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The Complete Oracle (2016)

The Complete Oracle (2016) is an amazing act of preservation by Tim Hutchings (designer of Thousand Year Old Vampire). It collects facsimiles of all five issues of The Oracle, a RPG fanzine created by Christopher Bigelow that ran from 1982 through 1983. In addition to that, the book’s appendices collect other Bigelow zines, notes and RPG material, as well as a sort of hypothetical sixth issue of The Oracle, put together by Hutchings with contemporary contributors writing in their 1983 style.

As ever with periodicals, it serves as a sort of historical time capsule, a glimpse at the RPG fan community of the time. There are many grumblings about Gygax’s stance that AD&D was a closed, unmodifiable system (one of Gygax’s most preposterous claims). There are lots of reviews for contemporary games and films, which are always fun to check out.

It is also a wild personal story for Bigelow. He was a high school junior at the time, but got professional writers, artists and designers to contribute to his magazine, which, mind-bogglingly, was sold around the world in over forty stores at one point. There are ups and downs galore in Bigelow’s autobiographical introduction, which is in someways the highlight of the book. It’s a portrait of a particularly motivated DIY D&D player, circa 1982. You’ll know the type immediately — even now, there are folks doing essentially the same sort of thing with the same kind of gumption. Its the heart and soul of the hobby, really.

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