27 February 2013

Review: Gygax #1

It was with some relish that I unwrapped the first issue of the reborn TSR's Gygax magazine. Daniel Horne's cover immediately set the tone, harkening back to the glory days of The Dragon magazine, circa 1984. On my desk is Dragon #89 from that year. The similarities in layout and font are intentionally designed to grab the attention of us unfrozen cavemen dice chuckers. I am unsure how those new to the hobby would react.

It is great to see a printed magazine these days. It is even better that this magazine has content about a hobby I like. I did not have an expectations about the content, so I was very surprised to see an article by Old School legend Len Lakofka. This dude has been writing about the hobby before The Dragon was even published. Glad to see that he is alive and kicking. I hope Bruce Heard gets in on this action too. Heck, could Frank Mentzer be conned into an essay? We'll see.

This issue had the tried and true Dragon formula of opinion pieces, optional rules for various roleplaying systems, an "Ecology of" article, goofy ads and even a re-animated What's New by Phil Foglio. So many great artists got their start in Dragon, including Phil, that I am pleased he found time to contribute. He definitely has a lot more going on these days than he did in '84.

If Gygax can survive, it will certainly give rise to new RPG heroes and, let's be honest, arguments about bearded dwarf ladies.

But for this magazine to continue, it will need to not simply rehash the hobby's past. The original Dragon became a clearing house of ideas that affected future TSR publications. It brought together the community of D&D players. Gygax has to establish some leadership position in today's hobby to be successful. Clearly, it is aimed at the Old School Roleplaying revolution. Is this market durable enough? We will see.

Dragon was more or less the house organ of TSR and that gave the content focus. What should Gygax focus on? Labyrinth Lords? Tunnels and Trolls? OSRIC? Dungeon Crawl Classics? Should it only talk about "open game license" systems, so as not to appear biased toward particular vendors?

For the new TSR, this existential question will need to be resolved sooner than later. I certainly will enjoy watching its evolution. Perhaps I will even contribute to it (a review or adventure module, I think). I never did get a piece in The Dragon.