I’m sitting here having a major flashback to 7th grade English class. Tucked inside my book is the latest issue of Dragon magazine, and I’m doing my best to nod as the teacher is covering Simple Past and Past Perfect verb tenses. English class was really the only class I can recall where I could have long stretches of uninterrupted reading time, but my reading time wasn’t spent going over the intricacies of King Lear or breaking down sentences into their different components… noun, adverb, verb… yawn. With an apology to my 7th grade English teacher, I must say she never had a chance against Dragon magazine.
The very first issue of Dragon I purchased with my own money was #48. I still have it–there was the memorable Dr. Yes mini-module tucked inside for the Top Secret roleplaying game that I had introduced to my fellow players. Agents had to infiltrate a floating island with machine gun turrets on top. Such great memories of that one. But Dragon was, by and large, about Dungeons & Dragons… the game of my youth. Every issue I purchased from #48 on was scoured for resources… ideas… inspiration. Some issues had adventures tucked inside, ready to run. Other issues had mini-games that required cutting out chits and undoing the staple to pull out a two-page game board. The articles were great, but I also have fond memories of all the advertisements–so many games that I knew I’d never have the money to buy or the time to play. But still… reading each issue cover-to-cover (often more than once) had a more positive effect on my reading skills than anything assigned in class. (Plus my AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, Players Handbook, and Monster Manual were all well above a 7th grade reading level, so it could really be said that I deserved extra credit.)
Dragon magazine continued on for many years after I left gaming for college… work… family. But nothing lasts forever, and I do recall a friend mentioning to me one day years ago that the magazine was shutting down. Even though I didn’t buy and read the magazine any longer… it was still sad news. Dragon was a very important resource not to just D&D players… but all gamers. And it was gone.
I still have dozens of issues on my shelf. Issue #48, of course. Most every issue from #52 through the high #60s and then a mix of #70s and #80s before I stopped buying them. I did buy the 100th issue… and I have a few beyond that, but by that point AD&D wasn’t the new kid on the block and I had moved on. A few of my issues are quite worn out while others are almost pristine. Over the years, I’ve pulled one out occasionally and skimmed it, smiling as I recalled some article or monster or magic item that was offered up in its pages. These magazines are glimpses back in time for me, a period when D&D offered up adventures to my younger, non-athletic, invisible-to-girls self. Ditto for a very special circle of friends.
A few years ago, the Dragon magazine format was revived in the form of Gygax magazine, a quarterly that is now about halfway into its second year. The format (including the logo) follows the more traditional ’80s version of Dragon magazine, including dropping in mini-adventures as pullouts (one recent issue had a Top Secret mission, believe it or not), cartoons, discussions on the current wave of RPGs, and much more. As with Dragon, I anxiously await each issue’s arrival.
Last year, Wizards of the Coast released the 5th edition of D&D, and it took off like a fighter jet and appears to have been well received by fans, old and new. With three core books released and a number of plot-driven adventures books (Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Elemental Evil), it appears that WotC is quite serious about providing DMs and players with plenty of resources to support their D&D games/campaigns. And one of those resources is very new and has brought a smile to my face–a digital magazine called Dragon+.
Dragon+ is a free D&D resource that is available for iOS and Android devices (best viewed on a tablet, and my screenshots are from iPad–not sure if features and functions are identical with Android tablets). It contains articles and interviews with a mix of individuals and companies that are providing content and services to D&D fans, along with videos, hyperlinks to external content, and plenty of eye candy. While the first issue is advertised as 25 pages in length, don’t let that fool you–that’s simply the number of thumbnail pages that can be clicked on to jump immediately to a specific article or advertisement. Once you’re on a page, you scroll vertically to read an article, and many of the articles are two or more pages in length. Most articles contain embedded images that can be tapped to enlarge to full screen to examine in more detail, and some of these images are actually collections of more than one image that can be viewed by swiping. It might take you a minute or two to figure out how Dragon+ organizes its pages and how to scroll and view content, but once you’ve got it… you’ve got it.
Much of this first issue focuses on the current adventure, Elemental Evil. You’ll find focus articles on the Goliath race as well as a more in-depth examination of The Sumber Hills that feature in one of the current Adventurers League sessions. There’s a nice writeup by Chris Perkins and some behind-the-scenes details on the upcoming D&D-inspired video game Sword Coast Legends. Here’s a complete rundown of the inaugural issue’s content:
A Word From The “DM To The Stars” — Chris Perkins
Editor’s Letter — Matt Chapman, Editor-in-Chief
Elemental Evil — Unearth the Deception (covers various releases of the EE storyline)
Travel Talk — Sumber Hills walkthrough
Profile — Goliath
Interview: Sword Coast Legends — Dan Tudge, President of n-space
Video Highlights – some funny videos of DM support group sessions
Player Factions: Our “Heroes”? — Discussions of five factions
Know Your Enemy — Defeating a Black Dragon
Community — 10 new trinkets
Interview: Rob Overmeyer, Exec Producer Neverwinter MMO
Ye Old Magical Emporium — WotC products for sale
Gauntlet Gophers — New comic
Where It All Started — Look back at the original Temple of Elemental Evil adventure
Next Issue — sneak peek
With the iPad, the magazine appears in the Newsstand app. After tapping the Dragon+ icon, you’re presented with a screen like the one below that will show the covers of previous issues as well as the current issue and a button to subscribe so you’re alerted when a new issue is ready. A scrolling list of news items appears below the covers and a sidebar on the left is hidden until you tap on the three horizontal bars in the lower-left corner–this sidebar allows you to filter the Facebook, Tumblr, and News sections as well as view any pages/sections you’ve favorited. (You can also click the Archive button to remove the content from your tablet and save space.)
The Dragon+ digital magazine will be released every two months, and I expect each issue to get better and better as the team behind it takes reader feedback and requests. As it stands now, it appears that WotC staffers are providing content, but it’s always possible that may change and user submissions might be welcome. (And yes, WotC, this writer would love to submit content for future issues–contact me!)
Below are some screen grabs from various pages–they don’t do the user interface justice, however. For many articles, a full color graphic piece remains in the background as the article is scrolled and read. You can see an example of this below for the Elemental Evil article–the four-panel graphic opens the post while the text block (white box) scrolls over it and tapping on a graphic opens it up as a separate (and larger) viewable:
Advertisements are at a minimum… I think I counted less than ten, and even then they’re actually very eye-catching and hard to ignore. The Sword Coast Legends advertisement even has a button to take you directly to the pre-order page.
All in all, Dragon+ is off to a great start. It’s not Dragon, of course–only D&D and related games are covered instead of a mix of RPG content–but I’ll take it. And I know D&D fans worldwide are likely to agree that having this new regular source of content and inspiration related to the grand-daddy of RPGs is much needed and very timely.
Best of luck to the team at Dragon+, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming June issue!