10–16 June 2019: Origins Awards; Free RPG Day; RPGs Shape Us

And 2019 has passed the halfway mark!

This week’s update includes a number of moving pieces on gaming and the games industry, including a moving tribute to the late James Mathe, and Jim Zub’s reflections on how gaming shaped his life.

This weekend past saw the Origins Game Fair, and with it the Origins Awards. Saturday was also Free RPG Day, and James gives us some insights into how it went from the perspective of our FLGS.

There’s also a defamation suit, a Stargate RPG, a queer post-apocalypse, and more on the trade war.

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How gaming shapes us

We are saddened to learn that James Mathe, founder of RPG digital platform, RPGNow, has passed away. Steve Wieck, offers a tribute to him.

Comic book creator, Jim Zub, gives a TEDx lecture on how Dungeons & Dragons shaped his relationship with his older brother, and allowed him to find his courage and creativity.

The Atlantic spotlights a group of friends who have been playing the same Dungeons & Dragons campaigns since the early 90s.

Inverse talks about D&D Live, and Dungeons & Dragons’ popularity.

An editorial in the New York Review of Science Fiction discusses the Glorantha setting from the RuneQuest family of games.

More on the Trade War

RPG historian, Shannon Appelcline writes about how tariffs arising out of the US-China trade war will affect tabletop gaming, answering a number of questions and objections that have been raised. (We’re also cited, which is cool!)

ICV2’s Rolling for Initiative discusses the tariffs from the perspective of publishers.

The Origins Awards

This weekend saw the Origins Game Fair, at which the Origins awards were given. The RPG winners are:

  • Best Roleplaying Game: Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition (Judges & Fan Favourite)
  • Best Role-Playing Game Supplement: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes (Judges & Fan Favourite)

You can see the full list of winners here.

Free RPG Day

This weekend saw Free RPG Day, an annual event where game stores showcase RPGs with games and free products from publishers. James gives us a view on the day from our friendly local game store, Leisure Games:

It was a somewhat muted Free RPG Day this year, although I’m sure other shops’ experience will have varied.

The lack of buzz surrounding this year’s event is presumably linked to the fact that in March the event was bought from Impression’s Aldo Ghiozzi by Gaming Days LLC, a new company set up specifically for the purpose of promoting Free RPG Day. So we’re in a bit of an interregnum period. Hopefully the new owners can revive the event to ensure that it comes back bigger and better next year.

A number of the publishers who regularly participate in the event did not do so this year, and unlike previous years, there wasn’t that one item in the bundle that has people scrambling for a copy. Locally, the day has tended to be dominated by Paizo but this year the apparent lack of interest in Pathfinder 2nd Edition appears to have affected interest in the day.

Free RPG Day came about in response to the popularity of Free Comic Book Day, an event which takes place every May. Comic book publishers have become quite adept at using that event to promote all their upcoming books and storylines, hyping their giveaways months in advance.

But ultimately, roleplaying games aren’t comics. Whereas comic book publishers churn out multiple books on a monthly basis, most roleplaying publishers release just 1–6 new books over the course of each year and operate with much smaller teams, and much smaller budgets. So, roleplaying publishers wanting to make the most of the event need to think much more strategically about how to make the most of the day.

Threats from Zak S.

OSR designer, Zak S., who has been credibly accused of abuse and harassment on multiple occasions, has filed a defamation claim against one of his accusers, and threatened to sue those who repeat those claims.

We covered some of these accusations in February, but we are not going to link to the blog post in which Zak made these threats. They do not belong on this site.

Upcoming & New Products

Harper’s Tale is a series of adventures in aid of Friends of Kids with Cancer, which will be crowdfunding in September.

There is an RPG based on the Stargate TV series coming.

Free League’s Things from the Flood sourcebook for the award-winning Tales from the Loop is now available.

There is a Chinese-language edition of Call of Cthulhu coming.

Death on the Reik, the second volume in Cubicle 7’s revised Enemy Within campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, is coming in October.

Geek Native interviews Free League’s Tomas Härenstam about the upcoming Alien RPG.

Cubicle 7 is releasing Erebor Adventures for Adventures in Middle-earth in September.

Atlas Games interviews Jonathan Tweet about the latest edition of Over the Edge.

A note on upcoming computer RPG products

A great deal of ink has been spilt this week about Cyberpunk 2077, Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines 2, Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory, and Baldur’s Gate III. In fact, there has been so much news lately regarding computer RPG adaptations of tabletop RPGs, that we’re worried we might be losing our focus. Going forward we’re going to try to slim down our coverage: we may occasionally note big announcements in this area, but we’re not going to get into the minutiae as we have in the past.

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of books based in the Tékumel setting.

Monte Cook Games are having a sale on their books.

Crowdfunding News

Fantasy 5e & Pathfinder

Ultimate Kingdoms: A sourcebook for D&D 5e and Pathfinder 1st Edition, covering kingdom-building and war, by Legendary Games (Alien Bestiary, Forest Kingdom Campaign Compendium) — July 4th

Sci-fi 5e & Starfinder

Rocket Age RPG for 5e: A pulp action sci-fi system and setting, adapted to the 5e rules, by Why Not Games (Imperial Jupiter) — July 4th

Fantasy

Earthdawn 4th Edition – The Adept’s Journey: Mystic Paths: A sourcebook for Earthdawn, featuring magical organisations and disciplines, by FASA Corporation (1879, Earthdawn 4th Edition) — July 10th

Dust Wardens: A queer RPG about magic-users finding safety and community in a post-apocalyptic world, by Nora Blake — June 24th

Historical

King for a Day: Revised: An update of the system-neutral, semi-historic campaign set in a c. 800 A.D. England, by Postworldgames/Jim Pinto (Bloodwraith, Protocol Fantasy Game Omnibus) — June 27th

Forged in the Dark

Wicked Ones: Described by the creators as “Dungeon Keeper meets Blades in the Dark,” in this game you play monsters raiding human lands, by B-Design.io — July 10th

Accessories

The Roleplayer’s Guide To Heists: A system- and setting-neutral guide to heists, featuring maps, essays, and a collection of heists for various games, by San Jenaro Co-Op — July 15th

