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[Let's read] White Dwarf magazine from the beginning...

Do you really want another magazine review thread?

  • Cool! Another magazine review thread! We need all we can get!

    Votes: 59 67.8%
  • WTF? This sucks! Another epic magazine review thread?

    Votes: 6 6.9%
  • Wait! What? Why stop at #93?

    Votes: 13 14.9%
  • You three, keep your infectious crazy away from us before it spreads to more victims!

    Votes: 9 10.3%

  • Total voters


New member
First off, hell with the poll, I don't care what your opinion is of the magazine. :D

In this thread, I'll be reading White Dwarf from the beginning, and concluding with Issue #93. This span of magazines covers the "D&D years" of White Dwarf, the era in which it was a general gaming magazine, rather than house organ. Most of the issues in this era contained considerable D&D content.

The first review will be posted later today, since I'm stuck in the middle of a rather complicated article ATM.


White Knight
Validated User
I am all for it.

Mind you, I think that all three threads should consider adding the reviews to the reviews sections as well (issue by issue, ideally), as the threads will one day either fall off the pages, or be locked for being too big.


Making the Legend
Validated User
I'd just like to thank my agent, my manager, my publicist, my makeup artist, my family, and above all, you, my fans. :D ;) I haven't felt this appreciated since the glory days of the epic exalted spoiler threads, and really I was only the midwife and nanny to that particular trend. ( Yes, I have previous crimes in epic thread making. Now you know who to blame. ) You are the wind beneath my wings. :blows kisses:
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Despair Shouter
Validated User
Hell yeah. From around issue 55 to 95 White Dwarf was my main staple of RPG stuff. I have some copies of older issues and I'm really looking forward to this retrospective.

Lewd Beholder

RPGnet Member
Validated User
one of my biggest grumbles is when white dwarf went from a gaming magazine to a house magazine for warhammer.

let's see what you find out :)


New member
White Dwarf #001: June/July 1977

I actually have the second printing, which was done in August, 1979. Cover price is 60p($2.00). This issue is 20 pages long, plus covers for a total of 24. B&W front cover with spot yellow, full color ad on the back. 1 page cover, 1 page intro/ToC, roughly 5 1/2 pages of ads, leaving 16 1/2 pages of content.

The Content
1. Metamorphosis Alpha
Roughly 3 1/2 pages of review and suggestions. The article starts on page 5, but includes a full page of art on page 4. First off, it isn't a review. It's background - what the game is, a bit on the generalities of how RPGs are played with reference to Metamorphosis Alpha (MA), but no suggestion of the author's impressions of the game. The article then moves on to name three "intergroup conflict on colony starship" novels and declares them the inspiration for MA even if Jim Ward didn't. Truth is, the first two novels are pretty obviously inspirations for MA.

The novels are: Orphans of the Sky by Heinlein, Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss, and Captive Universe by Harry Harrison.

For each novel, a brief synopsis is provided, along with how to work the individual tropes and memes of each novel into your game. Wargamer background is obvious from the "GRavitational Effects" table provided. They also provide a pair of new monsters in the form of intelligent rats and a fast growing form of plant life.

Oh, well, hey, it really is a review, but not really. The third to the last paragraph finally provides the author's opinions: Names are unimaginative, the ship is too big, and he can't suspend sufficient disbelief to accept that a 4 inch tall mutant could be as intelligent as a 6 foot tall human, yet earlier in the article, he suggests adding mutant rats living in the ventilation that can outsmart humans.

2. The Monstermark System
You've seen it before. A couple examples are the CR system in D&D3 and the threat system in Cyberpunk 2020. This is one of the early attempts to develop a quantifiable scale that can be applied to monsters to determine their power vs. the characters. The wargaming roots are obvious in the overly complicated formulas used in the calculations. Sadly, the system is incomplete due to the fact that the first part of it was covered in depth in Issue #22 of White Dwarf's predecessor, Owl & Weasel, and more parts will be presented in future issues of White Dwarf.

3. Open Box
The reviews section. Covers Sorcerer by SPI and Starship Troopers by Avalon Hill. Wargamer roots show because these are both wargames.

