Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tortured Souls! Fanzine from Beast Enterprises

In going through more of what I looted a massive treasure horde of Old School stuff from a clueless comic book store owner for pennies on the dollar, I read three Tortured Souls! fanzines.  Though fanzines, they are really of pretty good quality. I have #4, 5, and 8, from 1984 and 1985.  It is a British magazine, supporting the local British gaming scene, and quite proud of the fact.  It looks like the ones I own were purchased at Games Workshop for 2.95 British pounds, according to a price sticker on them. How they ended up in a comic book store in the bottom of a box in shitty little Ansonia, CT is anyone's guess.

The magazine is more of an equivalent to Dungeon, in that it has  settings and adventures, except that the adventures are generic, and can be run on any system.  Interestingly, they give either stats or references for multiple systems for some of the adventures, including Runequest and Tunnels & Trolls.  The way they inserted the different ruleset info didn't disrupt or distract from the adventure layout.

Something else I've never seen before was a multiple adventure within the same adventure approach.  They have a couple different introductions, and a couple different endings, with several differences within each module if the DM chose to use scenario A or B.  It's a good way to get more bang for your buck, and to let the adventure be used more than once for different groups.

In addition to the standard generic module, they have a setting specific one in each magazine, which though tailored for a certain setting of the publisher's own creation apparently, can be used generically.  It's a good way to set up or support the publication of a game setting.

One magazine had a solo adventure, in the style of "if you choose to run away, goto #45, if you choose to light the oil on fire, go to #67."   I don't recall seeing solo adventures in older Dungeon magazines, or in newer ones like Kobold Quarterly.

In addition, one magazine had a one-on-one adventure, designed for a high level Cleric and a DM.  I remember those from the early days of the hobby, but haven't seen them much anymore.

The quality of the magazine and the quality of writing was good throughout.  There were a no ads in the earlier magazines, and in #8 just a couple.   One odd thing about the magazines though is that they seemed to be about an inch taller than all of my other magazines.  Is that a British thing? 

They had good quality maps, and one even had posterboard quality paper with the equivalent of dungeon tiles which a DM could cutout and use for one of the adventures.

It looks like there were only 12 of these magazines ever published, from what I could glean from Google.  Anyhow, I think  some of these characteristics if added to modern gaming magazines, would go over well with modern audiences. What do you think?

3 comments:

  1. Sudden attack of nostalgia!

    I have a couple issues of TS in a box *somewhere* - the 1-on-1s were done for each core class and formed a lead-up to a two-part high-level 'evil world' adventure.

    Later issues were a bit spottier in terms of content IIRC.

    The format is UK-specific - we need slightly more paper for some reason (no idea why...) but it's a source of continuing amusement everytime I rebox my collection.

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  2. During my most active time as GM (when I ran two parallel campaigns) I relied basically on three sources: early Dungeon Magazine, Tortured Souls!, and White Dwarf (in that order).

    I loved Tortured Souls! My collection is only missing the Zhalindor world map from ... issue 2?

    TS! was more than a "fanzine" - it was a professional magazine in international distribution (our game store in Hanover, Germany ordered it quite regularly). It just had a different production standard: a heavy cardboard cover, a heavier paperstock (than White Dwarf or Dragon Magazine, for instance), a differently-coloured pull-out section (a concept they borrowed from WD-competitor Imagine). Everything else (quality of illustration, etc.) was en par with small press magazines of that time.

    The publisher Beast Entz was somewhat attached to the publisher Integrated Games (who did the absolutely marvelous, AD&D/RQ dual-statted adventure module series The Complete Dungeon Master Series), who in turn was behind the Endless Plans series of modular dungeon floor plans (which were also used in some of the TS! adventures).

    Their adventure boxes came with very nice floor plans. Box 3 in the set, The Feathered Priests (which I like so much that I use it as my go-to adventure for one shots or new groups, had a big bird's eye view map of a mountain monastery (not unlike Meteora in Greece), with rooms as overlays.

    The paper format is an international standard, DIN A4, that for whatever reason only the US and Canada have not adopted.

    Dungeon Magazine had 3 solo adventures in its run:
    #9 "The Djinni's Ring" (for a 3rd level Basic D&D elf, with great artwork by Daniel Horne)
    #12 "Sceptre of the Underworld" (AD&D 12th level fighter)
    #20 "White Fang" (10th level AD&D thief)
    But those were the regular kind of solo modules. The TS! kind were more of a sandbox, with relatively free movement across map parts (either dungeon rooms or wilderness hexes) that had to be pieced together.

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  3. Tortured Souls was and is the best. I bought the whole run while I was stationed in West Germany. Of course I had no idea this great new find was going to die off on me back then. I still have my complete collection. Best quality in physical and intrinsic form of that day and I would say today as well.

    The modules were able to be dropped into my campaign with ease and truly added to the story line, not just took up time.

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