History of Brazilian RPG Magazines
Since the last article in English about the history of RPG in Brazil was an absolute success, I decided to make a follow up with another topic of Brazilian RPG history: our RPG magazines. Enjoy!
The birth of a legend
Some RPG articles have come up before 1994 in non-RPG magazines, especially in the videogame magazine Gamers, whose chief-editor, Marcelo Cassaro, would drop out of the job for the opportunity to be the chief-editor of the first monthly RPG magazine to be released in Brazil: “Dragon”, released in 1994 by Trama Publishing.
Yeap. The same name of the traditional D&D magazine. And no, they did not have the rights to do that. As trouble with the law would soon come (because they were so lucky that Abril Group, one of the most powerful news corporations of Latin America, had bought the rights for AD&D the very next year and started publishing the real Dragon Magazine over here in 1995), they decided to change the name to Dragão Brasil (“Dragon Brazil”, not much better, huh?) in its third number. Also as a back-up plan, they released a second RPG magazine called Só Aventuras in 1995 (“Only Adventures”), so that they could continue in the RPG magazines market in case Dragão Brasil had to be discontinued because of a court order.
The major difference between Dragão Brasil and Dragon Magazine was that the first was a generic RPG magazine while the last was a
D&D TSR magazine. So, Dragão Brasil produced articles and material for almost all the major systems released in Brazil at any given time: GURPS, D&D, AD&D, World of Darkness, Arkanun, Invasão, Defensores de Tóquio and others. The same went for its sister magazine Só Aventuras. There was also The Universe of RPG, from Ediouro Publishing, that focused on Shadowrun, released by that company in Brazil in 1995, and other less know titles on Brazil. It was discontinued after two numbers. The only magazine from the 90’s that stood out with Dragão Brasil and Dragon Magazine, beating the Three Numbers Curse, was Dragão Dourado, from the GSL Publishing, that got five numbers before being discontinued.
Somehow, despite all odds, Dragão Brasil was able to survive. The Brazilian Dragon Magazine got a good run with more than a dozen numbers being released here. But the utterly failure of the publishing strategy of Abril Group for AD&D in 1996,set the end of publication for the magazine at that same year, after having 14 numbers released, and the withdrawal of the powerful news corporation from the RPG market. Dragon Magazine chief-editor, Rogério Saladino, ended up taking a job as assistant-editor in Dragão Brasil.
That let Trama with a practical problem; they had two RPG magazines when they only needed one, so Só Aventuras had to go. Cassaro tried to change the focus of the publication to maintain it. From a monthly magazine to a “occasional magazine” with a summarized game system, and an introductive adventure with the objective to bring new players to the hobby (it worked, and I started playing RPG with one of those!), but it ended up being cancelled after having eleven numbers released, with Dragão Brasil being the one kept alive.
The Magazine to Rule Them All
In the years that followed, a lot of new RPG magazines came out, but they all suffered the “Three Numbers Curse”. That curse is one where all new magazines get three numbers released, and then are cancelled due to poor sales. Not to say that none of them had good ideas, in fact many of them had really nice stuff being published, but the shadow of Dragão Brasil had really become BIG after a while. In over a decade that Dragão Brasil had Marcelo Cassaro as its chief-editor, when someone went to a journal stand to buy an RPG magazine, no one was looking for an “RPG magazine”. Nope, they were all looking for “Dragão Brasil”. It became like the Coca-Cola of RPG magazines, completely dominating its market. In fact, the ads for it usually came with the phrase “The bigger, best and ONLY monthly Brazilian RPG magazine” and while it could be a little arrogant thing to say, it was nothing but the truth.
In the height of its power, the magazine was even accused of “killing systems”, because if they stopped making regular articles for a game, then the players would simply abandon it for “lack of support”. As if the responsible for providing support for a game was a third party magazine and not the official publisher of the game in the country. Not as if the magazine lacked its official game systems, to which it actually was responsible for providing support, just to comment.
By the start of the 00’s the editors of the magazine were also the authors of the best-selling 3D&T, Invasão games and Tomenta campaign setting. Finally realizing that their work was making money for people other than themselves, the editors changed the focus of the magazine. While still making occasional articles for other games in publication in the country, they would make many more for the games and campaign settings published by Trama and its direct partners, like Daemon Publishing, which released Invasão (from Dragão Brasil chief-editor Marcelo Cassaro). Tormenta, the campaign setting, had grow so much that get another magazine only for the setting. It have 16 numbers released until the end of it (in events we will speak foward in the article).
That change of focus was seen as an opportunity for many, and while the 90’s had seen some sparse initiatives for new RPG magazines, the early 00’s would then have a whole bunch of them: Grimorium, Arkham, Fantásticas Histórias de RPG and other ones would come out by that time. Each and every one of them would perish for the Three Numbers Curse except for one: D20 Saga.
D20 Saga was made by the brothers Marcelo and Ricardo Wendell and had a really different format: it was made not as a normal monthly magazine, but as a d20 supplement-that-looked-a-lot-like -a-magazine. It came out every two months and kept going for almost two years until some cataclysmic events, which were going on in Dragão Brasil, would shake the small world of Brazilian RPG magazines.
