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Monday, 6 September 2010

Back to the cold

It's official. As most of you will already know, Magnum Opus Press have confirmed that the forthcoming In from the Cold will be the final book in their new-edition Dragon Warriors line. The decision was announced privately on the MOP group months ago, in fact, but it was not until last week that it was made public via the Yahoo DragWars group.

Reviving the game was always a longshot, considering that it came out in the mid-'80s and was heavily rooted in a gritty, low-magic world that owed a lot to miners' strikes, the Falklands War, poll tax riots and Thatcher's Britain. US gamers didn't take to it for some reason - perhaps because of the out-of-date rules rather than the low fantasy setting. Whatever the reason, Dragon Warriors has now, alas, sunk back onto its deathbed - at least as a commercially viable enterprise - and this time it looks like there'll be no miraculous resurrection.

I say all this with great sadness. It may say Fabled Lands at the top there, but you all know that DW is my and Oliver's baby and even after 25 years we're still more attached to the world of Legend than anything else we wrote back in them days. Magnum Opus's 2nd edition DW was a true and glorious rebirth for the game. The scenarios and rules material by Ian Sturrock, Jon Reed, Kieran Turley, Damian May, Shaun Hately, Robin Low, Frazer Payne, Ben Monroe... and others. Guys, I can't list you all but you were the greatest team. Jon Hodgson's covers were the most gorgeous pieces of artwork I've had on any of my books - hell, they're the best any roleplaying game could boast - and for me his style defines Legend now. (That's no hyperbole btw. Look at the Bestiary cover below. This is a man who has seen right to the heart of Legend.)

And of course, none of this would have come about with the amazing efforts of James Wallis, owner of Magnum Opus Press, who championed the game, managed the project, ran the business, directed the team and personally edited and laid it all out. In the DW renaissance, James was the renaissance man. Oliver and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for giving DW its Indian summer.

For those of you who've thought about trying the game, there's still time to do so (and to ensure something goes back in royalties to that stellar creative team into the bargain) before the books go out of print. Mongoose have the entire DW series on sale here. I'd recommend starting with the core DW rulebook and the Sleeping Gods scenario book. (It's an investment. Trust me, in another two or three decades those 2nd edition books will be gold dust.) And the excellent Ordo Draconis will continue to keep the torch burning, we hope. There is even talk of the long-planned DW Players' Book appearing as an Ordo Draconis special in time for Christmas. James has pledged his full support to the old MOP team and will be continuing to give them the benefit of his experience and commercial acumen, which is certainly unsurpassed in the UK role-playing industry, so maybe it's too soon to be playing "Paint it Black" at full volume.

Looking to the future, the rights to Dragon Warriors are controlled by Fabled Lands LLP and, although the game is not a high priority for the other FL LLP guys, I'm hoping they won't give up on it. If there looks like being any way to bring it back in a commercially viable form - my own preference being Jon Reed's suggestion of a series of system-agnostic Legend books - then Oliver and I will keep prodding at them to chase up all leads. I doubt if another publisher will take up DW now; as James has revealed, it never made MOP anything more than pin money. But the energy of fandom is unconstrained by mere lucre, and DW has a host of enthusiastic fans. And perhaps Legend as a game world can be commercially successful where the quarter-century-old rules of DW were not. I'd like to think so.

Where now? Well, as one door slams shut another is apt to fly open, and the sad news about Dragon Warriors has spurred on some developments we had in the pipeline that are going to have Fabled Lands fans dancing on the tables. There is a silver lining. More on that in a week or so.


  1. Hi Dave !

    I understand your disappointment. But try to console yourself that - the capitalistic side put aside - the Internet allows books to live undepending on the editors' will. For example, Fabled Lands were never published in France and I could get them through the Internet. To my knowledge, nearly no new gamebooks are published in France.
    Quote: "the mid-'80s and was heavily rooted in a gritty, low-magic world that owed a lot to miners' strikes, the Falklands War, poll tax riots and Thatcher's Britain"....
    By the way, was Maggie included in the DW Bestiary ? ;-)

  2. Olivier - she'd have been far too powerful. Just think of a hellion with every feature rolled at 100 :-)

    I know that the old DW books are out there in the cloud somewhere as scanned PDFs, and will continue to be after MOP closes its doors. "That is not dead which can eternal lie." So here's hoping for the DW resurgence in, say, 2400 AD!

  3. Hey Dave - there is allways hope - let´s see :)

  4. Quote: " she'd have been far too powerful. Just think of a hellion with every feature rolled at 100 :-)"
    He he ! I remember that "Murphy's World" by Peregrine (at least the French edition) had so- called "Reagazombies" !

  5. What about that "silver lining"? :)

  6. Patience, Hugh, patience - we'll reveal all next week!

  7. I was aqbout 15 when I discovered DW, and over the years have toyed with scanning, hand typing, reworking the books in a single volume. I am now 40 and the DW books (2 sets!) still have a place on my bookshelf (they have survived house moves, a wife who takes the Proverbial out of my 'silly old hobby' and several years of being passed round other DW fans), my kids play the game now. I have only just discovered the MoP version, which I have just recieved. That idea of combining them into one book done well. It's such a shame that no sooner have I rediscovered it, than it fades away again. Still, as my original 1st edition paper backs are now clinging to their fractured spines, I hope that the MoP version my children now use will be handed down to their kids, and maybe DW will be played 3 or more generations on from me. I thought you might like to know that your legacy is still continuing to be enjoyed by a very keen 12 y/o, and a 17 y/o who doesn't like to admit it, but he thinks it's pretty cool too. Thankyou Dave & Oliver for making my childhood , and my kids, so much fun.