Zines.

People have come a long way from printing fanzines from their basement photocopiers or their local Kinko’s. I remember when that was a thing.


I’ve come back to this question countless times.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

Will they sell? Do TTRPG fans still read magazines? Or fan zines? Anything like that?

We used to have Dragon as our number one resource for D&D. Okay, back in the golden years of Dragon, it was D&D, Marvel, Top Secret SI, Gamma World, Star Frontiers and a ton of fiction, comics and other cool stuff.

Dragon was a truly great print magazine. I still have fond memories of particular issues. Heck, I still have most of them around here in one box or another. (Pfft! My wife calls me a pack rat. Whatever…) I remember articles on bows and sword variants. The Ecologies articles were pretty cool. Marvel Phile was ahead of its time for that RPG.

Later on when WotC, Paizo, and then WotC got a hold of it again, Dragon became kinda the cheerleading mouthpiece for whatever they wanted everyone to buy next. They stopped including non D&D content altogether. The magazine began to lose its luster compared to online publications and blogs. I have the last print issue around here somewhere. <sniffle.>

Of course, Dragon has attempted more than one online reboot and is still running today as Dragon+ if I recall correctly. It is free over on the D&D site. It’s cool. Kinda reminds me of the way WotC ran print Dragon. It’s a lot of rah-rah for the newest and shiniest stuff that’s coming out. They occasionally drop some pithy interviews and other gamer stuff, too.

I could go all OG on Dragon+, but I won’t. It’s easy to be a Grognard and rail on the new stuff. “Those damn kids…” But really there’s not much point to it any more. Besides, some of this new stuff is worth checking out.

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Technically Polyhedron was the official fanzine of the Role Playing Game Association.

Ahh. The good old days…

Second only to Dragon Magazine was a lesser known publication called Polyhedron. I was a member of the RPGA back in the 1980’s and 1990’s until Wizards of the Coast took charge of it. The main draw of belonging to the organization was my monthly subscription to Polyhedron. That particular magazine offered more of an outlet to break into game writing. It was also a good source of short adventures and other crunchy gaming bits.

Some of my favorite articles in Polyhedron rarely had anything to do with D&D. Sounds strange, I know. but the articles such as a table of military unit names was really appealing to me. That little magazine dove into everything RPG and not just what T$R was running at the time, at least until later on. Not to dis the D&D content, either. There were some pretty awesome ideas for potions, magic items, character variations, dungeons. All kinds of cool stuff. I kinda miss it. (But I still have all of my back issues. 😁)

Speaking of Dungeons.

Dungeon Magazine was another popular fanzine back in the golden era of T$R and even later on. It gave us full on dungeons and modules we could run every other month. If nothing else, it was good for grabbing bits and bobs of encounters and characters. This is eventually where Polyhedron ended up. Maybe a little less newbie writer friendly, though.

Dungeon was also a playground for newer writers and accomplished T$R veterans alike. They even did things for AD&D such as Oriental Adventures modules and Battle System scenarios. Of course, the sales declined when the World Wide Web began to provide an outlet for unpublished authors and module sales in general declined a bit over time.

Print is, uh, kinda dead.

When I went to college, there was a saying going around. “Print is dead,” they’d say. It’s true to an extent. We live in a day and age when print magazines and other paper-based publications are rapidly becoming extinct.

Truly, why bother when I can carry entire volumes of books, magazines, and other publications that used to be printed on paper. I can hop on any given Internet browser and go to one of hundreds of fan sites for just about anything. My email inbox regularly contains at least one newsletter for someone or something I follow.

Things have changed a lot over the years.

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This is when I start to have doubts about zines in general. A lot of fan-based publications have popped up over the years in one form or another. I’ve seen blogs, like this one. There are any number of PDF publications. Some people put out email newsletters. I hear that Patreon thing is popular.

People have come a long way from printing fanzines from their basement photocopiers or their local Kinko’s. I remember when that was a thing. I ran articles for a little fanzine called Papyrus. Good times. Nowadays you can find almost anything those little fanzines ever offered on PDF, newsletter, or website. I’m deliberately avoiding any kind of forums or message boards.

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I occasionally read through Star Frontiersman and/or Frontier Explorer. I like to explore the blogosphere for some OSR content from time to time. There are a fantastic number of sites dedicated to Dungeon Crawl Classics and other OSR themed games. I also like to scroll around on DriveThruRPG for new (free) zines and content that interests me. There are so many options now.

I saw a couple of people on Twitter recently announce new zines.

If we’re being honest, I’ve considered it myself. I have the layout. I did that sort of thing in college. It’s a lot of fun. BUT, I have this blog. (Love you, family!)

More than that, I’m not sure how viable a zine would be financially. I encourage people to try that format out and see how it goes. A broader approach allowing for multiple systems and lots of non-gaming content besides might appeal the way Dragon and Polyhedron used to. Who knows? Maybe they’re onto something.

I want to keep my eye on these newly formed zines. I might even offer up an article or two, depending. (Probably for free or in trade for complimentary issues.) There’s a lot of potential in zines yet, but it’s also a LOT of work. I’ll be curious to see what happens.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you’re having a lovely week. I appreciate you!

Thank you for being here!

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa always looking for more work. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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