Issue 1 of Knockspell was an excellent kick-off for this magazine devoted primarily to supporting Mythmere Games' Swords & Wizardry. Issue 2 builds on the virtues of its immediate predecessor by expanding its page count (t0 86 pages, up from 61) and improving on its presentation. In addition, this issue sees the announcement that Knockspell will now be the "official" magazine for OSRIC, as well as for S&W, although Matt Finch states in his Editor's Note that he doesn't "like the word 'official.' Don’t look for any offi cial rules or official anything else to be coming out of this magazine, but you can expect to see more 1e material starting to show up in these pages as we continue to expand the magazine’s scope." Such a statement is nothing new in the old school community, of course, but it's always good to see this philosophical point restated, as it's at the core of the Old Ways it hopes to revive.
As I noted above, the presentation of this issue is a vast improvement over that of the first one. That's almost certainly due to Jeff Preston's coming on board as art director for Knockspell. Everything looks a great deal more polished than it did in issue 1 but without losing that hobbyist quality that's so essential to the appeal of endeavors like this. The interior illustrations are terrific, with many old hands like James Holloway and Liz Danforth joining the best of the new generation of old school artists. The color cover by Peter Fitzpatrick, depicting an adventurer being lowered down into a forgotten ruin, is inspiring and nicely sets the tone for this issue, a good portion of which is devoted to the thief character class.
Given how much material is packed within its 86 pages, it'd be impossible to comment on it all in any reasonably-sized blog post. Therefore, here are some of the issue's highlights in my opinion:
- Allan Grohe's discussion of "dungeon dressing," using the example of doors and how they can be used in different ways.
- Jason "Philotomy Jurament" Cone's expansion of his superb essay on "The Dungeon as Mythic Underworld."
- Four alternate thief classes for Swords & Wizardry, two each for the Core Rules and White Box versions of the game, plus an additional one in an interesting article task resolution in S&W.
- Another fine Fomalhaut adventure by Gabor Lux.
- Interviews with Stuart Marshall, Chris Gonnerman, Dan Proctor, and Matt Finch, where they each talk about the retro-clone games they've created.
- Michael Curtis offers up an amazing article on "Dungeon Oddities" that has already inspired me as I continue to work on my Dwimmermount megadungeon.
- Spell Complexity rules inspired by the fantasy supplement to Chainmail.
- An Arnesonian magic system.
- Many new magic items and creatures.
Issue 2 of Knockspell really does exemplify Mythmere Games' tagline "Imagine the Hell Out of It." For $10.15, you get an impressive amount of imagination, to be used as-is or to inspire your own creativity. I'm not exaggerating to say that this issue reminded me of Dragon during its Golden Age height. What we have here is a hobbyist periodical that manages to walk that fine line between amateur and professional that I consider the "sweet spot" for old school products. This isn't something thrown together in a slapdash fashion nor is it a slick and soulless cash grab. It is, I think, a textbook example of just what hobbyists can do nowadays, given the technology currently available.
Knockspell #2 thus sets a very high bar for its future issues and for future old school products in general -- something about which I doubt anyone can complain.
Presentation: 8 out of 10
Creativity: 8 out of 10
Utility: 7 out of 10
Buy This If: You're looking a terrific collection of articles to inspire your old school fantasy adventures and campaigns.
Don't Buy This If: You've already got all the inspiration you need.