Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Gygax Magazine, by TSR (Redux)
And now that I've read it, I know that many of my previous assumptions, which were written well before the PDF came out, were wrong. I still maintain we're in the d20 Dark Ages--gamers are more fragmented than ever. Gygax Magazine, however, is a Point of Light because while it isn't Old School, it carries Old School traditions to the current generation of gamers. From what I can tell, the magazine is more about blending these Old School traditions with current realities. Thus, while it has a lot of OSR credentials, it really isn't OSR. Even the introduction says they'll cover games from all eras.
I'll spare you an article-by-article analysis, Tenkar's Tavern has already done that, beginning with saying that James Carpio's "The Cosmology of Role-playing Games" was "not an awesome start to the magazine."
I disagree. I think it was the perfect start to the magazine. In fact, all of those "old school cred" articles are fine with me. If the magazine is about bridging generations of gamers, then the current generation of gamers need to know the history of RPGs. Without Gygax and Arneson around, somebody has to do that outside of WotC.
Part of the "Old School" tradition is being exposed to history and literature before being exposed to the game. You see this time and again throughout the magazine. The top two articles in this regard are:
The article "The Gygax family storyteller," by Ernest Gary Gygax, Jr., recounts how Gygax Sr. used to tell bedtime stories to his children.
In "The future of tabletop gaming," Ethan Gilsdorf writes: "I didn't wear a helmet... And [I] read a lot of books: The Great Brain, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Encyclopedia Brown, and My Side of the Mountain.... Even before I stumbled upon D&D, I had begun to teach myself the tools of storytelling."
Overall, I like the articles and the magazine. I realize now that I am part of their target demographic. Anybody who plays D&D, in whatever edition/incarnation will find this magazine to their liking. "Gnatdamp," by Michael Curtis, is system neutral. And I like how it harkens back to the days when a DM just needed a small village and a dungeon nearby, instead of feeling the need to develop entire settings.
The only "head-scratcher" I found was "D&D past, now, and next," by Michael Trescia. I'm not sure whether he was trying to debunk WotC's claims that D&D 5e will appeal to all players of all editions, or if he was just pointing out how conversions between editions can be difficult.
I probably will at least consider picking Gygax Magazine #2. In the meantime, my thoughts are with Ernest Gary Gygax as he gets back on his feet.