Story games

Sleepaway: A Tabletop RPG: A horror game based on the Belonging Outside Belonging system, about camp guarding their wards against nightmarish monsters, by Jay Dragon — July 5th

I’m intrigued to see how the Belonging Outside Belonging system, originally developed for Avery Alder’s Dream Askew, will work as a horror game. It’s a GM-less and diceless system (although Sleepaway does apparently involve cards as a randomizer). It’s just such a shame that physical books aren’t available outside of the US… — James

Although I’m not nearly as much of a fan of story games as James is, I’m intrigued by the rich emotional landscape suggested by this concept. Not my kind of game, but definitely my kind of story. — Amy

Cover Image: Simon Stålenhag, from Things from the Flood

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3–9 June 2019: Baldur’s Gate 3; Keanu Reeves; Yet more Vampire

Well, it’s another week, and oh, boy, is it an exciting one for the computer RPG fans! Mindflayers! Keanu Reeves! Another Vampire: The Masquerade game, or wait, is this one of the ones we’ve spoken about before honestly I can’t tell any more there are approximately three thousand now!

We can see some industry booms and busts in the form of a spotlight on rising (risen?) star Modiphius, the bankruptcy of Clockwork Publishing, and recurring fears about the impact of tariffs.

Also featuring: Third Edition history! Literary criticism! Business networking social media platforms! Luxury yachts!*

* My accountant informs me that we cannot afford a luxury yacht. If you would like to help us get one (and more importantly, keep making this site), please support us on Ko-fi.

Computer Game News

As was hinted at last week, Larian Studios, creators of Divinity: Original Sin, announces Baldur’s Gate 3, the long-awaited third title in the famous Dungeons & Dragons computer RPG series, this time based on 5th Edition rules. Larian also gave us a very grizzly trailer for the game.

Content warning: Gruesome body horror. Hide your kids and/or boss.

The Cyberpunk 2077 computer game cinematic trailer is out, and it features… Keanu Reeves?

There’s also news on two World of Darkness computer game adaptations, but we’ll get to that below.

The World of Darkness continues to spread

Primer for new readers: The World of Darkness is a line of RPGs originally developed in the 90s, featuring (primarily) horror in a modern setting. Of those games, Vampire: The Masquerade is easily the most famous, followed by Werewolf: The Apocalypse. The company who developed the game, White Wolf, were dissolved by parent company, Paradox Interactive, after a series of controversies related to Vampire’s 5th (and latest) edition.

Geek Pride interviews Matthew Dawkins (a.k.a. The Gentleman Gamer) about Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition, and Onyx Path Games’ role now that Modiphius has taken over the game’s core production.

Image: Draw Distance

There is yet another Vampire: The Masquerade computer game coming, this time a Telltale-style story game.

This is a new one, right? Honestly, there have been so many new Vampire products announced in the past few months, that I have lost track. At some point, we’ll need to do a roundup of all the upcoming products set in the World of Darkness. As I intimated last month, I am somewhat sceptical of how Paradox Interactive intends to make good on its promise to keep better control of the IP when it has been licensed to so many different companies.

Variety gives us details on the forthcoming Werewolf: The Apocalypse computer game from Bigben and Cyanide.

This blog post talks about reading the various iterations of Vampire: The Masquerade as social commentary, particularly on capitalism.

The state of the industry

ICV2 interviews Chris Birch, CEO of RPG publisher and distributor, Modiphius, about the company’s history, its present scope, and the state of the industry. If you read one article on the industry this week, it should be this one.

Board game and RPG designer, Mike Selinker, writes about how the US-China trade war will affect the board games industry.

ICV2’s Rolling for Initiative talks about how tariff increases in Canada impacted a game store in Ottawa: perhaps a warning regarding how the present protectionist climate could affect hobby shops.

The UK Games Expo reports an 18% increase in attendance for 2019, and maintains its position as the world’s third-largest tabletop gaming convention (although with Origins this weekend, we could see that change).

Dark Conspiracy publisher, Clockwork Publishing, has gone bankrupt.

Meredith Gerber and Joseph Carriker have compiled a list of LGBTQ+ creators in the RPG industry.

RPG History

The Gauntlet continues its history of licensed RPGs.

Ars Magica and 13th Age co-designer, Jonathan Tweet, begins a series of monthly columns on EN World with a history of how the Third Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, for which he was the lead designer, came about.

The nature of roleplaying games

Paste Magazine reflects on the differences between Dungeons & Dragons as streamed, and Dungeons & Dragons as played, and what this new era of game-as-performance means for the hobby.

SyFy Wire talks to Mike Mearls about how Dungeons & Dragons incorporates monsters from folklore into the game.

LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman, talks about what Dungeons & Dragons and RuneQuest taught him about strategy.

Upcoming Products & New Releases

R. Talsorian have announced a delay on the release of Cyberpunk Red, but also announce a Jumpstart Kit for the game.

Onyx Path releases Scion 2nd Edition.

A French-language edition of RuneQuest is crowdfunding soon.

Kieron Gillen, author of the grim fantasy RPG comic, DIE, launches an open beta for the game’s own RPG.

Jobs

Pelgrane Press is looking for an Administrative Assistant.

Deals & Bundles

Bundle of Holding launches a bundle of Mutant Epoch books.

Crowdfunding News

Fantasy 5e & Pathfinder

Fantastic Adventures: Ruins of the Grendleroot for 5e: A set of ten underground adventures for 5e, by Mike Shea (Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, Sly Flourish’s Fantastic Adventures for 5e) — July 3rd

Fearsome Foes: And Where to Fight Them Relaunch: A collection of unusual, high CR monsters for 5e, by Joshua Greer — July 8th.

This is a relaunch of a project which did not meet its funding target. The new project has half the funding goal, the reduced cost being due to them no longer printing physical copies of the book, which instead will be an optional extra. It will be interesting to see if this approach is successful.

