Dragon Roots 0: 4/5
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  1. #1
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    Dragon Roots 0: 4/5

    Dragon Roots

    It has been an odd year with Dungeons and Dragons. So much has changed with the cancelization of the two greatest gaming magazines and with the new edition looming on the horizon. There are some large empty areas in gaming that will be filled soon but it is nice to see a smaller company trying to fill the big shoes. Dragon Roots wants to replace Dragon magazine. It canít do that. It has nothing to do with the quality of the material but in the sheer scope. Dragon Magazine was seen by tens of thousands of people and I routinely found it on new stands next to the New Yorker or Sport Illustrated. An upstart with out a lot of capital is not going to be able to do that. But what they can do is reach a small section of dedicated gamers and remind them of what Dragon Magazine was like twenty five years ago. They can set an example to the bigger companies and say that this is what we want and if the big companies are not going to do then it will be done by some one else. That is what I see as Dragon Rootsí possible legacy.

    Dragon Roots is a new magazine from the writing desk of C. E Rocco. Looking down the list of credits this production so far is a one man job. That is a lot of hats for one person to wear and hopefully soon he will get some dedicated and talented people to help him out. This is not a small challenge he has set out to accomplish. But he has big dreams to replace Dragon and Dungeon Magazines. I would be lying to say he did it all alone. It does feature an artist Todd F. Jerde who has a few but spectacular pieces of art in the book. The maps were created by Mark Manders using Dunjinni an awesome mapping program I have yet to get a firm handle on. Daniel J Bishop also did one of the articles. The magazine is a little over seventy pages and I am reviewing the PDF version of it. It also comes in print for people who like something tangible in oneís hands. The PDF version does not have bookmarks and those could be useful. One suggestion as this grows an on line index of all the articles would be very helpful. Goodness knows looking back through piles of Dragons for the one article was never easy to do.

    The magazine starts with editorials like many magazines have. First is a letter from the editor filled with what he is trying to do. And in the letter is a shocking yet very honest declaration that he thinks Piazo failed in making the magazine. That my friends takes a pair. Piazoís version was very much loved and when they went away a huge out cry came about. But if one only reads that C.E. Rocco things they failed is not seeing the whole picture because from his point of view they did. The magazines grew and evolved and looking at one from 2006 and comparing it to one from 1984 will see some big changes. It used to be a great place for new talent and creative ideas. But that was a very risky business plan because while some of those old articles were brilliant many of them were not. Piazo played it a little safer and used more well known and trustworthy talent and gave the fans familiar but popular articles like class acts and others.

    Of course that is not the only piece of information in the letters to and from the editor. The rest is a series of letters from him to him. I guess it is tough to have fans write a magazine that did not exist. Sure it can create a bit of a Catch 22 but he found a way out. The letters are a great way to convey important information a reader might like to know like how to subscribe and how to submit articles. It was a much more entertaining way to do it them to just have the information printed as normal. There is also a bit of Roccoís sense of humor in the letters and responses. I liked that and hopefully more of his personality will come out in there.

    Before I start on the specific articles I want to talk about the articles. Or more importantly what as a reader I am not looking for. I am not looking for someone to reinvent the wheel for me. Twenty five years ago the articles were new and original because very little in Dragon magazine had been done before. Now a days though with thousands of books and probably millions of pages of material there is a lot out there. I think at this point an article on orcs would be a waste of space. However, there are reasons to include things like this as one cannot assume the readers have a wealth of material on their bookcases and hard drives. What I would like is a little research done and similar topics mentioned and their sources. I am not expecting these sources to be reprinted but it would be very useful for someone who liked the topic to know what else they could acquire that has the same topic in it.

    The first article is informative but hard to use in game. That is not the fault of the author but of the subject matter. It deals with social classes and one has to almost rewrite parts of a setting to make sure they fit in there. There are ten social classes including no class and a random table to determine what one is. Realistically or possible a bit low there is a fifty percent chance of being lower class. In a game like third edition Dungeons and Dragons that tries so hard to balance things social classes can disrupt that. A former slave and the son of a respected Duke are not equal and one will have plenty of more options and freedoms. There is a trade of though of responsibility and inherited the enemies of oneís father as well. Social classes can be a complicated issue and thatís one of the reasons I think it is hard to place well in a game. There are game mechanics to reflect oneís social standing. The article hands out more feats to first level classes and I am not sure that is the way I would have gone with it. I think a template might have been better but neither works perfectly.

