Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fight On! #4 in PDF

Issue #4 of Fight On! is now available in PDF. You can purchase it here. Issue #4 is dedicated to the memory of Dave Hargrave, creator of the Arduin Grimoire and, by all accounts, one of the greatest referees in the history of the hobby. Clocking in at 122 pages, there's a lot of superb material to be found within, including my own contribution to the megadungeon, "The Darkness Beneath," in which the Thelidu play an important part. Biased though I am, I think it's well worth picking up if you're looking for some gonzo old school fun.


  1. Thanks for the shout out, James. There are something like 8 adventures in this issue. Anyway, keep up the good work hereabouts!

    - "Calithena"

  2. gonzo old school fun

    This term interests me. It's also one that's open to broad definitions, to be sure. I'd like to hear your thoughts, cogent and otherwise, on how a "gonzo" approach fits in with old-school gaming.

    Word verification: emunalic (I must assume this pertains to one whose actions or gestures emulate those of an emu).

  3. Hi Lance -

    Here's Greg Stafford on one of Dave Hargrave's adventures:

    "Dave was a local gamemaster and, frankly, one of the best. He could narrate really well, keeping just enough suspense and surprise to make everyone enjoy it. He had a regular group he played with and they got to umpty-ump levels of power. I remember one of my friends telling me about the climax of an adventure wherein they were in a bolo tank fighting off Smaug and Shelob. I think that was the one where the player, Rory Root who owns a local comic store now, rolled three or five criticals in a row and destroyed the monsters and brought the entire umpty-levels of the dungeon crashing down on them all."

    To me a gonzo game will generally be either high level or else have relatively easy access to game-bending powers or items a lower levels, will feature substantial weird fantasy/horror/science-fantasy aspects, and will probably have some stuff in it taken from various genre literatures. All of this stuff was very easy to get to with OD&D - you pretty much just had to make it up and put it in, which was easy with simpler rules, and there were some 'gonzo' elements even in the core TSR products - and maybe not as easy to get to with later systems, except with particular built-in gonzotypes such as one might find in e.g. Exalted.

    I wouldn't say there's actually that much Full On Old School Powergaming Gonzo in FO! #4 - there's a nice high-level module in a more traditional framework by Matthew Riedel, and there are mods with gonzo elements by several contributors (including James and yours truly), but we actually haven't gone 'over the top' to the degree I used to see it as much as we might.

    Kitchen Sink is what is left over when the Gonzo has receded.

    That said, gonzo doesn't equal good, and I don't even play that way very often any more. But it was definitely part of the old school scene - it was the cool aspect of what was sometimes referred to as 'power gaming' or 'monty haul', along with strong pulp and pastiche sensibilities.

    I defer to Jeff Rients in general on the matter of Gonzo, since I consider him the foremost expert on it. S. John Ross' game Encounter Critical is a good recent gonzo game, and you can look back to stuff like SenZar as well.

  4. Sean, thanks for the summary, which encompassed the term on the many levels I suspected it might. One of the reasons I can't fully seat myself at the old-school table is, among other things, my lack of interest in genre mashups and in-game elements that disturb the suspension of my disbelief. I enjoy such games as one-offs at cons, but for the long haul, I prefer a more "grounded" campaign environment and an agreed-upon consistency of theme.

  5. There are plenty of old-schoolers who don't like gonzo, Lance. There's nothing more old-school than medieval/Tolkien-obsessed immersionists, just for starters. Hating science fiction in your fantasy is just as old school as loving it.

    But anyway, the important thing is to have fun. Even if you don't want to take a seat at the table, the buffet's open to passing grazers as well!

  6. I think Sean's hit most of the major points re: gonzo. For myself, I don't see gonzo as being an essential component for anything to be called "old school." I myself am pretty straight-laced when it comes to such things.

    However, I think it's vital to recall that gonzo is very much in the DNA of old school, even if it's reduced to an atavism in many people's preferences. My feeling is that the old school renaissance in particular needs healthy doses of gonzo in order to avoid becoming too stuffy -- a very real danger of which I'm acutely aware.

  7. I have been waiting for the PDF version. Thanks for the heads up!

  8. Don't forget Dr. Rotwang!, people; he is the other patron saint of gonzo beside the talented Mr. Rients.

    The pieces in Fight On! #4 weren't so over the top; if anything, they have it in tha background as inspiration, but the craziness has been dialed back to a more sedate level. I think that's not a bad compromise.

  9. I think that's not a bad compromise.

    I agree. As I said, I'm not a naturally gonzo referee or player, but I do appreciate the energy that style of play brings to old school gaming, so I take inspiration from it here and there. I'm just not constitutionally well suited to embrace it wholeheartedly. However, I can't dismiss it either, since it's every bit a part of the hobby's heritage as is the more serious stuff.