Thursday, August 11, 2011

Good Bye Dragon and Dungeon?

At first I wanted to jump on the controversy about Neverwinter being "the first RPG book solely set in one city" but I've cooled my outrage over that bit of revisionist history, so now I'll turn to another interesting topic coming out of Wizards of the Coast (note: you do not need a subscription to read this).

Steve Winter's latest editorial for Dragon #402, Splitting the Treasure deals with an issue that apparently they've been struggling with since Dragon and Dungeon stopped being print magazines and went fully digital: are the distinct titles necessary anymore?  Now I know most of you reading this probably don't care about the online versions of these magazines anymore, but there still has to be this sense of curiosity about their ongoing fate. It's like slowing down to see a wreck along the side of the road even if you have somewhere else to be. Well it's maybe not that bad, you get my meaning. Anyhow, you should first read Mr. Winter's well reasoned editorial, but here's my perspective in the meantime:

When Wizards took away the magazines from Paizo I was suitably enraged (though it turned out great for Paizo) but it was more because I was attached to the tradition of paper magazines than the content. Once the same content was put online it became a minor issue as having the issues in PDF form made them no worse in quality than any other ezine out there. Download, maybe print, read, save. Then Wizards got lazier.

The issues stopped being released as one entire document and instead the articles were broken up and slowly posted to the site one by one under the monthly heading of Dragon or Dungeon to keep up appearances of a magazine. So now with the steady demise of these once great magazines, Steve and company are appraising their options. In my opinion, with the current state of Dragon/Dungeon, and heck the entire D&D brand, these articles could be placed anywhere on the website and not make a bit of difference. Their decision to bring Dragonmirth back to the magazines briefly lifted my spirits since cartooning is my life, but even these comics are hard to navigate in the current format. So yeah, though I'm a traditionalist at heart, in this situation it might be time to pull the plug and put our beloved magazines to rest (for the time being).


ADD Grognard said...

Don't fret their loss friend...rejoice in the number of quality e-zines we have to enjoy and the blog community that feeds the need like no other.

I too miss them, and White Dwarf (when it was D&D-centric). They were something that if I had no other means that month I would find a way to scrape up the cash for just those three.

For now though we can have a brief moment, opening the cover of a classic issue and smelling the history of maybe the most unique of past times ever created.

Now I have to go to the shelves and pull down a stack.

Zachary Houghton said...

It is a downer. I'm just happy there's items such as Fight On! and Kobold Quarterly to help fill that void.

Still, a sad dwindling of a great part of the hobby.

mortellan said...

ADDG: Amen to that. And yeah, White Dwarf seems like one big GW Christmas cataloge anymore. Gorgeous to look at but content? Not quite the same.

Zack: Yeah, the absence of print Dragon did leave the door open for those, much like 4e left the door open for Pathfinder.

Argon said...

Yeah Wotc basically forced Paizo into the business even further. Bet they wish they left it alone. Yeah I always liked picking them up not too expensive and it filled an urge for roleplaying stuff without breaking the bank. Even if I didn't use everything sometimes i could take some ideas from them and make it my own.

They should of stayed in print with pdf option would of appealed to a bigger fan base that way.

Welleran said...

I miss getting them in the mail every month (or two), but I can't bring myself to care one whit about the online versions.

Anonymous said...

It's what I've come to expect from WotC. They have now become the Past, while Paizo represents the Future.

I'm glad for Paizo, but there's something saddening about the decline of the "Flagship" of our gaming world.

Just glad E.G.G.'s not here to see the further decline and dismantling of the gaming company he did so much to create.

Mystic Scholar

mortellan said...

Welleran: That's how I feel. It's a rarity these days to get excited about anything coming in the mail. That was one of those times. In those days I would read them cover to cover. Ads and all. The sum was greater than the parts, so what we have now is not cohesive.

PizzaPundit said...

As a long time 'hater' of both Paizo and WotC, who has recently given in and signed up for a Wizards/DDI account (after switching back to a Forgotten Realms campaign after ages in Greyhawk, the current content on the site is worth the price (5 to 10 bucks a month, depending on your subs period) I'll comment on the content and organization on the site.

They may still assign the Dragon and Dungeon titles to some of the article categories, but essentially, the 'magazines' are dead and gone. What's there now is just a collection of monthly columns, features and random articles. It's much easier to just hit the main article archive index to see what's new than try and navigate the 'zines' anymore.

As anyone who knows me knows, I'm no fan of 4e, in fact I utterly hate and despise it, but much of the material is actually edition-light (the Dungeon Master Experience column of campaign building tips and tricks, for example.) or edition-neutral (the Eye on the Realms column by Ed Greenwood, for example). Add in the art and map galleries, and the D&D Alumni column that picks a monthly aspect of D&D and tracks its evolution through the editions, and there is actually quite a bit of material for those who don't use 4e.

I understand that Paizo and Pathfinder are the NEW HOTNESS, but lets not pretend that anything they've put out has replaced the variety of content that was Dungeon and Dragon in print. The closest I've seen is Kobold Quarterly, with a huge variety of topics and coverage of OGL 3e, Pathfinder and 4e, it's the closest thing to a Dragon magazine we have now.

-Rich (aka chatdemon)

Samwise said...

Uh huh.

Way back when WotC first had their little pop up asking about paying for content I said it was just a blatant set-up to get people to pay for all the articles they were then posting for free.

Apparently enough people said the same thing that they had to figure out a way to "hide" that from the suckers. Along the way they realized their grandiose plans for an online gaming table were exploding into vaporware, so they decided to kill two birds with one stone and convert the magazines to e-zines as a way to "create" something people could pay for.

Within a few months it became blatantly clear that nobody at WotC actually knew how to run a magazine anymore. Editing web articles and keeping them to a vague schedule is one thing, but actual subscription level content was another. Thus the e-zine rapidly jumped the shark to conceptual vaporware, requiring WotC to summon Winston Smith to assure us the goalposts weren't really moving for their article posting and compiling schedule.

And so they wind their way back to their starting point - having people pay for articles that were formerly free, and I wind my way to saying "I told you so."

mortellan said...

Rich: Heya! I agree about KQ being the new standard and good point about the edition light articles. Those tend to be the only ones I read, unless they are GH related of course ;) If I did run 4e, I'm sure the price would seem more justified because of the access to the online tools and whatnot. So essentially paying to mostly read editorial pieces and comics(both which don't require subs)is my own fault.

Sam: I always like reading your perspective of the industry. I can't say part of me isn't relishing the schadenfreude of all this as well. I have no doubt in my mind Paizo would've went with the crowd and switched to making 4e material if they had been left making "official" magazines. Wizards blew that outsourced job and now yes, have bit off more than they can chew. Tsk!

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