Game: Gaming Frontiers: 1
Publisher: United Playtest
Series: Gaming Frontiers
Review Dated: 20th, February 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 11
Average Score: 5.50
I had been waiting with barely restrained enthusiasm ever since it became clear that GameWyrd was going to receive a review copy of the magazine. I’d caught sight of Gaming Frontiers in my local shop a few days before my own copy arrived and I only just resisted the urge to sneak a peek. I left the shop wondering whether Gaming Frontiers really was a magazine or whether it was actually a book! That question is addressed within the first couple of pages by the “magazine” itself.
This is issue one. The first. I gather there was a preview Premier copy that Gen Con and Origins attendees got their grubby mitts on, but Volume 1 has a special air about it. Even if the publication had turned out to be below par (which, thankfully, it certainly is not) it would have been a prize for acute collectors.
Gaming Frontiers is too big and glossy to really count as a magazine – that’s why you can find it here listed among the other RPG book reviews. Besides “roleplaying magazines” always remind me of black and white periodicals that serve to fill the gaps between adverts with errata after errata for newly published books that you don’t even have, token rule offerings (many of which appear in an improved form in later official supplements) and quickly thrown together adventure ideas. Gaming Frontiers is none of this, the issue bulges with entirely new content, previews that seem to stretch to whole chapters from the forthcoming book (rather than just the front cover) and absolutely wonderful artwork. At over a hundred and thirty pages of full colour, Gaming Frontiers is bigger than many of the d20 supplements it covers.
There are three decent adventures. The Tomb of Obrosh from Skeleton Key Games is the dungeon crawl the name implies. It’s short but well written, just the sort of thing you’d hope to find from a publication like Gaming Frontiers when you know you’ve not written enough for tonight’s game and need something to distract your players. The Grand Temple of Jing from Hammerdog Games is a lesson in teamwork (and for 4th to 6th level characters – just when they’re starting to get cocky). It seems somewhat shallow to pause on the way the monster stats are presented for this adventure but I’ll do it nonetheless. The statistics blocks really are clear and crisp summaries of the required stats, they’re not a tiny paragraph of the highlights though; you’ll find the Face and Reach of monsters, for example, at a glance here. The last adventure (which are spread throughout the book) comes from Guildhouse Games and by its presence alone introduces an entire d20 company to me which had hitherto escaped my attention. I may use “Veiled Threat” myself in the game I’m planning since it seems to make good use of the Arabic feel that I think has long been underplayed.
Everywhere you look you’ll find a prestige class. Gaming Frontier’s offers up two more. The Skval is a Norse water warrior, its set very much in traditional Nordic myths and simply screams out a must-have for people using a fantasy setting similar but might suffer in others. The Ehtzara prestige character class is something of a teaser for the Arcanis world from Paradigm Concepts. As a magic using prestige class it comes with a spell list and a spells-per-day table. It gets special bonus credits from this reviewer by including a list of taboos that the prestige class might adhere to – at last, a prestige class that’s more than a shameless power-up!
I’ve already mentioned the all-new material from d20 writers that you’ll find in Gaming Frontiers, they extend their collection to include outtakes and exclusive excerpts too. While nosing around the Gaming Frontier’s website I noticed that those companies which offer up content to the magazine get a special rate on their advertising – I hope it works, I really enjoyed this “Uncharted Territory” section. The Brotherhood of the Twenty Axes is an excerpt from the Seven Avengers Saga from 0one Roleplaying Games (That’s “zero”one). The Brotherhood is a clerical one and the class is well written, I’m not sure how much use it’ll see in your games unless you’re willing to adopt their patron too, however, you can download Heroes and Magic from 0one’s website. I’m going to wait and watch to see whether anything more about them appears in future issues of Gaming Frontiers. Privateer Press offer you access to the seedy “The Falling Star”, a watering hole in Corvis, City of Ghosts from the Iron Kingdoms setting. The illustrator Matt Wilson should get a pay raise for his excellent work here. Sections like this really hammer home how good a glossy, full colour “magazine” can be. Sands of Death really helped to push Mongoose Publishing into the limelight. You’ll find a list and table of special events that might occurring during the run of the mini-game in Sands of Death (note to self: must buy). Everything from disease to bribery might strike but with a roll of 5 or 6 and the “grateful attentions” resulting effect being a nightly visit from a noble man or woman to one of your gladiators I couldn’t but help think the Sands of Death can be rather more seedy than the Falling Star (back in Corvis) where bartender is likely to pull your arm off if you were to make a similar move on one of his serving girls. One of my favourite sections was the few pages given over to the Fisher on the Lake of Souls from Atlas Games. It’s appearance is an encore from the preview copy of Gaming Frontiers but I’m glad it’s here.
I mentioned that the preview sections seemed to stretch to entire chapters from games. I feel as if I could run a game on Dinosaur Planet (Goodman Games). There are rules, background information, the Bronco Rider character class and even a half dozen full-page dinosaurs detailed in full. Huzzah. Every GM should chase his players around with a dinosaur at least once. There’s a whole bunch of stuff from Codex Germania (Troll Lord Games) on the Draugr. The Draugr is a Nordic spirit and it’s about time it has seen RPG print since it’s probably the source of the word “Drow”. Cunningly, the editor places the Nordic Skval prestige class right after this preview. There’s a detailed interview with Rob Kuntz, author of Codex Germania, as well – something do with him helping to create the original Dungeons and Dragons.
In three different sections you’re treated to a sampling of snacky missile weapons from Thunderhead Games (A GameWyrd Mark of Approval winner), an introduction to Black Arrow Games’ Interstellar Journeys and four exclusive minions from Bastion Press. Readers of GameWyrd’s reviews will know I’m a big fan of Minions.
Have I forgotten anything? Oh yes, I have. What about three different stories? Wages of Sin from Mystic Eye Games, The Tale of Grakis from Bard’s Productions (wonderfully living up to its publisher’s name by being written in prose) and finally No Tears in Freeport from Green Ronin Press. There’s more too. Rule suggestions for adding luck to your game, reviews (decent reviews – not these 100 word wonders), cartoons and a very impressive gallery of art in the Frameworks.
In conclusion, if you can afford it – buy Gaming Frontiers. If you can’t afford it see if a friend or two are willing to chip in and then pass it around. Traditionally the next couple of issues will be the most shaky for any new publication and so I’m going from waiting with baited breath for volume one to waiting with trepidation for volume two.