Sci-fi 5e & Starfinder

Amazing Adventures 5E RPG: A set of 5e-based rules for playing RPGs in multiple genres, including modern fantasy, pulp adventure, and science-fiction genres, by Stephen Chenault/Troll Lord Games (Castles & Crusades, 5th Edition Players’ Guide to Aihrde) — July 2nd

General Fantasy

The StoryMaster’s Tales “Weirding Woods”: A hybrid RPG, adventure game and board game, in a dark fairytale setting, by Oliver McNeil (Cthulhu & Horror Soundscapes, Fantasy Soundscapes) — June 30th

Remarkable Shops & Their Wares: A systemless guide to creating shops in fantasy RPGs, by LoreSmyth (Remarkable Inns & Their Drinks, Dungeon Discoveries) — July 4th

This has had the biggest launch of the week, with nearly 900 backers raising almost €29,000. Not bad for a systemless book about shopping! It looks to be a very attractive book to be fair, and is building off of the back of LoreSmyth’s previous book about inns. — James

James may be surprised, but I’m not. I reckon you could draw a direct connection between the existence of Pumat Sol and the success of this Kickstarter. Everyone loves a good shopping episode. — Amy

27 May–2 June 2019: UK Games Expo; Unsafe Gaming; RPGs on screen

Welcome to Pride month, everybody! From our queer hearts to yours, we hope you have a safe and happy one.

This past weekend was the UK Games Expo, the largest gaming convention in the UK. Unfortunately, the big news coming out of the con is an incident involving distressing content in one of the con games.

There’s a lot of news this week about RPGs on TV and in computer games, with a few histories of old adaptations, and a few announcements of new ones.

And as always, there’s also some RPG history, some sneak peeks, a bundle of books, and a bunch of new kickstarters.

Help us live keep the air-con lights on and the champagne water flowing by supporting us on Ko-fi.

(Un-)safe gaming

Content Warning: This story contains discussion of sexual assault as a subject in RPGs. Although we have not linked directly to any explicit content, comments and replies are upsetting in places. Browse with care. If you’d like to skip to the rest of the news, click here.

The UK Games Expo took place this weekend, and the line-up of RPGs was marred by one particular game. An RPG event, run using Free League’s Tales from the Loop (though not organised by Free League), included (without warning) a scene in which the player characters were raped, to the distress of the players.

One of those players, Anjuli (a.k.a. GeekGirlBookWorm), tweeted about the game, prompting a wide outcry, and a discussion regarding player safety at the convention, and in RPGs generally. This caught the attention of the mainstream media, and the incident was reported on (sensationally and with errors) by a handful of national newspapers.

We were able to connect with Anjuli to get some perspective on the incident. Although some steps taken by the convention to ensure safe play seem to have failed (the GM running the game in question was the room officer, and other channels for communicating issues seem to have been unclear or unavailable), Anjuli was impressed by the way the incident was handled by the Expo’s directors once they became aware of it.

The GM’s games were cancelled, and he was expelled from the convention. As a result of these events, the Expo’s directors are reviewing their game submission process, as well as their safety procedures going forward. Anjuli is hopeful that these steps will yield a safer experience for players in future.

I am taking it as read here that it is a bad thing to unexpectedly introduce sexual assault at a table, where it is likely to trigger trauma for many players. Assuming that you’re willing to acknowledge the need to play games in ways which avoid psychological harm, there are a number of tools for enabling players to communicate discomfort safely: Breakout Con has a good list of some of the more popular methods, which they use at their convention.

RPGs on Screens

There’s an animated series based on Magic: The Gathering coming to Netflix. Although this is not strictly RPG news, it will be interesting to see what this could mean for certain other Wizards of the Coast properties…

CBR gives us a history of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, and calls for a Dungeons & Dragons TV show to replace Game of Thrones.

EN World gives us a list of RPG-themed episodes in cartoons.

Gamereactor gives us a history of the Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines computer game, and its oft-forgotten predecessor, Redemption.

Wizards of the Coast and mobile games developer, Ludia, launch Warriors of Waterdeep, a free-to-play turn-based RPG.

Laria Studios, makers of Divinity: Original Sin 2, might be hinting a new Baldur’s Gate game.

We get some details about the enhanced editions of Baldur’s Gate and other classic Dungeons & Dragons computer games coming to console later this year.

RPG History

James Ward discusses the history of the Deities and Demigods rulebook for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, a book which became the centre of a conflict over copyright for its use of material from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos and Michael Moorcock’s Melnibonéan mythos.

Game historian, Shannon Appelcline talks about the economics of manufacture in board games, focusing on the scarcity of Elizabeth Hargrave’s Wingspan. We don’t ordinarily report on board game news, but there’s some wisdom here that’s relevant to roleplaying games, and a glimpse at the near-collapse of RPG publisher, Chaosium, in the mid 90s.

Games Awards

The UK Games Expo gave out its awards for the best games of the year. These included several RPG categories, including:

  • Best Role-playing Game: Forbidden Lands, by Free League
  • Best Role-playing Expansion: Adventures in Middle-earth Bree-land Region Guide, by Cubicle 7 Games
  • Best Role-playing Adventure: The Cthulhu Hack: Valkyrie Nine, by All Rolled Up
  • Best New Accessory: Giant Book of Battlemaps, by Loke BattleMats

Meanwhile, self-nominations are now open for judges for the 2020 ENnies. Previous panels for these awards have drawn criticism for their lack of diversity: this year, for instance, the panel is entirely male.

If you know any women, people of colour or LGBT folk who should be judging, please encourage them to apply. We desperately need better representation at the ENnies.

Upcoming Products

Comicbook.com talks to Nathan Stewart, senior director of Dungeons & Dragons, about the recently announced Essentials Kit. The discussion gives us an interesting glimpse at company strategy. By collaborating with discount department chain, Target, to sell a product designed to introduce single players to the game, the company is clearly pushing to expand the game even further into the mainstream.

Cubicle 7 gives us more details about the rules of its Warhammer: Age of Sigmar tabletop RPG, Soulbound.

Last weekend was PaizoCon, and Paizo offered some sneak previews of Pathfinder Second Edition to drum up excitement for the game’s release in August.

Cubicle 7 announces a massive, 10-book collectors edition of its revised Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign, The Enemy Within.

Shadowrun Line Developer, Jason Hardy, talks about the development of Sixth World, the game’s sixth edition.

R. Talsorian details the Jumpstart Kit for its forthcoming Cyberpunk Red.

Deals and Bundles

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of Fantasy Hero products.

