A Wee Bit Sad About Dragon Magazine

I know this isn’t news in any real sense, but maybe it’s just starting to hit me. Dragon Magazine has no place in the physical world anymore. There are no new issues coming out, filled with articles that I probably would never use but always enjoyed reading. Some part of me has felt compelled over the past few days to look back over my collection of Dragon Magazines and re-read them (or at least re-flip through them).

My history with Dragon Magazine certainly doesn’t go back as far as many people’s. The first issue I recall being exposed to was #234, “Beyond the Grave,” an October issue from 1996. The Hennepin County Library where we played AD&D after school had just got it in, and I remember devouring it’s contents very quickly. Many of the articles stand out as some of my favorites to this day – the Wyrms of the North entry about Daurgothoth the dracolich, a few kits for rangers, and an assortment of magical items designed for a lich. The comics were fantastic, the editorial was engaging, the forums and Sage Advice invaluable – it was a fantastic way to learn that there was this whole bigger world outside of my little town and gaming friends.

The first issue I purchased was #236, “Faith & Hope,” which again had a lot of really interesting articles. Then nothing. For months there was nothing, and then finally #237 came with the news that TSR, Inc. had been purchased by Wizards of the Coast. Quite a shock, but frankly from my small perspective it didn’t change much. The books kept getting published (after the hiatus with the company purchase) and things moved along. Dragon Magazines continued to flow and I would hunt down each one. (I admit, though, I never had a subscription – I had one for Dungeon Magazine, but never for Dragon. Weird.)

These physical issues that sit on my shelf are time capsules, able to whisk away the reader to a time nearly 20 years ago when the landscape for roleplaying was a bit different. I see mentions of Winter Fantasy in Milwaukee, with talks of the amazing dealer hall there and great times playing all sorts of games. I went to Winter Fantasy this year in February in Fort Wayne, IN. It was fun, yes, but it felt like little more than a small house con for the Adventurers League. No dealer hall. Not a lot of people. Essentially just a single hall in a much larger convention center.

I read about the products that TSR/WotC were putting out, and I remember drooling with anticipation about them. Adventures, novels, sourcebooks – it was all ripe for the plunder. I look at these magazines and I lament the fact that the last physically published issue of Dragon Magazine was #359 in September 2007 – about 10 years and 123 after I started reading. I have most of those 123 issues (there’s a few gaps here and there but not many) and I have no desire to get rid of them.

Dragon Magazine (and Dungeon) moved to an online only format after #359, and with that my interest in it waned completely. Part of it was definitely 4th Edition, which did not attract me in any meaningful way, but I feel if they kept putting it out as a physical magazine I would keep buying it. I understand the realities of print runs, costs, editorial staff, etc., etc., all the real things that meant an electronic path was a prudent one.

But I can still lament the loss of such a titan in the industry, and be a wee bit sad that we have had nothing to really fill its hole.*

* Not quite nothing, of course. Gygax Magazine has come up in the past two years to take the place of the missing Dragon, and I enjoy those issues dearly (and have even contributed an article to it!). However, Gygax Magazine has been plagued with late deliveries, and though I plan on purchasing every issue I can find whenever they come out, anticipating their release has become a bit of a fool’s errand. Issue #6 is the next one, and by all accounts it appears nearly finished – and I’ll be lining up to purchase it as soon as it’s available!

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