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The Tiger Roars 
Guest Commentary

It Ain’t Easy Being the “King” by Ross Watson
Ross WatsonThis editorial is in reply to the article King for a Day: If I Ran White Dwarf. I worked with the US White Dwarf team between 2003 and 2005, and contributed to the writing and editing of many issues—including the landmark issue, number 300. Keeping in mind that I no longer work for Games Workshop and I am not in any way a GW spokesman, I'd like to address some of the items in the article.

First, I want to thank Kenton for putting his ideas and opinions forth in a mature, well-reasoned manner. Too often, comments about White Dwarf fall into the "it suxxors" category of not-very-constructive criticism. If more readers were able to express their thoughts and feelings like Kenton did, the magazine and the community would be better for it.

In his article, Kenton proposes several things he would do differently if he ran White Dwarf. In this article, I'll use my experience with GW and White Dwarf to address several of those ideas and explain why or why not they would be feasible or desirable. 

"Give 40K its own magazine"
GW operates with three main areas of focus: Warhammer, 40K, and LOTR. All three are flagship games for the business, both here and abroad. Separating the three into individual magazines would be somewhat counterproductive - doing so would eliminate the opportunity for players of one game to get interested in and "cross over" to the other two, would require more staff and more costs (shipping three magazines instead of one, maintaining three sets of subscription lists instead of one, three times the covers/coverage/photography, and so forth), and would only start a new round of dissatisfaction (i.e., "Look what those guys got in the 40K magazine this month! How dare they get a battle report and all we LOTR players get is a scenario!"). In short, I believe GW wants to make sure all its customers know that all three games are top priority, and by covering all three each month, every month, that ideal is maintained. If GW would be willing to extend the budget for WD staff and overhead a bit... well now, there'd be room for some more discussion, wouldn't there? 

Ultimately, WD does the best it can with the budget and staff that it has to cover all three games to the extent possible. I encourage people to continue lobbying for more 40K coverage – it’s possible that, given enough feedback like Kenton’s article, GW will increase the amount of space and content for all three games.

"Encourage more submissions from readers"
Submissions are always a good thing--it's better to have too much content than too little when it comes time to decide what's going in the magazine each month. However, I would like to mention a few reasons why not many reader submissions are accepted and why most of the articles are generated internally. 

To begin with, all articles must be edited for accuracy, grammar, syntax, and the like. As you may have guessed, not every GW fan out there on the Internet has a solid grasp of how to write in the English language! Next, there are some restrictions on what WD can print--only the game design folks in the UK are allowed to come up with new rules or  write any fiction or background content. A lot of reader submissions involve stories of new Space Marine Chapters or entire star systems that simply can't be published because it alters the existing storyline. Lastly, all articles must have good pictures to be in White Dwarf - and WD has its own, very talented photographer, Dirty Steve. 

Thus, it becomes more efficient to generate articles internally--the article can be revised, photographed, and checked for errors much more quickly. Again, I encourage people to continue discussing this issue--there are plenty of diamonds in the rough out there who can write great gameplay, modeling, or painting articles that would be perfect for White Dwarf. 

"Establish recurring categories of material"
Recurring categories are an excellent idea. I tried to encourage this trend myself by establishing the "Only War" series (itself an evolution of Jeff Leong's excellent "Art of Warhammer" articles), and there have been some examples in the past (Chapter Approved and Index Xenos/Astartes). I think this suggestion is one that could feasibly be adapted by the WD staff, should they concur that it's a good idea.

"Have something for each army every month"
This simply isn't possible. Having worked on the magazine, I feel confident in saying that Kenton is just asking too much of the current staff to generate, edit, photograph, lay out, and print the current levels of content AND include something for all nine of the major armies on top of all that. Like Kenton, I think having something for everyone is a great ideal--perhaps, instead, taking on three of the major nine each month and including something for them might work, but that's still a tough deadline to meet. It's simply a question of the amount of work it would take to generate more army-specific content each month. 

The long-running role-playing game magazine Dragon has begun something similar recently. In the back of each issue, there are a series of one-page-long features for each major RPG class (i.e., Cleric, Fighter, Wizard, and so forth). I'm not a fan of this approach, as it seems forced and too small a space to fully explore the idea. Personally, I'd rather have an entire issue devoted to an individual army and get the full experience every so often rather than a rushed attempt each month.

"Vary the battle reports"
Another excellent idea. However, once again, the issue at heart remains one of resources and time available. Battle reports are fun and are clearly popular in addition to being a staple of White Dwarf. Battle reports are also time-consuming--it takes a few hours to play the game, take notes, and take all the necessary photos before you even begin writing it up. Therefore, battle reports tend to be one of those things that happens when there's time for it--often, there are other demands on the staff's time. I think new and different battle reports would be great! It's just that a nicely-painted army (you can't just show any old army in WD!) of the kind people are looking for may not always be available on the day when there's time to run a battle report. Instead, you go with what you've got when the opportunity arrives.

On the other hand, if your army is painted to a high standard, if you have terrain that's not just a coffee can and a green blanket, if you have a digital camera and a modicum of skill at taking photos, if you can write a fun and exciting battle report--why not give it a try and ask the WD staff if they'd be willing to publish it? Magazines are always happy to have the hard stuff done for them, after all. 

"Put more new rules from WD onto the GW site"
The new rules are making their way to the web site. It just takes time. Admittedly, the UK site seems to have more WD rules (especially Chapter Approved stuff) up faster than the US site presently, so I would recommend looking there first. I agree that this suggestion would be very helpful.

"Provide listings of recommended websites"
This sounds like a good idea on the surface. Looking at the idea more closely, unfortunately, means a lot of work. WD staff would have to make sure that the site they're plugging for free in the magazine doesn't have any objectionable content (no porn, for example), is a working link, is updated with some regularity, and has decent content in the first place. This idea has some merit, but I think one would be better off suggesting it to Tim Huckleberry, GW's Online Communities Manager--I think he might enjoy trying to create something along these lines.

"Offer a lower-priced online version"
The lower-priced online version already exists! Black Gobbo (on the Games Workshop site) is about as low-priced as it gets: it's free! The Gobbo may not have all the bells and whistles of White Dwarf, but you get it twice a month (or more, every two weeks) and the price simply can't be beat.

Seriously, however, making WD a downloadable .pdf has some merit, but there's always the difficulty of copy-protection. One person with an online subscription to White Dwarf and access to Kazaa (or something like it) suddenly means a lot of lost sales of the magazine, wouldn't you agree? 

Hopefully this reply helps gamers understand a little bit better about what it takes to create each issue of White Dwarf. It isn’t as easy as it looks! 

Related Pages
King for a Day: If I Ran White Dwarf

© copyright Ross Watson, October 2005 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle