Friday, July 16, 2010

Open Friday: The 'Zines

One aspect of the early hobby with which I didn't have much personal experience until recently was the fanzines, those mimeographed/photocopied periodicals produced by individuals and gaming clubs through which they published reviews, campaign and convention reports, and house rules. The 'zines were an important part of those bygone days and contributed a great deal to the growth and vibrancy of the hobby, despite often catching flak from publishers who felt that mere "amateurs" were in no position to criticize their betters.

Anyway, what I was wondering is this: is there any place for fanzines in today's hobby or has their role been entirely usurped by blogs, message boards, and websites? If you think there is a place for 'zines, what is that place and what do they offer that can't be obtained through other means?

As always, I'm off till tomorrow.

52 comments:

  1. As a young whippersnapper who was born after most of the zines probably ended, I have to say that I don't see a solid niche for them.

    As I understand it, zines were a way for smaller subsets of the hobby community to gather around and communicate with each other. But now, as you note, we have blogs and forums, and I think that those do a much more efficient job in a much more convenient manner.

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  2. I think there's a definite place for them in the hobby even with current technology: issues (assuming they are digitized) are an efficient collection mechanism - searching blogs and forums tends to yield a bad signal to noise ration, since you often need to wade through a lot of unrelated or fragmentary stuff in order to get to what you need. A properly collated (and edited) zine can be enormously valuable as a resource (compare tracking down and printing off a handful of blog posts with printing off an on-topic short article).

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  3. I guess I don't really see a need for a mailed hardcopy 'zine in the internet age, but I do think that printable PDFs of the same thing offer things that blog and forum posts don't.

    Blog posts and forum entries are great to browse and allow for valuable discussion, but printing one out and keeping it your folder is a pain. Electronically distributed 'zines, on the other hand, are perfect for that sort of thing.

    I would think even the "I'll never use a PDF rulebook" types would agree, but then I underestimate them sometimes.

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  4. I agree that in this age, a 'zine would best be a PDF.

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  5. I've been writing zines off and on for about ten years. People really seem to like getting mail that isn't a bill. Zines are fun to write and the copying, folding, stapling and mailing is a nice process. For me, it's a nice throwback.

    Sadly, it's getting more and more expensive to zine. Postage is going up yet again, paper prices have remained steady and copies still hover at 7 to 9 cents per page. A 20 page digest format zine with cardstock cover can cost about $1.60 to print and mail.

    If you are writing a zine to send to 30 of your friends, that could run a person nearly $50. That's kind of an expensive hobby.

    Gamers were early adopters of Usenet, BBS and web fora so rpg zines quickly faded. Fortunately, non-rpg zines are alive and thriving. I receive several per month and always look forward to seeing what the postman delivers.

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  6. I did a huge post about zines a couple weeks ago on my blog. They were one of the things that got me excited about the hobby back in the day, and some of the new ones that have surfaced online in the past few years helped bring me back to it.

    I definitely think zines have a place in the hobby, as they allow someone to publish their thoughts without having a lot of other stuff attach to them, drowning them in the noise. Sometimes, having a clean, concrete publishing platform for your ideas is preferable to standing on the soapbox in the marketplace. The zines allow more people access to that kind of format.

    With the advent of the electronic age, though, I think it's beneficial to have them in an electronic format, but I also want to see print where possible. Online access and distribution definitely allows for a broader audience and greater market penetration and saturation, but there's nothing like having a print copy in hand.

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  7. I think today's blogs fulfill the function of a zine. The zine was better for a time when communication methods were far slower and further between than those of today. Nottomention, they fulfill a particular niche of gaming thta may not have been available in normally published magazines of their day.

    Now, everything is far more instantaneous as we could have imagined back then. Blogs can be posted, direct comments given, and responses and updates flashed right back.

    Perhaps, if someone wanted to mine through some of the older. archived material from various sites and put them in a pdf? That would allow some 'buried treasures' to come to light.

    Ciao!
    GW

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  8. I'd say they have a place.

