Over on that Twitter, @Smiffymark66 challenged me to name my top five issues of White Dwarf. Difficult, as that selection is always subject to change, but anyway, I came up with the following: 26, 35, 46, 79 and 94. Given that my blog offers me the luxury of more than 280 characters, I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain my choices a bit further.
Like many people, I suspect, the first ever issue of White Dwarf I bought is one of my top five. I’ve said it before, but I can’t overstate the impact this issue had on me. Up to that point, the only RPG material I’d read was the Holmes Basic D&D rule book. So, reading White Dwarf 26 for the first time, each page was full of amazing possibilities: new games, new ideas, new adventures came bursting out. This game, this whole hobby, was something completely different. Reading articles like Roger Musson’s The Dungeon Architect and Marcus Rowland’s The Dungeon Master’s Guide to the Galaxy, it was clear that people really thought about the game, adding depth and colour, and in turn this sparked off ideas in my own head. This issue also contained an excellent Traveller scenario, Amber to Red, and boasted not only a cover by Iain McCaig, but had all the articles illustrated by him. (Just check out his pictures for the Dire Tribes in that issue’s Fiend Factory. Wonderful.)
Another stand-out issue from the first golden age of White Dwarf. Many, many highlights in this issue, including: The Necromancer character class from Lew Pulsipher, a great, evocative and controversial AD&D class, that generated debate for many letters pages to come (and presumably why the issue has this Les Edwards cover); A Guide to Dungeon Mastering, more sage advice from Lew Pulsipher; the Traveller scenario Green Horizon, one of the most Marcus Rowland-esque scenarios from, er, Marcus Rowland, where space-faring marsupials take on the Nazis; and some great content in the regular departments like Starbase and Fiend Factory. At this time, White Dwarf was simply a must-buy for any role-player in the UK.
I picked this issue mainly as it contains my favourite part of one of my favourite article series: Dave Morris’s Dealing with Demons. Issue 46 focused on the terrifying demonic nobility; just the titles of some of these demons – The Lord Tsienra, Screaming Metal Spirit, Demon of Ferocity; His Demonic Majesty Adelmar, Lord of the Vaults of Eternity, Monarch of Demons – were enough to generate ideas for a whole campaign. Ostensibly for RuneQuest, the articles could be applied to many games, and not just the fantasy genre. Worth seeking out. The rest of the issue was pretty great too: one of the many parts of Daniel Collerton’s epic AD&D city series Irilian; an article on breathing life into the hackneyed concept of the wandering monster, Strangers in the Night, by Philip Palmer; and Phil Masters took a look at planetary governments in Traveller in Worldly Power. All this, and Thrud, The Travellers and Gobbledigook too.
Fast forward a few years, and White Dwarf hit another purple patch. This issue in particular stood out. Several articles were grouped around the theme The Power of the Mind: Steven Palmer took a fresh look at AD&D psionics in All in the Mind; Carl Sargent tackled Psi-Judges in the Judge Dredd RPG; and there was a great discussion by Phil Masters on the separation between player and character intelligence in Think About It! And there was even more: my favourite Call of Cthulhu scenario, Graeme Davis’s Ghost Jackal Kill, and some very funny, acerbic fiction parodies from Dave Langford. All contained in John Blanche’s iconic cover.
People tend to forget that right up until the end, just before it abandoned RPGs completely, White Dwarf was still putting out some great issues. Take this one for example: we had A Rough Night at the Three Feathers, an expertly-crafted, multi-layered adventure by Graeme Davis for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay; the beginning of Marcus Rowland’s epic Dredd scenario To Live and Die in Mega-City One; gladiatorial combat in The Coliseum for RuneQuest III; and from Rick Priestley, a small battle scenario called Skirmish on Rynn’s World for some game called Warhammer 40000. Not too sure about the cover though; I like much of Chris Achilleos’s artwork, but the lady in this picture looked confused and unsettled. Presumably she was wondering where her trousers were.
Make sure you also check out @alegisdownport‘s blog here, where they also tackle the thorny question: what are your top five issues of White Dwarf?