Wednesday, May 20, 2015

& Magazine Issue 11

Would you want to drink a beer with this guy?

& Magazine
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& Magazine is primarily devoted to 1st Edition AD&D, but a great deal of the content can be ported over to any other edition and quite a few other systems without too much trouble. There are a good variety of maps, monsters, scenarios and more in every issue and it just keeps getting better.

Issue 11 of & Magazine is devoted to Humanoids, with four feature articles focusing on goblinoids, orcs and humanoid societies with two bonus articles that explore an alternative non-spell-casting version of the Ranger class and a look at the extended family of Sphinxes. Then you get a bunch of maps, numerous magical items, spells (including Kobold spells), an examination of the Ogre Mage (with a follow-up piece discussing undead ogre mages), a couple of mini-adventures and a hexcrawl, plus a recipe for 'fusion chicken.'

First off, the two TSR-Blue maps by M. W. Poort/Fingolwyn could easily get added onto B2: Keep on the Borderlands or one of the other classic modules. A DM can always use nice maps of small castles or keeps. Good stuff.

There are some pretty decent magic items sprinkled throughout the pages of this issue. The Portable Tunnel in particular is a nifty magic item and could open up some interesting alternative adventuring opportunities.

Getting More Mileage From Goblinoids presents a way to break past the lingering impression that goblins, etc. are simply dumb brutes. I rarely run these creatures as dummies, but quite a lot of people do, so this article might help change a few minds...or not. Personally, I am not a fan of lumping all creatures of a specific type, say Ettins for example, into one fixed category in terms of overall intelligence. Sure, a large number of them might be of low intelligence, but there could be a few exceptions...otherwise it begins to make one wonder just how these things could ever survive. In my experience, the dumber monsters can be fun from time to time, either as comedic relief or  a distraction, but the more intelligent things are the most frightening. They set traps, learn from previous encounters, and sometimes decide to get pro-active and hunt down those filthy adventurers that have been harassing their folk. But that's just an opinion, based on a particular approach and play-style, and by no means the only option, nor even necessarily the best. This article offers an approach worth considering and hopefully it will spark some discussion or equally well thought-out feedback. There's certainly plenty of room for alternative approaches and other ideas and it would be interesting to see some sort of follow-up to this piece that explored this matter from another perspective.

Humanoid Society offers some good insights as to why the various goblinoids have shamans or witchdoctors, how their societies are structured and what makes them able to continue operating, let alone competing with the other societies. Mr. L also does a good job of addressing the often misunderstood Alignment aspect of these (and many other) creatures. Chaotic isn't necessarily stupid and evil beings still have to raise their young and eat regularly if they're going to survive. The expanded information for handling Leaders as well as the new spells for shamans and witchdoctors are pretty useful.

Points of View offers up two pages of ideas for freshening-up a game with a number of examples drawn from world history, biology and Star Trek. New DMs and worldbuilders might particularly find this a helpful jumping-off point for some inspiration.

Reviving the Lowly Orc presents two new variant-versions of orcs that are a little bit different. Both versions are interesting, and are presented alongside some suggestions for tactics and ideas for integrating these critters into an ongoing campaign. The Bloodcaps are a more elite sort of warrior-orc, while the Soul-bound orcs would really fit in well alongside the other servants and followers of an unscrupulous necromancer or the like, especially with their built-in 'advancement-through-fratricide' quality. The right person, in the right place at the right time could really stir up some serious trouble with these creatures...and they provide a great challenge for a bard of all things. A bard might get them to kill their fellows in order to grow more powerful, which could be a good short-term solution...but would then lead to a bigger, stronger monster to deal with afterwards. Good stuff.

The variant Ranger class drops the spells and expands on their tracking ability, offering a set of modifiers to handle nearly any terrain and the most obvious environmental factors. This version is a little beefier as well, making it a fighter who hunts more than a mystical woodsmen. If you don't like letting Rangers use spells, then it's worth taking a look at this alternative approach.

