Originally published on 4/24/2007 at Pop Quiz, Hotshot!
This last week was a difficult one for this PQH! staffer. Call me weird, but two of my favorite publications, Dragon and Dungeon, have been canceled.
The two magazines were a monthly resource for anyone who plays the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The game, an icon for nerds since its debut in the 1970s, is best described as a set of rules for playing a fantasy-themed game of cops and robbers, without all the running around and saying “bang! bang!”
Years ago, Wizards of the Coast, the current owner of the game, licensed out the rights to produce the magazines to another game publisher, Paizo Publishing. Under Paizo’s direction, the two magazines flourished beyond all expectations. Paizo reversed declining circulation numbers and was acclaimed for the quality of the articles (a few of which were actually written by this PQH!er).
But last week, Wizards and Paizo issued a joint statement that said the magazines were being canceled. Why? Because Wizards said it has big plans in store for its Web site, where it plans to host similar material. The news saddened and outraged the game’s players to the point where the fans on Wizards messageboards were calling for boycotts and the firing of those involved in making the decision. Oodles of similar venomous postings were made on Paizo’s messageboards and on the hobby’s primary fan-run Web site.
The vitriol was quite unprecedented, even for the Internet. Heck, it unprecedented for all of geek culture, which is infamously picky and snooty. Some of those posters called the move akin to “a kick in the crotch,” the killing of a favorite pet or (gulp!) being raped.
Over the weekend, things settled down a bit as more and more people lamented the loss of their favorite magazines.
But then yesterday, a new announcement came: Wizards was pulling back a license for its popular DragonLance game setting.
These actions, and the upcoming release of a new Star Wars-themed role-playing game, has led many people to guess that Wizards is preparing to relaunch the D&D with an entirely new set of rules. They figure that the Star Wars RPG is being used to “beta test” the new D&D.
So what’s the big deal? Well, in D&D circles, it’s postively huge. A revamped D&D, coming so soon after it’s latest reboot, is an action that would be something akin to Baltimore losing the Colts, or the revelation that the ”Who Shot J.R.?” season of “Dallas” was only a dream.
This is because the average D&D player has had a lot of time and money invested in the game. The buy-in price is quite steep: $90 for three rulebooks, $10 for a set of dice and $3 for a miniature figurine to represent your character. (Then there’s also the oodles of cash spent on Doritos and soda consumed while playing the game.) For this particular D&D player, the investment has been even more — easily in the hundreds of dollars. Likewise, the time spent developing characters, learning the rules and playing the game is enormous.
For now, the die is for Wizards to cast. It’s all up to them.
And the fans? They can only speculate, demand answers and wait for the sky to fall, even if it never does.
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