Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Short & Sweet RPG Source Material

Every so often I’m possessed by the urge to ramble on about my growing preference for short yet substantive roleplaying game materials...so before proceeding down that perilous path yet again I’ll beg the pardon of those who’ve already suffered through previous musings here and here (and the most recent one about the One Page Dungeon Contest here). In my middle age, with family and house responsibilities consuming my time, focus, and energy, I prefer keeping things simple in my gaming, particularly roleplaying games. I’ve recently been exploring and enjoying a design movement – intentional in some cases, fortuitous in others – in which creators present useful game material in concise yet meaningful format.

I like to see concise yet intuitive mechanics, books that don’t range much past 32 pages, and settings that don’t require a thorough reading to understand the key points and tone. Sure, I’ve occasionally indulged and immersed myself in some particularly enticing games and worlds – most notably Wicked North Games’ Westward (to which I also contributed) and Monte Cook’s groundbreaking and award-winning Numenera – but I rarely have the time or focus to sit down and digest a 300-page rulebook or even a 96-page adventure. I want the enjoyment of reading (and possibly prepping and playing) an engaging scenario with brief encounter descriptions without all the blow-by-blow details with a rules engine that doesn’t require me to constantly consult the rulebook tome.

So I’ve happily indulged in a wealth of short yet substantive material available for fantasy roleplaying games, primarily those that might garner the label of “retro-clone” or “Old School Renaissance.” I’m not looking for terribly epic storylines or expansive location and character descriptions. I want a juicy tidbit that offers some original, entertaining game value and that, incidentally, I can drop into my own game setting or campaign. Some even inspire me in content and format. Here are a few worthwhile projects (some more current than others) I’ve found that really hit that sweet spot for my inner gamer who really prefers concise yet fulfilling material:

Dyson’s Dodecahedron: Dyson Logos’ website offers a wealth of resources for fantasy roleplaying games, primarily in the form of his wonderfully rendered maps, but also in short adventures, zines, and the Dyson’s Delves books. The maps, many adventures, and zines remain free downloads (or pay what you want on RPGNow.com); those willing to contribute to Dyson’s endeavors can pay for one of the extremely useful Dyson’s Delves books (in print or PDF) or contribute to his Patreon campaign to support his creation of new maps that eventually make their way to the Dodecahedron website. The adventures he offers on the site and in the Delves books demonstrate how – with one of his maps – one can easily craft an engaging dungeon-delving scenario with brief descriptions. I recently bought Dyson’s Delves II in PDF for the principle reason of having ready-to-print scenario materials; set up the print preferences properly and you can generate a one-page scenario with the map on one side and a lined space for handwritten notes on the other.

Micro Adventures: Tim Shorts, who blogs over at Gothridge Manor and produces The Manor zine, refined the concept of the “micro adventure” and as set out on a mission to produce several each month. In Tim’s own words:

A Micro Adventure is a small adventure made up of a few encounter areas and maybe one or two battles or problems. Micro Adventures set up other adventures. Or they can be used between or during larger quests. Micro Adventures are generic enough to fit into your campaign world with little to no adjustments.

Tim’s Micro Adventures fulfill my search for short and engaging game material to drop into a fantasy roleplaying setting. Need a side trip on the way to a larger adventure? Looking for an incident as a hook to something more substantial? Need a brief encounter to introduce new players to the concepts behind fantasy roleplaying games? Look no farther. Like many creators today Tim’s offering his Micro Adventures for free online through his Gothridge Manor blog and is seeking supporters to contribute financially to his efforts on Patreon.

OSR Zines: In my recent exploration of OSR zines I discovered a few brief adventures that appealed to my preferences for short game material. The printed zine format – limited to a finite number of pages for production purposes – forces scenario-writers to stick to a shorter format than, say, a rambling PDF with no restrictions on page count. Some zines expand on adventure elements in related articles, such as new character classes, locations, monsters, and treasures...all kept tight and tidy with the small page count.

One Page Dungeon Contest: I’ve already featured this growing, annual contest inspiring and highlighting perhaps the quintessential “short and sweet” roleplaying game scenario format. The contest gives newcomers and veterans the chance to offer a single-page adventure; while the quality of maps, writing, and content varies, the contest’s esteemed judges help showcase the best entries. A compendium of all entries from the current year provides a substantial collection of scenarios from which to choose...and the organizers are working to compile past years’ entries in similar volumes offered for free/pay what you want.