Crowdfunding News

Closing Soon

Traveller Fifth Edition: this project has raised over $135,000 from over 1,000 backers. Led by Marc Miller, the original creator of Traveller, it is a reprint and tweak of Traveller5, which was originally published in 2013. This is not to be confused with Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller 2nd edition, which is also currently in print (after 45 years, the publishing history of a lot of the “classic” RPGs has now got extremely convoluted) — June 6th.

General Fantasy

The Dark Eye – Magic of Aventuria: A supplement for The Dark Eye, featuring new spells, as well as setting material and an adventure, by Ulisses Spiele (The Dark Eye, TORG Eternity) — June 18th

Savage Worlds

The After: A sci-fi, post-apocalyptic savage frontier setting for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, by Jon Gibbons/Jade Monkey Studios — June 21st

Urban Fantasy / Horror

Quietus: A no-prep game of melancholic horror with rules inspired by the Forged in the Dark system, by Oli Jeffery — June 30th

This looks very interesting to me. Having just finished (paused) our latest Scum & Villainy campaign, also Forged in the Dark, I can see how the system could be skewed to a horror game. Plus, the production on this one looks very slick. — James

Film and Animation

JourneyQuest 4: The fourth season of the fantasy comedy series, by ZombieOrpheus (Attacking the Darkness, Strowlers Preludes) — July 13th

I feel a sense of nostalgic duty toward Zombie Orpheus, the production company behind amateur gamer-related cult films like Gamers: Dorkness Rising. The stuff they make is weird, low budget, kind of hammy, and a little cringeworthy at times, but I’ll probably be quoting them in my head until the day I die. Flaming hand of fiery doom. I seduce the priestess! — Amy

20–26 May 2019: The Vampire controversy; Stephen Colbert; Fus Ro Dah

This week has been a quiet one on all fronts after last week’s flurry of new game announcements. The Dragonborn is coming to the tabletop as Modiphius announces an Elder Scrolls miniatures game. Paradox Interactive talks about the controversy of Vampire: The Masquerade, and how they’re planning to avoid it in future. And we get two much-anticipated D&D videos: one starring Stephen Colbert, and one starring a Renault KWID Outsider.

But first, hello!

We had quite a few new readers and subscribers joining us last week, and since this has also been a light news week, we thought we’d take a moment to (finally) introduce ourselves!

I am Amy Goodenough (yep), aka. Goonwuff. My partner in crime for this site is James Graham, aka. Semajmaharg. We are London-based tabletop gamers interested in the tabletop RPG industry, and this site is where we track and chart trends.

Every week we produce a roundup of the most important news in tabletop RPGs. I cover corporate news, new releases, and upcoming products, and James covers the most notable crowdfunding projects. We also create more detailed articles focused on various aspects of the industry: last week’s focus on tariffs was the first of these.

If you like, drop us a comment below to say hi! If you like us, you can subscribe to our newsletter, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. If you like us a lot, you can help us keep this website going by supporting us on Ko-fi.

Now, on with the news.

Paradox talks about Vampire controversy

Logo design saying "Vampire: The Masquerade" where the Q is a blade-like ankh.

Polygon interviews Paradox Interactive vice president, Shams Jorjani, about the controversy surrounding Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition. Jorjani cites the hard borders placed between the Paradox team and the publishers, White Wolf, as one of the factors that led to the controversy. Jorjani says that Paradox intends to oversee future Vampire projects more closely, but not clamp down on creativity.

The intent to find a balance between a lack of oversight and a stranglehold is a good one, but I doubt any media company has ever intended not to strike that balance, so it doesn’t tell us much about Paradox’s strategy going forward. We have seen quite a large number of officially licensed card and board games, and Modiphius has taken over production of the tabletop RPG. With the IP scattered across several companies, oversight of the brand is going to become exponentially harder. This article is (notably) focused on the computer game products.

Polygon also gave us a spotlight on Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines 2.

Two (very different) D&D videos

Stephen Colbert’s played Dungeons & Dragons with Matthew Mercer in aid of Red Nose Day.

The Brazilian Renault ad featuring characters from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon officially launched, featuring Tiamat, a unicorn, and an uncanny valley Dungeon Master.

I keep thinking we’ve hit peak D&D and then something new happens. Is this peak D&D?

Upcoming Products

Asmodee, parent company of Fantasy Flight Games (along with many board game companies) is launching a gaming accessory production studio under the name Gamegenic. It’s likely that this will focus on accessories for Asmodee’s board and card games, but we could see some accessories for Fantasy Flight’s roleplaying games.

Modiphius has announced an officially licensed Elder Scrolls miniatures game, entitled The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms.

We don’t normally cover miniatures news, but there are some folks wondering if we might not see Modiphius launch a tabletop RPG to follow, as they did with their Fallout line earlier this year. This is all idle speculation at this point, and we have no information regarding the licensing situation, and no reason to think this is true (beyond an idle hope).

Cubicle 7 gives us a preview of the rules for their forthcoming Warhammer: Age of Sigmar RPG, Soulbound.

WizKids releases info on its miniatures for Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, Dungeons & Dragons forthcoming storyline which was announced at D&D Live earlier this month.

IDW is launching a miniseries of comics to tie in with Avernus.

Geek Native gives us a preview of Pelgrane Press’s Hideous Creatures bestiary for the Cthulhu mythos, along with an interview with co-creator, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.

Publisher News

Lyz Liddell joins Paizo as a senior editor.

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of books from the Corporation RPG.

DM’s guild is having a sale on nautical-themed products.

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

Grimmerspace: A Starfinder-compatible Sci-Fi Horror RPG, by Iron GM Games — June 24th

In its first week, this has raised almost $63,000 from just under 1,000 backers — no doubt in part because of the celebrity caché of having Sean Astin (The Goonies, Lord of the Rings, Stranger Things). It’s a very ambitious project, which looks like it has been in development for quite some time already. After a bit of a lull, there has been quite a lot of Starfinder and Sci-Fi 5e projects lately, so it will be interesting to see if this is a growing trend or just a coincidence.

Closing Soon

Fantasy Grounds Unity has raised almost $400,000 from over 6,700 backers. The new iteration of the successful virtual tabletop software, rebuilt using the industry-standard Unity engine, offers enhanced drawing tools and image manipulation, animated image effects and 64-bit support for enhanced performance — May 30th.

