It may seem a little odd that I’m writing this now, but I’ve actually only just received the last issues of both Dragon magazine and Dungeon magazine. My subscription to the magazines ran out two issues before the end, and, although I was able to pick up the penultimate issues from my local newsagent, I couldn’t find the ultimate issues.
However, I’ve just entered the late 20th Century (i.e. I’ve finally got a credit card), and my first internet purchase was of the final issues from Paizo’s online store. It took about a week for the magazines to wend their way from Paizo to me, which I reckon is pretty good going. And, due to the current strength of the Aussie dollar against the Greenback, it didn’t cost overmuch either. A little cheaper than I would have paid at the newstand, actually.
(As an aside, about five years ago, aus$1 = us$0.55; today it’s aus$1=us$0.95+!)
Looking at the last, glorious Elmore cover, I’m put back to thevery first issue of Dragon I actually bought, as opposed to read. It was issue #172, back in the early days of 2e, when Roger E. Moore was editor. The cover was by Clyde Caldwell, and depicted a warrioress standing over a dead worm-creature. I loved it when I bought it, but looking back at it now, I wonder why I did – the usable content is rather slight. Of course, one of the real reasons that it was so much more impressive was because in 1991, the internet was nowhere near as prevalent. The web wasn’t there at all and I wasn’t even reading UseNet at that point (I started posting on UseNet in 1992!) Dragon was the primary portal to a much bigger world of roleplayers. I continued getting Dragon for a few years, finally ending with a little after issue #200 when I’d moved to Ballarat and finding issues wasn’t so easy any more.
However, as I survey the contents of these final issues, I’m mostly filled with disappointment that I don’t find them more awesome. And I’m pretty sure that it’s not actually the fault of the folk at Paizo that I feel that way. There have been plenty of people really happy with the Demonomicon articles (and with good reason), as well as all the other content in the mags.
No, I’m pretty sure that the reason is that – for the moment at least – I’ve outgrown Dragon. The stories I want to tell are from other sources. My conception of what is in the world of D&D isn’t the same as what other people think. And so, when I look at Dragon, I don’t find information about the Fhoi Myore invasion, or how Cassie rules a town in the See of Medegia, or how Vecna sought the Codex of the Infinite Planes. The seeds of those tales come from different sources, and have more influence on what is to come than what “canon” or Dragon might say.
This realisation also applies to the official D&D campaign books that Wizards produces as well. Although the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer was all types of awesome and certainly helped me, more and more I’d find myself drawing on my own imagination and ignoring the minutia of the details, instead searching for my own inspiration.
Rules… well, they’re another story, and I find them more of a spur to my imagination than I might have originally expected. The Shadowdancer class led to one of the most memorable campaign moments, as the players sought Zuoken on the Plane of Shadow while fighting the Scarlet Brotherhood (although Gygax’s Gord the Rogue books also provided me with a framework). Greg’s love of the new half-dragon or other draconic races has led to an renewed interest in Tiamat… my version, of course, although informed by the old.
Dungeon Magazine was a boon for far longer than Dragon was. My last ever session of 3e (for now) was an adventure from its pages, and I’ve delighted in it since I got the first 3e issue (#82). For various reasons, I never bought it before then, but I have every issue since. Issues #82-#150. I’ll miss it.
This isn’t quite an unalloyed pleasure, though. I feel that the Dungeon adventure paths contributed strongly to my dissatifaction with 3.5e towards the end. Running them exposed the flaws with high-level play quite explicitly, and the “arms race” and increasingly wonky maths began to grate. I didn’t feel it quite so much when running my own high-level adventures, but then I wasn’t creating the monster stat-blocks that I now associate with the Adventure Paths. Over two pages for a single stat-block… were we mad?
However, I can certainly say that Dungeon Magazine contributed greatly to my World of Greyhawk campaigns, and so, I will miss you, old friend.
All the issues of 3e Dragon (#274-349) and 3e Dungeon (#182-250) now sit next to each other in my library. In some ways I’m glad they’re no longer a print version – I’ve run out of space to hold them – but far more I’m sorry to see the end of their era.
As I sit here now, I eagerly await the coming of Keep on the Shadowfell, and the beginning of the 4e era. At some point, I’ll buy some Paizo 4e adventures and see what Erik and his crazy gang are up to now, but, for now, there is still a little time to reflect on what has been.