    The next article deals with alignments. It is written by Daniel J Bishop. It is a well thought out article on alignments and can be useful for people that have trouble understanding them. There is not a lot of new insight here so for some people it will be things they have already thought of or read elsewhere. Alignments while a good area for an article have also been discussed rather extensively on e-mail lists, char rooms, and message board forums. I found the article good and one I will pull out for players that have troubles.

    There is an article on fourth edition with lots of information from wizards. I just think it is a little late in coming out. So much has been learned from Winter Fantasy that I did not notice anything in the article that was new. There is still good information here. It is just with the instant news that can be gained on the internet presenting it in a magazine is just going to be a bit slow. I do like that he was able to do this though.

    Zero level characters have always been a cool concept to me. I really liked the piece in the back of Greyhawk Adventures back in the days of first edition. One nice thing he does is training times. No longer does the wizard take four times as long as the fighter to become first level. This seems to be the biggest change from the standard rules. I also like how there are no feats in this system and the writer rants a little about the sheer number of feats in the game. Like him I love the feat system and feel it is way over used.

    The zero level rules then feed into a zero level adventure. It is a way for zero level character to earn training and become something more then an average citizen. There is some creativity there but also some of the obstacles and obstacle course come of a little dull. I cannot imagine writing for zero level characters is easy though.

    Over all it is a bold attempt with some very big shoes to fill. Over the next year I imagine we will see if luck benefits the bold or if it was just to big for one person. Hopefully though there will be a pile of these in twenty years next to the pile of Dragon magazines.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian
    Dragon Roots

    It has been an odd year with Dungeons and Dragons. So much has changed with the cancelization of the two greatest gaming magazines and with the new edition looming on the horizon. There are some large empty areas in gaming that will be filled soon but it is nice to see a smaller company trying to fill the big shoes. Dragon Roots wants to replace Dragon magazine. It canít do that. It has nothing to do with the quality of the material but in the sheer scope. Dragon Magazine was seen by tens of thousands of people and I routinely found it on new stands next to the New Yorker or Sport Illustrated. An upstart with out a lot of capital is not going to be able to do that. But what they can do is reach a small section of dedicated gamers and remind them of what Dragon Magazine was like twenty five years ago. They can set an example to the bigger companies and say that this is what we want and if the big companies are not going to do then it will be done by some one else. That is what I see as Dragon Rootsí possible legacy.
    Well, I would love to say in ten years we will be just like Dragon, but, I guess I have to take baby steps towards that platform. I have an ambitious plan of a quarterly magazine for the first year, bi monthly for the second year and monthly for year three. I don't need to make a ton of money on this magazine to make me happy, so as I get more subscribers i hope to be able to reduce the costs of shipping and printing, attract some good talent mixed with regular gamers too and hopefully, that mix will yield some interesting results.

    I full understand it is a long road to hoe. Hopefully, I won't have to hoe it alone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian
    ragon Roots is a new magazine from the writing desk of C. E Rocco. Looking down the list of credits this production so far is a one man job. That is a lot of hats for one person to wear and hopefully soon he will get some dedicated and talented people to help him out. This is not a small challenge he has set out to accomplish. But he has big dreams to replace Dragon and Dungeon Magazines. I would be lying to say he did it all alone. It does feature an artist Todd F. Jerde who has a few but spectacular pieces of art in the book. The maps were created by Mark Manders using Dunjinni an awesome mapping program I have yet to get a firm handle on. Daniel J Bishop also did one of the articles. The magazine is a little over seventy pages and I am reviewing the PDF version of it. It also comes in print for people who like something tangible in oneís hands. The PDF version does not have bookmarks and those could be useful. One suggestion as this grows an on line index of all the articles would be very helpful. Goodness knows looking back through piles of Dragons for the one article was never easy to do.
    When I made the credit and legal page, I simply looked in my nearest Dragon magazine to see all the different roles that went into creating this magazine. When I went down the list, I was thinking, "well, I guess that's me, and that one too."

    In hind sight my friends call it the ego page and I guess they are correct. On the other hand, I did do all of those things. I had a lot of friends who wanted on board when I first started but quickly procrastinated and I was alone yet again. A big thinks to Todd, Daniel and Mark for sticking it out and dealing with me rejecting their first drafts and doing rewrites and such.

