Tag Archives: History

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!

A Look Behind and (Slightly) Ahead

I am planning on launching the Kickstarter for the Fantasy Renaissance Adventure Modules very soon. Like, super soon. OK, I’ll put a date to it –¬†Monday, August 17th! But it’s probably a good idea to look at why I’m doing a Kickstarter and what I’m hoping to do with it.

I don’t think I could be a smaller operation. Cut to the Chase Games is pretty much just me and my super supportive fiance trying to bring awesome adventures to the gaming scene. And I want them in print as well, so that’s added a challenge that’s been interesting to figure out (and frankly I’m still figuring out some distribution parts, but that’s for down the road a bit). I’ve been writing adventure modules for nearly as long as I’ve been playing roleplaying games – my home games I wrote out, poorly to be honest, but I wrote in the style of a Dungeon Magazine scenario so that I didn’t have to remember them when I was playing and I didn’t have to read my poor scribbled handwriting.

So I’ve built up quite a catalog of awesome adventure ideas and possibilities, but what to do with them? I read the adventures in Dungeon Magazine, and finally in 2005 I submitted a handful of proposals to them (Paizo was handling both Dragon and Dungeon at the time). They liked one of them, “Heart of Hellfire Mountain”, and asked that I send it in. I did, eagerly, and then waited quite awhile for anything to come of it. I submitted more proposals in the meantime, and got a few rejections back with critical feedback, but quickly I stopped getting responses at all. So did everyone else it seemed.

I got word sometime in late Q2 2006 that my adventure was slated for Dungeon Magazine #140, and around that same time came the announcement of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. Wizards was ending the contract with Paizo and bringing Dragon and Dungeon magazines in house, and Dungeon #150 was going to be the last. Well, that explained the lack of responses! Dungeon #140 came out, and the cover featured the archdevil Mephistopheles from my adventure (“Heart of Hellfire Mountain” for 20th-level characters!). I was super excited and hungry for more, but with the flux of the game it seemed as though things were moving inward rather than outward. I feel like if I had jumped at submitting proposals earlier I might have been able to establish myself in Dungeon Magazine better, but ah well. No complaints, no regrets, keep moving forward!

I kept my eye on sources, and my love of the pulp 1930’s gaming genre brought the Ravaged Earth setting and Savage Worlds system to my attention. I think it was GenCon 2007 (maybe?) that Reality Blurs released the print version of Ravaged Earth, and I left Minnesota on Friday after work to drive through the night to Indianapolis just so I could get a copy. (That’s a story for another time – a harrowing journey to be sure!) I got it, read it, and then reached out to Reality Blurs with a handful of One Sheets (short Savage Worlds scenarios meant to be played in just an hour or two) I wrote. Sean Preston got back to me and I hit the ground running with some projects for them. I had a lot of fun writing for Reality Blurs, and massaged some of my backlog of fantasy adventures into the Old School Fantasy series (Hunger of the Iron Mage, Call of the Crow, and Slave Pens of Moss Stone were my favorites).

Eventually I parted ways, amicably, with Reality Blurs and focused on personal things. I always had the idea in the back of my head of trying to release trilogies of adventures, each that could be run individually but together would form a mini-arc. Dungeon Magazine explored the idea a handful of times, and I always found it more digestible than the sprawling adventure paths they focused on instead.

Fast forward a bit to 2014, and the company I worked for announced they were moving to Colorado. For various reasons I decided to stay in Minnesota and was kept on until the end of Q1 2015 to help with the transition. I don’t know if I could get a stronger sign, so I decided to take the leap into game design company ownership and started up Cut to the Chase Games in January 2015. I’ve learned a lot since then, registering things and purchasing things and learning new technologies, but it’s all led to the launch of the Fantasy Renaissance Adventure Module Kickstarter campaign.

Where does it go from there? I hope it keeps going, and I hope I get to fully realize the backlog of adventure titles I’ve got (there are more than 30 of them with titles, outlines, and ideas, and more than twice that with just one of those three things!). But only time will tell.