Dragon is the official Dungeons & Dragons magazine. Published from from 1976 to 2002 by TSR / Wizards of the Coast, the magazine was outsourced to Paizo Publishing (a company founded by WotC alums, now known for publishing Pathfinder) through September 2007 (issue 359). At this point Wizards took the license back from Paizo, and restarted it as an online-only version, in which format it continues to be published. In all incarnations, Dragon has been "100% official content", and much material that was first published in it has found its way into D&D gaming supplements; in this way, it has served as a proving ground for aspiring game designers. Three other publications were merged with it at various times—Little Wars (TSR's wargaming publication), Ares (for science fiction games that TSR acquired from SPI), and Living Greyhawk Journal (for WotC's organized play events).
From 1986 to its end Dragon was accompanied by Dungeon magazine, which provided premade adventures (mostly for Dungeons & Dragons). Like its sister publication, Dungeon is now online-only.
The magazine spun off several comic strips, including Knights of the Dinner Table, What's New? with Phil and Dixie, Dork Tower, and Nodwick. Additionally, The Order of the Stick ran a series of bonus strips in it.
A CD collection of issues 1-250 and its predecessor The Strategic Review was released in 1999. It is very much out of print. The reason for this is that TSR, when digitizing the issues, neglected to get any clearances for copyrighted material they didn't own (including the Knights of the Dinner Table strips), and predictably, they got sued by angry rightsholders who weren't going to receive royalties.
Not to be confused with a Japanese magazine called Dragon, which covers Japanese RPGs and includes manga, and was the original source of the manga for Slayers, Full Metal Panic!, Chrono Crusade, Record of Lodoss War, and other series.
Dragon provides examples of:
- Bazaar of the Bizarre: A regular feature by this name spotlighted new, unusual, and often humorously twisted magical items. An example is the "Ring of Spell Turning". If you use it, you hear from the ring, "Turning. T-U-R-N-I-N-G. Turning."
- Cool Gate: In issue #100, the adventure "The City Beyond The Gate" has the players travel through one to (then present-day) 1985 London to recover a powerful artifact from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
- "The Wizards Three", a series of humorous short stories by Ed Greenwood in which Mordenkainen of Greyhawk, Elminster of the Forgotten Realms, and Dalamar of Dragonlance met for friendly dinner parties in Ed's dining room while Ed hides in a suit of armor.
- The "Giants In The Earth" series of articles (running intermittently from issues 26 to 64) included 1st edition stats for many heroes from literature and legend (such as Sparrowhawk/Ged, John Henry, Reepicheep, Professor Challenger, and Umslopogaas). Issue #48½ included Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Popeye, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Dudley Do-Right.
- Deadly Dust Storm: #51 story "A Part of the Game". The story begins with a sandstorm that lasts an entire day and most of the night, forcing a caravan to stop to avoid becoming lost. With the dawn the entire face of the desert has changed, causing them to become lost anyway.
- Demon Lords and Archdevils:
- Some of the most perennially popular articles were "The Nine Hells" (parts I and II) and "The Nine Hells Revisited", penned by Ed Greenwood in the early '80s and which delved into the hierarchy of D&D's version of Hell for the first time, introducing a number of recurring villains.
- Towards the end of the magazine's print run, the "Demonomicon of Iggwilv" series of articles, each of which spotlighted an individual demon lord in great detail.
- Depending on the Writer: Some of the article styles change depending on the author or when in the magazine's run they appear. For example, the earliest "Ecology" articles were stylized as stories of a character's encounter with a particular creature, with some details woven into the story and others reduced to Footnote Fever. Then it changed over to feature a core cast of characters, in the form of a greedy, ambitious and somewhat incompetent mage's guild who hunted monsters for profit. And then finally it changed to a more straightforward and scholarly dossier approach — although not without some exceptions, like the gag "Ecology of the Adventurer" or the "Ecology of the Isle of Dread" (which was depicted as an In-Universe explorer's journal).
- Dragon Hoard: One cover was a picture of a dragon's hoard, which contained gold, jewels, and many, many less conventional objects, like a kitchen sink.
- Emergency Temporal Shift: In the #65 article "Timelords", a member of the Timelord Non-Player Character class has two powers that allow escape through time:
- The power "Move Self Forward in Time" allows the Timelord to go forward in time up to two minutes for each Character Level they have. The Timelord simply disappears and re-appears at the designated time.
- "Move Own Group Forward in Time" allows the Timelord (and one other character per Character Level) to move forward in time up to two minutes per Character Level.
