Categorized | Reviews, RPGs

Gygax Magazine #1 Review

Posted on April 23, 2014 by Michael Holland

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    From the moment I opened up the PDF on my laptop I knew Gygax, a quarterly adventure roleplaying aid, was going to tap into everything that has made gaming great since the beginning. The cover was “classic” in every way and it reminded me of the many old Dragon magazines I have flipped through over the years. I immediately felt comfortable like I was meeting up with an old friend, one I had not seen in quite some time and someone I was very fond of. The cover art titled “Still Unlucky” by Daniel Horne depicts two poor adventurers being snuck up on by a nasty looking ettin and it made me laugh.

    It really is a great piece of art but after smiling over the cover for a few minutes I began to worry. Having captured the essence of classic gaming I worried because I began to think this magazine was going to cater to a small portion of the diverse community we know as modern gamers. Forcing myself to put those worries aside I continued to scroll through the first few ads until I reached the first bit of meat. The magazine opens with a letter of sorts from the team who brought it all together about what they want Gygax to be, who they want to reach out to and how they intend to do that. I would like to share with you a portion of that piece.

    However you play games, whichever games you play, Gygax magazine wants to help you get the most out of them. We believe that the adventure gaming hobby isn’t about what technology you do or don’t use – it’s about playing games that require imagination, creativity, and strategy. It’s about playing with other people, sharing an experience and creating memories. Most of all, it’s about the human element. It’s about being able to come up with an off-the-wall idea that isn’t covered in the rules, and figuring out how to make it work on the fly. It’s about rulings for unexpected situations, making up house rules that only your gaming group uses, arguing over whether a cleric can use a spiked mace, the rate of fire for an arquebus, or how many space marines can fit in a landing pod.

    The name Gygax is our way of letting you know that we care about the history of adventure gaming, and that we believe in its future. Luke and Ernie Gygax literally grew up with the hobby. Their contributions to gaming reach all the way back to the beginning, yet both are keeping things fresh today, play-testing new games, running Gary Con, and of course, helping to create Gygax magazine. They are carrying on the family tradition by continuing to look to the future. We will cover games from all eras, including old editions and out-of-print classics, but also the latest offerings that are coming off the presses (or the PDF generators) today. Whatever the genre, however big or small the publisher, if it’s a wonderful game that brings people together to use their imaginations, we care about it.

    My worries were sundered in two and I am glad for it. As a reader who is still in mourning over the loss of Kobold Quarterly, a magazine which was always looking to support games outside of its normal comfort zone, I am happy that Gygax plans to fill that void and the first issue does that quite well. This is a magazine that intends to cater to gamers of all kinds.

    Gygax Issue #1 Contents Preview

    The cosmology of role-playing games by James Carpio frames the growth of the table top gaming industry through the decades into waves which begin with the genesis known as Dungeons & Dragons. I have been gaming for almost three decades myself but I found his arrangement based on game design theory to be very interesting.

    Still playing after all these years by Tim Kask takes a look at what keeps Tim coming back to the game table year after year (or should I say, convention after convention) and how he answers the question, “What is it you are doing when you play a role-playing game?”

    Leomund’s Secure Shelter by Lenard Lakofka is the newest incarnation of Leomund’s Tiny Hut which many gamers are already familiar with. Lenard brings us up to date on his life, a little of his history with D&D and then does what he does best. He dives into how to handle the role of the DM and provides some advice to help you accomplish that goal. The piece ends with a great deal of math. I won’t lie. He said THAC0 and I was lost after that.

    The ecology of the banshee by Ronald Corn is exactly what it sounds like, an interesting piece on the ecology of the banshee. Ecology articles have been a staple of gaming magazines since the beginning.

    Bridging generations by Luke Gygax is a touching anecdote about a short story which appeared in Dragon #8 which Luke wanted to share with his children.

    Gaming with a virtual tabletop by Nevin P. Jones is about an avid video game player who was able to find the wonder of role-playing games through virtual table top gaming, a style of gaming becoming more and more prevalent in our community.

    In Keeping magic magical by Dennis Sustare readers can explore a number of different approaches to magic and how they can be used at the game table.

    Playing it the science fiction way by James M. Ward touches on science fiction in gaming and how you can mix the genres to interesting effect.

    In DMing for your toddler by Cory Doctorow accomplishes a feat I thought nigh impossible, playing a fully developed roleplaying game with his daughter, a four year old toddler. As a point of pride I started each of my children on RPGs when each of them turned seven. This was the earliest I thought we could approach what I would consider a complete RPG. Cory’s approach is pretty awesome and I almost wish I had another toddler coming along so I could emulate his technique… almost.

    Great power for ICONS by Steve Kenson introduces a selection of new powers for the ICONS system.

    The future of tabletop gaming by Ethan Gilsdorf takes a look at the history of D&D (and all table top games) and what it means to gamers. Then from that extrapolates what it can mean to the next generation.

    The Gygax family storyteller by Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. is in an inside look at the life of Gary Gygax and how he became the imaginative man who changed so much about our world for the better.

    Talents off the front line by Dennis Detwiller focuses on Godlike, a game set during World War II in which individuals have come to possess Talents, super powers that set them above the norm. Dennis takes a look at women and their roles in the war effort and how that translates into a game such as Godlike while also expanding beyond what we would have considered the status quo during that era in history.

    D&D past, now, and Next by Michael Tresca examines the process of converting adventures backwards and forwards through the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons with the imminent birth of D&D Next in mind.

    The magazine also includes a “Special Attraction” for readers to enjoy called Gnatdamp: A sanctuary in the swamp by Michael Curtis, a system agnostic town for adventurers to explore and venture forth from. Kobold Quarterly lives in the form of The Kobold’s Cavern, a selection of three articles Wolfgang did not want to let pass into that quiet night. These are Magical Miscellany by Randall Hurlburt, An AGE of great inventions by Rodrigo Garcia Carmona, and Scaling combat feats for Pathfinder by Marc Radle.

    And what magazine would be complete without comics. Check out Marvin the Mage by Jim Wampler, What’s New with Phil & Dixie by Phil Foglio, and The Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew.

    The talent pool brought together to produce the first issue of this magazine is amazing. This first issue needed to set the right tone for all future issues and I think it did that quite well. With an eye on the past, present and the future of gaming this is the magazine that readers need to be keeping their eyes on.

    Rated 5 out of 5.

    Review by Michael Holland.

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