    But also, how are we defining zine? Is Knockspell a zine? Footprints? Fight On!? Or are we talking about campaign specific material, like Christian's Iridia Zine or John Staten's Land of Nod, or Matt Borselli's Switching to Guns? I think there is a thin line between zine and player's aid--is a zine meant for the broader audience of hobbyists as a whole, or for folks only running in or interested in your campaign? However we are defining them, I will say that I like reading them, as they often gather a lot of great ideas in one place.

    I'll echo Lord Kilgore here--zines are a great place to collect a variety of cool ideas in one place for easy access. PDF distribution does this well, and there are a lot of free and low-cost zines out there that already do this for a wide variety of systems.

    Christian's point about the cost is one that should be taken to heart--he speaks from a lot of experience in creating and making zines, and the printing and mailing costs should be taken into account.

    Most online zines distributed as PDFs avoid the printing and mailing costs and have the added benefit of not being shredded or soaked in the mail. And even the zines that are not free are so minimally priced that they are cheaper than subscription or mailing costs--the exceptions being Knockspell and Fight On!, which have high production values right up there with what we would consider "professsional" magazines

    I have about fifty or sixty blogs in my RPG blogroll, but I also know of a fair number of fanzines, and reading those fanzines are much easier to browse at one sitting.

    Just FYI, off the top of my head, in addition to the one's I mentioned above, there are Trollzine, Starfrontersman, Encounter, ODDITIES, Oubliette, Stellar Reaches. . .I could go on, but I think you get my point. In fact, it would be nice if someone put a post together collecting links to all these great fanzine resources (I just might have to do that myself one of these days, seeing as I have them all bookmarked anyway).

    And, I would also hasten to add, that "best of the blog" compendiums should be considered zines, too.

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  9. Well, Fight On! is a zine, and it's arguably one of the two primary tentpoles of the OSR (the other being this blog).

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  10. I'm old so I remember zines, but I can understand why they're less useful today than they once were. Blogs and forums take that role and have improved on it.

    The only reason I care about zines today is because of my love of magazine/print publishing. I wish magazines were a smart business these days, but I can see where the internet has effectively replaced print magazines.

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  11. The blogs are a rich vein of zine-y goodness. But there is something a little isolated about them, since each blog tends to be a single person's stream of thought, with the comments offering the counter perspective. The interesting thing about the 'zines were the mix of articles and commentary that all was appearing in a single stream.

    (I have a Classic D&D/OSR filter in my RSS reader that kind of produces that same effect, but without the sense of craft you get from Nod, Fight On or Knockspell)

    It would be interesting if someone created a section in one of the magazines, or a PDF new magazine that had a focus the community. The best posts or comments from the blogs. A recap of any of any recent debates or flamewars that happened (you know what I am talking about,) and anything else of note that is going on.

    I might be missing something obvious here, but the closest I can think of what I have seen, is the awesome weekly round up on the Underdark Gazette.

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  12. Zines are awesome. I perhaps have a soft spot for them since running an online Shadowrun 'zine in the mid to late 90s helped me make contacts and get my start in the industry -- not to mention that running a 'zine teaches you a whole bunch of skills that are transplantable to a bunch of different publishing roles (I need to write a full blog post about this ...)

    Some of the things that make good blogs good -- like a well-defined "most important posts" section, and revisiting old topics to add new information -- bring blogs closer to being better "long term" archives of their material, more like a zine.

    But I would bet money that a slightly-edited compilation of Grognardia articles, massaged and categorized, would be a useful resource for people to "catch up" with the long history of the blog. Not *quite* a zine in the traditional sense, but similar.

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  13. I've printed a few Footprints here and there, and I enjoyed Chris' Iridia (sp) magazine, that had a cool alternative edge. But as far as collecting and owning, well, I'm trying to minimize the stuff in my game/comic book/pop culture pile in the garage, and getting zine's to keep are not a high priority for me right now by any means.

    But back in the day, there was something kind of magical about Alarums and Excurion, especially when a teen like I was could get a regular article printed for a couple bucks. And The Unspeakable Oath in the 90's was just hellacool, as you expect a CoC zine to be.

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  14. I have a stack of the first 20 issues of Alarums & Excursions, which Lee Gold was kind enough to send to me. It's a fascinating window into early D&D play (the issues run from 1975 to 1977), particularly because it tended toward the coastal scenes - California, of course, but also the Northeast - whereas most of the historians of the game have focused around TSR in Wisconsin and peripherally around Arneson in Minneapolis.

    For those who don't know, A&E was one of several APA-zines, magazines distributed as a collection of mimeographed shorter "zines," running from 1 to 12 or so pages each. Contributors got copies and I think paid per page, there were rules in each issue. So one zine would be entirely by one writer, but an issue would have a dozen or more zines.

    What's clear is that D&D instantly touched off a storm of creativity that wasn't contained in the realms of either Arnesonian or Gygaxian D&D. But there was still enough of a common language that you could take your character into any DM's dungeon, although I think the Caltech guys may have had more attributes than the standard.

    A&E really focused on actual play reports, of which I have been meaning to do a more indepth study and analysis. I'd really love to see some of the early Wild Hunt issues, because the zines there had more of the rules tinkering and such.

    The conversation was really slow; it acted as something of a quality filter, but really commenting on other people's zines became a major factor in your own (comments longer than original content). I think that's the main problem with the format.

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  15. I loved the zines, and eagerly awaited the arrival of the next issue of such APAs as Underworld Oracle and Trollcrusher, not to mention Alarums & Excursions. In pre-Internet days they were the way you generally stayed in touch with others in the hobby. In particular, they often gave you the shape, if not the actual reports, of other people's games.

    With the advent of desk-top publishing technology some of them matured into full magazines. Tales of the Reaching Moon, the APAzine that supported Runequest during it's spiritual malaise at Avalon Hill is in this class; at the end of it's run it had full colour covers.

    Whilst the advent of the web has eased the issues of production and distribution immensely, it also suffers from the problems due to this ease. First, there are so many sites producing quality work that it becomes impossible to keep track of the existing ones, let alone find new sites. Secondly, they tend to be the sites of individuals. There is less of an interplay between the various authors; they tend to be more single-issue topics. Secondly, they do tend to be lacking in artwork. [I always enjoyed the cartoons in Trollcrusher which emphasised the idea of Old School adventuring.]

    And there was always the joy of getting a new zine in the post and opening it and devouring it. Which is much more exciting then browsing the websites, or checking their RSS feeds, to see if someone has posted something new.

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  16. I remember the days of the Zines, but I think their time has largely passed. Their place has indeed largely been taken by blogs and forums.

    What I truly miss are the smaller RPG magazines, somewhere between amateur zines and big mags like Dragon. They rarely lasted long, but they were often interesting reads.

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  17. Blogs are zines. Zines were floppy blogs. Distro changes affect presentation of content, but in this case, not by much. And how may blogs aggregate into zines anyway, these days?

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  18. For the most part, I think that blogs and forums/message boards have taken the place of fanzines. However, a fanzine could prove quite useful acting as a "content aggregator" of sorts, helping to sort the gold from the dross of what is out there on the internet. Of course, to do this effectively, the 'zine editor would need to be trusted by his/her readers to successfully do that sorting. I'm not sure how one would gain that reputation these days, separated from the aforementioned blogs and forums.

    I think that "Footprints," the 'zine published by Dragonfoot to collect what the site admins and other helpers consider to be the best stuff posted on the site, is a good example of how to have a 'zine act as a content aggregator, but of course they are only aggregating from their own site.

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  19. @bt: It didn't occur to me to consider PDFs as zines, since at that point, it seemed like the document was just making the jump to "online magazine," and that zines in particular gained something from their paper distribution.

    @Aaron Thorne: You know, I've seen something like what you're describing over at From the Warp, a Warhammer site - a "Top Ten" list of cool Warhammer links which the authors found that past week. A series of blog posts acting as content aggregators seems like they would do the trick, forming a solid part of a pre-existing blog.

    (Hey, that's a neat trick now that I think about it...)

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  20. Funny, I'm a member of the Hugo House in Seattle, which has within it, one of the largest Zine collections in the world (http://www.hugohouse.org/content/zapp) I never thought to check the archive for D&D zines but now I will.

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  21. We bloggers fill in for zines these days.

    Also for the same effort as a zine, todays gamer can make a professional magazine.

    Not much need for the cheesy old school, badly typeset "zine"

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  22. "Not much need for the cheesy old school, badly typeset "zine""

    Wow. All of the people who read my zines and send me notes of thanks must be really stupid. They don't know that they are wasting their time. Fools!

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  23. Well, as a blogger with oodles and oodles of stuff, much of which people have wanted me to consolidate in .pdf form for them I heartily disagree that blogs are 'zines. Blogs are just easy, instant gratification...the ability to self-publish at the touch of a button. Even when I do edit and proof and re-write a particularly thoughtful blog entry, that's nothing compared to doing the layout and careful compilation of a 'zine...electronic or otherwise.

    There is still a place for 'zines...and still a place for hardcopy ones I believe (specifically at book and game shops). They give people ideas, they get people excited, the should be made available for folks who aren't actively combing the internet looking for content.

    Power to all those people putting out 'zines...that's grassroots, baby!
    : )

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  24. I loved the old zines. I did not have many of them when I was growing up, but I was fascinated by them when I was able to get them. They are interesting snapshots of gaming history, and the independent voice that was always there. I was especially fascinated by fan conversions and home brewed games.

    My personal ties with zines was during the 90s when I was a member of All of the Above, the GURPS APA. That was a fun experience. Here I was, a guy working at a grocery store, writing up a few pages that went to other GURPS fans, including professionals in the game industry. I enjoyed the experience, and the comments and constructive advice has helped my writing ever since.

    The recent upsurge in fanzines (both printed and pdf) is a good thing. Even though I love message boards and mailing lists, there is still something about reading a RPG zine, especially if you've written something for that issue.

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  25. The commercial magazine is going away period. When Penthouse Magazine (which declared bankruptcy recently) and Playboy Magazine are in trouble, does anyone think RPG magazines are a viable business to be in anymore?

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  26. > Allandaros
    > As a young whippersnapper who was born after most of the zines probably ended, I have to say that I don't see a solid niche for them.

    It depends on what you're looking for: fast flowing, generally poorly organised chain-of-consciousness thoughts/content or a somewhat more coherent snapshot with considerably more fan involvement require to produce an issue.

    Unless you were born in the future (not that long, alas), Warpstone, for one current example, has had a very strong, solid niche.

    > hüth said...
    > Blogs are zines. Zines were floppy blogs.

    Not all fanzines are/were chatzines or rambling discursive by a long shot.

    > James
    > ... despite often catching flak from publishers who felt that mere "amateurs" were in no position to criticize their betters.

    Well, EGG for one generally had positive things to say about the 'zine scene - UK side, at least! - and being critical of the prozines didn't preclude a progression to the dark side (the Dragonlords editors being a prime example of that).

    > Reverance Pavane
    > And there was always the joy of getting a new zine in the post and opening it and devouring it. Which is much more exciting then browsing the websites, or checking their RSS feeds, to see if someone has posted something new.

    There is no quietus on the net.

    UO wasn't an APA, btw: very much Jaquays-inspired and in turn inspirational to many UK fanzines.

    Your example of TotRM is another good "solid niche" example where the fans ended up doing what the mainstream /should/ have been doing to support their product.

    > Brunomac
    > But back in the day, there was something kind of magical about Alarums and Excurion, especially when a teen like I was could get a regular article printed for a couple bucks.

