White Dwarf is the house magazine of UK Tabletop Games company Games Workshop. It was first published in 1977, having developed from an earlier newsletter, Owl and Weasel, and is still going as of 2022. It is known today as a regular source of support material for that company's miniature figure wargames; however, when it first appeared, Games Workshop was primarily an importer and occasional publisher of tabletop roleplaying games, and for its first eighty or so issues, in the late '70s and early '80s, White Dwarf existed to provide support for those, becoming a central feature of the British RPG scene. Those issues are still remembered by older roleplaying gamers for a handful of innovative or exceptional articles (and some roleplayers remained angry about the magazine's transformation for years), and the magazine published the earliest work of a number of British games writers, and of one or two writers who went on to become well known in other fields.
The shift in White Dwarf's focus from being a wide-ranging roleplaying-focused magazine to being one devoted entirely to Games Workshop miniature gaming happened in two stages from 1987 through 1991. First, non-Games Workshop material was dropped, with the last AD&D adventure appearing in Issue #93 (September 1987). However, while this was a definite switch, general RPG and book reviews continued for a while, and Games Workshop was at the time still publishing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and held the UK licences for Paranoia, Call of Cthulhu and a few other RPGs, so the magazine still published adventures and other roleplaying material. By issue #100 (April 1988), though, even these games were being pushed out by a focus on the miniatures-based wargames Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000 and their spinoffs. The last Paranoia material appeared in Issue #112 (April 1989) and the last roleplaying material of any kind, for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, was in Issue #140 (August 1991).
No connection to the movie with the same title.
Tropes associated with White Dwarf at one time or another include:
- After-Action Report: A regular feature of the modern version of the magazine.
- All There in the Manual: White Dwarf has occasionally included game rules, such as with a Sisters of Battle Codex released over two issues. This includes the Movie Marines list, the premise of which was to show what would happen if you played the Space Marines as depicted in game fluff (it was Purposefully Overpowered and explicitly intended only for friendly games).
- Covers Always Lie: In its days as a roleplaying games magazine, White Dwarf evidently used whatever cool SF or fantasy art that the editors could lay hands on. There was no intent to deceive; the covers just hardly ever related directly to any of the contents. After it became a Warhammer wargames support mechanism, it simply used art from and for the game, making the covers reliably relevant, in a general way.
- Double-Meaning Title: A "white dwarf" is of course a category of star in astronomy, but from its first issue, the magazine has featured imagery of a (usually white-bearded) fantasy dwarf, who is sometimes acknowledged to be "the white dwarf". This is all very appropriate for a magazine that covers both SF and fantasy games.
- Fanservice Cover: In its days as a roleplaying games magazine, the magazine regularly licensed cover art that had originally been created for fantasy or SF novels or other purposes, and a few of those images were blatantly fanservice-ish.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: In 1986, when new managing director Bryan Ansell decided to transfer the company's operations from London to Nottingham, as part of the general change in the focus of the business, the White Dwarf editorial staff weren't entirely happy. Hence, the first letters of the article descriptions on the title page of White Dwarf #77 spell out "SOD OFF BRYAN ANSELL".
- Reduced to Dust:
- Issue #24 adventure "The Lair of Maldred the Mighty". A metal trunk has Mort (a Glyph of Warding that causes destruction) laid on it. Anyone who touches the trunk without saying the glyph's name will set it off. Anyone affected by the glyph is turned to dust.
- Issue #26 article "Treasure Chest". The Dagger of the Dunedain kills any undead it hits and turns it into dust.