Saturday, 28 January 2017

Review: & Magazine, Issue 12

And Magazine Issue 12, a free resource for AD&D and OSR RPGs
Issue 12 of & Magazine came out shortly before my long hiatus and certainly had nothing to do with my case of "the 2016s".  Back in 2015, Bryan Fazekas was nice enough to share my review of issue 11 and remarked that he couldn't recall & getting any better praise than being thought-provoking.  I still see his point, but there are plenty of other fine things to say about & Magazine.

In Issue 12, & Mag turned its many eyes upon the theme of Inns, Taverns, and Way Stations.  The special features were a little more scattered from the theme than usual, but I still found them interesting.  Bryan Fazekas lead out the Special Features with the Ecology of the Lonely Inn, in which he discussed the plausibility of an inn alone in the wilds.  Although the Tavern of Daednu solution was always lurking, Bryan mainly played the topic with a straight bat and focused on how relatively isolated inns might survive the dangers of a fantasy world without becoming dangers themselves.  Dan Rasaiah's Knights of the Hallowed Grave contained statistical information on the eponymous knights and a pair of horrible undead monstrosities.  If the former struck me as reinventing the cleric, the latter at least motivated that reinvention!  In The Tavern of Whyestill Cross, Travis Range gave & readers a detailed description of a tavern-based site complete with cyan maps and three different "crews" to stock it.  I particularly appreciated the "Bill of Fare" in this article, though I can't say that thought of Orcan Gark (fermented yak's milk) really appeals to my palate.  Dan Rasaiah's second featured article, A Fighter, Magic-User, & Cleric Walk Into a Bar... discusses the importance of inns and taverns as RPG settings.  Dan's points are sound and I can't help but wonder if they were at the back of my mind when I wrote about public baths as an alternative.

If none of that appeals, &12 is stacked with more content.  Thoughtful articles addressed Faerie society, and alternate rules for fortune and initiative.  New monsters and NPCs abound.  Magic items such as the remarkably convenient Folding Tent were sprinkled through the magazine.  Ian Slater opened up his grimoire and shared a host of new spells and some new procedures for creating magic items.  There are lovingly described wilderness hexes, a recipe (meat-based, so not in my interests), original fiction, a pair of maps, and scads of original artwork.  Last but certainly not least, there are adventure scenarios!

Ethan Sincox's A Dire Need... is an idea and some statistical information which could be used as part of a scenario.  It's not a stunningly original idea, but Mr. Sincox has thought it through and provided a good backstory that could save a referee some time.  (Although the point isn't made explicitly, I think the idea is best used as atmosphere and perhaps diversion for PCs on an overland trek, fitting in with the "Waypoint" theme of &12.)

The Monoliths (for 8th-12th level characters) by Andrew Hamilton is a scenario of the "you break it, you bought it" kind.  There are a number of suggested ways to bring the site into play, but the most appealing involve the PCs unleashing a threat by their own folly, avarice, or good nature.  One potential problem with The Monoliths is that the problem created is much more open-ended than Mr. Hamilton's short treatment can detail.  Depending on your point of view, this may be an opportunity!

&12 isn't the sort of thing that gets a numerical rating, but I strongly recommend giving it a read if you haven't already.  To borrow a phrase from Bryan Fazekas, & Magazine is fertile ground - and in issue #12, it has brought forth a fine harvest.

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