    I still find it highly ironic that the "OSR" as a whole (there are individual exceptions, I know) has left A&E to wilt on the sidelines and instead chosen to go their own ways with regards to print zines.
    It would be very easy to state that the proclaimed love of all things old school is as much facade and personal ego-stroking given tricks like that. ;)

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  27. > RPGObjects_chuck said...
    > The commercial magazine is going away period. When Penthouse Magazine (which declared bankruptcy recently) and Playboy Magazine are in trouble, does anyone think RPG magazines are a viable business to be in anymore?

    "Business" and "fanzine" in the same sentence? I'm not sure we're on the same page here. :p

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  28. Christian, you magazine is not that cheesy or poorly typeset. I have several copies of the print version in my stuff.

    Anyway even if it was, yours can be the exception that proves the rule.

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  29. Oh and Chuck, there are still tons of magazines in print.

    They seem so to be going away mostly in the US because our literacy rate is rather low for an alleged 1st world country because of our educational system is poor and social inequality is broad.

    Many Americans can't read that well (a 4th grad level is quite typical) or afford $5-8 for a magazine either.

    of the folks that can read well , many are highly religious and read little but the bible or an occasional piece of religious literature tend to read online

    My visits to the local book store show many magazines, however few are appealing enough to a younger audience to drag them away from the computer screen.

    As for Playboy and Penthouse.. What niche do they serve in the world of free on demand porn?

    Even for this with an aversion to sexually explicit material, there is an unlimited supply of cute girl pics for free.

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  30. While my blog posts are published to an audience I tend to think of them as drafts.

    Maybe a blog is a draft of a zine.

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  31. irbyz said:

    "Business" and "fanzine" in the same sentence? I'm not sure we're on the same page here. :p

    I guess I expressed myself badly. I was saying that fanzines ARE the future.

    Magazines as businesses, like Dragon and Dungeon, just don't seem viable to me going forward.

    For the person who pointed out there are plenty of magazines in print: I was aware of that, thanks!

    However, I think the future of temporary print media (magazines, newspapers, comics etc) is increasingly bleak.

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  32. >>They seem so to be going away mostly in the US because our literacy rate is rather low for an alleged 1st world country because of our educational system is poor and social inequality is broad.

    >>Many Americans can't read that well (a 4th grad level is quite typical) or afford $5-8 for a magazine either.

    >>of the folks that can read well , many are highly religious and read little but the bible or an occasional piece of religious literature tend to read online

    Can't say that I recognize any of this (except the unwillingness to pay $5-8) from anywhere I go or anyone I know.

    As for paying for professional magazines, not a lot of people are interested in paying for information that was free online 6-8 weeks before the magazine hit the stands.

    But the health of the professional magazine market doesn't have a lot to do with the 'zine scene.

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  33. >>As for Playboy and Penthouse.. What niche do they serve in the world of free on demand porn?<<

    As for gaming magazines, what use do they serve in a world with a ton of PDF, print on demand and Wizards having a D&D online service?

    If I want an adventure, I don't need to subscribe to a magazine and hope it has something I want.

    I can find an adventure to meet my specifications, buy it, and print it out.

    This is why Wizards has been backing away from Dungeon and Dragon for quite awhile.

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  34. Chuck, I think the future of non print on demand gaming magazines is bleak and in that I agree with you.

    However if the ad/article I just read (as in 30 minutes ago) in popular science is not all hype, magazine sales are actually up. The ad/article also mentions that this numbers are quite excellent for 18-34 year olds, as good as or better than older generations.

    Now, subscriptions are mostly handled over the Internet but all in all, the print rags are doing fine. At least if Pop-Sci is to be believed numbers wise. Adds are likely hurting a bit do to online adverts but the economy in general is hurting too .. Nothing new there.

    Newspapers, a whole seperate kind of periodical are dying mainly because of Craigslist ...

    Now print support in the form of glossy monthlies was cool (I loved Dragon back in the day) but its kind of been superseded by the web . As you so ably mention so has our little corner (RPG's) and of course stuff like news and Playboy and Penthouse have been hit too.

    Also even if I wanted to make a print magazine and anyone would buy it, there really is no where to sell it. The hobby is fine (though we've lost players to LARPS and WoW) but the hobby shop is DOA and w/o a hobby shop its hard to sell a general topics magazine.

