This is the first in a series of posts analyzing the first issue of Fight On! Magazine, the premier magazine for the Old School Revival in role playing. Calithena and Ignatius Imlaut release Fight On! quarterly, and it is the best bang for your buck going. To my knowledge, there has been no serious in depth review of the 'zine. In the posts to follow, I will examine each article, what it contains in general terms, my reactions to it, what use I am likely to make of it and why (or why not), and other assorted ramblings I wish to share.
I will avoid addressing sentences with "In my opinion"; this entire series will be my opinion on the articles. In interests of full disclosure, I am an occasional contributor to this periodical. I have a bias towards data and away from pictures - a picture seems to be a cop out from having to fill the page with useful material! The magazine is available in PDF and in print; my review will be on the PDF copy I have. Feel free to comment on these posts!
I will begin my "Cover to Cover" series with "the cover" (duh). The cover of any item is one of my exceptions about the utility of graphics. The cover is the first thing you see on a book or magazine, and has to make the right impression so that its target audience will take a closer look.
This cover is bang on. The bold, clear, bright green, old-school font (reminiscent of early Dungeons & Dragons) leaps out at the reader, and will be recognizable to any who played D&D in the 70's. The large, black-and-white line drawing of a fighter with raised sword has the clean lines associated with the original white box, and early Judges Guild illustrations. Again, the magazine flaunts its old-school cred - the fighter wears a helmet, there are no spikes on the armor, and the sword looks tantalizingly like a rune sword.
For those lucky enough to have the original boxed set (which I picked up for $8 back in the mid-80's), the homage is even clearer. On the last page of Book 3, there is E. Gary Gygax's afterword, and at the bottom of the page is a fighter with raised sword and the caption "FIGHT ON!". Fight On! magazine is in effect promising a spiritual rebirth of the same attitudes that spawned the original Dungeons & Dragons. What is nice is that the quality of the cover artwork is a step up from the artwork in the original book, which was average at best, and childishly crappy at worst. This promises well for the rest of the magazine.
The secondary parts of the cover are the subtitle and the picture caption. The subtitle proclaims "a fanzine for the old school renaissance". Again, this is a clear mission statement. It knows who its audience is. The picture caption then makes a nicely subversive statement: "for Fantasy Role Playing Campaigns played with Pencil, Paper, and Your Imagination". There is no mention of dice, of story, of character development, or of rules. The editors have cut to the core of what makes old school roleplaying so great, so inclusive, yet sometimes bewildering.
The cover then finishes off with the pedestrian notices "Issue #1" and "Spring 2008". This is a promising sign that there will be a summer issue, and the magazine will be an ongoing, viable entity.
In all, I think the cover is just perfectly suited to appeal to its target audience, and portrays a professional and intelligent outlook by the editors. Well done sirs!