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A magazine of all-new swords & sorcery fiction in the classic pulp style!
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The Dark Tower of Jaquays

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Hello, everyone! A big welcome to all the new backers! As part of this Kickstarter we are presenting essays on sword-and-sorcery fiction written by our contributors. If you're new to the Kickstarter, you can catch up by reading these previous essays:

Today's update is related to the art preview we posted yesterday. Check out that image - then read on.

Oh, and don't mind The Skull. He gets cranky every now and again...

The Dark Tower of Jaquays

By John C. Hocking

I was a first wave D&D player, sort of.

I had the white box, pored over the three booklets, scrawled dozens of subterranean labyrinths on graph paper, and spent untold hours trying to explain to my friends why this new game was so mind-blowingly cool.

But I really couldn’t play it. The game’s possibilities were simply too much to wrap my head around. Countless situations for which there were no rules (yet) tantalized and frustrated me. I wanted to be a game master, had a skull buzzing with ideas for wild adventure, but I didn’t know where, or how, to start.

So I messed around for a few months, unable to get things off the ground while my players, who were increasingly ready and willing to throw themselves into a campaign, waited for me to come up with something that worked.

What happened was that a true friend of mine, the fellow who introduced me to RPGs, gave me a couple issues of The Dungeoneer. Everything about the fanzine held my interest, but the little dungeon adventures I found in there were so neat, so tight and small, and yet complete, that I figured I’d try one. It would be a sort of stop-gap measure to give myself some practice and my players some fun.

So we played through Morkendaine Manor, which became the flagstone upon which my epic, globe-spanning campaign was built. It would spin out over five years, build my players into heroes of legendary prowess and courage, and climax in a battle with an Elder God on an unknown continent on the far side of the world.

But it started in a little ready-to-play adventure created by Jennell Jaquays. 

This author/artist’s work was quickly recognized by my group as very dependable, and was sought out. When one of my players decided to try gamemastering himself, it was my very good luck that he began with Jaquays’ The Caverns of Thracia. I built two characters from scratch and, alongside a motley squad of anti-heroes created by my friends, ran them through that adventure from top to bottom. And it only got better, as the GM took us directly from The Caverns of Thracia to Jaquays’ The Dark Tower.

Everyone who has ever played in a campaign and enjoyed it, especially at an impressionable age, will recall a number of “peak experiences” as a player character. For me, The Dark Tower packed them in. The entire project was saturated with lush imagination and opportunities for swashbuckling adventure. Jaquays art was such that the DM could hold up an image to show us what we saw (or fought!) and we would gasp in amazement or horror. It was so engaging that I didn’t even mind (much) when one of the two characters I’d run since Thracia met a particularly unique and colorful doom.

Fast forward a handful of decades. I’m writing a story that I hope will be placed in an anthology celebrating the authors of Appendix N. The story is selected and I learn it will have an illustration to accompany it. When I finally see the illustration, it is beautiful. And it is by Jennell Jaquays. After all I’ve written here, I do not think I need to tell you how fine and fitting I find that to be.

troy chrisman, Todd Stephens, and 10 more people like this update.

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    1. Bill Ward on

      John, by some strange convergence, I have a similar story.

      As a teen, pouring over Warhammer books, one guy's art stood out for me even alongside greats such as Blanche and Goodwin: Ian Miller.

      Fast forward a few decades, as you say, and here's my favorite artist of years ago illustrating a story of mine. For all I know, he's the one that put the idea of a horde of fish freaks in my head in the first place. I can say without exaggeration it's the best thing to ever happen to me as a writer.

      The skull, it truly has power!