The latest pile of loot arrived from Lulu last week. Knockspell #1 came out earlier this year and was nice enough, but this issue looked to be even better. I can summarize it simply by saying, yes it's better than I thought - buy it! Matt Finch and team have surpassed issue number one.
I will be taking a closer look at this issue, and focus on how well I think the material in this issue can be used by a Tunnels & Trolls gamer like myself. Knockspell is primarily a magazine for OSRIC and Swords & Wizardry, but I play neither and have enjoyed this issue a lot.
Out of 32 items (and classifieds) in the Table of Contents, I'd say 15 or 16 is usable off the bat for T&T. Some of the other items are a little bit more tied to D&D, but might give some inspiration and idea. The big block of stuff which I personally wasn't all that interested in was the essay about "The Trouble with Thieves" and the different ways of solving the "problem". Frankly I don't see much of a problem. The thief might not be in the holy scripture (OD&D) but it doesn't mean it is not a "proper archetype". Also, nothing makes it impossible for other classes to climb, steal and disarm traps even when you have decided to bring the thief into your game. For those who still see a problem I'll paraphrase the Talent rules from T&T like this. Let everyone have one Trait, which is some kind of thing they do a bit better than anyone else. Then take a mechanic for resolving general questions like that, d% or d6, and give a small bonus for those with the Traits. Everyone else can still try and succeed. Now, if you want a type of character who is good at "skills" give him more or less of these Traits as he progresses in his chosen path as an adventurer. Problem solved.
Some of the 86 pages of this issue is taken up by long and well written essays. Michael Curtis does what he does on his blog, i.e. provides us with nuggets of wonder and mysteries for your dungeons. Allan "grodog" T. Grohe Jr. has a regular column, "From Kuroth's Quill", wherein he discusses dungeon design. I usually find what Allan writes interesting, and he doesn't disappoint. These, and the grandly titled "The Dungeon as Mythic Underworld" by Jason "Philotomy Jurament" Cone, are all mostly about design issues, and how to build adventures filled with that wonder we felt the first time we played an adventure game. That's the kind of articles that makes me dream, and lets my imagination roam.
Those who have talked to me, or read some of my writings, know that I have a soft spot for tables. In this issue we have articles with tables for random thieves guilds, city lairs, spell books and pits and their occupants. Anyone who need a kick of inspiration can use those! Many of the longer articles have tables to help you implement their ideas. There are tables galore! Me like.
Jason Vasche writes a very intriguing article about "Arnesonian" magic based on alchemy. Dave once said that the magic in Blackmoor was based on ingredients, and mixing of those. This is an interesting piece on how to make a system for alchemical magic within the limits of "the Original Dungeon Game". I think ideas that break out of the common accepted mold of how these games of ours are "supposed" to be played is cool. If you consider yourself "old school" remember that in those times they mixed everything fairly wild. The limits were the imagination. Well worth remembering.
I must confess I was a bit taken aback when I saw "Leprechauns - New Monster and Magic Items for S&W". Monster? They are one of the common kindreds, friend! Well, for us on Trollworld they are, anyway. It was really neat to see some items and takes on the Leprechauns, though. Since T&T don't contain any explanation at all about the kindreds, this short article can give some inspiration for those who wants to develop their Leprechaun Player Characters. There's even a magic item called the "Hidey-Hole"!
Frankly, any DM worth their salt should be able to take stuff written for any old fantasy game or retro clone and use most stuff in between them. If you care nothing for how well you can use an article about Leprechauns can flesh out the shorties on Trollworld, you still have lot of good stuff in this magazine. The adventure by Gabor Lux in this issue is written for Swords & Wizardry, but the game stats are so simple they can be converted on the fly to anything.
Last but now least I want to mention a few things about the visual impressions. The cover is in colour and depicts exploration of ruins. What could be more fitting the theme of classic sword and sorcery gaming? Inside it looks very nice indeed. Small touches like the editorial comments on articles and the short author biographies are excellent! This issue have illustrations by Jim Holloway and Liz Danforth, how could it not be good looking!