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  35. As much as I loved magazines (whether pro or am), I always had several issues with them. It was hard to find something in a shelf full of them. (Indices were obsolete the month after they were published.) They weren’t very durable. You had to carry a whole magazine to use a single article from it.

    Today, it seems like web sites (of various sorts) have all sorts of advantages over magazines. Yet, I really enjoy OD&Dites, Footprints, and Fight On!. (I mean to check out Knockspell soon.)

    Part of me still wants to believe they’d be better as separate articles in a searchable database than collected in a PDF, but...shrug At least the iPad means that I don’t have to print them anymore and that I can carry them all to the game with me.

    Actually, I liked the web version of Pyramid a lot when I was a subscriber, but they’ve gone the PDF route now too.

    Premier Guitar is kind of interesting. Besides the print copies, you can access it online in a wannabe-PDF format. All the articles are also available on the web site, however, in more of a standard web format complete with user comments.

    Word verification: decorys; look-a-likes of the Coreys used to help them escape fans in the ’80s.

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  36. Also even if I wanted to make a print magazine and anyone would buy it, there really is no where to sell it. The hobby is fine (though we've lost players to LARPS and WoW) but the hobby shop is DOA and w/o a hobby shop its hard to sell a general topics magazine.

    The hobby shops in my neck of the woods are doing fine.

    Also, the local B&N carries an awful lot of special interest magazines. They carried Dragon and Dungeon up until Wizards took ’em online.

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  37. I write for a couple of PDF zines, so I guess some of them are still alive:

    Fighting Fantazine

    (for those old Fighting Fantasy gamebooks - FREE!)

    http://fightingfantazine.bravehost.com/Fighting%20Fantazine.html

    and Ordo Draconis

    (for Dragon Warriors)

    http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=64555

    Best Australian zine/magazine back in the day was Australian Realms, with its own homebrew Unae setting for WHFRP. Good fun!

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  38. @irbyz:
    I still find it highly ironic that the "OSR" as a whole
    (there are individual exceptions, I know) has left A&E to wilt on the sidelines and instead chosen to go their own ways with regards to print zines.


    Maybe this is because A&E has refused to embrace online distribution? How hard could it be to scan all the old issues into PDFs and post them online? Yeah, there are 35 years of back issues, but it wouldn't take that long to at least scan them as images to quickly get the old stuff online and then post new material as OCR'ed PDFs or direct from Word to PDF.

    But Lee Gold has insisted on keeping it extremely old school, which in the Internet era instantly limits its appeal. The only way a new gamer or a gamer interested in old school products could learn about A&E is from grognards waxing nostalgic. I remember A&E from back in the day, but I didn't know it was still in existence until a year or so ago.

    But Trollcrusher, on the other hand, at least has a web presence:

    http://www.trllcrshr.co.uk/index.html

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  39. > Maybe this is because A&E has refused to embrace online distribution?

    Available by email, in print, or both. Electronic version either in collated files (Word, etc.) or as a single .pdf distribution; http://www.conchord.org/xeno/aande.html
    Interesting definition of "refused".

    > How hard could it be to scan all the old issues into PDFs and post them online? Yeah, there are 35 years of back issues, but it wouldn't take that long to at least scan them as images to quickly get the old stuff online and then post new material as OCR'ed PDFs or direct from Word to PDF.

    Copyright issues impact /all/ 'zines in that domain, not just A&E. Lee does, however, go much further than most in trying to assist.

    > But Lee Gold has insisted on keeping it extremely old school, which in the Internet era instantly limits its appeal. The only way a new gamer or a gamer interested in old school products could learn about A&E is from grognards waxing nostalgic. I remember A&E from back in the day, but I didn't know it was still in existence until a year or so ago.

    Have you read a copy recently, or made any effort to encourage recolonisation and expansion by the current fanbase?

    Yes, she doesn't exactly go OTT on publicity but that's hardly a reason to condemn out-of-hand.

