Friday, February 20, 2009

RPG Musings: Dragon/Dungeon Magazine Online

Every Friday, I'll toss an idea or two with regards to tabletop RPGs.

Pardon me for partially hijacking this section. It's been several months now since Wizards of the Coast re-launched Dragon and Dungeon magazine, the official Dungeons & Dragons publication. Now there are several legitimate reasons not to support the magazines (such as if you're not actually playing in a 4th Edition game). Of course now and again, I'd see someone making a stupid suggestion with regards to both publications, especially when it comes to its online distribution model.

How stupid? Well, something along the lines of (I'm paraphrasing) "I really like the content of both magazines but I wish Wizards of the Coast would make a print version so I suggest boycotting the online version."

I have several rebuttals for that argument but let's first tackle the one with the biggest assumption flaw. The "let's boycott the online version" part so that a print version would eventually be released. Let's put it this way, the online version is probably easier and takes less manpower to put out (it mostly boils down to distribution) than the print version. And if the former isn't successful, why would you think a company would try their hand at the latter?

Honestly, a better suggestion would be to support the online model and suggest that they come out with a print version. There's going to be an print annual and another method is to gobble them up like crazy. Buy boycotting something in order to get a more expensive and labor-intensive iteration doesn't make sense.

The second point I want to bring up is the content. Again, at this point, I don't think a lot of the content that you're currently receiving from the magazines wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the fact that it's currently hosted online. I'm not talking about page count (although that matters too) but the realities of publishing a print magazine (again, mostly focusing on distribution). It usually takes a monthly magazine to have two months of lead time (that is, the content should be ready two months ahead of the printed date) before it can come out on time. Aside from deadlines, what contributes to this time "lag" is the magazine needs to be sent to the printers, proofread, printed, dried, sealed, then distributed all over the country or all over the world depending on your circulation. Distributing a magazine all over America is no easy feat, considering the vast expanse of land as well as climate (distribution in the Philippines is also a major challenge because while we're a significantly smaller country, we're an archipelago with a Manila-centric focus).

Now you might think so what, what if there's a two-month delay? The old magazines handled themselves competently; one just needs to plan two months ahead. Sure, that works to a limited extent. But one of the more appealing features of Dragon right now is its sneak peak at future publications such as the playtest/preview classes. By the time they see print online, the final revisions could have been made the day before. If you're using the more traditional model, the preview you're reading in a magazine could easily be two-months outdated. Or in the case of the playtest classes, two months too late for the designers to have received your feedback.

That's not to say that Dragon and Dungeon magazine are perfect. For example, I still like the latter Paizo-era models for the magazine where Dragon was for players and Dungeon was for Dungeon Masters (currently, the latter is still for Dungeon Masters but now content for the former includes both target audiences). But for the most part, I think the online incarnations of both magazines is the wave of the future.

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