TSR, Inc. originally launched the monthly printed magazine in 1976 to succeed the company's earlier publication, The Strategic Review. The final printed issue was #359 in September 2007. Shortly after the last print issue shipped in mid-August 2007, Wizards of the Coast (part of Hasbro, Inc.), the publication's current copyright holder, relaunched Dragon as an online magazine, continuing on the numbering of the print edition. The last published issue was No. 430 in December 2013. A digital publication called Dragon+, which replaces the Dragon magazine, launched in 2015. It is created by Dialect in collaboration with Wizards of the Coast, and restarted the numbering system for issues at No. 1.
In 1975, TSR, Inc. began publishing The Strategic Review. At the time, roleplaying games were still seen as a subgenre of the wargaming industry, and the magazine was designed not only to support Dungeons & Dragons and TSR's other games, but also to cover wargaming in general. In short order, however, the popularity and growth of Dungeons & Dragons made it clear that the game had not only separated itself from its wargaming origins, but had launched an entirely new industry unto itself.
TSR canceled The Strategic Review after only seven issues the following year, and replaced it with two magazines, Little Wars, which covered miniature wargaming, and The Dragon, which covered role playing games. After twelve issues, Little Wars ceased independent publication and issue 13 was published as part of Dragon issue 22.
The magazine debuted as The Dragon in June 1976. TSR co-founder Gary Gygax commented years later: "When I decided that The Strategic Review was not the right vehicle, hired Tim Kask as a magazine editor for Tactical Studies Rules, and named the new publication he was to produce The Dragon, I thought we would eventually have a great periodical to serve gaming enthusiasts worldwide... At no time did I ever contemplate so great a success or so long a lifespan."
Dragon was the launching point for a number of rules, spells, monsters, magic items, and other ideas that were incorporated into later official products of the Dungeons & Dragons game. A prime example is the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, which first became known through a series of Dragon articles in the 1980s by its creator Ed Greenwood. It subsequently went on to become one of the primary campaign 'worlds' for official Dungeons and Dragons products, starting in 1987. The magazine appeared on the cover as simply Dragon from July 1980, later changing its name to Dragon Magazine starting November 1987.
Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR and its intellectual properties, including Dragon, in 1997. Production was then transferred from Wisconsin to Washington state. In 1999, Wizards of the Coast was itself purchased by Hasbro, Inc. Dragon suffered a five-month gap between #236 and #237 but remained published by TSR as a subsidiary of WotC starting September 1997, and until January 2000 when WotC became the listed de facto publisher. The magazine changed its name to Dragon starting June 2000.
In 1999 a compilation of the first 250 issues was released in PDF format with a special viewer including an article and keyword search on a CD-ROM package. Also included were the 7 issues of The Strategic Review. This compilation is known as the software title Dragon Magazine Archive. Because of issues raised with the 2001 ruling in Greenberg v. National Geographic regarding the reprint rights of various comic scripts (such as Wormy, What's New with Phil & Dixie, Snarf Quest, and Knights of the Dinner Table which had been covered in TSR's own statement in the first issue that "All material published herein becomes the exclusive property of the publisher unless special arrangements to the contrary are made.") that had been printed in Dragon over the years and Paizo Publishing's policy that creators of comics retain their copyright, the Dragon Magazine Archive is out of print and very hard to find.
In 2002, Paizo Publishing acquired the rights to publish both Dragon and Dungeon under license from Wizards of the Coast. Dragon was published by Paizo starting September 2002. It tied Dragon more closely to Dungeon by including articles supporting and promoting its major multi-issue adventures such as the Age of Worms and Savage Tide. Class Acts, monthly one or two-page articles offering ideas for developing specific character classes, were also introduced by Paizo.
On April 18, 2007, Wizards of the Coast announced that it would not be renewing Paizo's licenses for Dragon and Dungeon. Scott Rouse, Senior Brand Manager of Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast stated, "Today the internet is where people go to get this kind of information. By moving to an online model we are using a delivery system that broadens our reach to fans around the world." Paizo published the last print editions of Dragon and Dungeon magazines for September 2007.
In August 2007, Wizards of the Coast announced plans for the 4th edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game. Part of this announcement was that D&D Insider subscriber content would include the new, online versions of both Dungeon and Dragon magazines along with tools for building campaigns, managing character sheets and other features. In its online form, Dragon continues to publish articles aimed at Dungeons & Dragons players, with rules data from these articles feeding the D&D Character Builder and other online tools.
In the September 2013 issue of Dragon (#427) an article by Wizards of the Coast game designer and editor Chris Perkins announced that both Dragon and its sibling publication Dungeon would be going on hiatus starting January 2014 pending the release of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. The final online version released was Issue #430 in December 2013.