This commentary is in no way meant as a comprehensive survey of short game materials currently available; I’m highlighting short, substantive game resources I’ve encountered in my internet wanderings.

Like a good short story, writing short adventures presents some challenges to authors. They must impart a unique sense of setting and tone through concise textual notes. Each encounter should last only a few sentences yet must impart essential setting and gaming details as well as advance the action toward the climax. The short form eliminates some of the more verbose language readers frequently come to expect in published adventures and cuts to the chase: a brief introduction of hook, concise location descriptions, short monster stat listings, usually keyed to a small map. The format leaves little room for anything terribly epic in the writing, yet offers gamemasters and players ready-to-play scenarios requiring little preparation.

I surprised myself recently on the “short and sweet” game material front when drafting my recent“Gaming Artifacts: Islands in the Sea of Dread” blog post. The revision of a bland island setting I’d created in high school gave me a fulfilling sense of satisfaction. I had fun designing a map, briefly describing a few locations, and pulling together a “chance encounter” table. It came in at about 1,400 words – not quite as “short and sweet” as I’d like as a reader – but would probably run three or four pages if I took the time to lay it out, drop in some illustrations and the map, and turn it into a PDF. I suppose part of the pleasant surprise came from the feeling of writing something useful and thematic; yet, in the context of my preference for “short and sweet” material, I realize I not only like consuming this kind of game information but also enjoy creating it.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gaming Artifacts: Simple Magic Item Cards

Whenever I consult my old Moldvay-edition Basic D&D rulebook I fumble with a few small index cards tucked just within the front cover. Each one contains a simple “magic” item I’d devised long ago to help measly first-level characters increase their chances of surviving to second level and perhaps grow into interesting heroes instead of gooey splotches on the dungeon floor.

When I first began playing D&D in high school everyone accepted the high mortality rate for starting characters. The neighborhood kids and I spent many an afternoon simply sitting around rolling up a variety of characters we might like to play so we had a ready stash to feed into deadly adventures. After a while, though, when we played less frequently, we wanted to make our time count; so we put more effort into character concepts and thus felt more attached to them (even lovably stupid “Stonehead the Fighter,” whose Intelligence and Wisdom were minimized in favor of his Strength and Constitution). But the rules and published adventures remained biased toward tearing apart first-level characters until a few lucky ones made it through the low-level meat grinder.

In reading the Basic D&D rules again one day I recalled the “Inheritance” paragraph on page B13 and drew some inspiration from it. Our previous, low-level characters rarely had anything to bequeath to their adventurous heirs. But I thought perhaps new characters might have received some small, helpful gift before leaving home and setting out on the dangerous path of wandering glory seekers. So I devised some basic ideas short enough to fit on one side of a notecard and handed them to players once they’d rolled up starting characters. They were trinkets, really, with low-level powers (if any), but enough to offer an additional means of overcoming obstacles and, in some cases, helping to define the character with a tad more depth. I used them on several occasions – one-shot beginner adventures – and probably paired them with appropriate character classes. The descriptions remained brief; no doubt seasoned players could find wide and exploitable rules loopholes in them, but that wasn’t my intent (and we weren’t quite those kinds of players yet). I present them here with some editorial tidying to hide my juvenile writing style and mistakes:

Key & Whistle: A unique and large key has a whistle built into the staff. Although the key fits no lock, if blown loudly it opens any lock within a 30 foot radius (and possibly attracts some other attention...).

Dragon’s Head Walking Stick: A rather tall walking stick with a dragon’s head carved into the top knob has no magical power; however, if wielded by a magic user as if it were a powerful magic staff, monsters with 4+ or less hit dice have a 2 in 6 chance of running in fear, making later morale checks with a –2 penalty.

Lucky Fox Paw: If worn, rubbed, or otherwise trusted as a lucky talisman, the paw bestows a bonus of +1 to any die roll their character makes (limit once per day). For example, rubbing the paw and whispering “Come on, Foxpaw, this arrow really has to hit,” might give the player a +1 “to hit” bonus.

Ball of Light: A three-inch diameter glass ball emits bright white light in a 30 foot radius when removed from its thick leather bag. The glass ball is very fragile and breaks if dropped or otherwise mishandled.

