Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pardon Me While I Geek the Eff Out

I've written before of my deep and abiding love for the Lone Wolf gamebooks and the game world presented therein, Magnamund. Aside from my natural nostalgic inclinations, the setting itself is a damn fine example of Silver Age fantasy world-building and one my longest-held unrealized gaming goals is to run a campaign set in Magnamund simply because I think it'd be a great place to adventure. All other elements aside, the books are still a good read, even a quarter-century later, and I return to them for linguistic and aesthetic inspiration at least once every couple years.

As a result, I try to stay plugged in with the Lone Wolf fan community online, perusing message boards and so forth. On my latest trawl a couple months ago, I learned of a new project being undertaken by Lone Wolf author Joe Dever in partnership with an Italian fantasy illustrator, Francesco Mattioli: a poster-sized map of the world of Magnamund!

To say I was excited by this news would be an understatement, but when I received the actual map in the mail yesterday I went into full-on geek mode. I'm not normally one to fan-boy out, but this thing had me "squeeing" as if Joss Whedon himself had come down from on high, killed George Lucas, and appointed all 11 Doctors as new rulers of the world.

The map comes folded in a sturdy slip case with an absolutely gorgeous cover illustration.

It's a full-size poster map; the colors are rich and the paper is glossy and of heavy stock.

This is called "the definitive map of Magnamund," and I can well believe it - every island is named, every landmark noted, every settlement shown.

So this is when I absolutely turned into a drooling Fanboy Spawn; a personally-inscribed signature from Joe Dever himself! My inner 10-year-old's head exploded with joy.

The signature aside, what I really love about this map is how it absolutely nails the visual aesthetic of the gamebooks. The last 10 years have seen the world of Lone Wolf getting a lot of support from Mongoose Publishing (the original books being re-released, two RPGs being put out), but my reaction has been decidedly mixed and this has been founded largely on the art direction of the Mongoose books. No matter what artist they used, they seemed completely, almost willfully, incapable of doing anything but make Magnamund look like Generic Fantasy World #815 (and some of those artists were absolutely terrible on a technical level to boot, only adding insult to the injury). What Mattioli has done with this map is demonstrate that there are still people out there who understand part of the appeal (a big part) of Magnamund lies in the visual aesthetic developed by Gary Chalk and Brian Williams. Seeing Magnamund transformed into some kind of WETA Workshop reject was an ongoing source of quiet distress for me, and I'm simply overjoyed to finally see a product that recalls the past glories of the game books. Here's to way more where that came from!
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