    > But Trollcrusher, on the other hand, at least has a web presence:
    http://www.trllcrshr.co.uk/index.html

    Site has nothing to do with the Trollcrusher 'zine or any of the original editors: they'd also wanted to put up legible scans illegally (some might think that's a "good thing", of course).

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  40. > RPGObjects_chuck
    > I guess I expressed myself badly. I was saying that fanzines ARE the future.

    Would be nice, but the trend towards instant gratification is a difficult one to overcome as is expectation of comparison against "fanzines" that contain 100+ pages of glossy, high quality content. ;)

    Harking back to Christian's comment about being an "expensive hobby" - to be honest I'd not call $50 particularly expensive relative to the time involved (unless you're a very quick APA collator/editor!) and, of course, it's possible to distribute copies via other channels such as OSR & similar cons, too.

    > Magazines as businesses, like Dragon and Dungeon, just don't seem viable to me going forward.

    Good timing on such observations for the likes of http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10641398 on the computer gaming side?
    Dragon and Dungeon were both culled prematurely: aside from not running at a loss, that decision was a deliberate strategic policy such as that undertaken by GW to focus in on a particular subset of players and stuff the rest, ignoring such matters as "free advertising" by having copies on shelves.
    GW's strategy, however, did not involve culling their own prozine (circulation was still 150,000+ not that long ago and even if that's declined the increase in cost would probably more than make up the difference).

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  41. "Dragon and Dungeon were both culled prematurely: aside from not running at a loss, that decision was a deliberate strategic policy..."

    Yes, a deliberate strategic policy made with the knowledge that the magazine business is a terrible business to be in going forward.

    Notice I didn't say it was a complete dead end right now, or that every magazine is losing money.

    Wizard had been backing away from their magazines for years, ever since they farmed them out.

    Eventually they came up with a better idea. From all the 4e fans I've talked to, the digital versions of dragon and dungeon are a huge hit with them.

    I think publishing is going to change drastically in the years to come, with POD becoming a lot more common, and PDF really surging with IPad and Kindle, especially for periodicals.

    I've been saying this for almost 10 years btw. I joined a rpg house that was primarily in the PDF business in 2002.

    People have been calling my "books, magazines and newspapers will become rare outside of electronic format", crazy all this time and maybe I am.

    But I still don't think so.

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  42. Another comment on the subject of Wizards deliberately shafting a large portion of their customer base a la GW.

    Everything I have seen shows me that WOTC knows who their *actual* customers are, and that they work hard to please them.

    This does not include everyone who still plays D&D.

    They weren't going to get someone like me to play 4e, and so chasing me is silly.

    On the other hand, every person actually playing 4e that I have talked to, which is a fair amount, has had nothing but good things to say about the digital stuff they're offering.

    Those are the folks WOTC should cater to. I'm not their customer.

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  43. > Everything I have seen shows me that WOTC knows who their *actual* customers are, and that they work hard to please them.

    No customers = no $$$, agreed, but the net result was still to put even more eggs in one basket whilst promoting habitat insularisation - deliberately or otherwise - within the overall gaming community. (At least they don't appear to have built-in a relentless customer churn to their business model, yet, like GW).

    Anyhow, yet another raison d'être for fanzines and other fan-based/small-press publications as a whole to address the bigger picture beyond those islands of relative commercial stability as /well/ as ensured those are not deliberately alienated, since without such ecological corridors extinction events are far more likely within the overall environment.

    A long-term, balanced approach is easier to manufacture (literally) in print than online.

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  44. How exactly would keeping the magazines in print form have kept anyone from being "alienated" or not resulted in "all eggs being in one basket"?

    Are you somehow imagining a world in which Wizards moves to 4e, but the magazines covered OSR and Pathfinder in addition to 4e?

    As a company they were moving on.

    Dragon belongs to them, it would have moved on too, whether or not Paizo was making it, whether or not it was in print or online.

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  45. (OT)
    > How exactly would keeping the magazines in print form have kept anyone from being "alienated" or not resulted in "all eggs being in one basket"?

