review: Gygax #1

I was totally stoked when I heard about Gygax magazine, and then when I saw the pictures on the web site at the unveiling, hey - it was the old Dragon trade dress!  Nostalgia demanded I purchase this immediately.

It showed up today, and I read it, and here's what I think.

First off - when I opened the envelope, the magazine was so very thin. In another product I wouldn't have noticed, 60 pages is still a good count, but with the trade dress, it invites comparison to Dragon.  No 90+ pages here.  So, sort of a sad reminder of the decline of our hobby.

They are not targeting old school, or if they are, they didn't do it very well with this issue. They replicate the old-school Dragon trade dress, which is kind of annoying, because there wasn't a lot of old-school content in there.  So it's a nostalgia play, but I think the publisher wants to market to everyone with a big-tent magazine. Let me be clear: I hate big tents, because there's so little in those tents that interests me. I like focus.

The magazine has lots of authors with old-school cred - two Gygaxes, a Kask, a Ward, a Lakofka. Most of that was fluff though (except the Lakofka article which went into some crunch on AD&D bonuses) - a lot of talking about the good old days.  The other articles were also  fluff, or crunchy articles for newer games that I don't care about.  The exception is Gnatdamp, a swamp town by Michael Curtis, which was good.  It was statless and thus system-neutral, but clearly D&D.

Writing this, I'm feeling this post isn't much of a review - but that's because there was very little I could judge on its usefulness.  It was mostly fluff, and several articles on stuff I don't play.

I am tepid on the magazine right now.  I understand why there are fluff articles, everyone wants to reminisce, but there were so many... I think a better approach would have been to spread them out across more issues, and have a lot more focused content.  A higher page count would also have been nice too, as it stands it's like staring at terminally ill patient when sitting side-by-side with the early 80's Dragon magazines I've got on my shelf.

Overall impressions - love the trade dress, too much fluff, wish it was more focused on early edition D&D - something more like the soon-to-be-departed Fight On! magazine.  Presumably there's not enough of us in the OSR to support Gygax magazine as a business entity though, and they'll keep their big-tent approach.


  1. What you stated is why I was leery about buying it. While I enjoyed Dragon in its day, I don't think it needs to return. I would have liked them to come out with a fresh look and a focused magazine. Like you, while some 'I remember the day' is okay having it be the bulk of content is too much. I hope it succeeds, but I would like it to focus a bit more before I plop down money. Until then there is more than enough OSR stuff to buy.

  2. It was the wrong trade dress for me. By the time Dragon was using those covers I'd lost interest in the magazine. That and the talk about Gygax Mag not being about AD&D, but instead wanting to cover a bunch of game systems I wasn't interested in. I just didn't bother with it.

    1. It had that trade dress from about issue 39 to 130 or so, pretty much the magazine's glory years. There weren't many AD&D issues released before it.

      But I would agree, didn't have much inside that interested me. Kind of strange to go for an AD&D era trade dress and not any AD&D game info.

  3. I hope they got the reminisces out of the way in the first issue.

  4. Thanks for the review. I'll be passing on this issue, but it will be interesting to see how it develops.

  5. Mags should be tightly focused, I agree.

    That they felt the need to use the first issue to demonstrate their old school cred demonstrates a certain insecurity on the issue.

    Just bash on and dont apologize.

  6. Yes, you hit the nail of my worries on the head. I'm wondering if this is too much about nostalgia. I mean, did they really need to make it look so similar to Dragon? It's cool that they did, to a point...but what was their intent in doing so? I worry that it's all just an exercise in nostalgia.

    But I do think that it's to be expected for a magazine like this to have a first issue heavily comprised of "introductory" or "what has come before" articles. And perhaps rightly so. I daresay a magazine published by the scions of House Gygax would have been lambasted if they hadn't put in that historical, nostalgic stuff. I'm assuming they won't make it a habit, though.

    I need to read my copy and see how I feel about it...

  7. I don't understand the concept. The name Gygax is a dirty word in most non-D&D circles. You've got a magazine that looks and is named like a D&D magazine but it isn't.

  8. I really appreciated this review. Thanks for posting it.

    Btw, I have both your books from Lulu and I'm DELIGHTED with them. It's also nice to see that someone with talent and ability doesn't feel the need to go on Kickstarter with delusions of grandeur...

    1. I'm glad you like it, Keith! Yeah, Kickstarter is completely unnecessary to publish a book, and I really really really don't want to deal with order fulfillment, and I can't meet a deadline to save my life, so it's just a terrible fit for what I'm doing right now.

  9. The lack of focus (other than reminiscing) annoyed me as well. The magazine, to my mind, should have the following, recurrent, sections:

    1] Sage Advice: Questions about D&D, AD&D and similar clones.
    2] The Ecology of: System neutral write-ups on D&D and AD&D beasties.
    3] Monster Menagerie: New creatures for D&D, AD&D and similar clones. Alternately, this section could have notes on spicing up creatures and/or presenting new takes on them.
    3] Leomund's Secure Shelter: New spells, items and alternate rules/rules analysis for D&D, AD&D and similar clones.
    4] Into the Unknown: This section would present a new and adventure each issue. These would alternate between dungeon, urban and wilderness adventures. These should be as setting neutral as possible, and should have notes on how to incorporate them into an ongoing campaign.
    5] Dungeon Maps: Simple... present a few, well-done dungeon maps with some bare-bones notes written in the margins. These would be system neutral and allow for DMs to run them pretty much on-the-fly.
    6] The Rampant Goose Tavern: NPCs for use in your D&D or AD&D game. These NPCs could easily be ported into other systems and would have story-hooks within their write-ups... allowing DMs to drop them into their game and/or use them to spice up their game. Examples: Members of a thieves guild, a band of artifact-seeking wizards, a noble family, a group of mercenaries, a fallen family of godlings, etc.
    7] Reviews and News: A section on upcoming RPG products and reviews of these products.
    8] Ward's Ward: A sci-fi section that gives new material for D&D, Gamma World and/or Metamorphosis Alpha.
    9] Comic Strips: The 1st issue hit the mark here, so I wouldn't change that at all.