The Arcane Top 50 – Where Are They Now?

Arcane, a short-lived British tabletop gaming magazine from Future Publishing which ran from December 1995 to June 1997, is a name to conjure by for many gamers of around my age. I came to the hobby after White Dwarf had become a Games Workshop in-house advertising platform, and just as Dragon was on the verge of dropping its coverage of non-TSR RPGs altogether; that meant I got a brief taster of TSR having a broader scope of coverage, and missed out on the golden age of White Dwarf altogether.

With other RPG-focused gaming magazines available in the UK only available on a decidedly variable basis (whatever did happen to ol’ Valkyrie?), the arrival of Arcane was immensely welcome. Sure, even by this early stage the Internet was already becoming an incomparable source of both homebrewed material and cutting-edge RPG news, but much of that was in the form of Usenet and forum discussions of variable quality or ASCII text files. To get something which was informative, read well, and looked nice, print media was still just about where it was at.

Truth be told, taking a look back at Arcane in more recent years I’m less impressed than I was at the time. It took largely the same approach to its own subject matter (primarily RPGs, with some secondary consideration to CCGs – because they were so hot at the time they really couldn’t be ignored – and perhaps a light sniff of board game content) that Future’s videogame magazines took to theirs, particularly the lighter-hearted PC Gamer/Amiga Power side of things rather than the likes of, say, Edge. That meant it focused more on brief news snippets, reviews, and fairly entry-level articles on subjects than it did on offering much in the way of in-depth treatment of matters.

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The “My Guy” Idea and Its Effect On RPGs

Recently I had a chance to look at a copy of the Mechwarrior RPG’s 1st edition, and realised that in some respects it was the last gasp of a very old-school approach to RPGs. You see, just as Dungeons & Dragons in its original edition had that longstanding connection to Chainmail – perhaps never actually used in the context of an RPG session, but there if you wanted to resolve a mass battle in your D&D campaign world – and just as 1st Edition Chivalry & Sorcery considered shiftng between roleplaying and wargaming to be sufficiently central to play that it included a full wargaming system in its core rulebook, Mechwarrior is an RPG joined at the hip with a wargame – in this case Battletech.

So far, so obvious; Mechwarrior never pretends to be anything other than the Battletech RPG. So far as I can make out, this extends to an assumption that ‘mech combat will be resolved via Battletech gaming; whilst a combat system for person-to-person combat and other non-mecha combat forms is provided, the actual ‘mech-based material here consists of additions to the Battletech rules, rather than a restatement of them or a reformatting of them for theatre-of-the-mind play.

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