Thursday, August 22, 2013
Review: Gygax Magazine Issue #2
d20 Dark Ages is a mess, but I'm doing this review anyway.
Issue #2 of Gygax Magazine is too important to wait.
Gygax Magazine is pretty much bringing "old school" gaming philosophy to "new school" games and gamers. Issue #1 was good. Issue #2, however, really shines. You've got a here a nice mix of articles talking about the early days of gaming and articles covering current games--a couple of which I probably wouldn't have heard about given how fragmented the hobby is today. This review covers the pdf version from RPGnow.
As you might have noticed, this blog's mission statement is "Bringing Old School Gaming to New School Gamers." I believe something was almost lost when WotC ascended the D&D Throne over fifteen years ago. That something was an acknowledgement that, while D&D is the flagship RPG, other RPGs exist. Dragon Magazine was, more or less, a magazine about the hobby.
At first glance of issue #2, I felt instant nostalgia, but in a weird way, for Dragon Magazine. For those old enough, do you remember the days when you'd open up a Dragon and see a bunch of articles you don't care about about games you don't play? "Aw man, I don't play a super-hero RPG, why is this article in here?" "What's the deal with Rick Swan reviewing non-D&D RPGs?"
Still, this was Dragon being a hobby magazine, featuring articles and advertisements covering non-D&D based games.
Issue #2 of Gygax Magazine brings back this tradition as hobby magazine. Issue #2 covers non-d20 games like Samurai Battles, Doctor Who, Mage Wars, Savage Worlds, and The One Ring, and Dragon Age. I own Savage Worlds. But for those who don't know how the other games work, these articles give a you glimpse.
Maybe even you can find a few nuggets of ideas for your own favorite system, like the Inkubus, a monster for Savage Worlds, by Gordon Dritschilo (believe me when I say its a nice twist to the standard energy-draining monster of seduction).
I hope the new TSR continues this trend (presenting different aspects and games of the hobby, not energy-draining).
The history buff in me really digs the articles about early days of gaming. Ernest Gary Gygax, Jr. shares is experiences playing and play testing D&D with his his father. It turns out that the whole idea of building a keep when you're character's high enough level came from these sessions. This makes me wonder how many other "staples" came about from Gygax & Gygax, Jr. having fun playing D&D.
Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World, reveals his findings of the "Dalluhn Manuscript." Is it an esoteric copy of a version of D&D created before 1974, perhaps drafted by Dave Arneson himself. Or is it, in Gygax's words, "a rip-off of the D&D game" he'd never seen before? Ah, textual criticism. Love it.
Issue #2 also features a number of other highlights, such as "The Old School Renaissance," where Vincent Florio shows how new generations of gamers can get involved with Old School gaming.
You also got with this issue an introductory adventure for Okkorim, a campaign setting by Luke Gygax. The issue features both the adventure and a couple of fold outs with some neat maps. Overall, it reminds me of a cross between Al-Qadim and Dark Sun. There's an Arabic/Middle-eastern theme, followed by a history of disaster that turned many of the lands to desert (along with rules for water consumption, a la Dark Sun--but no psionics or uber-characters thus far). Good stuff.
(Just para-phrase the bold text at the beginning of the adventure itself so your players don't get bored--or not, as tastes may vary).
Finally, Jess Hartley's "From one geek to another: An etiquette guide for gamers" is worth reading. Hartley discuss the lost art of "the introduction." It doesn't take reading How to Win Friends and Influence People to notice that many gamers aren't being all that social to newcomers--or to each other when they join a new group.
Introducing yourself to a new player (and vice versa) should be an obvious thing. But there have been games (I hate to admit) where I've known a player primarily by the name of his character.
I do think gamers need to be reminded of good etiquette from time-to-time. I hope Hartley makes a return in future issues. I've also got an article or two banging around about gamer etiquette that'll come to d20 Dark Ages sometime in the next month or so.
I know, at this point, many might criticize Gygax Magazine for being too diverse. "Aw man, what am I gonna use this The One Ring scenario for? And I don't play Savage Worlds or Pathfinder. That's just wasted pages." This happened with Dragon... a lot. The old TSR would publish these comments in the letters and forum sections of Dragon. Some were an amusing read.
My response: get of over it and be a little more open minded. Its important to learn about different aspects of the hobby outside your little circle of gamers. Even more important, one should learn about the hobby's history. This history can help gamers meet on common ground.
D&D didn't just appear in a Thac0-based vacuum.
Once a upon a time, the D&D game used 2d6 instead of d20. "Wait? What?" Yep. You can read a little about it in this issue.
Overall, I'm impressed with Gygax Magazine #2. It's better than issue #1, and has a great mixture of old school articles while covering different games out there (and you've got comics at the end).
(Oh yeah, and Jeff Easley did the cover art--how cool is that?)