Thursday, November 19, 2009

Musings In Response to Knockspell #3

I got my copy of Knockspell #3 in the mail today.  I am a print fetishist and like real books, for many of the same reasons that James Raggi IV has so insightfully discussed.  As I always teach my college writing students, print sources -- real books -- are more permanent and credible sources of information than most web-based sources in part because someone (the publisher) ponied up the money to have the text fact-checked, copy edited, vetted, play-tested, etc. BEFORE it reached the public.  Don't get me wrong, I love using online sources as well, and (obviously) I have discovered and advocate the particular joys of reading blogs.  I think blogs and other online media forms are indeed the future, and in many ways are already the present -- there is an immediacy and interactivity to be found on the web that is invaluable for trotting out the newest and freshest raw ideas and getting valuable feedback.  Yet I do perceive a difference (for me anyway) between what I post and read in blogs and what I get in a fine print publication like Knockspell #3.  There is something, well, weightier about having that bound publication with shiny covers sitting there in my hand.  Like what's in there is somehow precious.  (I sound like Gollum.)

I cannot really give a content-specific "review" of the mag, for I am already planning to use some of the adventures and trap ideas from Knockspell #3 in my forthcoming Arandish campaign, and I don't want to spoil any surprises for players of mine who might read this.  I suppose the fact that I found three or four offerings (parts of two mini-modules, one trap, and the badass random ruin generator!) that are of immediate appeal and use to me, all in one issue, says a great deal about the quality of this publication and its contributors.  The variety of stuff packed into Knockspell #3's 64 pages is impressive -- there are three complete mini-modules, a few random tables and one random generator, a few theory articles, and two particularly strong entries: the Swords and Wizardry-based Magician Class and alternative magic system by Akrasia, and the vile (and thus highly appealing) Anti-Paladin class by Kellri.  I don't allow paladins in Ara, but now, reading Kellri's great re-imagining, I sure as hell am allowing anti-paladins!

Which leads me to my big "aha" moment with this magazine.  As I leafed through it tonight, really enjoying the alternative magic system devised by Akrasia and thinking about its potential applicability to Ara, I began to get my first palpable sense of what the original 1974-77 iteration of D&D might feel like to play.  As I have mentioned before, I came of age with the Holmes Basic Set followed closely by many years with AD&D.  So it is no wonder that upon my glorious return to the old-school gaming hobby I should gravitate toward Labyrinth Lord (a clone of Moldvay Basic, which follows Holmes) and Goblinoid's forthcoming Advanced Edition Companion (which provides AD&D content in Labyrinth Lord terms).  But now, with the arrival of Knockspell #3 at my door, I may be hearing for the first time the siren song of the original Gygax and Arneson version of D&D.  I am at least encouraged, based upon the quality of Knockspell #3 including its terrific Pete Mullen cover, that an investment in Black Blade Publishing's Swords and Wizardry Core Rulebook would be a sound investment once some more cash rolls into the old coffers around here.  I know I would enjoy reading the book -- I couldn't get enough of gaming rulebooks as a kid, and I suppose I am no different now -- and I might even get inspired to play the S&W system in due time. . . 

In the end, for me and my primitive cave-man mind, I still like to read things in hard copy, in print, especially important things like old-school retro-clone game manuals and supplements.  It makes the consumer in me happy to know that there are artful, high-quality products like Knockspell #3 out there for me and the other members of my hobby to enjoy, use, archive, and cherish. I highly recommend this product for any old-school gamer.


  1. You might also want to check out Salvatore Macri's "Supplemental Lore" at, which includes 10 or so additional classes (such as illusionist, ranger, monk, etc.) among other things for Swords & Wizardry. It's a bargain - like you, I love to have everything in print when possible, and the more books I have the merrier (when I can afford them!)... Knockspell is a treasure.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, will check out forthwith!

  3. Yep got to agree there - while I dont mind electronic media - there's nothing quite like flicking through a "proper" paper publication!