Empire of the Ghouls: A 5th Edition Campaign has raised $100,000 from almost 1,500 backers. Kobold Press is a venerable and dependable publisher of third-party Dungeons and Dragons content, so it’s no surprise to see this project doing well — May 31st.

Trilemma Adventures Compendium has raised CA$66,000 from almost 1,500 backers. A compilation of adventures, each literally centred around a beautifully illustrated black and white map, it’s perhaps the most unusual of the highly successful projects ending this week May 31st.

I have to admit, I’m tempted to back Trilemma; I’m a sucker for clean black and white artwork and this just looks great — James

5e & Pathfinder

The Deck of Many Destinies for 5e DnD: A beautifully illustrated, tarot-style Deck of Many Things prop, by Gametee (World’s Finest Wallet of Holding, Our Finest Mechanical Dice Pencil) — June 2nd

OSR

The Crypt in Cadaver Canyon & More! A collection of three Mark Bishop adventures for Dungeon Crawl Classics, by Jon Marr (Crawler’s Companion for All) — June 3rd

General Fantasy

Pirates of Pugmire – A Realms of Pugmire Tabletop RPG: A supplement for the Pugmire and Monarchies of Mau games, bringing pirates to the setting, by Richard Thomas/Onyx Path (Pugmire, Chronicles of Darkness) — June 20th

I’m pretty tempted by this one. I’ve never actually got round to playing Pugmire, but the setting’s gentle, melancholic whimsy appeals to me, and it’s high on my to-play list. Also everything’s better with pirates. — Amy

The US-China trade war, the cost of paper, and the economics behind roleplaying games

Since early 2018, the United States has been in the grips of a trade war with China. A series of escalating tariff increases on imports between the two countries has hit both hard, along with the global economy. After a short truce, negotiations appear to have failed, and President Donald J. Trump has announced plans to increase tariffs on new categories of products to 25%.

Those categories include books, dice, cards, and miniatures: the core components of roleplaying games.

I spoke to a few of the people behind some of our favourite games to get their views on what impact the tariff increase might have on the RPG industry. What I got was a glimpse at the economics behind the games we play, and why the price of roleplaying games may be rising — for more complicated reasons.

What is going on?

The complexities of the US’s trade relations with China are beyond the scope of this article, so it’s not something I’m going to go into in any detail here. In short, the Trump administration is presently engaged in a trade war with China.

Here’s Vox’s take on the Trade War.

Essentially, the US has raised tariffs (i.e. taxes) on certain Chinese imports in an attempt to weaken the Chinese economy, ostensibly motivated by unethical practices in China. China has retaliated with its own tariffs on US imports. While there was briefly hope in the form of negotiations, these have broken down, and in the wake, the US has announced tariffs on further imports.

Now, for obvious reasons, what I’m going to talk about here is purely the effect of this trade war on roleplaying games. It would seem disingenuous, however, for me to venture into this subject without acknowledging the severity of the situation.

Tariffs on Chinese imports are already having an impact on American consumers, which will be particularly hard on the poorest citizens, and the hit to US exports is endangering the livelihoods of American farmers. This is to say nothing of other ills inflicted by the current administration. There’s a lot to worry about right now, and roleplaying games are the smallest part of it.

Nevertheless, roleplaying games are our focus here, so let’s talk about how the tariffs will affect them.

Who does this affect?

China is famous as a powerhouse of manufacture, and this plays a huge role in the hobby games industry. The majority of the components of boardgames and roleplaying games, from dice to GM screens, cardboard tokens to miniatures, are produced in China. The complexity of many modern boardgames is also often only possible because Chinese factories have developed the capability to produce all their components in a single place, and to do so cheaply enough to allow for the prices that gamers expect.

A stack of products for Modiphius' John Carter of Mars
Boxed games and accessories are often produced in China, which is able to manufacture those products at a cost that is acceptable to consumers.

But books are at the heart of roleplaying games, and in addition to its position in manufacturing, China also has a massive (and highly competitive) printing industry. Not all game books are printed in China, but a significant number are, and for those publishers, an unexpected increase in costs (due to hit as soon as the end of June) is a threatening prospect.

For 13th Age and GUMSHOE publisher, Pelgrane Press, this has come at a bad time. Co-owner, Cat Tobin, tells us that after years of printing exclusively in the United States, Pelgrane has just received its first print run from China. The company made the decision after its two US printers both raised their prices by between 10 and 15 percent, citing a worldwide paper shortage leading to rising paper costs.

The cost of paper is a subject I’m going to come back to.

Now, facing a possible 25% tariff on future books, Pelgrane, who have had poor experiences working with printers in other countries, will likely need to turn back to US printers, and may be forced to raise the price of their books. There are also limitations, should they choose to do so: US printers are often unable to produce heavy-duty GM screens, slipcases, and box sets, at prices that customers will be willing to pay, while Chinese printers have built up the capacity to do so.

“The range of products we’re able to make has just opened up to us, and now it’s suddenly been shut down,” Tobin says.

Industry veteran, Chaosium (Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest), could well be hit hard as well. “The tariffs affect basically everything Chaosium produces, in one way or another,” company president, Rick Meints tells us. As the company prepares for this possibility, they’re looking at printers in a number of countries, including India, Indonesia, and Eastern Europe.

Covers for various RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu RPG books on display in a game store.
Chaosium games like RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu are largely printed in China.

Evil Hat Productions (Fate, Blades in the Dark) have had better luck in terms of timing, co-founder, Fred Hicks tells us. They print their books in the USA, and their latest run of dice and token products arrived from China before the tariffs entered the picture. Should the tariffs go into effect, they will have time to strategise before they need to restock.

Hicks is concerned, however, about what this could mean for new publishers, and fledgeling game makers: “It’s potentially disastrous for, say, folks who’ve Kickstarted a game that’s going to be manufactured in China but won’t be getting onto the water until after the tariffs are in effect. Suddenly finding out you need 25% more than you actually raised is seriously bad times, and if that’s an inaugural product for a fledgling publisher, it could kill the dream right then and there.”

