Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gygax Magazine, by TSR

EDIT: Please see my latest review of the magazine here.

Here's a special thanks to Tenkar's Tavern for doing a two-part part review of Gygax Magazine, issue #1, published by the newly created (reincarnated?) TSR. You can find both parts of the review here and here. Tenkar's review solidified my previous thoughts on the magazine, which can be summed up in its own two parts:

1. That's neat, but I'm going to pass because I'm not part of the target demographic and...

2. This is solid proof that we're in the d20 Dark Ages.

Just judging by the cover, I know that I'm not one of the magazine's target audience. It looks like Dragon Magazine from the early to mid-1980s. Maybe future issues will be different. Still, this first issue is packed with articles where the authors share their "old school cred" (as Tenkar puts it). While I'm familiar with many of these names, they don't hold the same nostalgia factor for me, since I grew up in the AD&D Second Edition era.

This magazine is meant to appeal to those who grew with D&D from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. Sure, others can read it, but I doubt they'd get the same feeling of nostalgia.

Yet this magazine, which has been touted as a great triumph of the Old School Renaissance, has little material compatible with "Golden Age" editions of D&D. There's a lot of articles reminiscing about the past and how great things were back in the early to mid-1980s. But then magazine turns around and features gameable content for Pathfinder and Dragon Age RPG. 

Published Nov. 1982
The cover, however, resembles issues of Dragon published from just before 1983 until 1987 or so. 1983, of course, being the height of the Golden Age (as shown on the right).

This all fits into my definition of a Dark Age. Here we have an emulation of the "Golden Age" alongside the fragmentation of the present. The folks at Gygax Magazine are trying to bring back the memories of achievements thirty years gone, before Gygax got ousted from the old TSR, before Dragonlance and the Forgotten Realms changed the hobby (Greenwood, Weis, and Hickman aren't often considered old school in the OSR). Before the hobby fragmented.

Don't believe me? Fine, I'll go ahead and put out a Lorraine Williams Magazine, by T$R, emulating Dragon in the 1990s featuring material about Buck Rogers, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, Planescape, Dark Sun, Mystara (both Hollow World and Savage Coast), Birthright, and Greyhawk (maybe). Furthermore, make sure all of this is blended with reviews on miniatures and computer games.
The first issue without
the border.
Published Dec. 1982

Issue #1 will have authors establishing their "Second Edition Cred," with "Elminster and Me" by Ed Greenwood; "The Death of Greyhawk" by Carl Sargent; "'Amazing Stories' from TSR in the 1990s" by Kim Mohan, "Ravenloft: Module to Domain of Dread," by Bruce Nesmith, and "From d6 to d20: Freelancing with TSR," by Bill Slavicsek.

Yes, I'm being facetious. And I hope none of the authors mentioned above or in Gygax Magazine take offense. But I think my point is clear: nobody would want to read a gaming magazine emulating TSR from the 1990s, the d20 Dark Ages--online or in print. Heck, I wonder if somebody could even pull off publishing a magazine for the early days of D&D 3e or later. Kobold Quarterly, however, did have good run.

Don't get me wrong, the publishing of Gygax Magazine is a big deal. It shows that the OSR might be thriving enough to have a print magazine, even if its quarterly. Yet, it is also part of a pattern that I've witnessed since I started gaming back in 1989, the pattern of looking back and trying to emulate the Golden Age of D&D. We'll see how successful this iteration will be.

Although I won't be subscribing, I do wish the folks at Gygax Magazine the best.

This layout ran from Dec. 1987
until the early 1990s.

EDIT: All right, I did some more digging. Tim Kask wrote, "Gygax Magazine will cover a wide variety of RPGs and strategy games, focusing on preserving the traditions of the industry."

So the mag isn't (or intended to be) part of the OSR, but given how they've marketed it I have no doubt that they are trying to appeal to the OSR. Not like that's a bad thing.


  1. I think there are a lot of Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, Planescape, Dark Sun, Mystara (both Hollow World and Savage Coast), Birthright, and Greyhawk fans out there who would buy such a magazine.

    1. Do you think so?

      Would it be too diversified? I remember how fans of one campaign setting would complain about Dragon having too much material for another. Or "why don't you do more Spelljammer?"

      How could such a magazine appease all of the fans most of the time?

    2. I'll write for it. If I could have a regular column, I'd love too.

  2. I think it's a bit of a stretch to link the magazine to the OSR since most of the people involved in the magazine's creation have had little or nothing to do with the OSR community, and at least one of them has been openly antagonistic towards it.

    Personally, after reading Erik's two-part review, I've changed my mind about wanting to buy a copy of the first issue. The only article that interests me is Michael Curtis' adventure "Gnatdamp", which I wouldn't pay $9 bucks for on its own, let alone fork out whatever hideous price it would cost me for the whole mag as a non-American.

    I was a bit excited when the magazine was announced, but from what I've seen with the first issue that excitement has become ho-hum. Here's hoping Fight On! makes its promised comeback.

  3. I ordered a copy just so I could have a chance to see it in person, in case it actually was something worth reading.

    Tenkar's review has tempered my already negligible enthusiasm somewhat. I hope issue 2 won't continue the cred fest and maybe include something relevant to the OSR-type games people are playing now. That said, I'll wait for someone else to drop the $9 and confirm that for me.

  4. I think Gygax Magazine is very much the natural outgrowth of the success of the OSR movement. In fact I see it as a milestone in that movement's maturity. We are seeing a plethora of new and innovative products that harken back to a particular style of play found in the first 10 to 20 years of table top role playing. Whether or not the people involved are OSR community activists is irrelevant. That being said, even though I think they have strategically placed themselves to appeal to the OSR community, I think they don't intend to limit their coverage to just OSR related products.

    Even so, it seems to me that the author's problem isn't so much with Gygax Magazine but with the OSR in general, questioning "the pattern of looking back and trying to emulate the Golden Age of D&D." All I can say is different strokes for different folks, but as I wrote earlier, I think Gygax Magazine is evidence that there is a growing demand for products with a gaming style that is reminiscent of the early years of D&D and not just by those seeking nostalgia. I know several young people who didn't game in that era but nonetheless are discovering just how much fun it was.

  5. This reminds me when WotC released the 4e "Red Box" (without as much fanfare). The art direction, the fonts, the TOC layout, the name, the company name and so forth are all an obvious grab at nostalgia regardless of the content.

    I did chuckle when Luke snubbed Gail with "Gygax Magazine is supported by the Gygax family members who are actually gamers."

    OSR related or not - I think not, nor do I believe they would claim such - I don't get it.

  6. I don't know about a print magazine but there is a 2e forum (The Purple Worm Forum) at:

    as well as an associated 2e podcast (THACO's Hammer), at:

    While I started with Moldvey B?X, the older i get, the more I see 2e as the best incarnation of AD&D. There went my OSR-cred. :)

    1. Thank you so much for the links.

      Hey, I don't have much (if any) OSR cred as it is. I started gaming in 1989, at the tail end of AD&D and quickly moved to 2e.

      If I wasn't using Swords & Wizardry at the moment, I'd run a modified 1e/2e campaign.

  7. Gygax Magazine certainly wasn't what I thought it was being billed as, which was a magazine full of actual gaming articles. Even if they are articles on games I don't play, I can usually find something to steal. It was light on gaming articles for the price IMHO

    Maybe issue 2 will have less "here's my cred" and more "here's my actual thoughts on gaming" types of articles.

    Time will tell. Just think, I bought an extra issue to give away on the blog side. ;)


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