The Fall of a Dragon, the Rise of a Dragonslayer
Trama Publishing, the house for Dragão Brasil, 3D&T and Tormenta, was not an RPG-only publishing house. They were into a lot of other stuff, like music and cars magazines, and probably a whole lot of other stuff that I never even heard about. While Dragão Brasil and the RPG front as a whole sold really well, the rest of the company was not doing so hot. In fact, the company went bankrupt in the early 00’s, but the owner used some financial mambo-jambo to keep it floating. So Trama Publishing became Talismã Publishing, then Melody Publishing, then… well, you get the spirit, right?
But, of course, when you start making strange financial maneuvers, you can’t go back. So, Marcelo Cassaro, Rogério Saladino, JM Trevisan and other workers of the magazine ended up beingfired,with tens of thousands of Reais¹ of unpaid salaries and other worker rights and benefits each one. Years later, the former workers won the case in court against the owners but ? surprise! ?, they had nothing in their bank accounts to pay it up. That all went down between 2004 and 2005.
But here’s a catch, while they fired the creative team that created Dragão Brasil and made it a huge success, they did not discontinue the magazine. After all, it was a success, and they could still make money out of it. So, they hired a new creative team and carried on releasing it. Luckily, 3D&T and Tormenta where property of their authors and could not be stolen by the former company. Jambô Publishing would take them in and keep publishing both games to this day. As for the magazine world, Marcelo Cassaro, Rogério Saladino and JM Trevisan would team up with the people from D20 Saga to make a new RPG magazine. Its name was suggestive: Dragonslayer.
The new magazine got three numbers, and then entered a hiatus of almost a year that made everyone think that it fell to the Three Numbers Curse. The truth was that Marcelo Cassaro was working on a deal with Escala Publishing, one of the biggest news corporations in the country, along with Abril Group and Ediouro Publishing. So, instead of the small and independent Marcelo and Ricardo Wendell’s Mantícora Publishing, the magazine came back housed by one of the biggest news corporations of Latin America. And, in fact, would end up slaying the dragon.
Dragão Brasil started to fall down on sales, suffered delays of release and other problems, and as after a two creative team’s failure in restoring its glory, the magazine would hit its last number, the 123th, in august of 2007 after 13 years of history. Between the original creative team being fired in 2004 and the end in 2007, it had only 12 numbers released in 28 months (despite still being “a monthly magazine”).
A side note about that period is that Marcelo Cassaro had another magazine with Mythos Publishing, focused on 3D&T and called RPG Master, but it fell for the Three Numbers Curse, thus causing articles for 3D&T to become more common in Dragonslayer.
Dragonslayer would have a long life: it was only discontinued last year by Escala, after having
34 40 numbers released. In its place came a reformulated website of Jambô Publishing with the news and articles that usually came out in the magazine, much like what happened with Dungeon and Dragon Magazine in the USA some years ago. That happened because, starting in its 24th number, Cassaro step down and Guilherme Dei Svaldi became chief-editor of the magazine. Svaldi is also the chief-editor and owner of Jambô Publishing, so you get why the transition to the Jambô website.
Of course, now we also have a gigantic RPG blogosphere, which produces more news and articles than any magazine could have done and faster than any magazine would have dreamed of. If you ask me, we are better now than ever before. But still, with the death of Dragonslayer, the long tradition of Brazilian RPG magazines died as well. There is no active RPG magazine in the market right now. And for someone that only got started in the hobby because of such magazines, I can’t help but feel a little melancholic…
As for the destiny of some of the legendary names of Dragão Brasil/Só Aventuras, Dragon Magazine, D20 Saga and Dragonslayer: Marcelo Cassaro now works as part of the creative team behind Turma da Mônica Jovem, the top selling monthly comic book of the Western world, with a standard of 400k copies sold monthly and peaks of half a million copies sold.
Rogério Saladino is now an editor of Marvel comics for the Brazilian/Italian publishing, Panini, working in titles like X-Men, Spiderman, Thor and Ironman. JM Trevisan is the director of content of the Jambô Publishing’s website, the same one that replaced the Dragonslayer in the digital format, and writes two comics books series: Ledd and Khalifor, both set in the fantasy campaign setting of Tormenta, which he created. He also translates articles for the Brazilian Rolling Stone magazine, works as DJ and photographer for a pub in São Paulo and as songwriter for a popular Brazilian rock band called CPM22.
Ricardo Wendell has a web design company, whichhas made the Jambô Publishing website and web store. His brother Marcelo Wendell follows his career as an architect. Last time I had seen him he was holding hands with the former President of Brazil Lula da Silva in a photo, probably because his family was involved in the creation of the ruling Worker’s Party (Lula’s political party), in 1979, if I remember well.
Last time I checked, the owners of the former Trama Publishing kept on avoiding paying their debt to its former workers.
¹Real is our local currency, as for the release of this article an American dollar was worth about $2.22 Reais.
Special thanks to Christiano Linzmeier Vepech for making this legible in English.