It’s June 1987, and to celebrate 10 years of White Dwarf, Thatcher is elected for the third term, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall and White Dwarf increased in size to 72 pages.
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Although these reviews will eventually get to the point where White Dwarf is promoting miniature games and the models to use in them at this time it was populated by role players and the articles submitted by them as homebrewed rules for their favourite systems. Now I’m not going to check them for playability, that’s the Games Masters job, in fact it’s only the GM of a certain system who really needs to see all this information, the players are only likely to have their games spoilt by knowing what is coming ahead. However a) Some of them still make interesting reading even now and b) There is would have been no internet or other easily accessible directory of the vast amount of different RPG’s out at this time so anyone who wanted a taste had to read about it in White Dwarf or another of the RPG mags or consult likeminded people.
First up is Thrud the Barbarian. Unfortunately Thrud hasn’t aged well. For those that don’t know, Thrud was some kind of running comic / meme that involved a giant deformed version of Arnie in Conan the Barbarian. All comics would follow the same path, Thrud turns up, people speak to him and then he beheads them. Or if you’re me reading, Thrud turns up and I skip to the end.
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So here we go, it’s issue 90, it has a front cover celebrating 10 years of White Dwarf, the pleasantries are out of the way and we get into the first article. It’s an explanation of west country slang for GMs who are running games of Call of Cthulu in Somerset. Yes. This. Is. What. You. Need. As the setting involves west country cults this would be like the plot to Hot Fuzz 30 years before the film. In fact this is part of a larger campaign setting that was originally missed out when it was first printed so has been added in as an errata however it has the effect of immediately wanting to play a RPG or any game that has you trying to decipher incomprehensible farmer speak.
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After an Ian Livingstone piece about 10 years of White Dwarf comes Dave Langford and what will become one of the most consistently well written reoccurring articles in the magazine at this time. His Critical Mass book review page involves him reading about a dozen books per month and then much intellectual sniping ensues.
In character Cryptozoologist research notes for the Runequest RPG. It’s all a bit too meta for me.
Paranoia strikes me as the type of game where it’s much more fun to read about it than actually play. It has been reprinted only recently but for those who don’t know it’s a bit like if they made a Portal RPG where the GM plays as GladOS and instead of a portal gun everyone has assault rifles that shoot backwards and instead of a companion cube it’s a live grenade. Depending on how much fun you get from being told that your character just died your experience may suck, mine reading about it however is very enjoyable. Mel Brooks said it best: Tragedy is when I stub my toe. Comedy is when you fall down a manhole and die.”
Gobbledygook the goblin makes Thrud look like a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Careers in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is an article that didn’t need to be written. If you are a GM and one of your players asks you if their character can take time out from being a murder hobo to learn to become a Tailor or a Palm Reader you big problems. There is a full nights AD&D adventure that like any fully scale fleshed out article in this magazine can be applied to any high fantasy RPG your group is running from 1978 to now. How to be a perp in the Judge Dredd RPG was skipped by me as I once watched Dredd and did jury duty and that’s all I know on the subject.
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Next you get an unexpected double article on women in RPGs, and women in history, both articles are interesting and as relevant now as they were 30 years ago. Its followed by an article on the history of lay lines and a full page diagram of Stonehenge. Suddenly it’s as if I’m reading a copy of National Geographic.
The letters page is an interesting read, it’s got its fair share of people complaining about Warhammer based products usurping AD&D from the pages of White Dwarf as well as other interesting points.
It cost £1.25 which according to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator would cost £3.17 in 2016. Would I buy it for this much today? Yes, and I would almost certainly sign up for a subscription as well at that price. While there is a bit of chaff, the best parts are timeless even if you don’t play role playing games. However the magazine does need some colour to break up the walls of text. It’s probably because my copy doesn’t contain adverts or the picture pages so it’s hard going from a wall of text about one out of print RPG to a wall of text about another.