Rusty Dagger: This rust-encrusted dagger is not magical, yet every living creature hit by it must save against poison or contract tetanus. The victim loses 1 point of Strength and Constitution per day until healed properly by a cleric or other means.

Talking Money Bag: An ordinary looking money sack occasionally talks, saying such things as “Thank you” if a coin is put in, “Don’t spend too much” if money is removed, and “Help! Somebody’s stealing me!” if stolen. It only speaks when something happens to it. (This was clearly inspired by my reading of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the brief appearance of the troll’s talking purse.)

Some of these items – most notably the Dragon’s Head Walking Stick – seemed ideal for rampant abuse. But even at this early stage in my game-design development I’d realized small boons like these required some drawbacks, as demonstrated in such items as the Key & Whistle, Ball of Light, and Talking Money Bag (which opened the door for lots of gamemaster mischief...). In reviewing these little treasures so many years later I also realize they’re weighted heavily to benefit non-fighter classes by their mostly non-combat functions.

I’m not engaging in on the debate about whether high character mortality is “right” for any particular kind of gaming style. Do the Old School Renaissance (OSR) and retro-clones foster a lethal style of gameplay or is there room for more character growth in the meat-grinder stage? Should characters (and to some degree new players) get used to low-level character death as part of the game’s learning experience? Should gamemasters religiously adhere to rules, even if they’d result in the death of a beloved character, or is some degree of “fudging” the rules acceptable to ensure survival of some near-death drama? Certainly the debate ranges beyond these artificially defined bounds. The choice remains subjective; some folks like roleplaying games where “survival of the fittest” remains paramount and revel in the hideous demise of their characters, while others prefer to build carefully crafted heroes toward deeper development.


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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The First Taste Is Free with “Basic D&D”

The imminent release of the latest edition of D&D has generated a lot of buzz, complete with cryptic social media comments from team members and contentious controversies fueled by fans. Wizards of the Coast’s strategies in revising and promoting the new edition have mobilized its followers and critics to argue about gameplay, book prices, release dates, the merits of various editions (or the Old School Renaissance movement), whether certain design and marketing choices are “right,” and the future survival of the adventure gaming hobby. Many speculate on both Wizards’ motives and the actual contents of what different products may contain. I’ve offered some commentary regarding the next edition of D&D on this blog – my impressions of the price for the three main books and how those prices are part of a “new normal” in how gamers acquire new core rules – and so I’ll weigh in on another related issue: Wizards releasing a free, 48-page PDF document online, a kind of “Basic D&D” rules cyclopedia purportedly containing the core rules for creating and running characters from four central classes and several traditional fantasy races. Here’s the announcement from Wizards of the Coast’s Mike Mearls on the Legends & Lore D&D blog:

Basic D&D is a PDF that covers the core of the game. It’s the equivalent of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia, though it doesn’t have quite the same scope (for example, it won’t go into detail on a setting). It runs from levels 1 to 20 and covers the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, presenting what we view as the essential subclass for each. It also provides the dwarf, elf, halfling, and human as race options.

But the best part? Basic D&D is a free PDF. Anyone can download it from our website. We want to put D&D in as many hands as possible, and a free, digital file is the best way to do that.

Various interviews and press snippets released since that statement have tried to shed light on what this Basic D&D PDF can do; without seeing the actual presentation and contents nobody can really say what it actually will or won’t accomplish. But it seems Wizards is trying to address several audiences with this marketing strategy:

New Gamers: With the release of the D&D Starter Set in mid-July, at the same time as the Basic D&D free PDF becomes available, the company is giving those Starter Set players who want to continue their adventures past fifth level the rules framework to do so, up to level twenty. Some claim the PDF serves as a “bridge” from the Starter Set to the full, three-tome game rules, for those who wish to invest in the hobby and believe the “options” in those books improve their game experience.

Old, Skeptical Gamers: The PDF also serves as a free, playable preview of the game, enabling those reluctant to buy into the new edition the chance to see and experience the revised D&D rules in their own campaign settings. (Yes, I’m making a generalization in labeling this segment of the population “old, skeptical gamers.” I’m one of them.) The bait works on several levels: a tempting view of the revised mechanics; a means to play the current edition without investing in a new set of hardcover manuals; a way to bring the older gamer generation into the community of younger gamers.