    History and accessibility.

    Regarding "all eggs being in one basket", of course WotC is free to push as many or as few gaming expressions as they wish (it used to be closer to the former); I was meaning with regards to content delivery channels. The transition wasn't exactly a well-executed one, either, and with less goodwill or $$ backing could've easily gone belly-up.

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  46. I can't keep a blog on my shelf.

    Also, there's still no digital replacement for seeing one's name in print. Real print.

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  47. The Wayfinder e-zine for Pathfinder is great. Zines provide a couple things that make them uniquely "better" than blogs and forums.

    It's not just about aggregation - it's about editing, quality, and focus.

    Any given blog has a lot of posts. Many of them about "what I had for dinner yesterday" that really the larger audience doesn't really care about, and random thoughts, questions (like this post) and other stuff. Forums have even worse signal to noise. Sometimes people do post honest to God content, but it's often pretty small (serialized fiction on blogs and forums tends to be really low word count once you step back and look at it).

    A zine can bring "just the content," but it's not just aggregating, it's soliciting. That lets you a) reject crappy submissions, b) have a theme (Hey, this month let's do swords and ray-guns kind if stuff!), and c) motivate authors to longer, more focused efforts. I've worked on zines in the past and they're never just collecting blog posts, people submit articles specifically purpose written, and are 6 pages long, not two paragraphs (looking at you, blog post I'm commenting on!)

    Anyway, 50% of the work of zines isn't the "writing stuff" it's in the editing process and that adds a lot of explicit and implicit quality.

    Now, sadly, there's not too much in the way of print zines any more (though Wayfinder did so weell that their recent third issue they did a print one...)

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  48. That was a great enumeration of the value magazines have, mxyzplk.

    It seems to me, though, that all those things can be applied to a blog-like delivery. With added bonuses. It can be indexed and searched. Errata and updates can be attached to the original article rather than being an overlooked little bit squeezed into a later issue. Feedback can likewise be attached to the article rather than being spread across the “letters” section of future issues. People can print out single articles for convenient use at the table. (Even when you have a PDF magazine, the needs of a printed layout can make printing a single article less convenient.)

    There have been a number of attempts at this, although I don’t know that anyone has gotten it “right” yet.

    Will, you can keep a blog on your shelf, if you want to. To me a much bigger issue is that the stuff on my shelf gets less and less use compared to the stuff that I can have my computer search.

    Seeing your name in “real print” may still have an impact for you, but I don’t feel any difference between pixels on a screen and pixels on paper anymore. What I used to get from seeing my name in print was recognition. Print no longer represents that the way it once did. And I’m very thankful for the recognition that I have received via on-screen pixels.

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  49. "Seeing your name in 'real print' may still have an impact for you, but I don’t feel any difference between pixels on a screen and pixels on paper anymore."

    Me, I'm just in love with books. Real, physical books. That's why I don't own or use any PDF-only products and probably never will.

    In fact, I payed to get the Castle of the Mad Archmage PDF made into a book for just this reason.

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  50. Traveller is my game...and I can testify that the bulk of innovation and fun was in the zine format. I don't think the web has entirely replaced it. For what the web does poorly is illustration...countless zines (lovingly) appropriated and asked their friends to do some sketches. It also was more experimental than what the "Official" sanctioned magazines and today's forum - yes, there are fan forums...but it takes effort to find them.

    I miss also getting something in the mail.

    I also took delight in the amateurishness of zines...as I always marveled how people could keep their day jobs, active gaming life and run a fanzine at the same time. Either life has got faster or it is a lost art.

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  51. Referee,

    You're a man after my own heart! I love Traveller fanzines; that's where the real action was back in the day.

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  52. Referee,

    You're a man after my own heart! I love Traveller fanzines; that's where the real action was back in the day


    Oh shucks James...now you making me blush...you do know about the efforts of the Traveller community to digitalize many of these fanzines and put them on the web...

    Pity we never got around to playing Fading Suns or Traveller together. C'est la vie!

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