    That is a good point on the PDF. I will try and add book marks inthe future. The pdf was an after thought. Dragon Roots is first and foremost a print magazine. I wanted to do only print, but when I found out it cost more to ship the magazine then the price of the magazine, I knew I couldn't just do print. I did have the pdf priced a little high at first, but I think I have corrected that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian
    The magazine starts with editorials like many magazines have. First is a letter from the editor filled with what he is trying to do. And in the letter is a shocking yet very honest declaration that he thinks Piazo failed in making the magazine. That my friends takes a pair. Piazoís version was very much loved and when they went away a huge out cry came about. But if one only reads that C.E. Rocco things they failed is not seeing the whole picture because from his point of view they did. The magazines grew and evolved and looking at one from 2006 and comparing it to one from 1984 will see some big changes. It used to be a great place for new talent and creative ideas. But that was a very risky business plan because while some of those old articles were brilliant many of them were not. Piazo played it a little safer and used more well known and trustworthy talent and gave the fans familiar but popular articles like class acts and others.
    DAMAGAE CONTROL

    Okay, it is true, I do feel the later years of Dragon departed from its roots (get it, Dragon Roots) but it is true. It is also true that Dragon hasn't been Dragon for a long time before paizo took it over. Before I get a ton of fickle ENWorlders bashin me, let me add that I was devastated by WOTC choice to remove the magazine from Paizo and a printed format and if they had not, I would not have wrote mine.

    Judge for yourself what kind of a pair I have, here is the portion of the editorial Corthian refers to:

    Back in its infancy, Dragon Magazine, in spite of its ties and financing from TSR, was mostly a group of gamers writing about things that concern gamers. Bad grammar, poor spelling, bad editing, it didnít matter, it was the ideas that captured the readers. While the current staff at Paizo Publishing did a wonderful job of creating articles and using established writers, they failed in our opinion, to live up to the roots of the magazine we so loved.

    Before we get flooded with letters praising how great Paizo is and how great of a job they had done as publishers, let me just say that they by no means destroyed the magazines. We think they did a great job and enjoyed the magazine while they had the license to produce it. In our opinion though, the magazine eventually took on a more sterile feel. Many of the articles seemed to be written by familiar names and mostly staff members. Sure, every once and a while you would get an article by an outsider or a module by an unknown, but for the most part, the magazine became predictable.

    That is not a bad thing by any means. One of my favorite Paizo regular articles was Class Act. For me that was the one regular article that either gave me new materials for the game or set the germ of an idea in my head for other new materials of my own design. Paizo did a wonderful job and we praise them for keeping the magazines alive for so long and by no means fault them for the downfall of those magazines. However, as with all things, an ending was inevitable.


    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian
    Of course that is not the only piece of information in the letters to and from the editor. The rest is a series of letters from him to him. I guess it is tough to have fans write a magazine that did not exist. Sure it can create a bit of a Catch 22 but he found a way out. The letters are a great way to convey important information a reader might like to know like how to subscribe and how to submit articles. It was a much more entertaining way to do it them to just have the information printed as normal. There is also a bit of Roccoís sense of humor in the letters and responses. I liked that and hopefully more of his personality will come out in there.
    That was my intent, to have a little funa nd give people a glimsp of my mind thought and sense of humor while giving them info they need to know. It also give me the layout for future issues so i won't need to add that later. I'm glad you like, I tried to make it funny, even my articles too, and not so stuffy. Hence, things like, "My baby wouldn't do that," in the, "What's Your Story," article

    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian
    Before I start on the specific articles I want to talk about the articles. Or more importantly what as a reader I am not looking for. I am not looking for someone to reinvent the wheel for me. Twenty five years ago the articles were new and original because very little in Dragon magazine had been done before. Now a days though with thousands of books and probably millions of pages of material there is a lot out there. I think at this point an article on orcs would be a waste of space. However, there are reasons to include things like this as one cannot assume the readers have a wealth of material on their bookcases and hard drives. What I would like is a little research done and similar topics mentioned and their sources. I am not expecting these sources to be reprinted but it would be very useful for someone who liked the topic to know what else they could acquire that has the same topic in it.
    I'm glad you brought that up. I don't want to reprint everything that Dragon did or come up with mor Orc articles either. It might be hard since a lot of stuff has been covered already. I think we did a good job of trying to give out sources for some of our articles, like the farmer background in the module. I will keep this in mind for the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian
    The first article is informative but hard to use in game. That is not the fault of the author but of the subject matter. It deals with social classes and one has to almost rewrite parts of a setting to make sure they fit in there. There are ten social classes including no class and a random table to determine what one is. Realistically or possible a bit low there is a fifty percent chance of being lower class. In a game like third edition Dungeons and Dragons that tries so hard to balance things social classes can disrupt that. A former slave and the son of a respected Duke are not equal and one will have plenty of more options and freedoms. There is a trade of though of responsibility and inherited the enemies of oneís father as well. Social classes can be a complicated issue and thatís one of the reasons I think it is hard to place well in a game. There are game mechanics to reflect oneís social standing. The article hands out more feats to first level classes and I am not sure that is the way I would have gone with it. I think a template might have been better but neither works perfectly.
    I always loved social classes and I love things that are not perfectly balanced. 3.0 really tries too hard make everything equal and the original game, and life in general, isn't equal. I like to carry these things into the game to make it more real. I realize this article will not be a favorite for everyone simply because there are too many people who want to play a game where they are the uber heroes and they have advantage over everyone else.