Impatient D&D Fans: While actively marketing to this most loyal segment of its potential consumer base might seem like “preaching to the choir,” Wizards is using the free PDF to sell subsequent game materials to those gamers already fully supporting the new edition. Given the five month-long release period between the Starter Set and all three core rulebooks, diehard fans have little to sustain their interest and actual play experiences without the Basic D&D PDF enabling them to make characters and run games...plus two full 96-page adventures published between core rulebook releases.

Wizards of the Coast seems to intend Basic D&D as a bare-bones rules set enabling gamers to create characters and run adventures using the various bits of rules the company is releasing piecemeal until everything reaches publication: the Starter Set in mid-July, the Player’s Handbook in mid-August, the Monster Manual in mid-September, and finally the Dungeon Master’s Guide in mid-November, as well as full 96-page adventures in mid-August and mid-October. The release of two actual scenarios before the full trilogy of traditional core rulebooks reach store shelves seems counter-intuitive unless some framework exists in which players can actually use all the rules. Can this Basic D&D cyclopedia deliver on its promises that it’s both a “bridge” to allow those playing the Starter Set to jump beyond fifth-level characters and that it’s a rulebook to create and run characters through the initial two adventures released? It seems ambitious yet possible. One might also think it might undercut sales of the core rulebook trilogy; but I think it touches on another issue beyond providing a free rules framework.

Basic D&D seems intended to enable players of whatever background – beginner, veteran, and enthusiastic – to play the game before all three rulebooks release. Statements seem to indicate the basic edition remains the bare-bones yet functional mechanics needed to play, with the core rulebook trilogy offering more expansive options to character creation and advancement, adventure and campaign creation, and, of course, monstrous adversaries. This represents an interesting strategy of marketing/good-will: release the basic rules for free, then let players decide how much to invest in the rest of the game line. A free, functional preview game remains integral when the initial buy-in to play normally consists of a trilogy of rules tomes with a combined price-tag of $150.

While I’d like to believe the release of this free “Basic D&D” PDF an act of genuine generosity, it’s a rather clever marketing strategy to hook gamers new and old with “the first one’s free” approach. In lieu of evaluating the game based on three expensive rulebooks released over the course of six months, the document allows gamers to review the rules and dive right into playing. Experienced gamers can run scenarios based on the bare-bones core rules – creating their own adventure and using campaign settings as they’ve done for years – and if they go on to buy the three main rulebooks, official adventures, source and setting books, Wizards knows it can garner some additional sales. The move also addresses those dismayed with past editions of the game or discouraged with what they’ve seen for revisions in the latest edition, a sensitive issue Wizards has focused on throughout the new edition’s long development and playtest history; “Here you go...have a look at what we’ve done and give it a test drive for free.” Sure, some die-hard critics won’t go on to purchase rulebooks, adventures, or source material for the new addition, but every former nay-sayer who buys just one new-edition book is a sale Wizards wouldn’t have otherwise made.

D&D remains perhaps one of the few roleplaying game brands that can release a free rules set – however streamlined – that gets hordes of fans playing the game before publication of the actual revised rules and can boost sales of core and secondary product throughout the initial releases under the new edition. Are they “showing their hand” by revealing some of the core revisions in the new edition? Certainly. Can imaginative veteran gamers extrapolate an entire lifetime of play out of the document with their own settings and adventures, without having to purchase any new-edition D&D product from Wizards of the Coast? Quite possibly.

Over the years core rules sets for various other games have seen free PDF release – heck, I just saw The Design Mechanism released the RuneQuest Essentials introductory rules PDF (“much reduced” at 203 pages...) – but many were for current editions popular with fans which did not incorporate significant, controversial revisions. Roleplaying game companies have frequently offered quick-start versions of existing games, or even bare-bones core rules to help drive sales of secondary products. Will a free copy always generate additional sales? I’m sure studies exist citing wide-ranging percentages of sales inspired by free product given away. The perception of a publisher’s goodwill certainly has some effect in attracting and keeping new customers.

Whatever the free Basic D&D document contains it’s a step in the right direction, especially for a company that relies on publishing massive support books (rules options, class “splatbooks,” sourcebooks, adventures) to fuel gameplay among fans. Is it goodwill to give away the core rules of a new game or just clever marketing? The adventure gaming hobby will no doubt contentiously debate the answers as the new edition of D&D release dates approach, free PDFs and paid rulebooks reach gamers’ tables, and the intense marketing and loyal fan hype fades in the face of a few months of actual play and sales.

