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Intellectual excercise – creating a magazine

If you’re a gamer, and you’re in or around your forties, you’ll remember the heady days of roleplaying games and tabletop battles.

These were the days of Thrud the Barbarian and Derek the Troll. Dragon, White Dwarf and Warlock are but three of the magazines that catered to the market. Out of the three, only Dragon was solely focused on TSR products but – because they had so many awesome games, this was understandable.

Then things started to change and slowly we came to the point we are at now. There are, to my knowledge, no cross-system magazines at all. There are no magazines to create content and additional rules, scenarios and campaigns and – more importantly – to present an unbiased review of products.

Some might say that Wargames Illustrated does this. I have to disagree however as the same people that own them produce Flames of War. They will always have some form of bias.

The reason that this article comes about is because of the internet rage from Games Workshop ‘fans’ who believe that the changes wrought upon – some might say wreaked upon – White Dwarf are responsible for the flooding and bad weather. I do believe that UKIP members are penning carefully-worded diatribes as I thumb this on my my mobile and cook a roast.

Indeed, the editor Jes Bickham checked his email yesterday and was rightfully upset at the hundreds of emails that were flooding his inbox, some of which were bordering upon hate mail. Nerd rage, truly something to behold.

As a result of this, I thought I would ask if there were actually any cross-system magazines still out there. The answer is no. Then someone said ‘why don’t you make one?’ Money, time, and commitment aside, I wouldn’t have the faintest clue on how to do this.

Unfortunately this ‘how would I do it’ hasn’t left my brain as it’s something that genuinely intrigues me.

First of all, would a printed magazine actually sell, or would digital be the way to go?
What are the intellectual property issues to be considered when writing new rules, scenarios, campaigns and fiction? How do you get hold of material to review?
Who prints and distributes?
How do you get people to advertise before you even have an issue out?
What else is involved?
How do you get the staff to do the ‘boring stuff’ in his background?
What else haven’t I even thought of asking?

As you can, no matter how people piss and moan, the effort to produce a magazine such as White Dwarf and Dragon is immense and I’d love to see some answers just so that I can stop my mind whirling!

Answers on this blog please.

About mattsylvester

Father of two beautiful daughters and married to the beautiful Karen, Matthew has been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since he first read the Hobbit at the age of 7.


2 thoughts on “Intellectual excercise – creating a magazine

  1. I think that the IP issues would likely depend on the IP itself. Games Workshop for example, are notoriously protective (some say overly so) of their IP, but my experience is that if you ask them a question then you get an answer. I’d say that if you wrote a new scenario for Warhammer and made it clear thatr you were utterly unaffiliated with GW, the scenario was in no way ‘official’ or tournament legal and you owned no rights to the Warhammer name or anyting else, then I struggle to see where they would have an issue, but again it would be a question for them.

    At the other end of the spectrum, you have a company like Mantic who freely seem to embrace people mucking around with their toys and would doubtless welcome any independent efforts that brought them more attention. In terms of stuff like Wargames Illustrated, ceryainly back in the days whyen I used to read it I believe that they would largely concentrate on historical gaming, and they’d simply give the reader a loose historical scenario that could then be adapted to whatever the reader’s ruleset of choice might be. Hawk Wargames is another example of a young and up and coming company that I believe would welcome the attention. Again, I think it’s all about a) asking the question and b) how it is asked. Print a half assed scenario with unnattributed artwork, logos and trademark names in it, and you;re likely to piss off whoever that IP belongs to. Approach them sensibly and follow any guidelines that they might seek to enfore and I think you’d be fine. In the case of GW, I suspect the fact that new WD is supposed to be the place for new rules, scenarios etc means that they wouldn’t go for it, as it would be counter-productive to their own efforts.

    From my FSOG experience thus far, getting hold of material to review isn’t difficult. Most companies are happy to supply review copies and occasionally even competition prizes when approcahed – after all to them it’s ‘free’ publicity that they don’t have to work for. If they bung you a game that costs them say Ā£15 to produice and retails at Ā£45, that’s waaaaaaaay cheaper than the equivalent advertising space to reach your target audience. Again, as long as you ask nicely and listen to any restrictions (don’t publish before a certain date etc) then you normally can’t go wrong.

    I’d suggest that in the modern day and age, a start up would be best done digitally. The costs of print (as I’m sure you would know) are likely to be prohibitive to anything other than a tiny distribution. With so much free software out there, and such a potentially large reach, digital is the choice for any small startup. Sure, if you get the numbers go for print, but that’s when it gets potentially expensive. On the other hand, if you CAN get there, you stand more of a chance of differentiating yourself from the myriad of blogs etc out there.

    That’s about as much brain dump as I have for now – but if you decide to go ahead with it, then tap me up because I’d love to be involved šŸ™‚


    Posted by Greg Smith | February 4, 2014, 8:57 am
    • That was indeed a brain dump! I’m tempted to do it just from a ‘freeeeeeeeeebbbbbeeeeeeeessssss’ point of view.

      But then I think of all the work involved and the initial outlay for a site that absolutely kicked arse and I sit right back down again šŸ™‚


      Posted by mattsylvester | February 4, 2014, 9:13 am

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