When There Were Dragons
by Todd VanHooser
by Todd VanHooser
Recently while digging through my office, I stumbled upon a stack of old Dragon magazines. Just looking at the covers of these brought about a wave of nostalgia, and I decided to put away my work for the night and immerse myself in the magazine that I used to love as a kid.
For those of you who don't know, Dragon Magazine was a publication that covered the RPG world, with an emphasis on Dungeons & Dragons. It was a one-stop-shop for the latest word on upcoming releases, feedback on aspects of the game, comics, convention calendars, and fiction. Oh, and some of my all-time favorite fantasy artists were responsible for the most unforgettable covers of the magazine's long print run.
I spent two hours flipping through 5 or 6 golden oldies from the mid-late 80s. Sure, Dragon was published all the way up to just a few years ago, but I think anyone who was a dedicated fan would agree that the pinnacle of that magazine was somewhere in the 80s. For a couple of hours I was lost in "Sage Advice," "Beyond the Dungeon," "Dragonmirth," new magical items, spell uses, character break downs, and some pretty entertaining fiction.
What really struck me about my stroll down Dragon lane was the sense of community this magazine offered back in the height of its publication. This one magazine offered a number of great articles, suggestions, magical items, adventure ideas, and a sense of fun to a community of gamers.
And that's the key word that I thought about after closing the last issue--community. Despite all of our technology--Facebook, texting, twitter, online console gaming, etc.--it seems we have lost that sense of community that really brought people together back in the day.
There was genuine excitement for GenCon right around the corner, or buzz about the new Dragonlance novel (remember waiting for that last book in the Legends trilogy?), and a sense of awe about that amazing Elmore painting on the cover. Dragon was more than just a magazine, it was an invitation into an exciting world that allowed you to be the hero.
Flipping through those magazines re-ignited that sense of adventure and anticipation that used to go hand-in-hand with this hobby. Seeing features on "DM of the Month" or reading feedback and advice on the various nuances of the game reminded me of how...BIG it all seemed. When you sat down to play that game, you knew that you were partaking in a world of adventures, which in turn, connected you to that wider community. And here was a magazine that captured it all in one place.
I want that for today's young generation of gamers. I want that kid who just bought his first set of dice to know that he's just stepped into a larger world of adventure, storytelling, and fun. And that kid isn't alone.
That community still exists, but the struggle for our new generation of gamers is to find it beyond the superficial world of technology.
It can be done, but its going to take some work to get it there. The burden of that sense of community, I'm afraid, falls to us "old-timers." Its us who have to extend the hand and welcome in the new blood. This means getting that younger crowd to conventions, placing good books in their hands, and tearing them away from their online world to interact in a social environment.
In other words, its up to us to inspire this younger generation and show them what made all of us fall in love with this hobby to begin with.
That's what Dragon was all about: sharing the sense of adventure with a community of friends.