Schweig’s Postscript

Over the course of three new edition D&D-themed blog entries I’ve waged an inner debate whether to remain involved in the online discussion (such that it is) and speculation on the various issues related to the new release. I think for now this is all I care to say until product starts hitting shelves and making its way to the gaming table. Before all the pre-release marketing hype and contentious online debate rose to a fevered pitch I’d already resolved to limit my personal gaming involvement in the new edition to the D&D Starter Set. I have a particular interest in product intended to introduce new players to roleplaying games, so I’d like to check it out, see if it accomplishes anything new or refines proven techniques, and hope it might rekindle some of the nostalgic wonder I once felt immersing myself in the old Moldvay-edition Basic D&D boxed set.

I’ve seen little to alter my planned investment in the new edition. I applaud Wizards of the Coast for making a Basic D&D PDF available for free, especially to give everyone a chance to preview and even test drive the new system before all the rules reach publication. I’ll certainly download it, maybe even pick up a print copy if that’s ever made available. But of all the new edition product, the Starter Set remains the only one I expect to purchase. That’s not to say people shouldn’t invest in the trilogy of new-edition rulebooks, or that the new edition is the worst. Everyone has different tastes in gaming (as in most other aspects of their lives), and I encourage folks to do what’s in their best interest and respect others enough to let them do the same.


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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Print Fanzines in the Electronic Age

Printed gaming fanzines have somehow found their place again in this electronic Internet Age. When many gamers share their game creations on blogs some go one step further, creating or compiling content in print versions that still reach others through the post, sit on desks or gaming tables for reference, and tempt readers by their basic yet compelling physical presence. The vast range of material offered in gaming fanzines remains a testament to the imagination the adventure gaming hobby inspires and the dedication of those who engage in it.

Long, long ago – in the days before desktop publishing, near-ubiquitous internet access, and blogs – gamers got their information from a handful of sources: gaming friends, Friendly Local Game Stores (FLGS), and periodicals. For many who immersed themselves in Dungeons & Dragons the venerable Dragon Magazine remained the font of new source material, adventures, and hobby news (even if mostly gleaned from the advertisements). A handful of other periodicals came (and some went) catering to readers’ diverse interests within gaming.

I’ve lamented the near-extinction of gaming magazines before; few can survive in print in an age when a massive galaxy of content – both free and paid – exists in blogs, forums, websites, and PDFs on the internet. So I’m encouraged when I hear news of print materials returning to the collective gamer consciousness (as evidenced on that same print-killing internet...) through such endeavors as Gygax Magazine and numerous fanzines available through the post in printed format.

Now, in all fairness – and to head off contentious debate on pesky details – many “print” fanzines remain available in PDF format, a necessity in this electronic age where most people get their information on smart phones and tablet devices. The fact that their creators still make them available in print format and mail them to readers remains remarkable. I like having material in print for easy reference (for those Luddites like me who aren’t glued 24/7 to their electronic devices); I have a tendency to download PDF zines into a folder deep within my hard drive, then forget to give them more than that initial cursory glance. I’ve seen some dedicated gamers who print particularly useful PDF materials (including zines) and meticulously bind them for reference and archiving. A physical book or zine maintains a presence both in matter and mind. For some of us it’s easier to find, flip through, digest, and reference at the gaming table. Every gamer has their own preferences regarding print and electronic books, much like every fanzine has a potential to satisfy different gaming preferences in content and style.

Many fanzines that make their way to print cater to those of the “old school renaissance” (OSR) style of gaming, a movement that recently emerged to emulate (to varying degrees and tastes) the play experiences of the earliest fantasy roleplaying games. The zines fittingly cater to a nostalgia for the days of yore in both content and form. I’ve dabbled with OSR games before, being thoroughly susceptible to material evoking my earliest, halcyon days in the adventure gaming hobby, so I’m naturally drawn to the concept of a print gaming zine.

Having recently received a generous paycheck for a writing job, stingy old me decided to spend a precious few dollars to order a few zines I’d heard about that might offer some fantasy roleplaying material for inspiration and amusement. Some catered to specific OSR systems and others took a more system-neutral approach; readers can easily port materials to their favorite mechanics or just use them as inspiration. Like any periodical, even those with a very specific focus, each has its own style, flavor, and level of quality. Each of the three I ordered proved worthwhile for inspiring new ideas in my approach to gaming.

