& Magazine is a quarterly magazine published in electronic format that (from the magazine’s website) concentrates on “ideas, perspectives, entertainment, thought-provoking articles and game aids for both the player and the dungeon master”, primarily for AD&D. Each issue is centered around a common theme.
How it Looks
I looked at the latest issue #7 of & Magazine (PDF download), which has a theme of ‘Inner Planes’ and weighs in at about 90 pages. The table of contents is there as expected, and is hyperlinked, a nice touch (I noticed it was not in previous issues, so that is a change for the better). The layout is standard two-column, with plenty of original, quality art and excellent editing.
This issue started with a note on the artists and artwork, a few pages from the publisher, and a list of the new magic items that can be found in the current issue. The list of magic items is something I might find useful if I were searching back issues looking for something I had seen but couldn’t quite remember where, so this is a thoughtful addition. Then a quick two pages on the various Internet resources relating to the magazine, and onto the content!
In & Magazine, there are regular columns, bonus articles, and features. The latter are focused on the issue’s theme. In this issue, there are two feature articles, one on adventuring in the elemental planes, and one that details elementals, re-envisioned as more powerful entities with full command of their given element.
The first feature, titled “You want to do WHAT??? Adventuring on the Elemental Planes” is by Bryan Fazekas and is chock-full of great ideas for how to handle adventures in the strange planar environs. This seven or so pages touches on everything a player or DM might need to play in or setup an adventure on any of the elemental planes. The author mentions TSR’s “Manual of the Planes” as also being a detailed resource, but as not being well-liked as far as the direction it took the game in. I can’t comment on that, as it’s the one AD&D book I never bought, but maybe that in itself confirms the author’s statements. In any case, this is a nice, concise resource.
The next feature. “Elemental Expansion and True Elementals” was written by Andrew Hamilton and as I noted above, provides a more realistic set of options for earth, air, fire and water elementals. As the author rightly points out, the elementals detailed in the AD&D Monster Manual don’t really describe creatures in total control of their named elements. As he says, “I wanted an earth elemental that shakes the ground as it moves, reshapes earth & stone, makes stone walls or columns erupt out of the ground and makes stone flow like water.” Sounds like a great concept to me, one that would make for an interesting encounter as a player. The article delivers on that score.
There are a few bonus articles in this issue. There is an article by Len Lakofka detailing the Archer/Archer-Ranger PC classes, an intriguing article by Nicole Massey on how to incorporate elements from the original Doom video game into your AD&D campaign, true to this issue’s theme by enviisoning it as a separate plane of existence (my next PC absolutely must have a BFG9000…). There is an article by John Fredericks on saving throw rationale and mechanics, and an interview with Vince Florio, one of the hosts on the Roll For Initiative podcast. All are well-written and interesting.
There are quite a few recurring columns in & Magazine – “Creature Features” (new monsters), “Spell Caster’s Paradise” (new spells), “The Toybox” (new weapons or magic items), “Domiciles & Emporia” (new shops and shopkeepers), and of course one-page dungeons and longer adventures, complete with maps. New magic items are sprinkled throughout. I really enjoyed reading the Creature Feature articles, these are new monsters, but several of these are presented as short stories that introduce the creature and its capabilities, a nice change from the dry description-followed-by-stat-block format you typically see. As a reader, I’d love to see more presented in this way (the description and stat blocks are still there, of course, the creatures are just more interesting to read about in story form). The art here is excellent, this is one of the new creatures, a Sindh drawn by Del Teigeler:
A “For Further Reading” section rounds out the list of regular columns, this gives a helpful list of online and printed resources on each issue’s main theme.
There is much more to like in & Magazine – even if you don’t particularly care about an issue’s central topic, there is enough variety in each issue to keep a reader interested. I’m eagerly going through the back issues now, looking for tidbits I can use in my own games. I should say that even though I’m not currently playing AD&D, it won’t be too much trouble to adapt this material to Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, or any of the old-school fantasy systems or retro-clones. There isn’t really anything I didn’t like about & Magazine, I found it to be well-produced, carefully edited, useful and visually appealing. The fact that this is all free is icing on the cake – I would gladly pay for this content, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Having these available as POD would be nice, but I understand why this is kept free and in electronic format. The publisher, Nicole Massey, actually addresses this in her column and says “So, when is & going to start charging for our issues?
We’re not planning on it….We do this for the love of the game, giving back, and functioning in a highly creative environment where ideas just drop out of the foliage on a constant basis”. Keep up the good work, &. I’ll keep reading.