4. Competitive D&D
My first encounter with Competitive D&D occurred around 1992 or so with the whole Gladiator Pit phenomenon that swept through the conventions at that time. If you were gaming and going to cons back then, you might remember it - build an 18th level character, complete with a fixed amount of magic items, and then throw them all into an arena for a "last man standing" free-for-all. This has nothing to do with that, though the concept is similar.

This is another multi-issue article. This first part recounts a dungeoncrawl that could have very well been the inspiration for the classic AD&D adventure module, S1 Tomb of Horrors. The goal was to enter a dungeon, find a possession that had once belonged to Merlin, and escape. Survivors would be awarded XPs by those who died.

5. No Way Out
Half page, single column article covering riddles and puzzles. I get the impression it is supposed to be a regular feature. Covers a riddle, a cryptogram and a puzzle. The riddle is a cliche and the other two are unimpressive.

6. D&D Campaigns
Remember how there was a point in time when the RPG.net forums had a really bad case of elitism going, with all that GNS game style snobbery and whatnot? This article basically covers that sort of nonsense, but on a simpler level: Should you play D&D as a wargame or a talking-book?

7. The Keeper of the Flame
Lame comic strip. Made no sense to me. Guy bitten by a huge grouper goes to an oracle for help, Oracle's buddy tickles the fish until it falls off, bills the guy some animals and pelts, and puts a smaller fish on the guy's hand as change...

8. The Warlord
Review of an under appreciated board game, at least in UK Steve Jackson's opinion. Matter of fact, he liked The Warlord so much, GW eventually bought the game and re-released it as Apocalypse. Think RISK with nukes. Sounds fun but time consuming.

9. Treasure Chest
D&D tidbits - monsters, magic, etc.
First up is the somewhat dorky "Helm of Vision." Basically a gold helmet with gems of seeing installed over your eyes. Get the benefits of gems of seeing, infravision, reflect sunlight to cause confusion, and some alignment-based effects involving illusion and disguise.

Second is "What's Wrong with D&D." And what Andrew Holt was doing about it. Mr. Holt complains about the three different combat systems presented in the original edition of D&D, the Vancian magic system, game groups with too many players. He didn't actually do anything about his problems, either.

Third is a new class, the Pervert. One paragraph of requirements and limits, and an XP table. Essentially a waste of several column inches of space. A lot of effort for a bad joke - AC 7 in black leather and "weapon unsheathed", 50% chance of going blind each round "the weapon" is handheld.

Fourth is Poison. This is essentially an early alternative to the D&D poison system, and one that provides more than instant death as a result of a venomous bite.

The Advertisements
Not a whole lot stood out for me. But there were a few.

Monsters, Monsters - a game where you play monsters killing adventurers, rather than the usual other way around. So the concept dates back to at least summer 1977. I remember when everyone thought it was the great new thing when the same concept was presented in a Ravenloft supplement nearly 20 years later in the 1990's.

D&D Society - presented as a "news column", but nothing more than an ad.

Shop ad for The New Model Army in Manor Park. Just reminds me of how long gone the days are when ads could prominently feature something like "Amazons - Nude Females".

And on the back cover... Gamma World. Has it really been 30+ years since Gamma World was iconically represented by hot chicks dressed in silver lame and carrying ridiculously large toy guns?
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Registered User
Validated User
Great thread! I rarely read White Dwarf, and I've long regretted it.

But what's the story behind this "Owl & Weasel" magazine? I'm soooo stealing that name for a tavern. :D

- Brian


New member
Great thread! I rarely read White Dwarf, and I've long regretted it.

But what's the story behind this "Owl & Weasel" magazine? I'm soooo stealing that name for a tavern. :D

- Brian
The Owl & Weasel was a 22 issue magazine published prior to White Dwarf, somewhat along the same vein as TSR publishing 7 issues of The Strategic Review before switching to Dragon. Its actually been claimed that switch to Dragon might not have ever happened if a copy of Owl & Weasel had not somehow made its way to Gary Gygax. If there's a story of why Owl & Weasel was titled the way it was, none of the three men behind GW has ever divulged what it might be.
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