I'm sorry. I really enjoy the vast majority of the products the Trolls put out, and Castles & Crusades is my current game of choice, but their House Rag known as the Crusader really annoyed me this month.
Let me preface this by stating the following: "House Rags" are used by publishers to drive sales of their games. Mongoose does this with Signs & Portents, a free PDF magazine published monthly with articles useful in their many games. Dragon and Dungeon are kinda weird, as the sale of D&D is there to drive the sub numbers, at least that's how I see it. In any case, both these publishers put out professional "House Rags"
The Crusader is a print product. It competes with Kobold Quarterly, Fight On!, and Knockspell on that field (I'm leaving out Dragon Roots as who knows when the next issue is, and Level Up as that is pure 4e)
The Crusader is the only one that is trying to go monthly. It costs $4 for 36 pages. It is ad light, so removing ads and the OGL leaves us with 32 pages. Not too bad. One or two quality articles would make that a decent price to quality ratio. Key word: would
I have been reading the Crusader since the first issue. It was poorly edited and reading cover to cover took me 20 minutes, but I enjoyed those minutes. It reminded me of the Dragon Magazines of my youth in some ways. Heck, I actually found articles I thought I could use.
Jump ahead to the latest issue, number 22. In it, Managing Editor James Ward (yes, the same as in the old TSR days) bemoans the lack of subscribers. He actually suggests that every reader of Crusader buy a sub for a friend. Then we are told we should "start talking the magazine up" on the Trolls forums. We are expected to shill on the company's own forums to our fellow gamers? Oh, and then a second plea to buy a sub for a friend.
I'm sorry, but quality sells. There just isnt enough quality in these almost monthly, rushed issues for me to justify renewing, let alone buy for a friend. I feel there is more filler then crunch or fluff combined.
Lets see. Which articles are useless filler, used to fill the 36 pages in question.
1 - Upon the Blacktooth Ridge: 3 pages about how the "A" series came to be
2 - The Book of Familiars Finds a path: 2 pages on how the old D20 book is moving to C&C - its a fricken ad
3 - Troll Lord Freebies: 2 page spread with 2 totally worthless maps. Seriously, they are worthless. Part of some future product with labels such as "see future maps for details"
4 - The Aihrdian Newsletter: 6 pages on some fake parchment background, thereby making it annoying and painful to read. Its game world fiction, I think. Double spaced with large margins. More filler.
5 - Tales of the Brass Rings: 2 more pages of fiction. I regarded fiction as filler in the Dragon mags of the 80s and 90s, and that was of a higher writing quality.
Wow, 15 pages of filler, add 1 page for the table of contents and one page for the plea for subs, giving us 17 pages of blah. 4 pages for the ads and ogl. 21 filler pages out of 36.
Interestingly enough, there is a two page article on the C&C Society. Most interesting part? The end of the Doomsday Book, a fan created free magazine for C&C. Much more cruch heavy and useful then Crusader has ever been.
So there's my rambling rant. If you want subscribers you need to earn them. Give them a product that they can use in their actual games. Make it interesting. Make it presentable. Work out the proofreading issues... its been a weight around the neck of the Troll for years... showcasing it monthly doesn't help.
As a side note, Towers of Adventure by James Ward for use in C&C: worst waste of my money on a gaming product in years. Am I saying Mr. Ward is a bad designer and editor? No. But he needs to find out what his readers want if he is going to grow those subscriber numbers. This reader certainly hasn't been getting what he wants.
The covers are cool tho ;)
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