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Review 8: Dragon's Whisper [5 April 07] A review of a free online PDF game magazine.

Layonara is an online community of gamers playing D&D in a persistent Neverwinter Nights (NWN) campaign. I recently downloaded the first two issues of the campaign's PDF magazine, called Dragon's Whisper, and I thought I'd share my thoughts on them with you.

The issues can be downloaded for free from RPG Now. Here are links for Issue One and Issue Two.

There is much to praise in these. They are meaty. Issue One is over 60 pages, and Issue Two is over 40. The production values are high -- well above that of your typical fanzine. In real life I'm managing editor of a B-to-B trade newsmagazine, so with some professional expertise, I can compliment the editing, layout, and design. It is not too "arty," which is to say, it remains highly readable both online and on paper ... but at the same time it is visually appealing.

The artwork ranges in quality, but at the high end, it is truly impressive. Both covers are great, but the cover portrait by Lisette (Phaere) is stunning. The comic strip is less polished, and the story takes a few pages to jell, but has potential. There are also screen grabs from NWN sessions, which give a feel for the online experience.

The articles include reviews of other games, essays about Layonara, profiles of players and GMs, interviews with people who run D&D sites, and very long recapitulations of NWN quests. Many of these are readable, but the extended character and quest profiles are somewhat interminable for a reader with only a glancing interest in the Layonara world.

Which begs the question: who is the intended reader of this magazine? Certainly, anyone who plays in Layonara would find some of the more extended pieces interesting. Some content -- the interviews, the comic, the reviews, the profile of a god -- would interest any gamer, from pen-and-paper RPGers to online MMORPGers.

My biggest kvetch is in what I was hoping for, but did not find: The magazine is almost entirely lacking any crunchy bits. New game rules, things to drop right into your own game, stats and numbers -- there's almost none of that. This is a D&D game world, and the d20 OGL license is in the back, but there's very little here that is ready to use in a Dungeons and Dragons game. There are magic items, but you have to create the rules yourself if you want to use them. There are characters, but you would have to create your own stat blocks if you wanted the players in your own game to meet them as NPCs. Don't come to Dragon's Whisper looking for things to put in your game ... use this magazine as inspiration, but be prepared to do all the heavy lifting yourself.

Still, you don't get better bang for the buck, since the magazines are free.

There is one burning question I still have unanswered -- are there wemics in Layonara? How about a profile of a wemic character, or a story about how wemics fit into the game world!

Review: Four paws if you are part of the campaign community; 2.5 paws for general readers. Update: someone told me after this was posted that there are wemics in Layonara, for the record!

Explanation of ratings:

  • One Paw: Broken, badly flawed, may damage your game. Discard.
  • Two Paws: Flawed but not dangerous. May have a good idea or two. Not worth buying or downloading.
  • Three Paws: Excellent ideas despite slight flaws. Good value.
  • Four Paws: Essential and recommended. Seek this out. Use it!
  • With a Lick: Slight or inconsequential feline/wemic content.
  • With a Pounce: Significant feline/wemic content.

Home | This page last modified: 30 September 2007