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On Theme
Dragon Editorial
by Steve Winter

One thing to look forward to in Dragon and Dungeon is a greater emphasis on themes. I don’t mean themes like those that were introduced in the Dark Sun Campaign Setting but themes in the sense of a common thread running through several articles in a month. In April, we already saw what you might call a mini-theme—three articles dealing with gambling.

Coincidentally (or, perhaps, confusingly), the theme for May is themes. In this case, we do mean themes like those introduced in the Dark Sun Campaign Setting. They land with a splash in four separate articles, totaling fifteen new themes. These aren’t aimed at any particular campaign setting, which is another way of saying that they’re aimed at all campaign settings. The list includes the ordained priest, scholar, and seer; the alchemist, animal master, order adept, and apprentice; the chevalier, guardian, hospitaler, and noble; and the explorer, guttersnipe, mercenary, and outlaw. All were put together by Richard Baker, Wizards’ design manager for R&D and lead designer on the Dark Sun Campaign Setting, so he’s well versed on what themes are intended to do and how they should do it.

If you haven’t had a chance to play with themes or experience what they contribute to your character, here’s the 50-word rundown. A theme adds a third element to your character, layered on top of race and class. Those two facets define your character in broad strokes, and a theme fine-tunes them. As the Dark Sun Campaign Setting puts it, a theme “offers a different story for the same basic character concept.”

The magazine themes (we’re back on big-picture themes again) that you’ll see over the coming months are necessarily broad. We don’t want to devote a month to the school of pyromancy, because too few people would benefit from a focus that narrow. We can, however, have “magic" month, with articles covering such topics as arcane duels, illusions, a magic theme or two, a discussion of the differences between campaigns with high, medium, and low levels of magic, and an adventure that pits heroes against the machinations of an evil wizard. That’s an example, by the way, not the June table of contents.

We have a few ideas for magazine themes, but we still want to know what you’d find interesting. Have you always wanted to run a campaign with a heavy emphasis on ships, seas, and island nations, and you weren’t sure how to start? That could be a month’s theme. Are you yearning to play a prince in exile but your friends and DM are concerned that politics will disrupt the campaign? Nobility, feudal politics, and dynastic struggle could be a monthly theme. We know you'll be full of great ideas, so send them to and share them in the comments below.

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