What’s going to happen

We don’t yet know whether these tariffs will go into effect. One publisher seemed confident that they won’t. Others seemed certain that they would. Part of the problem is the unpredictability of the US president: we just don’t know when there will be a return to the negotiating table.

Some publishers are hoping that the Game Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA) will step in to lobby against these tariffs, as they have done before, possibly in conjunction with lobbyists from the more lucrative toy industry (whose products are also affected in this wave of tariffs).

Certainly, GAMA is concerned about the effects of these tariffs, and executive director, John Stacy, claims they are “doing what they can“, but with the possibility that the tariffs will come into effect at the end of June, there isn’t much time to mobilise before higher costs hit publishers.

One other hope I heard expressed is that other factors in the economy will serve to offset the trade war. As the Chinese Yuan strengthens against the US Dollar, for instance, Chinese manufacturers may be able to lower their prices to hold on to business from US companies hit by the tariffs.

But there’s a strong chance that publishers will face higher manufacturing costs.

How the cost is passed on

Profit margins in the RPG industry are extremely narrow, meaning that if publishers’ costs rise, they will almost certainly need to raise their prices. “A lot of companies will be crunching the numbers,” Meints predicts, “We hope not to have to raise our prices, but we want to make a living. That will be tougher with a 25% increase to the cost.”

If publishers have to raise their prices, then distributors will have to pass that cost on to retailers. For small retailers, this is potentially disastrous. An increase in cover prices at game stores is likely to turn customers to Amazon, whose scale puts it in a better position to withstand changes like this.

“Usually, at the end of the day, it’s the retailers that suffer,” Chris Birch, co-founder of Modiphius (Star Trek Adventures, Fallout: Wasteland Warfare), warns.

A fish-eyed photograph of a hobby shop, with boardgames set out on the table, and the blurred figure of a shopper picking out a game book.
Friendly local game stores could be hit hard by rising prices.

For everyone involved, a price increase will mean less room for other risks. Retailers will buy only products they know they can sell to customers at a profit, distributors will buy only what they can sell to retailers, publishers will make only what they can sell to distributors. Birch’s prediction seems likely: “This is going to make it worse for the games that aren’t in massive demand, and I don’t think it will matter at all to the games that are in massive demand.”

Even if these tariffs don’t go through, publishers seem to be shaken by the threat, and we will see them proceed more cautiously for as long as the present attitude of protectionism remains in the White House.

It has already affected the strategy at Evil Hat, as Fred Hicks tells us: “Certainly this President’s love of tariffs was somewhere in mind in our decision to pull back from board and card games. The possibility that this would hit the game industry was more when than if. Ultimately it was a safe bet that this administration was going to be more of an enemy to American businesses than any other.”

Boxed games by small publishers, like Alex Roberts’ recent, groundbreaking game, Star Crossed, are likely to become riskier endeavours if the trade war continues.

The cost of paper

Although the trade war was at the front of everyone’s mind, the concern in the back of everyone’s mind was a different one: the rising cost of paper. Most gamers don’t think too much about the cost of the raw materials behind our games, but it turns out to be a massive concern for the people making them, because it is a cost which is rising exponentially, and (with the possible exception of rising fuel prices), it seems to be the biggest factor behind rising prices in the industry.

There are a number of factors behind these rising costs. One industry report labelled it a “perfect storm” of environmental and social pressures. Storms are, in fact, a part of the problem: the last three years of violent storms in the US have hit the country’s paper mills hard, forcing many to close or halt production.

Simultaneously, concerns about climate change, and the resulting push away from plastic toward recyclable packaging have put stress on supplies of paper and pulp. Since producers of packaging can buy in massive quantities, this has raised the price of paper for book printers considerably.

Recyclable packaging is not the only ‘green’ issue here. Paper manufacture is a huge contributor to pollution, because the chemicals used to produce it are extremely environmentally harmful. If we see a global push against pollution — and with the threat of climate change, we have to hope we do — then a move to greener paper production will also raise costs.

Chris Birch points out that unless we develop cheaper ways to produce environmentally friendly games, we will inevitably see prices go up:

“The big push for recyclable and green products is going to kick off, especially with the huge pressure on us to change things or die. That price is going to be passed down to the consumer. It might be that we’ve been really lucky to be in this mega-consumer culture. Maybe that’s going to come to an end. It’s the price of saving the planet.”

What makes our games

The unstable nature of global politics makes it impossible to predict what is going to happen next. The tariffs may go ahead, or they may not. The trade war may change what publishers can make, or it might not. Maybe this will cause us to turn to PDFs and other digital formats, or maybe publishers will simply turn to other printers. The price of paper will almost certainly continue to rise, but it is hard to see how this might be offset by other factors.

But whatever happens, it’s going to ripple through game publishers, and distributors, and it will touch our friendly local game stores, and our favourite livestreamers, and our weekly game nights.

The global economics behind the games industry are often easy for us to ignore, as gamers, but the fact is that they shape the games we play. This trade war could give us a sharp lesson to that effect if we see prices rise and games not being made — or, worse, creators losing jobs, or companies closing their doors.

But the economics of our games are complicated. The people who make our games aren’t just thinking about tariffs and paper prices. They’re also thinking about the cost of fuel, the environmental impact of plastic, the unionisation of creative professionals, the strength of international currencies. None of which I thought about the last time I bought a book. I’ll probably think about it the next time.

Especially if the price seems a little steep.

Sincerest thanks to Cat Tobin, Chris Birch, Fred Hicks, and Rick Meints for taking the time to talk to us on this subject.

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13–19 May 2019: Trade War, D&D Live Announcements, Satanic Panic

This has been a busy week in the industry, and not unexpectedly: D&D Live saw three days of Dungeons & Dragons hype, with a host of product announcements. Another bit of news that we should have predicted: the US Trade War with China could hit the RPG industry soon, with a new wave of proposed tariffs targeting a number of RPG components.

There’s also a whole lot of news coming out of Cubicle 7, a livestream featuring Stephen Colbert, a moving essay on gatekeeping in the industry, and a retrospective on the Satanic Panic.

The Trade War could hit RPGs

The Trade War between the US and China could soon be hitting the hobby industry, as a proposed new wave of tariffs includes the core components of RPGs.

Polygon discusses the situation with the Game Manufacturer’s Association.

We’ll have more on this subject later in the week.

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D&D Live Announcements

This weekend saw D&D Live: a three-day streaming event in celebration of the release of Ghosts of Saltmarsh, which saw a whole series of new product announcements. There was too much for us to round-up ourselves, but one Reddit user has given a pretty thorough summary of the event.

Some highlights include:

D&D announces hellish Descent into Avernus

D&D Live gave us details of the next Dungeons & Dragons adventure: Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. EN World gives us a round-up of everything we know about the adventure.

The D&D Essentials Kit

Wizards also announced the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit: an introductory set of rules for D&D. The product seems to serve the same function as the Starter Set, though it comes with a new adventure, and (excitingly) includes rules for one-on-one play. The product will launch at Target on June 24th, over two months before it arrives anywhere else.

Eberron hardcover is coming

After the PDF of Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron, we’re finally getting a hardcover Eberron setting book.

Rick and Morty gets a D&D Adventure

Crossover comic, Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty is being made into a D&D adventure. Given that a new Rick and Morty tabletop game seems to come out every week, we are exactly not at all surprised.

Other Upcoming Products

Cubicle 7 takes over Warhammer 40K from Ulisses Spiele

Cubicle 7 announces that they are taking over the license to create Warhammer 40K RPGs from German game publishers, Ulisses Spiele. This is Cubicle 7’s third Warhammer RPG, giving them the license to all three Warhammer settings: the high fantasy, Age of Sigmar, the grim fantasy, Warhammer Fantasy, and now the grimdark future of 40K.

James gives us some context:

It’s not entirely clear what has happened here. Cubicle 7’s announcement suggests they will stick with the Wrath & Glory system and continue a close working relationship with Ulisses Spiele, but Ulisses themselves have removed all mention of Wrath & Glory from their website.

The game certainly seems to have had a mixed publishing history. First announced in August 2017, the game itself appeared to be released in October 2018 but physical copies, in the UK at least, weren’t available in distribution until March this year.

Ulisses’ Wrath & Glory has been well-received, although Tabletop Gaming, while positive about the game itself, described the core book itself as “badly written” and singled it out for the number of mistakes and errors.

Cubicle 7 are apparently committed to producing a revised edition of the Wrath & Glory core book, but in their statement implied that they would be developing Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying games plural – suggesting we may see future releases focusing on more specific parts of the setting.

Two more Cubicle 7 Announcements

Cubicle 7 announces a second edition of its The One Ring RPG, designed to be backwards-compatible with the first edition. It is due to launch between Q4 2019 and Q1 2020. We ought to have predicted this last month, when the company was seeking writers for its Middle-earth books.

Not that we’re biased, but The One Ring is one of our favourite games (we’re about to resume a long-running campaign), so we’re pretty damned excited about this one.

Cubicle 7 has also announced the official name of its Warhammer: Age of Sigmar RPG: Soulbound.

Critical Role and Stephen Colbert stream for Red Nose Day

Critical Role is teaming up with The Late Show host, Stephen Colbert, for a one-on-one Dungeons & Dragons adventure, in aid of Red Nose Day. Those donating to the campaign can vote on key aspects of the adventure, which will air on May 23rd.

More Vampire adaptations

White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade gets another adaptation, this time a narrative RPG from Big Bad Wolf.

Paradox Entertainment does seem to be playing rather freely with its IP here. This Vampire’s second upcoming computer game, and we’ve seen several board and card games announced. With several overlapping editions (the 20th Anniversary line, Chronicles of Darkness, and this fifth edition), the World of Darkness is already punishingly hard to keep track of, and it looks like it’s only going to get more confusing.

Some game previews

Catalyst Game Labs gives us some details about Shadowrun’s 6th edition.

Chaosium gives us updates on their Down Darker Trails weird west series.

Pinnacle Entertainment shows us the proofs of the Savage Worlds Adventure Edition.

Fantasy Flight Games gives us a preview of its Courts of Stone supplement for Legend of the Five Rings.

Minis for Cyberpunk and The Witcher

R. Talsorian is teaming up with Monster Fight Club to produce miniatures for its Cyberpunk and The Witcher games.

RPG History

The National Library of Scotland has launched a retrospective collection of essays and multimedia focused on the 1980s. Included in the first run of essays is a discussion of Dungeons & Dragons and the Satanic Panic, and how it resonates with our modern day experience of fake news hysteria.

Tales of Mystara gives us a look at the Japanese-language translation of the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia, from 1994.

A Brazilian commercial for Renault uses a live action version of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. The mysterious teaser for something coming 23-05-2019 has some wondering if this might be more than a car ad… We’ll find out soon enough.

On the subject of the cartoon, what’s the bet that we see a reboot in the next few years?

Andrew Logan Montgomery talks about the significance of Chaosium’s Pendragon RPG.

Goodman Games republishes Bill Owen’s tribute to the late Bob Bledsaw Sr. of Judges Guild, on the 76th anniversary of Bledsaw’s birth.

The State of the Game

Gatekeeping, Race, and Roleplaying Games

Nick Masyk discusses gatekeeping in Roleplaying Games, particularly as it relates to racism at the table. We liked author N.K. Jemisin’s take on it: “early D&D’s racial essentialism still oozes through the groundwater of fantasy even today.

Kickstarter refuses to recognise union

Kickstarter has announced that it will not recognise Kickstarter United, a labour union organised by its staff.

It’s worth keeping an eye on platforms like Kickstarter, which have had such a profound impact on our hobby.

Martin Ericsson leaves White Wolf

Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition (V5) creator Martin Ericsson has announced his departure from White Wolf Entertainment/Paradox Interactive by setting up a blog to chronicle the next chapter in his life as a freelance writer and designer. 

As lead storyteller and creative director at White Wolf, he presided over the development of V5 and its rocky launch in 2018 that resulted in Paradox restructuring White Wolf to focus on licensing, while handing the development of the World of Darkness RPG line (including Vampire) to Modiphius Entertainment.

Despite the controversy surrounding V5, Ericsson is confident that he will be rehired by Paradox to consult on the World of Darkness IP. He has also launched an actual play podcast for a new Vampire chronicle which he will be games mastering (in English).

Fantasy Grounds releases new stats

Fantasy Grounds releases new statistics about the games played on its platform.

