Edited by Eric Nieudan
Layout by Oliver Revenu
Contributors: see below
Published by The Merry Mushmen
get the pdf here
Knock! is a new OSR zine I somehow discovered on Kickstarter last year. I hardly ever back anything, but the blurbs for this product were too compelling to resist:
"It has everything you’d want from an old school slash adventure gaming publication: articles about the history of Dungeons & Dragons, reflections about genre and gameplay, some clever rules, a bunch of maps, tons of random tables and lists, 7 new classes, 7 new monsters, and 3 complete adventures. If you’re reading this, some of the names below will ring a bell, or five: Emmy Allen, Benjamin Baugh, Joe Brogzin, Caleb Burks, Brooks Dailey, Nicolas Dessaux, Paolo Greco, James Holloway, Anthony Huso, Arnold K, Ethan Lefevre, Gabor Lux, Bryce Lynch, Fiona Maeve Geist, Chris McDowall, Ben Milton, Gavin Norman, Patrick Ollson, Graphite Prime, Stuart Robertson, Jack Shear, Jason Sholtis, Skullfungus, Sean Stone, Chris Tamm, Daniel Sell, and Vagabundork."
As is my wont, I sent KS the money and promptly forgot about it. A couple months ago it arrived in my mailbox and I excitedly packed it in my overnight bag for a work trip, not knowing what I was in for...
To start with, the book looks tremendous. Revenu needs to get some more work, right now. The print quality is high, the colours are so bold & vivid they fairly jump off the page. I don't think any of my other gaming books come close to being so brilliant. Even LotFP doesn't look this good. Each bloody article has individual fonts, colour schemes and a layout all its own. This must have been a huge undertaking, and I can't lavish enough praise on the zine's aesthetic. Even the damn dust jacket has a whole adventure on it (which Bryce reviewed here, saving me the time).
But how does it play? Well, I am no expert, but I cannot see how I would ever use 90% of this zine. In fact, Nieudan cops to this on the first page, where he writes
"This first issue is a bet: a bet on your interest in owning content you may have read before, collected in this dense volume for posterity and for prep sessions."
Dude, had I read half this zine before this Kickstarter was ever dreamed of.
All, and I do mean all of the content by the heavy-hitters, those who often singly but definitely combined made this an auto-buy for me (Arnold K, Gabor Lux, Daniel Sell, Anthony Huso, Graphite Prime, Chris Tamm, Jason Sholtis, Emmy Allen) turned out to be existing material from their blogs! I am not exaggerating. I don't need to pay some guy to give me a glossy, high-colour version of these articles. I had that shit bookmarked for years, my son.
Do you not already read these folks' blogs? Have you guys not heard of the OSR links to wisdom? You know that people have been updating that page for something like a decade now?
Furthermore, this book is simply not user-friendly - not during prep, nor at the table. This is where the Mushmen's obsession with cool layouts works against them (or would work against them, if I thought they had actually made this book to be used). The articles are more easily read on the blogs where they were originally posted, and the tables (except for a few very short ones) are fucking colossal, undifferentiated blocks of text! It comes across more as an art project than a tool or game document.
As I read through this zine recognizing article after article, a growing sense of indignation rose within me - I felt I'd been had. Like Don Draper trying to blend in with some hippies, Knock! throws out the "right" talking-points but none of them come together. Halfway through reading, it all I could think of was Geeks, MOPs and Sociopaths. It all comes across as if Nieudan woke up one day, read someone's "What is the OSR?" blog post, and decided to create a zine on that basis. The articles are all over the map, and while many of them are tremendous and useful CLASSICS individually, there is nothing connecting them together which might justify buying a bunch of shit I already have, no 'editorial voice,' no curation that might be considered a value-add.
I can't get over one question: who the fuck is this zine for?
Where are the supply-demand curves for people who haven't read these articles already, but are willing to spend *checks notes* fifty Canadian dollars on a glossy OSR zine? What does that Venn diagram look like? Clearly, I am not the target audience. I suspect that most people who buy Knock! #1 will read through it, say "hey, nice" and put it on their gaming shelves where it shall rest, un-referenced, for many a year. Am I all alone in being displeased with that?
The answer of course was available from the beginning which, paradoxically, only adds to my feeling of being hoodwinked. As if the Mushmen were saying "hey man, you didn't read the fine print! Not our fault."
Knock! is exactly what it says: a bric-a-brac of OSR material.
According to dictionary.com, bric-a-brac is: "Miscellaneous small articles collected for their antiquarian, sentimental, decorative, or other interest." That description fits this zine precisely. An assortment of stuff, packaged in an attractive form and not especially useful. Meant to be put on the mantelpiece or sideboard, for kitschy display purposes.
4/10 well-read blog posts. Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining.
(Having said all the above, if the Knock! fellows want to use one of my blog posts in an upcoming issue, I will delete this review.)
Now, a little palate-cleanser: