Saturday, September 08, 2007

Farewell to a Friend

I got the last issue of Dragon Magazine yesterday.

This is the end of an era.

I realize now why it's been canceled. In the lead-up to the (brazenly money-grubbing) debut of D&D's 4th edition, Wizards of the Coast has been pulling back its licensed properties: Dragon and Dungeon from Paizo Publishing, the Ravenloft setting from White Wolf, and I hear even the Dragonlance series is being cut. Wizards apparently wants all their eggs in one basket. It probably didn't help that Dragon's game material was consistently better presented and thought-out than Wizards's own, which for the last year or two had mainly been one or two new races or classes in between two hundred pages of filler; the student had truly exceeded the master.

It was a great issue, too. A beautiful painted cover by the talented Larry Elmore. An extra-long editorial bidding farewell to the readers followed by an extra-long letters page with messages from bereaved fans. We got a top 20 list of the vilest villains, from Lord Soth and Artemis Entreri to Demogorgon and the Dread God Tharizdun, all the way up to Lolth, Tiamat, and Count Strahd Von Zarovich. The secrets of Iggwilv's Demonomicon were laid bare. Lots of loose ends were wrapped up. Elminster Aumar, Lord Mordenkainen, and Dalamar the Dark had one last meeting in Ed Greenwood's drawing room. Greenwood let us know that Old El would reduce Raistlin Majere to a smoking pair of boots, while Margaret Weis made it clear that Raistlin would blast Elminster out of the Forgotten Realms and clear into Greyhawk. The Monster Hunters' Society met one last time to discuss the ecology of the legendary Tarrasque.

Finally, the comics. "Nodwick," "Dork Tower," and "The Order of the Stick" each give the magazine a touching send-off in their own unique ways, though it's tempered by the knowledge that all three strips will live on in webcomic form. I turn the last page, expecting just some random ad, but lo and behold...

Oh My God it's Phil and Dixie.

Two years after it'd been discontinued, they actually brought back Phil Foglio's "What's New? with Phil and Dixie!" for one last hurrah. I'm on the verge of tears now, I'm so happy. "Hasta la vista, amigos! Today we're talking about endings!" And with that, Phil and Dixie, and Dragon itself, ride symbolically off into the sunset.

And with that, I think my involvement in Dungeons & Dragons ends here.

I only played once, in 7th grade, before the DM decided someone cooler than me should take my place. The closest I came after that were two internet campaigns that were aborted before I got to roll a single digital die. Yet the worlds of D&D have loomed large in my imagination for years now, offering a welcome haven from the dreary toil of everyday life.

I don't like what I've heard of 4th Edition. From a rules standpoint a lot of their decisions seem like downright insipid throwbacks to 2nd Edition rules, but ultimately I'm just the cranky, crusty sort who doesn't acclimate well to change of any kind. Oh, if someone invites me to join in a 3rd Edition game I won't turn them down, and I'll still happily continue contributing to the online D&D communities of which I'm a part. But from now on, what Wizards of the Coast does with their properties is no concern of mine. D&D is over for me.

I say again: It is the end of an era.

And even if it's only been as a passive observer, I'm proud to have been a part of it.

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