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Interview with Bryan Fazekas and Tim Stypinski of & Magazine

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I recently spoke with Bryan Fazekas, Editor in Chief of & Magazine and Tim Stypinski, Author of Castle Triskelion. We discussed the origins of the magazine and old school gaming in general.

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Michael Tresca (MT): How did & Magazine come about?

Bryan Fazekas (BF): I was an editor for Footprints and some other Dragonsfoot publications, including Len Lakofka's L4C and L5. Footprints went dormant during the summer of 2011 (I think), and I was wondering what to do to satisfy my creative urges. In October 2011 Nicole posted in the Yahoo group FirstEditionDnD, that she wanted to start an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) magazine. We discussed it and agreed to think more on it.

In early January 2012 I pinged her. I was interested in working on the project but didn't want to run it. We discussed it further and decided to do it. My writing partner Andrew came on board quickly. Jeremy and Ralph came on board through Nicole, and I can't recall how Andreas got involved, but he does maps for everyone so him being on board was no surprise.

We formulated our strategies, came up with a basic design, and banged issue 1 together in about 2 months, publishing Issue 1 in May 2012.

MT: We had Dungeon, we had Dragon -- does & play in the space between them?

BF: While our tagline is a play on words, honestly, we are more or less in the niche of The Dragon, TSR's old magazine. We publish articles, new monsters, new spells, new magic items, new maps, new adventures, etc.

The differences? The Dragon addressed all of TSR's games and included advertising. We focus primarily on AD&D, although most of our material is directly useful to players of OD&D, Holmes, Moldvay/Cook, BECMI, and 2E. Plus OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, and the other retro-clones. We include no advertising and as a zero profit organization our products are free.

During our first year we changed the group name from "& Magazine" to the "& Publishing Group". In addition to & Magazine we published two adventures and two supplements. We currently have several more supplements in production plus we host the Castle Triskelion, so we are diverse within our focus area.

Note: Readers not familiar with the above games can navigate to Wikipedia for reasonably accurate information:

MT: What gamer audience does & cater to?

BF: The short answer is AD&D. The longer answer is players of TSR-era D&D games and their retro-clones, which I listed above. Most of our material will translate easily into the other D&D games mentioned. Some of our material may be applicable to the newer D&D games produced by Wizards of the Coast, but I believe that will take more translation. I don't play those games so my knowledge is sketchy. We do not market to them.

MT: What is Castle Triskelion?

Tim Stypinski (TS): Castle Triskelion is the ancestral home of the degenerate but powerful Triskelion family, composed of powerful wizards and insane geniuses. It is also the place where they did research, experimented, buried their dead and imprisoned there enemies. A few years ago a great calamity struck the place, turning it into a madhouse of a mega-dungeon where riches and danger await.

MT: Why a mega-dungeon?

TS: I wanted a project that could combine creativity with making a very dangerous place to explore. I was inspired by the great dungeons of the past, like Blackmoor, Castle Greyhawk, and the Greenlands Dungeon.

MT: How many levels are planned for the mega-dungeon and how many issues will it take to cover it?

TS: There are 11 above-ground levels, if the grounds behind the Castle are included. So far I have listed about 18 dungeon levels, not including sub-levels, but there could be more.

BF: How many publications will be required to cover the material? LOTS! Each level will be a separate publication. In addition, new monsters, items, and non-adventure information will be published in stand-alone supplements. There are no firm plans on this, but my educated guess is that for every 3 levels there will be a new "stuff" publication. Given the current plans we will probably approach 40 publications.

MT: What character levels will the dungeon cover?

TS: I recommend starting the Castle at first level, although a mix of first and second level characters may be needed if they move off the Ground Level of the Outer Ward. It should be able to take characters up to level 18 or so, but that is just a projection. Really the sky is the limit.

BF: Like any good mega-dungeon, the campaign can be based entirely in and around the Castle. My understanding is that Gary Gygax ran the majority of his early campaigns in the Castle Greyhawk, which is one of Tim's inspirations for Triskelion.

MT: Any new monsters or magic items you can highlight?

TS: The most popular magic item from the blog is the Bone Whistle, a magical instrument that can summon a skeletal dog to be your servant. So far there are sixteen new monsters. My favorite so far is probably the talon goblins. These are chaotic evil miscreants who enjoy adopting the mannerisms of men, but who are prone to all manner of bizarre behavior, intrigue, and betrayal. They have their own fears and goals, short-sighted as they are. In keeping with mega-dungeon tradition it is quite possible to ally with the talon goblins or other factions in the dungeon.

BF: My personal favorite monsters from the Ground Level are the cadaver spider and the dementings. Good monsters to pit against 1st level characters are few and far between. These provide a good challenge for low level parties yet are less likely to slaughter the oh-so-fragile 1st level parties. The spider poison is debilitating but not deadly, and dementings (bat-like humanoids) are dangerous without being one-shot kills.

MT: What's planned for the future [of Castle Triskelion]?

TS: We will soon release the new few levels of the Outer Ward, the first building of the above-ground structure. After we have caught up to the blog, we will release the next levels as they are produced, with supplements for new monsters and magic items.

MT: Where can fans connect with the magazine?

BF:

Team members are active in a number of social media:

USENET

  • rec.games.frp.dnd
  • alt.games.adndfe
  • rec.games.frp.misc

MT: Anything else you'd like to add?

BF: A few facts about the team. The team is world-wide. Our current editorial team has 3 people in Canada (2 east and 1 west), 7 in the USA (east coast to Hawaii), 1 in Germany, 1 in the UK, and 1 in Australia. Our regular artists live in all these locations plus the UK. With a few exceptions, the team has never met in person nor spoken on the phone. We do all our work via email and DropBox. Our native-English speaking authors, so far, hail from Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA. We made the decision up front to leave spellings in the author's native dialect, so spellings differ from article to article.

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