The Manor #6: Published by Tim Shorts, who hosts the Gothridge Manor blog, The Manor #6 offers 24 pages of OSR goodness, including a location piece and adventure written and mapped by Matt Jackson, a trio of puzzle rooms from Ken Harrison, and a guard class article and list of typical sentry greetings by Tim himself. This issue contains some mature content (a brothel location and a topless spider werespider drawing) which the “Warning Boobs Ahead” note inside the cover makes explicitly (and almost humorously) clear. Overall the material could easily fit into any fantasy setting as it caters to a broad slice of OSR interests without getting too specialized. While I’m not one for new character classes, I particularly liked the “Guard Greetings” article since several seemed perfect for provoking encounters, if not entire adventures.

6 Iron Spikes & A Small Hammer #2: Publisher John Yorio is already on my internet radar for his interest in solitaire gaming, so I was pleased to see him publish the second issue of his zine named for one of original D&D’s oddly iconic yet more interesting bits of equipment. It serves up an amusing buffet of juicy tidbits for use in any OSR-style game: two entries in a “Very Small Bestiary of Dungeon Helpers” series, a simple random trap generator, some tables for generating random yet inspirational dungeon chamber names (such as “Laboratory of the Demonic Dwarves”), a random dungeon generator, a feature on a village near a dungeon (great as a support location), a few magic items, and two brief, low-level adventures (one even using the name generator). While Yorio provides most of the content, Jeff Huddleson contributed a short and useful gamemaster tip piece. I’ve used one of Yorio’s very streamlined random dungeon generators before, so I found the inclusion of other random generators in the zine quite entertaining. The 24 pages offer something useful for any fantasy roleplaying game, particularly for those who enjoy random tables to help adventures along.

Secrets #1: Nathan Irving compiled the best of certain topical posts from his Secrets of the Shadowend blog in the first issue of his fanzine. The 24 pages contain a horde of innovative spells and devious magic items easily adapted to most any fantasy roleplaying game, as well as a handful of monsters and the shaman, a druid class variant. A while ago – during one of my occasional laments that gaming magazines seem headed down the road to extinction – I suggested that bloggers collect and revise material from their posts in “blog annuals,” so I’m happy to see someone actually doing that, and publishing it in print to boot.

This by no means serves as a comprehensive overview of gaming zines currently available, merely my impressions based on buying a few zines that looked interesting. Most zine websites include a table of contents for each issue, some simply with titles, others with a one-sentence teaser for each article. It’s enough to help decide whether to check out a print-only zine; many offer free or paid PDFs, and some offer both print and PDF purchase options. Reader tastes vary across a wide spectrum – whether for gaming magazines or other mundane periodicals – so buying one issue remains the best way to check out the content and see if the coverage is right for you.

For a good source articles about gaming zines, check out Gothridge Manor and Tim Short’s glimpse into the contents of his “zine box,” a surprisingly abundant trove of gaming goodness enough to send anyone curious about the OSR zine scene in the right direction. He also recommends Rendered Press’ “Old School Zines” page, which lists gaming fanzines across genre and system, print and PDF, paid and free.

Schweig’s Fanzine Postscript

I am guilty of having once produced a gaming fanzine. It was one of my first activities way back when I discovered the adventure gaming hobby during the “Golden Age of Roleplaying Games” of the early and mid 1980s (for me, anyway). Between running games for neighborhood kids, devising and mapping my own scenarios and settings, and creating other games for myself, I published a zine called The Sword, obviously trying to emulate TSR’s popular Dragon Magazine in my own humble, amateurish way. Like many of my earliest gaming endeavors compared to my later professional involvement in the hobby, the zine was truly awful. It ran anywhere from five to ten pages each issue, with a cover I colored by hand and a host of articles typed on my good old Smith Corona portable typewriter, photocopied, and sold to gaming friends for a pittance. Articles included reviews of miniatures and games I’d purchased, game rule variants we used, new treasures, monsters, and equipment, cartoons, word searches, and truly horrible filk parodies of the tasteless gaming song of the month. Every now and then I look through the box with my remaining issues and other editorial ephemera and cringe. As atrocious as it was, it’s a good (and sometimes embarrassing) reminder of where I started and how far I’ve come.


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