For the first year of D&D Third Edition, Dungeon magazine kept up with it’ earlier origins where you’d get a lot of bang for your buck.
In fact, I found it far more valuable since designing adventures for 3e could be chore (stat-blocks and all that). Dungeon had become a real time saver. Most of the adventures were pretty decent. And if they weren’t, you could still mine them for ideas.
And then things went wonky when Paizo merged Dungeon and Polyhedron. More likr mashed them together. I don’t know if folks at Paizo had much of a choice, the company had become the publisher of Wizards of the Coast’s periodicals, with all of the ups and downs that entailed.
The big question, I believe, Paizo faced was this and it was two-fold:
How do you produce original and exclusive D&D content in the age of the Open Gaming License, when any third-party publisher could produce D&D content? And could these periodicals be sustainable?
Polyhedron was the magazine for the RPGA network. I wasn’t part of the network, so I didn’t see the inclusion of the magazine as a bonus.
Meanwhile Dragon faced it own issues (no pun intended), and at a certain point I let my subscription lapse, it had become the magazine full of stuff that I would never use (or allow in my games).
But I was rooting for Dungeon, I really wanted it to succeed and I feared that Polyhedron would drag it down. Polyhedron had some interesting content, but it, too, was full of stuff I would never use.
Fortunately Paizo didn’t raise the price.
Yet at some point, Paizo tried doing a Bonus subscriber section with the magazine. That is, you’d only get the complete magazine if you were a regular subscriber (well, that’s how I viewed it).
Needless to say, this upset some people.
It was a rough going, but once they finally dropped Polyhedron (starting with Issue #114 from it’s pages (and ended that bonus section nonsense), Dungeon really took off.
It surpassed its sister publication: Dragon. (It still continued to the magazine of stuff I wouldn’t use, but I know others enjoyed it).
Dungeon really became the “DM’s magazine.” Great adventures. Dungeoncraft. The Campaign Workbook. Maps of Mystery. And so on.
Paizo started the concept of the “Adventure Path” to get readers hooked from one issue to the next. The Age of Worms was quite good, though it ended with a 2.5 to 3 page stat-block of the demigod Kyuss.
There is no mystery in that stat-block, just a bunch of number crunching and rules for the DM to juggle.
And here’s the real kicker: some of Kyuss’s minions might around for the epic battle–each with their own lengthy stat-blocks. If heard of gamers completed the adventure path, but I wonder how much time it took in real life to complete that final battle. High level combats could take a long time in 3.5e.
And after seeing that giant stat block, I knew 3.5e had somehow peaked. The math had run amok.
This was in June 2006. Two years later 4e would come out.
In that time I still ran 3.5e games for my players, but I was already looking at other games.
When Dungeon ceased to be a print magazine in 2008, like many, I was saddened, but I’m not sure if Paizo or Wizards of the Coast could have done anything more with it, maintaining its quality while keeping it profitable.
The final issue of Dungeon (#150) went out with a bang as another adventure path ended, this time with an epic with Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons. It’s definitely worth picking up if you can find it.
(Yet not even Demogorgon’s stat block ran as long as Kyuss’s).