As with the previous two issues, number 3 is available in both print and PDF formats. The issue is slightly cheaper than both the previous ones, while its page count (68) is more than issue 1 but less than issue 2. The layout and interior art continue to be of the same high quality we saw in issue 2 and Peter Mullen's cover is nicely evocative. Knockspell is most definitely not an amateur periodical and, while it's still far from being as slick and "professional" as, say, Kobold Quarterly, it very favorably compares to Dragon at its height, both in terms of presentation and content.
And what content! I am consistently amazed at the old school community's ability to produce new material that excites my imagination, even after 30 years of gaming. Issue 3 contains a number of excellent pieces:
- Allan Grohe's "The Theory and Use of Gates in Campaign Dungeons" is superb, both in its own right and because of its solid grounding in the great literature on the subject to be found in the hobby's past.
- Akrasia's "Pulp Heroes and the Colors of Magic" offers up some swords-and-sorcery style magic and damage rules for use with Swords & Wizardry (or any other old school fantasy RPG).
- John Vogel gives us a fun little chariot racing mini-game compatible with S&W.
- Tim Kask writes another trenchant editorial, "Blame It on the Players," in which he diagnoses where the hobby/industry went off the tracks. I expect it to be every bit as controversial as his last piece on the subject.
- Scot Hoover's "Black Armor, Black Heart" presents an anti-paladin NPC class for use with OSRIC. As with his Necromancer class from the previous issue, Hoover has done a fine job in bringing an old school classic to life in a slightly new form.
- Gabor Lux presents "The City of Vultures," a city from his Fomalhaut campaign world.
- There are several fun random generators, including one devoted to ruins.
- Jon Hershberger gives us a look at "The Planes: Playgrounds of the Rich and Powerful," which provides the nuts and bolts of planar travel for use with S&W.
- There are also new monsters, including the jin, a collection of genie-like races.
- And there's not one but three new adventures, my favorite of which was "Labyrinth Tomb of the Minotaur Lord" by R. Lawrence Blake, but then I've always had a soft spot for labyrinths (and minotaurs).
That's not to suggest that all -- or even most -- of its contents march in lockstep to a Gygaxian tune, but Knockspell's content is not as varied or as whimsical as that of Fight On! That's not a criticism, both because my own take on fantasy is Gygaxian in inspiration and because I think the old school community is strengthened by having different publications, each with its own perspective and style. That said, I think Knockspell has more to offer fans of "traditional" fantasy roleplaying than those who prefer wilder, more eccentric takes on the genre. Knockspell is much more conservative, even staid, in its approach and that's fine by me. The hobby needs an unyielding "anchor" that resists the currents of faddishness in fantasy and Knockspell looks to be assuming that role and I'm very glad of it.
Presentation: 9 out of 10
Creativity: 8 out of 10
Utility: 6 out of 10
Buy This If: You're looking for your fix of largely Gygaxian gaming goodness to inspire you.
Don't Buy This If: Your tastes run to more exotic styles of fantasy.