The Extended Family of Sphinxes article was another high-point to this issue. Integrating the Lamia, Lammasu, Manticore, Shedu all into the Sphinx family tree is a great idea, The Apsasu and Umbral sphinx are nice additions to the group as well. Are Lammacores and Shedua far behind?

Creature Feature focuses on the Ecology of the Ogre Magi, including the undead version. Part One begins with some entertaining fiction, then gets into the nitty-gritty details of converting the 'off the shelf' version of the ogre magi into a slightly more refined and elegant creature, the Oni. This is a nice revision to a classic beast and opens up some good opportunities for nefarious plots and so forth--the Oni could give the Rakshasa a run for their money. A covert shadow-war between gangs being manipulated behind the scenes by Oni and Rakshasa masters could make for some interesting adventures.

There is a 2-page piece describing an Ogre Berserker Company...and it is pretty good. It also includes an undead ogre berserker, just in case, like for those special occasions when extreme undead ogre mayhem is called for.

Leomund's Long Coats was one of my personal favorite articles in the entire issue. These are some very useful magic items that players are going to demand once they read about them.

Spell-Caster's Paradise I & II reveal some nasty-useful Kobold Shaman spells and a magic item that can be used to unlock a series of new, variant versions of some classic spells.

Tactical Magic expands upon Appendix P from the DMG in order to build a more robust and varied process for randomly rolling-up spells and magic items for pre-gen (or other) characters. There are some good ideas here, and it's an interesting piece, building on the bones of the DMG to create something useful.

Brewmaster: Games Within Games presents a few new games of chance to try out the next time your party of adventurers heads over to the local tavern.

Blues for a Red Sun is an interesting scenario centered upon a small ruined temple in an oasis. Boalisks, sandmen, and some wicked undead creatures lurk beneath the sands. I could see swapping-out the main antagonists for mummies, especially spell-casting mummies, to make it even nastier...but it is pretty challenging as-is. Oh, and this is part of a larger complex, so I'd definitely like to see what happens in the next installment.

The Grym Grove features a faerie circle, needlemen, 'grym trolls,' freshwater skrags and a dracolich. It all hangs together pretty well and could easily serve as the backbone of a series of adventures for a group trying to track down whatever happened to that badly wounded green dragon no one has seen in a while. A few rumors, a cranky sage or scholar who is convinced that the dragon is in fact deceased and that its amassed treasure is just waiting to get looted, and this all clicks right into place.

Two Shores and Torjetty Regions are a pair of hexes lifted from the author's campaign and presented as something you can either adopt or adapt as you will. The maps for each of the hexes are hand-drawn in colored pencil, which reminded me of Tim Short's Random Maps over at Gothridge Manor...maybe Tim might consider contributing one of his maps to these guys in the future. I think that would be cool.

There are a few variant potions and a recipe for 'fusion chicken,' which I just might have to try out. How many RPG-zines contain recipes? I think & Magazine is unique in this respect.

The For Further Reading section in  the back is a nice idea...I don't do Facebook, so it wasn't particularly useful for me, but I'm sure it will come in handy for someone else who wanders through that particular digital walled garden. The follow-up section details all the places and spaces out on the web where you can locate or connect with the & Magazine producers and community. They're all over the place...

Okay. So that's a quick run down on everything that is in this issue. There's a lot of good stuff in there, and it's all free, so go download a copy!


  1. Nice to see a look at & Magazine. It is a quality staff doing things for free for the good of gamers.

    1. I reviewed Issue 9 a while back. It's a good zine and packed with usable/adaptable content, and it is hard to argue with free.

  2. Nice to see a look at & Magazine. It is a quality staff doing things for free for the good of gamers.

  3. Cool review. This is the best issue of & magazine to date. I am especially fond of Bryan's article about the Ogre Berserker Company.

    1. I agree. I really liked this issue. The zine is constantly improving. The Ogre Berserker Company is a great article. I liked the one about sphinxes and Lakofka's piece on the societies of humanoids was something I wish had appeared back in the early days of AD&D...there's some very good stuff in this issue.

  4. I don't think I saw this review when it came out. Thanks so much!
    Be well,


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