A new and fully digital bi-monthly publication called Dragon+, was launched on April 30, 2015, succeeding the existing versions of Dragon and Dungeon magazines. Created by Dialect in collaboration with Wizards of the Coast, the online edition ceased continuity with the printed and digital versions of both magazines, and restarted its numbering system for issues at No. 1. It is accessible in three versions - either as a free mobile IOS app (available in iTunes), as a mobile Android app, or via the web.
The magazine brands itself as an app with content "showcasing what’s new in Dungeons & Dragons – from backstory and world information to discussions about what’s coming next from the creators and developers of your favorite D&D products". Articles included cover content such as: game strategies and insights; details of the current D&D storyline; interviews; ongoing comic series; lore; Forgotten Realms world information; community updates and fan submissions; and videos. Additional content in the magazine is also accessible through links to the magazine's content in Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Although Dragon provided coverage of fantasy and roleplaying games in general, it became primarily a house organ for role-playing games produced by TSR (or more recently Wizards of the Coast), with a particular focus on D&D. Its coverage of games created by other companies is often peripheral. The editors, of course, consistently denied that it was a house organ. Similarly, during various Dungeons & Dragons controversies, Dragon featured occasional articles from TSR spokespeople discussing issues from their point of view.
Many of the gaming world's most famous writers, game designers and artists have published work in the magazine. Through most of its run the magazine frequently published fantasy fiction, either short stories or novel excerpts. After the 1990s, the appearance of fiction stories became relatively rare. One late example was issue #305's featured excerpt from George R.R. Martin's later Hugo-nominated novel A Feast for Crows. It also featured book reviews of fantasy and science fiction novels, and occasionally of films of particular interest (such as the TV movie of Mazes and Monsters).
Most of the magazine's articles provided supplementary material for D&D including new prestige classes, races, monsters and many other subjects that could be used to enhance a Dungeons & Dragons game. A popular long-running column Sage Advice offered official answers to Dungeons & Dragons questions submitted by players. Other articles provided tips and suggestions for both players and Dungeon Masters (DMs). It sometimes discussed meta-gaming issues, such as getting along with fellow players. At the end of its print run, the magazine also featured four comics; Nodwick, Dork Tower, Zogonia and a specialized version of the webcomic The Order of the Stick. Previous popular gamer-oriented comic strips include Knights of the Dinner Table, Finieous Fingers, What's New with Phil & Dixie, Wormy, Yamara and SnarfQuest.
A regular feature of Dragon for many years was its "Ecology of ..." articles as sometimes discussed by the fictional sage Elminster, in which a particular D&D monster received an in-depth review, explaining how it found food, reproduced, and so forth. Under Paizo's tenure such ecology articles became heavier in "crunch" (game mechanics) as opposed to "fluff" (narrative and description) than previously. The Dragon submissions guidelines explicitly stated that Ecology articles "should have a hunter’s guidebook approach, although it should not be written 'in voice'" and further call out the exact format of Ecology articles, leaving less room for artistic license by the author.
In the early 1980s, almost every issue of Dragon would contain a role playing adventure, a simple board game, or some kind of special game supplement (such as a cardboard cut-out castle). For instance, Tom Wham's Snit's Revenge, The Awful Green Things From Outer Space and File 13 all started as supplements within The Dragon. These bonus features become infrequent after the 1986 launch of Dungeon magazine, which published several new Dungeons & Dragons adventures in each issue.
During the 1980s, after TSR had purchased Simulations Publications Inc., the magazine had a subsection called Ares Magazine, based on SPI's magazine of that name, specializing in science fiction and superhero role playing games, with pages marked by a gray border. The content included write-ups for various characters of the Marvel Universe for TSR's Marvel Super-Heroes.
As noted above The Dragon was preceded by seven issues of The Strategic Review. In the magazine's early years it also published five "Best of" issues, reprinting highly regarded articles from The Strategic Review and The Dragon. From 1996 to 2001, Dragon Magazine published the "Dragon Annual," a thirteenth issue of all new content.
Digital (online/PDF) versions:
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows|
A collection of Dragon was released as the Dragon Magazine Archive in 1999. It was released as a CD-ROM for Windows 95/98 or Windows NT with files in Adobe's PDF format. The Dragon Magazine Archive was directed by Rob Voce, and published by TSR/Wizards of the Coast. It was reviewed by the online version of Pyramid on November 25, 1999. The reviewer felt that the archive was "worth the price", but noted that it was not Macintosh compatible: "This product fails pretty badly in the Mac world. Because the actual archive is in Adobe's PDF format, the files can be read by anyone with a Macintosh and Adobe Acrobat. Unfortunately, the search utilities that make the archive accessible are not available to Mac users."
In other words, the December issues (#221 of Dungeon and #430 of Dragon) will be the last issues you see for a while.