More about IMAGINE No 22 Jan 1985
“Literature holds much for the adventure gamer: a glimpse of worlds to which we are denied access by the complexity of modern life, ideas for character and adventure to supplement our own. Fantasy fiction is never far removed from the ‘real world’, and yet more than any other genre it refuses to be bogged down in ‘life as it is’ with all the defeat and compromise that that entails. As a way of exploring alternative modes of existence and remedies the world’s ills, it is unsurpassed. Enjoy …”
Kim Daniel, Editor
Some of the discussion about Imagine magazine, in the latest the GROGNARD RPG files podcast, ended up on the cutting room floor. I thought it would be worth looking at it in a bit more depth here, as it provides a useful connective bridge between The Stormbringer episode with the AD&D ones that are on the way. Imagine was published monthly by TSR UK between 1983 and 1985 ‘for the players of Dungeons and Dragons game’. I’ve written about how Imagine reached out to active gamers through it’s coverage of fanzines. It also had a policy of covering at wider genre features through it’s reviews of film, television and books. Occasionally it would dedicate the magazine to a particular author and through the magazine I discovered Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright and science fiction author Bob Shaw, amongst others.
TINY WORLD OF INSECTS
The Moorcock edition had a striking cover by Rodney Matthews, with the organic, angular shapes that makes his art so distinctive. It is a cropped version of a wider canvas titled EARL AUBEC OF MALADOR, depicting the incarnation of the Eternal Champion under pressure from insect-like creatures. Look closely and you’ll spot his cat companion, who detects danger with a preternatural instinct. Aubec is the subject of the scenario authored by Michael Brunton and Moorcock himself, who provided the story-treatment for the scenario.
The adventure is designed for one player who adopts the role of Aubec, with the option of another player taking the role of the ‘Companion to Champions’ Jhary A Conel, who appears in a number of Eternal Campion stories.
In the scenario, the players are seeking the Horn of Fate, which will ultimately be blown at the End of Time by Elric. Aubec is a champion that exists in an earlier period of the Young Kingdoms, when Melniboné is still a powerful force. He is seeking revenge after his lands are seized by his wife’s half-brother.
The Lords of Law wish to seek and find the Iron Galleon to recover the Horn of Plenty so it can be held in safe-keeping until the time is right.
Altogether, it’s a good one shot adventure notable for transforming AD&D alignment to deal with Chaos and Law as defined by Moorcock’s multiverse. Also, it adopts ‘Luck Points’ – a ‘spend’ mechanic that is familiar now, but innovative at the time – allowing players (and NPCs) to influence the results. The Luck Points can create results such as ‘ a death blow’ or ‘Hit Point recovery’.
SOME ENCHANTED FEELING
There’s also a short story (The Last Enchantment) which features Elric making a portentous encounter in with the Lords of Chaos. It’s slim pickings, but it does serve as a useful introduction to the cosmology:
‘Only the Greatest Power, of which we know little more than humans, can create fresh conceptions. The Greatest Power holds both Law and Chaos in perpetual balance, making us war only that the scale will not be tilted too far to one side.’
The Moorcock interview is interesting in the context of his literary career. This was prior to the publication of Mother London (1988) and it’s possible to see him becoming increasingly weary of his ‘fantasy Romances’. There is a sense where he is seeing the genre as moribund and ‘increasingly debased’ in the face of increasing infantilisation (cf Wizardry and Wild Romance). He wants to be taken seriously.
Thanks to Patreon backer and active supporter of the Podcast, Sam Vail, I’ve been introduced to Paul Cockburn, who was on the Imagine editorial team. He said of the Moorcock issue:
I met Michael as we planned that issue. It was a big thrill. Unlike the majority of my gaming peers, Tolkien never was my thing. But I love imaginative fiction, and that’s obvious from my stewardship of Imagine magazine, plus what was going on in the background before I left Games Workshop. So, getting to hang out with Michael, talk about fiction and where it might influence games, that was a big thrill. My time on Imagine and at GW gave me license to have some great conversations with the big authors of the 80s, and that was truly amazing for me. So yes, I wanted Imagine to show that you could draw on the inspiration provided by great writers and great writing, and game in those kinds of environments.
There’ll be more from Paul and more about Imagine in a future podcast. He will also feature in the forthcoming 2016 theGROGNARDfiles Annual. Join the Patreon campaign to support the podcast and to ensure you get a copy!