Friday, 10 January 2014

Milestones in gaming #4: White Dwarf 67

It is perhaps appropriate that, given Games Workshop has announced it will be ceasing hard copy publication of White Dwarf, I should be writing this post today. I had always been planning on including White Dwarf as a gaming milestone for my blog, as I stumbled upon it not long after I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in 1984.

My very first issue of White Dwarf was bought in the summer of 1985, probably at the beginning of the summer holidays. At the time we were living in Austria, where they didn't have White Dwarf OR Dungeons and Dragons, at least initially (the latter did turn up later in German), but I must have picked up a copy before I finished the summer term and got on a plane for Vienna.

White Dwarf 67 (July 1985) really opened my eyes to the other possibilities of RPGs. At the time I was running adventures from the Basic and Expert levels of Dungeons and Dragons, including B3 - The Palace of the Silver Princess and X1 - The Isle of Dread. WD opened the door on a world beyond the dungeon bash and the wilderness hex crawl.

For starters, it had a Dungeons and Dragons adventure, A Murder At Flaxton, which was an investigation into a crime in a remote fishing village. This was very unconventional, an entirely different kind of adventure that did not involve tramping down corridors and kicking down doors. I ran it after converting it from the original Advanced stats, and it went like a dream. But beyond this, there was an adventure for Golden Heroes, an RPG that was NOT Dungeons and Dragons or Fighting Fantasy. It was not about dwarves and elves, it was about superheroes. Other articles included references to RuneQuest and Traveller. This was all very different.

I probably started buying WD right in the middle of the so-called Golden Age of the magazine's history, at least as far as its RPG coverage is concerned, when Ian Livingstone was still editing it. At this point the miniatures coverage was restricted largely to the Tabletop Heroes column, and I didn't yet have the budget to go buying metal figures. What was important, I think, for me, is that it broadened my RPGing horizons. In particular, I began reading a lot about Call of Cthulhu, and while I was still playing Advanced DD at school (along with a rules-lite homebrew system we dreamed up ourselves), I did get interested in playing CoC simply from reading the articles about it.

I have run a few WD adventures over the years, and they generally were of a very high standard, and we all had a blast playing them. Frequently, they were a lot more imaginative than the modules TSR was pumping out during the same period (1985-89). I became a WD subscriber, and remained one until I started at university in 1989, by which time GW's in-house games like Rogue Trader had come to dominate the magazine, and the only RPG getting any air time at all in its pages was Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. It was obvious that GW was becoming increasingly focused on its miniatures games, and at that stage I was not interested in miniatures war gaming (and had neither the space nor the money for it), so let my subscription lapse.

Next time - I play Call of Cthulhu!


  1. It's Kelvin's Viking warrior on the front cover of WD there - smashing his way through a barn wall ;)

  2. Spot on with the WD analysis. It was an excellent magazine in its heyday for opening your eyes to other games happening, for giving you as a GM extra resources, interesting scenarios, as well as reviews... always interesting.