Saturday, May 2, 2015

DRAGON+ Issue 1: Exactly what we're not waiting for?

In recent months, I've been pretty vocal in the shortfall of content coming out of Wizards of the Coast. I've been long hoping they would re-invigorate Dragon and/or Dungeon Magazine.

On Friday I heard the wait was over... or was it?

Wizards of the Coast launched their new online platform for Dragon Magazine. The app, which combines social media with a magazine publishing platform is dubbed DRAGON+.

So let's take a look and see what's in store.


I tested it briefly in the iPhone 5S and then on the iPad 2. The app is not yet available on Andriod.

The iPhone didn't appear to have any issues, but reading lots of text on an iPhone is for masochists. Once I started reading on the iPad, some of the issue in the app became apparent. Loading the magazine issue from the main app screen resulted in a never ending spinner several times. I had to manually restart the app a few times. There were a few other wonky UI issues I ran into, so it appears they may need to do some additional testing and bug fixes. It was a bit frustrating, but I kept at it.

Aside from the magazine content, it has a "news feed" that links out to social media content. Some of it is interesting, but we already get this through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, G+, etc... I guess it's nice to have a central feed for all that content, but isn't that just duplicating what social apps already do for us?


Now we dig into the real meat. This is what I was excited about... but that excitement quickly turned to ashes.

Introduction by Chris Perkins - Basic intro paragraph hyping the new version of "Dragon+"

Letter from the Editor - A second introduction to Dragon by editor Matt Chapman. Not sure why Chris Perkins got top billing when he isn't the editor, but I suppose he is the "known celebrity" and top dog in the content department over at Wizards.

Elemental Evil "Unearth the Deception" - I'll unearth the deception by letting you know up front that this article (and most of the others) is nothing more than a thinly veiled advertisement for the Princes of the Apocalypse module, the Temple of Elemental Evil board game and the Neverwinter MMO.

There is a brief 4 paragraph description of the Elemental Evil cults and then even briefer 1 to 2 sentence description about the 4 prophets that lead the cults (and a minor mention of their magic weapons... minus any useful stats or other details). There is basically nothing in the way of content to help you out with your home game. Even as a brief summary of the major villains, this fails.
Completely useless -advertisement- article.

Travel Talk - This almost approached usefulness, but then still missed the mark. This article is writting in the style of a sight-seeing / travel blog with the narrator telling the reader about some sites he saw on his adventures. But, again this article fails to provide anything useful to a Dungeon Master or her players. There are 7 locations denoted with a mark on the map and picture of the location in question, as well as a very brief description of what the narrator saw.

That's it. No NPC descriptions. No side plot hooks or encounters. No... anything to add to your game, other than a pretty graphic of a spot from the Princes of the Apocalypse module.

Linked pre-gen for your convenience.
Profile: Goliaths - Yet another article that misses usefulness. This article is a slightly longer rewrite of what already appears in the Princes of the Apocalypses player's PDF. I get the feeling this is the unedited version of the description text from the PDF. (Tangent question: Why edit down what was in the PoA PDF in the first place? It's not like Wizards has to worry about a page count for printing costs).

There is nothing new for the race that isn't already in the player's packet with 1 minor exception: the article does include a pre-generated PC/NPC... but there appears to be no way to export or print the character sheet! 

[Update: If you email yourself the link from the app, you can then view the character sheet image in a browser... but it's not exactly an obvious or user friendly solution. Because it is an image, you can only print. You can't copy/paste or or manipulate the data in any other way].

By the way, even though you can email the article to yourself for viewing in a browser, you are prevented from printing or copying text (I assume through Javascript). You can only print/save images via right-clicking.

Sword Coast Legends  - Another advertorial for the newest D&D MMO with a helpful link to pre-order! Whoopee! I imagine if you are excited for this game the article might be somewhat informative about how it might look and play... But I really wanted to find something useful in the magazine and yet another advertisement disguised as an article was really starting to depress and irritate me.

Video Highlights - Links to YouTube videos of Dungeon Master Support Group and Acquisitions Inc. Nothing we haven't seen before on social media.

Player Factions: Our "Heroes"? - At this point, I'm not even sure why I'm expecting to get anything out of this turd. This "article" very, very briefly describes the 5 factions in Adventure's League. However, there is even less detail than what already appears in the Basic D&D PDF about the factions. The article promotes the Adventurer's League, and then throws in a couple promotional links to the Elemental Evil board game and Neverwinter MMO. Again, nothing new or useful.

Ad for Neverwinter MMO

Know Your Enemy - This squeaks by as actually qualifying as an article as it talks a little bit about the tactics of Black Dragons. The article does at least contain the stats of the Black Dragon boss creature from Princes of the Apocalypse. Oddly, it also contains black dragon stats from the Temple of Elemental Evil board game (which, if you have the board game, is wasted space here) and Black Dragon stats from the Neverwinter MMO. [Huh?] So, really it's just a another advertorial piece.

Also, you can't print the article as far as I can tell (nor can you copy/paste text even if you email the article link to yourself to view in a browser) so its utility for the table top game is extremely limited.

Elemental Trinkets - Somewhat useful content, but it's not in the magazine proper. This short except just links out to a list of trinkets (created from fan suggestions) on the site, not within the magazine itself.

Ad for PvP/Table Titans (Scott Kurtz) figurine

Interview: Rob Overmeyer - An interview with a Neverwinter MMO producer about Elemetal Evil (sigh). Yep, another advertorial.

Ad for yet another R.A. Salvatore Drizzt book

Ye Old Magical Emporium - Ad titled in the contents as if it were an article.

Ad for Fantasy Grounds

Gauntlet Gophers - New Scott Kurtz comic. I like Scott's work, so I will wait to see how it matures. First one is a little "meh".

Ad for old Icewind Dale game (revised for iOS).

Where It All Started: Elemental Evil - Reflections on original T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil by several well known bloggers. Somewhat entertaining at the very least.

Final Grade

So I give this inaugural outing of the new Dragon Magazine a solid D...  It looks nice, but it's mostly useless and brimming with advertisements masquerading as content. I have some mild hope for the future, but their next issue promo is about Sword Coast Legends... Yep, another "feature" article advertisement for the new video game. 

Before anyone says "But it's free!" ... Just because someone hands you a free turd doesn't make that turd awesome. I would have preferred they had instead thought to give actual player and DM useful content and charged for it.

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