Saturday, 8 October 2011

A to Z of UK RPG in the 80s - A is for Adventurer Magazine

As some of you are aware I am based in the UK and I've blogged before about how the roleplaying scene differs in Blighty to that across the pond (and probably that over in the Eurozone to boot).  Here's an attempt to pick out some of the highlights of what it was like to be a roleplayer back in the dark days of Thatcher's Britain of the 1980s (cue the V for Vendetta trailer)...

A is for Adventurer (Superior Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine)

Adventurer was the first of the "independent" roleplaying magazines that made it out of specialist stores (in the US read FLGs) and into the High Street newsagents like John Menzies and W H Smiths.  Published by the liverpool based Mersey Leisure Publications, it  ran for a total of 11 issues between April 1986 and July 1987 and appeared in the wake of TSR UK's IMAGINE magazine which had closed the previous year.

It was put together by a small team on a small budget and the quality of the interior artwork sometimes suffered as a result, but that was always made up for by the glossy full-colour front covers.

The first issue featured:
  • The Black Tower (John S Davies) - A Rolemaster/AD&D scenario in two parts (Issue 2 containing the second part)

  • White Fire (Uncredited) - A Call of Cthulhu scenario featuring an amazingly detailed cut-a-way illustration of the mansion which was the main location.

  • How to become a Method Role-player (Steve Rawlinson) - An article discussing approaches to method acting in RPGs.

  • Gumshoe (Peter England) - A preview of the detective RPG of the same name set in the "gangster-ridden" streets of 1930's Chicago.  I've never played Gumshoe, but it was released by Sleuth Publications who were also responsible for the bookcase boardgame Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective which is well worth picking up if you can get it as it is the closest you'll ever come to a Boardgame / RPG crossover.

  • A review of the First British Play By Mail (PBM) Convention - The concept of PBM (ie: posting off your turn every week (including the small fee) to the GM for them to send you back a letter telling you how it went)  seems so quaint looking back from this high-speed broadband always on mobile internet world that we live in, but it was the great granddaddy of the MMORPG, just done via snail mail.

  • Psychology in Games (Stephen Dillon) - A Roleplaying Theory article explaining the basic concepts of Psychology (ie: Motivation and Personality) and how they manifests themselves during play in PC and NPC interaction.  Padding anyone?

  • Blood Loss (Paul Evans) - An article which offers an alternative way to describe damage to characters (particularly those high level characters with 50+ HP).  Death by a thousand cuts anyone?
Regular Columns were also present in the shape of:
  • Figures Front (Martyn Tetlow and Will Hannah) - doing a reasonable job at reviewing new miniatures and featuring a page of full colour painted miniatures although the photography and printing were pretty grim by todays standards.
  • Live By The Sword - The defacto "letters page" including a letter requesting submission guidelines from Marcus L Rowland who was a contributor to White Dwarf and has since gone on to create supplements for GDW's Space 1889, Call of Cthulhu and his own RPGs Diana Warrior Princess, Flatland and Forgotten Futures.

  • Shop Window - Reviews of new RPG releases including; A View to a Kill (007 RPG), Gods of Glorantha (Runequest), Send in the Clones (Paranoia), Alone against the Wendigo (CoC), Fluffy Quest (Generic Fantasy scenario), Super-Power the boardgame (Games Workshop) and Time & Time Again (A Timetravel RPG)

  • Town Crier - A news section discussing products in development and new releases.

  • Once Bitten  - A regular comic strip with artwork clearly inspired by the work of underground comic artist Robert Crumb.
    The Adventurer Team:

    Editor: Stephen "Ste" Dillon - Is this the same Steve Dillon who has since gone on to be a celebrated comicbook writer? you decide (see inset pics).   

    Miniatures Reviews - Martyn Tetlow and Miniature Painting Tips - Will Hannah.  

    Artists: Robin Parry (who created the cover for issue 1) and George Jones.

    When I could get hold of a copy I would pour through it avidly as it had a certain homebrew appeal and was pitched at a slightly maturer reader. 

    This was at a time when the other dominant force in the UK RPG (Games Workshop's White Dwarf) was still publishing RPG material for CoC, Golden Heroes and my favourite Judge Dredd and it had yet to morph into the Warhammer brochure that it is today. 

    I've since discovered that they're all available online via mediafire, if anyone else would like a slice of RPG nostalgia along with their cup of tea.

    My Collection Includes:



    1. Thanks for this. I actually own issues one and two still - I bought issue 2 a couple of years back in order to have the second half of The Black Tower. Great to see the other issues here though.

    2. Nope - I'm not the same guy :)
      I now run Oz Horror Con ( and do some other fun things in Australia...

    3. Just for the record: "White Fire" was written by James Wallis - his name came off the paste-up boards at the scanning bureau prior to going to printers...

    4. I remember finding this magazine in Menzies, unfortunately it was issue #11 and thus was never seen again. So sad, a great magazine I thought (have since read them all online) with some decent articles on dungeon creating etc.