- Honest Advisor: As Shannon Appelcline put it in the first volume of Designers And Dragons, at least at the start Dragon was intended to be more than just a "house organ". If TSR wanted to place ads in Dragon they had to buy space like any other company; conversely, if Dragon wanted to review a TSR product, they shelled out the dough to buy a copy. Issue #55 includes not one, but two decidedly mixed reviews of the 1e Fiend Folio (the long-awaited sequel to the classic Monster Manual) that complained about many of the monsters being derivative or lacking detailed background information.
- In the Future, We Still Have Roombas: Issue #48 Top Secret adventure "Dr. Yes: The Floating Island Mission". The enemy facility has small robots called "Bernies" that can act as vacuum cleaners (and trash compactors, because they compress the trash they pick up), They also mop and wax the floor as they pass over it. When one encounters a trail of debris (dirt, water, blood, etc.) it will follow it to its source, cleaning as it goes.
- Knight's Armor Hideout: "The Wizards Three", a series of humorous short stories by Ed Greenwood in which Mordenkainen of Greyhawk, Elminster of the Forgotten Realms, and Dalamar of Dragonlance met for friendly dinner parties in Ed's dining room while Ed hides in a suit of armor.
- Mockumentary: The "Ecology of..." articles presented in-depth looks at various D&D monsters. For most of the TSR era, they were presented as short stories with footnotes, while Paizo made them actual articles.
- Notzilla: The magazine once had an editor's note about their refusal to print Dungeons & Dragons stats for Godzilla, the editor at the time simply stated that, licensing issues aside, they could change his name to "Herman" and most PC's would be lizard food.
- One-Word Title
- Our Monsters Are Weird: Zigzagged; the long-running "Ecology of the (X)" series was devoted to exploring the particular quirks, aspects and details of various monsters in greater detail, which is technically subverting the trope... only to then play it straight with how weird some of those aspects could be. For example, the Common and Noble Lamias are linked by Bizarre Alien Reproduction; the male and female serpent-taur Nobles can produce more of their own kind through Interspecies Romance with humans, but mating with each other produces Common Lamias... which are lioness/she-goat/doe/female antelope-taurs who are hermaphrodites, having the upper torsos of women and both sets of sexual organs. Common Lamias can then go on to either mate with humans (more Commoners) or mate with each other to produce the sterile sa'irs, which have the forequarters of a lion and the hindquarters & horns of a goat and are almost animalistic in intelligence.
- Real World Episode: Issue #100's "The City Beyond The Gate", which sees the party traveling to Present Day (circa 1985) London, England, Earth, to recover a powerful artifact, the Mace of St. Cuthbert, that has somehow ended up on exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Issue #57 also had an article, 'Modern Monsters: The Perils of 20th-Century Adventuring', giving details on how to homebrew your own examples.
- Roguish Romani: The magazine #93 adventure "The Gypsy Train" thoroughly describes a band of Gypsies, including complete character descriptions and stats. The Gypsies are stated to be "light-fingered", including stealing things from PCs.
- Running Gag: The oft-promised but never-quite-delivered "Sex and D&D" edition of comic strip What's New? with Phil and Dixie. It was finally delivered in the 1994 strip collection... but was, in fact, all about monster mating habits.
- Shout-Out: Issue #48 Top Secret adventure "Dr. Yes: The Floating Island Mission"
- Many of the Non Player Characters have names that are based on those of Real Life and fictional characters. They include Bruce Nee (Bruce Lee), Chuck Morris (Chuck Norris), James Pong (James Bond), Doctor Yes (Doctor No), Mohammed Chang (The Dragon Chang in Moonraker) and "Sweetbeam" Leotard (Sugar Ray Leonard).
- One of the Non-Player Characters has no name. He has a cruel mouth, makes subtle puns, and females will be attracted to him. He uses cigarettes with three gold bands and owns a Bentley automobile. He's a high-ranking British agent and the British Secret Service will pay an $11,000 reward if the PCs rescue him. In short, he's the literary James Bond.
- In "The Ecology of the Kraken", the example advanced Kraken is called Great K'thurall. His worshipers deliver his sacrifices via a ritual called 'the drowning man', which is basically a watery variant of The Wicker Man.
- Silliness Switch: April issues were always gags, with goofy monsters, useless magic items, and a Hurricane of Puns.
- Troper Works
- Uncancelled: Being published by Paizo saved it from even earlier cancellation.
- Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: Issue #200 had a debate on who was D&D's greatest wizard: Elminster (argued for by Ed Greenwood) or Raistlin (argued for by Tracy Hickman). At the end of the article, it's revealed that the battle was being set up by Mordenkainen.