. Ian Marsh. Supposedly, GW was negotiating for the Star Wars licence?]

  4. A-ha! Thanks for identifying the issues. I dimly recalled Oliver Dickinson being positive about it but am slightly surprised by just *how* positive he was. Both that and “RuneQuest Ruminations” in #75 seem very fair.

    Skimming through RR, it’s funny/ interesting to read about “Greg Stafford’s comment that RQ3 reflects his conception of Glorantha better”–especially in light of how HeroQuest would develop.

    1. Reviews: Complaining about the cover of The Day of Al’akbar is a bit rich coming from the mag that brought you endless covers featuring sexy half naked ladies riding wingéd nightmares. I looked it up and it’s pretty tame (although weirdly reminiscent of Rembrandt’s The Feast of Belshazzar). Surely by this time TSR were mostly publishing more family friendly high fantasy stuff, whereas The Dwarf was still serving up sword and sorcery chain mail bikini stuff. I realise that’s because they were using library art rather than commissioned pieces, but still. Perhaps it was just policy to throw a bit of shade at The World’s Greatest Role Playing Game TM, which GW were no longer publishing anything for.

      1. A case of “Right complaint, wrong magazine”?

        Funny how different in tone/ content the covers of Imagine and Adventurer were.

  5. Blimey! ‘Very active member of the book club’ signing in over a week late!

    I was suprised by this issue. In my mind, the 80’s and definitely the 90’s were the long slide down into Warhammer cataloguism and the end of WD as we knew it. There are elements of this in the ‘Awesome’ news page (being dedicated entirely to GW games) and the Open Box Extra double-page spread on WFRP, Otherwise this issue couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, as a roleplaying mag, this feels like the strongest WD has ever been. Arguably that depends on what you’re after. There are far fewer GM and rules columns in this one but page after page dedicated to a whopping three scenarios!

    The WFRP one, Night of Blood (named using the random WFRP name generator, apparently) looks like a terrific one-shot and would make a great con game. hmmm……..
    Torefanto looks like it would keep Tolkienites happy – but reading it, it did have elements that whiffed more of D&D than Middle Earth.
    Happiness is Laser shaped. I have a theory, having finally played Paranoia recently and that is that the whole game revolves around the GM necessarily being the ‘Asshole Genie’. The AG is a concept I first encountered on the System Mastery podcast – the idea being that when you make a wish, you have to word it absolutely perfectly or the Asshole Genie will screw you over. Paranoia, to my mind is built on that principle and requires an adversarial GM, which is really not my cup of tea. GMs are supposed to be referess, not opponents.

    Anyways, Open Box covers Green and Pleasant Land, to this day still my absolute favourite supplement for Call of Cthulhu. Everything a British GM needs to run games in their own country, a great story by Brian Lumley and three really good scenarios. Love it.

    Mekton. I was always intrigued by RPGs that featured giant robots. FASA’s Mechwarrior, Palladium’s Robotech and Talsorian’s Mekton. I never got to try any of them, though. Mekton looked intriguing, though and still holds my curiosity.

    Terry Pratchett gets reviewed in Critical Mass as if he were just any other writer. Clearly these were the days before he was revered as some form of nerd god. Can we also take a moment to appreciate just how bloody awful that Ramsey Campbell cover is, though. Who the hell signed that off? 😀

    Derek the Troll. What fresh hell is this? And then Thrud. I used to really like Thrud. Not sure why now.

    ‘With a Pinch of Salt’ pre-dates the zombie mania of the last decade or so but even back then zombies held absolutely no interest for me.

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