From 1984 to 1986, Penguin Books and Games Workshop published 13 issues of Warlock, a magazine devoted to the Fighting Fantasy Books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. Warlock Returns is the spiritual successor of that long-gone publication, a quarterly devoted to Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG. The Fighting Fantasy Books were a cherished party of my childhood, so I was eager to see if Warlock Returns lived up to my nostalgia-fuelled expectations.
Warlock #1 contains:
Denizens of the Pit: The inaugural edition of this regular bestiary column details the three races of chaos dragons. Legend holds that when Death walked the lands and breathed chaos into hidden places slumbering dragons were affected, transforming them into the various species of chaos dragons – the bilious Yellow Dragon, sinewy Orange Dragon, and the corrosive Purple Dragon, all of them warped by hideous mutation (roll on a chart; results ranging from tentacles to a breath of sulphur). Each entry hints at adventure by providing colorful lore regarding where these loathsome beasts have spread their foul influence. I love the originality of this article.
Jungle Mania: short, one-page article that offers equipment for use in preparing for expeditions into the wilder parts of Titan, including mosquito netting, mosquito repellant, machete (as a short sword, but +1 damage vs. plants and -1 damage against all others; clever) and blowguns.
Sizing Up Monsters: practical, well-considered advice for measuring adversary power levels to ensure balanced and enjoyable adventures. Great advice (especially for new Directors) offered in a really fun style.
Welcome to Arion is an eight-page adventure. Essentially, a playful god of mischief (think Mr. Myxlpyx from DC Comics) has decided the city of Arion is too orderly, too boring. To spice things up, he has placed a curse upon the city’s residents. Characters have to race around the city, solving a variety of riddles, in order to satisfy the god’s playful impulses and free Arion of the dark magic that has shrouded it. It’s a decent enough piece, and certainly boasts a unique set-up, though it really begs to have been fleshed out further.
Suggested Reading Material: What happens when a room description mentions a bookcase filled with exotic tomes and one of the players has the nerve to inquire about their contests? This article rides to the rescue, with 20 sample books. Very useful, and perhaps leading to new adventures.
Notes and Letters from Arion provides 20 scripts that can be found on corpses, while picking pockets, or in a writing desk. They can used to add colour or inspire adventure; either way, they’re valuable. Another useful resource for Directors.
Authentic Chinese weapons, ranging from the Jian (a double-bladed sword) and fearsome Fue (wicked polearms, their blades decorated with mythic monsters) to the Shengbiao (a dart affixed to a long rope) and the famous dao (short sword). Accurate and balanced, this is an outstanding article.
In their Element, a map with brief room descriptions for an elemental-themed dungeon. Great inspiration for an adventure if the GM is willing to put some elbow grease into it. The map is pretty ingenious as it incorporates into its design symbols for the four elements, as well as the metals copper, silver, gold and platinum.
The Legend of Gareus, a comic strip featuring the cowardly anti-hero Gareus. The art is good, and there are a few chuckles to be had here.
Torra, a planet for Stellar Adventures. Ash and wind blow across great expanses of barren, inhospitable desert between the handful of domed cities. Residents of these cities are little more than prisoners; for most, travel between districts, let alone between cities, is severely restricted, and venturing off-world is virtually unheard of. The privileged wealthy classes maintain control through jackbooted law enforcement. The pressure being placed upon the lower classes is slowly building to a boil, and rebellion is a distinct possibility. The article forms the foundation of something interesting -uncaring oligarchs oppressing the masses in the cities and Mad Max-like nomads wandering the wastes between - just awaiting development by a Director and his players. It should be noted, however, that the setting isn’t complete; Warlock #2 includes factions on planet, necessary to providing a holistic view of the planet and its adventuring potential.
*Rounding out the zine is a well-designed character sheet
With well-written articles (several of them rules agnostic, making them useful in any fantasy rpg) and solid artwork, Warlock #1 more than lived up to my expectations. It’s a fine publication, a must for AFF Directors and of interest to gamers of other fantasy systems as well.