It's with some regret that I had to say goodbye to Pyramid Online Magazine last week. Steve Jackson Games' in-house magazine is moving on and turning itself into a third format. 10 years ago, it went from a printed publication to a weekly online format. In the past 8, I was a subscriber for maybe 3 years, usually during peak role-playing periods. What was really nice about Pyramid is that no matter when you jumped on, you had complete access to all articles, ever, even the ones from the print magazine. For some 25$ a year, that was a great bargain.
And ultimately, probably what made it less than a financial success. Pyramid is now going another way: A monthly pdf publication at 80$ a year, though current subscribers will get the first 6 issues for free. People are already promising to quit Pyramid once it gets its new sticker price. I probably will too. Not that I've never spent money on pdf ebooks. I have. But while I rarely read Pyramid articles on the week they actually came out, I was a big fan of the searchable database for finding just the articles I was looking for. I know that for others, the price of admission was only worth it because of the forums, newsgroups and playtest opportunities it came with.
So what will I miss? Since I regularly play GURPS, tons of articles statted for that system, though 4th edition material does annoy me a little bit (another reason why I preferred the database). Certainly, some of my favorite features included Chad Underkoffler's great Campaigns in a Box. He wasn't the only one to contribute to that feature, but his ideas were always the most inventive and varied, very often with some cool illustrations, and he was a nice guy to boot, eager to hear about how I (and, I hope, others) inserted them into my own games.
Editor Steven Marsh must also be commended for his weekly musings on gaming, which had the knack of at once inspiring me and yet undercutting everything I might have wanted to say on the subject. If I could come up with such interesting posts on gaming, believe me, you'd have noticed by now. Kenneth Hite's Suppressed Transmissions were also a great source of entertainment for the illuminated mind. So my thanks to every writer, editor, artist or other job who ever contributed to Pyramid Online, and goodbye dream of having something in Steven's slush pile. I'll miss it.
Ok, so the first issue of Pyramid 3 is already out. What's it like? Well, it's 45 pages (about 40 once you ditch the cover and ads) revolving around a single theme. The next will be about superheroes, and the third more futuristic, but this one's on Wizards. Not my favorite subject given that a) I don't enjoy fantasy gaming very much and b) even when things get fantastic, my players never want to play magicians. More than anything, the lack of variety within a single issue will be the deal breaker for me. On the other hand, I see how it could encourage me to buy a single issue here and there, as a kind of game designer "jam" about a topic that interests me. Maybe this is a better business model after all.
And you know those writers I was thanking above? They're still here. Marsh is still editor and continuing his Random Thought Table column (good notes on how to keep an air of mystery). Hite hasn't actually done any work for Pyramid in a long while. And Underkoffler gets a little interview (makes me want to track down his more professional work) though not an article. Other contributing SJG stars include Sean Punch, and Murphy's Rules is still part of the humor page.
So anything truly interesting despite by non-magical bias? Well, there's a cool feature on prop-making, with step-by-step pictures, which I like. It's the kind of thing than the online version didn't or couldn't do, so I'm glad to see it there. (In general, it's a handsome package with color and the typical GURPS 4e layout.) The guildhall maps are a little indulgent (and eat up a few pages). The articles on undead weapons and curses might make their way into my next game (there's a horror cosm in there that might benefit from an idea or two). There's a good "Tools of the Trade" article on integrating board and card games into RPGs too. Overall, the articles are longer than in the online version, and more complete for it. I think I like it, but we'll see how much when the time comes to actually pay for it.
Ever read Pyramid? Or some other gaming magazine that's folded?