Here is another post meant to break up the monotony of the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge series of posts. In this post, I take a look at & Magazine Issue 7. This is not necessarily a review but more of a spotlight.
What is & Magazine All About?
& Magazine is a free quarterly pdf publication supporting Dungeons & Dragons & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by filling a role similar to other print hobby magazines of the past such as Dragon, the Fantasy Gamer, White Dwarf, & others. Their goal with each issue is “filling in the gaps for old school gamers” & that is mentioned right on the cover. I am going to take a look at Issue #7, the Winter 2013 issue. This issue & all others are available for download at http://www.&-mag.com/downloads.html along with some bonus materials. For anyone interested, they do take submissions & do print letters from readers.
Issue 7 of & Magazine is focused on the Inner Planes. Within the 92 pages there are articles of various lengths covering such topics as extra-planar travel, adventuring on the elemental plane of fire, & expanding the elementals to name a few. There are also articles outside of the stated Inner Planes focus such as an examination of the saving throws, bringing Doom & AD&D together, & even an update of the old Archer/Archer-Ranger character class from way back in Dragon #45 by the original author Len Lakofka.
Artwork & Presentation
The cover depicts two people in a battle fairly reminiscent of the battle depicted on the cover of Deities & Demi-Gods; the biggest difference is that these people are using elemental powers to battle instead of divine powers. Some of the dungeon maps are done in a style very similar to early TSR modules with the blue & white coloring; a very nice touch! The artwork used throughout the magazine is of varying quality but nothing feels out of place. Some of it may not be to every reader’s taste but that is well within the normal range of artwork in this hobby. I am reminded of the difference in artwork if you put an issue of Dragon, White Dwarf, the Space Gamer, Vortext, & other gaming magazines side by side. The typical page is done in a two-column layout with a good font that is easy to read.
Note: I am only discussing a limited amount of articles from each of the following categories. This is not so much a review as it is a spotlight on & Magazine.
The features consist of two articles in this issue. The first article, You Want to do What??? Adventuring on the Elemental Planes, provides tips for both players & DMs about using the Elemental Planes in their campaign. The article opens up with a bit of background & how the concept of the Elemental Planes has changed over the years in AD&D; this article is only concerned with the four basic elemental planes. Then the article shifts to a player perspective for the first half while the DM perspective is used for the second half.
The most important part of the player section is the note that regardless of whatever else has been read, the DM determines what is true for the elemental planes in his campaign. Of course, most of the old timers know that from other topics but there is nothing wrong with reinforcement. The Players section covers the following topics on the elemental planes: how to gather information on them, how to get there, how to survive there, & how to get back home.
The DMs section provides tips for preparing & running adventures on any of the elemental planes. The author points out that the DMs job is much harder while doing so. The DM is directed to some official AD&D sources – Manual of Planes, Planescape, monster entries – that may provide clues about the planes. Other topics of interest include methods of travel to the planes, spell & magic item changes, monsters, & changes to class abilities. This section of the article is wrapped up with suggestions on how to make each plane a unique opportunity for adventure.
There are four bonus articles in this issue. The second article in this section, A Deeper Look At Saving Throws, shines on spotlight on saving throws in the older editions of A/D&D & the questions that often come up surrounding their use. The author explains the concept of saving throws, why a simple ability check will not work, what saving throws really represent, & expanding on the uses of saving throws.
The seventeen regular columns in this issue are split among maps & several different types of articles. There is quite a bit of variety on the topics with some articles being multiple entries of the same article type; Creature Feature I – IV & Spellcaster’s Paradise I & II, for example. The included mini-adventure, The FireForge, is a companion piece to the earlier article about the elemental planes. The For Further Reading section is not merely suggested articles from the past of & Magazine but a list of blog posts & articles from Dragon, Dungeon, & other magazines that tie into the theme of the elemental planes. Along with the other articles not mentioned, there are classy touches like a featured artist spotlight included.
If you are an old school A/D&D player or enjoy one of the retro-clones then you should be reading & Magazine. It lives up to the goal of “filling in the gaps for old school gamers” by the diversity of its content. & Magazine is not one of those fan magazines that only include new monsters and maps in every issue but contains a healthy amount of substance within the contents. The perfect way to describe how & Magazine is handling things is by reading the Tread Softly column which stated “we're trying to have the same type of balance Dragon had back in its day, with things aimed at more advanced players and other things aimed at those who just started and are getting their feet wet.”. Nicole Massey explained it perfectly with that statement. & Magazine has the right feel and does, in fact, carry on the spirit of older Dragon magazine and I encourage everyone that fits into the old school type of play to check out this valuable resource. Issue #8 should be out tomorrow…