    I wanted to make something different than using feats, but in the end, with such a complex thing to deal with as a social setting, I wanted to keep the differences simple to the game mechanics people already know and understand.

    Anyway, this is something fun to try as well. Each has starting resources. Try just giving out the starting resources with no start up gold and have your plays work things out for themselves. It is always interesting what happens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian
    The next article deals with alignments. It is written by Daniel J Bishop. It is a well thought out article on alignments and can be useful for people that have trouble understanding them. There is not a lot of new insight here so for some people it will be things they have already thought of or read elsewhere. Alignments while a good area for an article have also been discussed rather extensively on e-mail lists, char rooms, and message board forums. I found the article good and one I will pull out for players that have troubles.
    I wanted an alignment article, but I wanted to cover things that normally are not covered and to deal with a lot of things people complain about in any of a hundred or so long article fights about alignments (usually labels something like, "my Paladin killed a child molestor in cold blood, is he now Evil?"

    I had him re-write it twice to make sure we covered how alignment effects society and how it effects classes, like the paladin or the monk. Of course, it will not cover everything, that would take way too long, but it is a lengthy article solidly rooted in tradition. I had to beg Scott Rouse for copyright permission to use some of this content as some of it deals with Gary Gygax's 1st edition material. I'm proud of this, as is Daniel, and I hope this closes some serious misconceptions that people have on Alignment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian
    There is an article on fourth edition with lots of information from wizards. I just think it is a little late in coming out. So much has been learned from Winter Fantasy that I did not notice anything in the article that was new. There is still good information here. It is just with the instant news that can be gained on the internet presenting it in a magazine is just going to be a bit slow. I do like that he was able to do this though.
    I started the interview back in August. Scott was just a little busy with the big 4e annoucement and training in a new publicity company, so the interview took awhile. I knew that if I didn't release something now, it would be old news. I like to think that if you can go away with just one quote out of this article about 4e that you didn't already know, than it has done its job.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian
    Zero level characters have always been a cool concept to me. I really liked the piece in the back of Greyhawk Adventures back in the days of first edition. One nice thing he does is training times. No longer does the wizard take four times as long as the fighter to become first level. This seems to be the biggest change from the standard rules. I also like how there are no feats in this system and the writer rants a little about the sheer number of feats in the game. Like him I love the feat system and feel it is way over used.
    I know it might not be professional of me to insert personal comments into the articles, but I think it helps take away the sterile text book feel that a lot of times come across in other articles. I love feats, greatest thing since sliced bread, but there are way too many feats out there. It shouldn't be that every time you come up with a new concept you make it into a feat. That is my thought.

    [QUOTE=Crothian]The zero level rules then feed into a zero level adventure. It is a way for zero level character to earn training and become something more then an average citizen. There is some creativity there but also some of the obstacles and obstacle course come of a little dull. I cannot imagine writing for zero level characters is easy though.

    The concept of the adventure is designed for beginning players new to the game so they can wrap their minds around the concept of things like skills, feats and combat. Some of it is a bit simple, but I didn't want to make anything too hard. They are 0th level after all. The nice thing about this adventure is that it really is designed for all levels because it gives the players a chance to play in a number of tournaments. Even if you never finish first place, which you won't do unless you are really good and design your cahracter so, you will still be rewarded. My players love this, they look forward to it every year.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian
    Over all it is a bold attempt with some very big shoes to fill. Over the next year I imagine we will see if luck benefits the bold or if it was just to big for one person. Hopefully though there will be a pile of these in twenty years next to the pile of Dragon magazines.
    Now that I have the premiere issue done and out, I have everyone of my friends coming up to me saying, "dude, I thought that was a pipe dream, I didn't know you were serious."

    I have a lot of interest from people who want to be apart of something bigger than they are as an individual. I have subscriptions already, so I have to write at least 3 more issues, but I don't plan on stopping there and now that I have more support, I too hope it will break away from the pipe dream with a little luck of the bold

    I'm glad you enjoyed it

  3. #3
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    I am getting a lot of positive reviews and they are scattered across many threads. I have linked most of them them all on the website at www.dragonroots.net for those that are on the fence.

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    Very nice review

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