Tales from the Magician’s Skull Issue No. 0

Tales from the Magicians’s Skull is a periodical, published by Goodman Games, focusing on Swords & Sorcery fiction. This presents contents from Issue No. 0.

Tales from the Magician's Skull Issue No. 0
Tales from the Magician’s Skull Issue No. 0

Tales from the Magicians’s Skull is a periodical, published by Goodman Games, focusing on Swords & Sorcery in the vein of “Appendix N” authors. It is inspired by classic pulp magazines, like Weird Fantasy. It was initially funded via Kickstarter. Issue No. 1 was released a few months ago (PDF) and issue No. 2 was recently published in print and PDF. No. 3 is in the works. Unfortunately, that kickstarter was just prior, to me realizing what this whole “Appendix N” thing is/was or finally taking the advice of Hankerin’ to read DCC RPG.

I may create another post specifically reviewing the regular magazine, but this is a post focused on Issue No. 0. You also might see it referred to as “Special” since that’s what’s printed on the cover. This small magazine was given out to backers of the kickstarter who pledged at the Legion of the Skull level. And, let me tell you, I’m very disappointed I missed that. It’s exactly the kind of thing that I love to see happen in Kickstarters. Snooze you lose!

I happened upon No. 0 when Goodman Games published on their blog that they found a bunch of limited edition stuff when cleaning out their warehouse up in Fort Wayne. No promises by the time you read this, but it’s currently still in stock. Maybe it’ll get listed on eBay from time to time?

This issue is mostly a collection of essays that were published as public updates to the Kickstarter. It is 22 pages (including the front and back cover) with some classic DCC RPG style illustrations by Ian MillerBrad McDevitt, and 3 illustrations from an artist that I can’t determine (maybe Michael Wilson?)

The short story is a quick and interesting read. I don’t happen to know the author (yet). I get the impression that the main character, Hanuvar, is a recurring character in other stories? He’s a cool guy, is a badass, does a heroic thing and saves a girl. I’d call it a story reminiscent of REH Conan, and certainly in the vein of Pulp S&S fantasy (IMHO). I’m simple. I like these kind of stories!

The essays are certainly interesting. The first one, “Defining Sword & Sorcery”, I think, does a very good job of exactly that. At least, I learned something from it. A couple essays are Excellent jumping points to other authors/books that I’m already making a list to check out. Other essays are just some thoughts on the genre, and others probably give some good advice to an aspiring author…. or to DMs? I think so. I’m gonna mull these over tonight.

In the Table of Contents listed below, the title links to the Kickstarter update. The exception is the single short story titled, “The Way of Serpents” that is exclusive to this print magazine. So, in that way, the entire contents (minus illustrations) is public domain.

Tales From the Magician's Skull No. 0 Foreward
Tales From the Magician’s Skull No. 0 Foreward

Table of Contents:

Tales From the Magician's Skull No. 0 Back Cover
Tales From the Magician’s Skull No. 0 Back Cover

Smoking: Sutliff Aged Maduro Cavendish

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10 Years ago on Grognardia

I think it is interesting to read the first 4 posts on Grognardia. Quite prescient 10 years ago.

Starting with “What’s A Grognard?” is important to set a certain stage, that is the wisdom brought to the table by the experienced within a culture.

Then on to “Pulp Fantasy D&D” and “What is Pulp Fantasy?” details the increased desire to incorporate Appendix N influences when playing tabletop RPGs. However, these were posted in early 2008, (a month after Gary Gygax passed away BTW) and this is still a hot topic.

Lastly, in “D&D in the NewsJM totally calls the fate of 4e and sets the stage for (why I believe) 5e becomes a success despite all the other potential escapist distractions. That is, by returning to some of the core roots of D&D in earlier iterations. The one irony in this may be the same technology which brought an alternative fantasy escapism (and signaled a downfall of tabletop RPGs), the PC and the internet, have served 5e quite well in the form of virtual tabletops, Twitch, and YouTube which perform quite well with lighter versions of D&D.

Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading

APPENDIX N:

INSPIRATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL READING

Inspiration for all of the fantasy work I have done stems directly from the love my father showed when I was a lad, for he spent many hours telling me stories he made up as he went along, tales of cloaked old men who could grant wishes, of magic rings and enchanted swords, or wicked sorcerers and dauntless swordsmen. Then too, countless hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC ones certainly had their effect. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies were a big influence. In fact, all of us tend to get ample helpings of fantasy when we are very young, from fairy tales such as those written by the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang. This often leads to reading books of mythology, paging through bestiaries, and consultation of compilations of the myths of various lands and peoples. Upon such a base I built my interest in fantasy, being an avid reader of all science fiction and fantasy literature since 1950. The following authors were of particular inspiration to me. In some cases I cite specific works, in others, I simply recommend all their fantasy writing to you. From such sources, as well as just about any other imaginative writing or screenplay you will be able to pluck kernels from which grow the fruits of exciting campaigns. Good reading!

Inspirational Reading:

Anderson, Poul. THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH CRUSADE; THE BROKEN SWORD

Bellairs, John. THE FACE IN THE FROST

Brackett, Leigh.

Brown, Fredric.

Burroughs, Edgar Rice. “Pellucidar” Series; Mars Series; Venus Series

Carter, Lin. “World’s End” Series

de Camp, L. Sprague. LEST DARKNESS FALL; FALLIBLE FIEND; et al.

de Camp & Pratt. “Harold Shea” Series; CARNELIAN CUBE

Derleth, August.

Dunsany, Lord.

Farmer, P. J. “The World of the Tiers” Series; et al.

Fox, Gardner. “Kothar” Series; “Kyrik” Series; et al.

Howard, R. E. “Conan” Series

Lanier, Sterling. HIERO’S JOURNEY

Leiber, Fritz. “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” Series; et al.

Lovecraft, H. P.

Merritt, A. CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE; et al.

Moorcock, Michael. STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon” Series (esp. the first three books)

Norton, Andre.

Offutt, Andrew J., editor SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III.

Pratt, Fletcher, BLUE STAR; et al.

Saberhagen, Fred. CHANGELING EARTH; et al.

St. Clair, Margaret. THE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS

Tolkien, J. R. R. THE HOBBIT; “Ring Trilogy”

Vance, Jack. THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al.

Weinbaum, Stanley.

Wellman, Manly Wade.

Williamson, Jack.

Zelazny, Roger. JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” Series; et al.

The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, REH, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, HPL, and A. Merritt; but all of the above authors, as well as many not listed, certainly helped to shape the form of the game. For this reason, and for the hours of reading enjoyment, I heartily recommend the works of these fine authors to you.

Source: Gary Gygax. 1979. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 224.

To page with links on Amazon for these books.

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