Thursday, February 3, 2011

Screw Box Sets - I Want a Kard & Magica Ziplock Bag Set!

Ziplock bag sets? I remember them from the beginning of the eighties while sifting through the shelves of game stores. Cheaply printed booklets and sheets, in a dull, vaguely-transparent plastic sheath, usually with a dot-matrix printer sticker explaining the contents. Good lord, what a beautiful thing!

I love Gabor Lux's adventures for the Wilderlands and Fomalhaut; I love what has been translated (or I have translated myself) of the rules for his 3E/retro-clone hybrid Kard & Magica (Sword & Magic in English...but I prefer Kard & Magica!); I want them all, in digest-booklet form, with Gabor Lux generated artwork, in a greasy zip-lock set with a dot-matrix printer label!


  1. Hear hear! I loved those bagged games as well.

  2. I know he's a busy man, but yep, me too.

  3. I remember we used to sell some of these at the FLGS. They never moved very well, and I was like 15 and totally obsorbed with D&D 3.0 at the time, so never really got interested in them... god how that has changed now. I would kill to pick some bag sets up now that I've started getting sucked into the OSR.

  4. Much as I love them, I think there's lately been far too much emphasis on boxed sets as a panacea for whatever it is we old school types think is wrong with the hobby. I don't think the lack of introductory boxed sets is the reason behind the decline of tabletop roleplaying any more than I think the presence of them was why they were popular in the late 70s and early 80s. But these are rants for another time.

  5. He could wrap 'em in cellophane and scotch tape and I would gladly buy 'em.

  6. Ziplocks reminds me of all those Metagaming wargames we used to devour. I've got an old mayonnaise jar full of cardboard chits... waiting for some rainy afternoon to sort them all out.
    Boxed sets are nice... especially if they look like LotFP... but a little pack of booklets, paper map, cardboard characters... would really get my skull-ether pumping.

  7. Ziplock bag and digest-size Kard & Magica booklets - yes please! K&M and Fomalhaut are a great rules/setting combo.

  8. Wot I think:

    Sometimes, I would also like to do that. My idea is something on cheap coloured paper (like the JG instalments), a handful of them - so you'd go and grab the rules, and, what is that, hex maps? A module? I'll take three just to see what that is about. That was actually my plan in 2003 with The Garden of al-Astorion, which was printed in 70 digest-sized copies at a friend's print shop and sold at various places (for details, see ); I wanted to have a line of this stuff, and there would be adventures, city states, wilderness area descriptions, or whatever we found cool (the point was that seeing the coolness of the idea, others would also become involved and contribute). And EMDT (for “First Hungarian d20 Company”) would be this small amateur outfit doing it for God, Country and Rock&Roll.

    But in the end, this, specifically, is nostalgia speaking. There were a few similar homemade products when I started gaming, and there was obviously a lot more in the US/UK a decade and a half earlier, but people didn't produce them on crappy paper with typewriters and sold them in Ziploc bags because they were going for a crappy paper/typewriter/ziploc look, they did it because that’s what they had available. If they had proper word processors and online distribution, you can bet most of them would have come in the form of PDFs and would have been sold on Lulu or RPGNow or just released on the net.

    That doesn't all mean there isn’t a point to the approach. The point in DIY is your involvement and craftsmanship, homemade maps and illustrations and all. You can do most of it on Lulu, or for free. You could say the tactile element (the paper and the ziploc) is essential to the experience, and that’s also understandable, but you also have to understand that today, that’s also limiting your reach. If all I did was this printed stuff, you wouldn’t be posting about it here because, living on the other side of the world, you would never have even known it existed, and vice versa. Your game store may or may not stock your stuff (the most smartly run game store chain in Hungary didn’t stock my module because they, sensibly, stated “it is not a real product” – and they were correct), and there may or may not be an adequate local concentration of interested gamers to grab them.

    So, having learned my lessons, the approach I have taken with Kard és Mágia is slightly different, even though it is an EMDT production and has a similar philosophy (and al-Astorion is still EMDT #1, with the rulebooks coming in as #2, #3 and #4). I have, on multiple occasions, steadfastly refused to have the game produced and sold as a print product, even when other people (including the very cool guy who first printed up al-Astorion) offered to do all the gruntwork for me. My point with that is if people want a printed version, they ought to make an effort, even if a very small one. If you want a copy, print it and bind it with your own hands; if you want to sell the idea to your gaming group, or a cousin or niece, go out and give them a set of pamphlets and explain why they are all so cool. If you want more modules, write one (fewer people are doing it than I’d wanted to, but there are some: The Temple of Tortures, at is a recent example ). That may be a distribution barrier, just like the lack of production values. But I think it is also the right approach as a hobbyist, and I think it has contributed to the emergence of a small, but healthy and play-oriented culture in Hungary. It is DIY, but for our age, just like Fight On, Knockspell or small-press publishers are that for the international audience.

    The Internet may have killed 10% of the magic but made the other 90% available to anyone with an interest. You lose the ziploc bags but Jewel Throne or Kauran gets read in Hungary, Ireland and France. That, I think, is a fair deal.

  9. Looks like my bigass comment got classified as linkspam, so please stand by until its approval. .)

  10. On Boxed Sets:
    I'm just glad to see a few of them again! I love opening them up and poring over the contents. It's a good feeling.

    'I don't think the lack of introductory boxed sets is the reason behind the decline of tabletop roleplaying any more than I think the presence of them was why they were popular in the late 70s and early 80s.':

    They could only help I'd say. People need an 'in' to the hobby, and a good boxed set and some friends would go a long way towards that, imo. My friends/acquaintances seem to think that a box says 'game' more than a book does.(And would more likely be sold outside of a hobby store.) I've noted that mentioned on the Intarwebz as well. As for Boxes being Panaceas, I doubt that anyone sincerely believes that boxes alone will help spark interest.(Rather it's thought to be a help; though there might be a little magical thinking[another 'fad'?] now and then, I certainly prefer this concept to expensive, vanity press coffee table books as 'Core Rules' or some such!) :-)

    Sign me up for Ziplock Bag Sets, too! Hell, I remeber when PC/Apple Games came in 'em, too. Fun times!

    And on the subject of a wishlist, digest Rulebooks, like T&T 5th Edition by Corgi, and Fighting Fantasy, and Dragon Warriors, etc should make a comeback too!

  11. Thanks for the comments everybody!

    @ JamesM: Hoho, I'm not proposing a K&M ziplock set as an entry product, just as a collectors fetish item :) Although I think K&M has potential as an OSR product for the 3E generation!

    @ Melan: Thanks for the epic response...I really dig the inside view into the K&M history and ethics you presented. Interesting enough, I own a stack of cheap colored paper for use in DIY RPG material!