Over the last month or so, although it's been building ever since Calithena announced that FightOn! would be closing shop, I've had lots and lots and lots of people asking me to get moving on another issue of Knockspell. All that time, I've basically given people answers that are patently attempts to stall the decision. Knockspell is a really huge investment of time on my part, and it's only worth doing (a) well, and (b) with something that provides added value over the free or at-cost materials that currently exist. In case you're not familiar with Knockspell, I won't list all the links to the issues, but you can scroll through my online store at lulu to find them if you want.
Let's review for a moment what is already out there, and how I see it in terms of what it delivers:
1) Footprints. The editorial team on FP has started rolling again after a long hiatus. Footprints is high quality and is focused primarily on the First Edition approach. It's downloadable free. As far as I know, you can't get it print-on-demand, and I think that the pdfs are at a web-level rather than a print-level of detail. In general, I think Knockspell reached a slightly higher quality level than (most of the) Footprints issues, but only just. However, what Knockspell delivered was that it was more OD&D in feel and content than Footprints, which is very AD&D in feel and content.
2) Zines. There are several mail-at-cost (or pretty much at cost) zines out there. True zines, not just digital, and others that are digital-only. Production values are not slick, but they rock it with the DIY feel. Which I tend to prefer, myself. Knockspell always turned out a bit slicker in feel than I meant it to. I'd like to make a list of the 'zines, by the way. There is The Manor, Zogorion, Delve!, and I know of Oubliette as well, off the top of my head. What are the others? Crawl! is one I forgot. I'll also add Open Gaming Monthly to the list as soon as I know where to link to.
3) Green Devil Face. Professionally produced with deliberately DIY feel by James Raggi of LotFP. This is really sort of where I would prefer to be with Knockspell, although I like the letter-size page more than a digest-sized page. I don't know when the last one of these was issued, but it's apparently at #5. I only own #1 and #2.
4) Gygax Magazine. This one is branching way out into the mainstream (with Pathfinder, etc.) and covering non-fantasy games as well, so it intersects only slightly with what Knockspell does. KS is basically the niche of old-school, fantasy-only writing, which makes it harder to fill a magazine with content, but more on point for the readers who want exactly that mix. The problem with Gygax Magazine is that it can suck the wind out of the availability of good writing, and damage the perception of the more DIY periodicals. Most likely, people will send their manuscripts to GM first, and others only after rejection (or delay in review). This will cut the availability of manuscripts, it will cull out the best, and it will create the perception that what's left is the dregs. Perceptions, even when they are untrue, are very important.
So that really leaves me with the question of whether Knockspell would deliver something that's unique enough to be worth the tremendous effort required for it. With Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day coming, if I decide to re-open Knockspell, I can ask bloggers for permission to use their material, and that would go a long way for the magazine's beginning.
What is really needed, though, is a steady supply of authors and a steady supply of color art for the covers. That's the long term. So ... although I'm definitely tending towards it, and definitely hearing the requests, I want another few days before I come up with a true plan for this, or else abandon it (or continue to stall).
Manor #9 Get a New Printer
3 hours ago