Third-party Publishing

SyFy discusses DM’s Guild and third-party publishing in RPGs.

A view on the Russian RPG Scene

EN World interviews RPG designer Gleb Igumnov about the RPG scene in Russia.

D&D and Social-Emotional Learning

MindShift discusses the ways in which Dungeons and Dragons can contribute to children’s Social-Emotional Learning.

Deals and Bundles

Bundle of Holding repeats its bundle of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game products. Note: this one closes shortly after we go to print, so if you want it, hop to it!

Bundle of Holding launches a bundle centred around Alderac Entertainment’s 900-page megadungeon, The World’s Largest Dungeon.

Crowdfunding News

Note: See news about Kickstarter’s employee union above.

Noteworthy New Projects

Good Society: An Expanded Acquaintance: Four new expansions for the Jane Austen-themed Good Society RPG, bringing magic, swashbuckling, political intrigue, and the lives of servants to the game, by Storybrewers Roleplaying (Good Society, Alas for the Awful Sea) — June 9th

James recommends: The first Good Society Kickstarter delivered an attractive, unique product. This project seeks to build on it by producing four alternative expansions, two of which build on previous stretch goals, which can be mixed and matched. A very strong first week for a story game.

Fungi of the Far Realms – a fictional fungal field guide: An illustrated encyclopedia of, and system-neutral sourcebook to, fictional mushrooms, by Danil Sell/Melsonian Arts Council (TROIKA!, Crypts of Indormancy) — June 12th

Amy recommends: Everything about this charms me utterly, from the unusual concept (not yet another bestiary, but mycology for your game), to the illustrations (delicate watercolours that remind me of children’s books). The project happens to close on my birthday, and I’m taking it as a sign. What a lovely project…

Closing Soon

Fate of Cthulhu has raised over $76,000 from over 2,100 backers thus far — despite Evil Hat encouraging people from outside of the US who want physical copies to get them from their local game stores instead. Not merely another game using the Call of Cthulhu setting with a different system, Fate of Cthulhu promises a game where you play people who have survived an apocalypse caused by some Lovecraftian monstrosity travelling back in time to prevent it from happening in the first place. A standalone game, it introduces a corruption mechanic in place of the standard Lovecraftian game reliance on insanity. Ends May 21st.

Closing Soon Extended

Kingmaker 10th Anniversary has had its campaign extended by two weeks, now set to close on June 4th. A successful campaign so far by most standards, it nonetheless still has 5 unlocked stretch goals at the time of writing, suggesting that Paizo had hopes that it would have done slightly better than it has. It’s unclear to what extent using Game On Tabletop as opposed to the more familiar Kickstarter has impacted this, or whether other factors at play. A reboot of a classic Pathfinder campaign for that game’s second edition, the Kickstarter also includes add-on items to enable people to run the revised campaign with both Pathfinder 1st edition and 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons.

5e & Pathfinder

GeneFunk 2090: A biopunk/cyberpunk game about mercenaries specialising in investigation and violence, based on the 5e Open Gaming License, by CRISPR Monkey Studios — May 30th

Ultramodern5, a 5E universal sci-fi sourcebook: The second edition of a set of rules for playing sci-fi games in 5e, by Chris Dias (Amethyst – Fantasy & Technology Collide) — June 13th

OSR

Dark Trails RPG: A weird West RPG based on Dungeon Crawl Classics, by Stiff Whiskers Press — June 16th

MÖRK BORG: An OSR RPG and art book described by its creators as a “spiked flail to the face”, which is a description that makes me want to have a cup of chamomile tea and play Mouse Guard, but the art sure does look cool, by Johan Nohr — June 16th

Sci Fi & Cyberpunk

Hard Wired Island: A retrofuture cyberpunk game, set in the distant future of… 2020, and inspired by 90s anime, by Paul “Ettin” Matijevic (Retrocausality, Breakfast Cult) — June 14th

Powered by the Apocalypse

Hearts of Wulin: A Powered by the Apocalypse game of wuxia melodrama, by The Gauntlet Gaming Community (Codex RPG Zine, Volume 1 Hardcover) — June 17th

Film & Animation

Tales of Alethrion – Season Two!: A fantasy webseries, including an accompanying roleplaying game, by Mikkel Mainz (Tales of Alethrion – Season One, The Reward – Tales of Alethrion) — June 7th

6–12 May 2019: Plagiarism, Saltmarsh, Beholder

After our scramble to keep track of the news last edition, this has been an oddly sedate week. Perhaps the RPG world is holding its breath before the weekend-long marathon of D&D Live, coming 17–19 May, along with the release of Ghosts of Saltmarsh.

Speaking of which, this week we have a few previews of Saltmarsh, along with a number of other upcoming products. We briefly had an Elder Scrolls adventure for D&D, before it turned out to have been flagrantly plagiarised. There’s also a new publisher on the scene, a D&D art documentary streaming soon, and all sorts of new releases.

We’re working on streamlining our site! If you’d like to help, consider dropping us a dollar here.

A Miscellany of News

Bethesda steals Elsweyr from elsewhere*

Bethesda, developers of the Elder Scrolls games, released a free Dungeons & Dragons adventure to celebrate the release of the Elsweyr expansion for Elder Scrolls Online. The adventure was then taken down, after it was discovered to have been plagiarised from Paige Leitman and Ben Heisler’s Adventurer’s League adventure, “The Black Road”. Ars Technica covers the story.

* Yes, I know I’m going to hell for that pun.

Andrews McMeel joins the RPG industry

Publisher and syndicator, Andrews McMeel Universal is launching a new roleplaying game line, to be led by Daniel D. Fox (Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG).

The Stranger Things starter set and trauma

Inverse interviews Stan Brown, writer of the Stranger Things starter set adventure for Dungeons & Dragons, about how the adventure imagines the trauma of Hawkins kids. The article discusses a subject we’ve been seeing a great deal of lately: RPGs as therapy (see, for instance, this interview with Dr Megan Connell of Clinical Role).

1 Million square feet of battlemaps

Reddit user, Zatnikotel, challenged themselves to create 1 million square feet of Battlemaps, and has released them online.

Upcoming Products

Ghosts of Saltmarsh and D&D Live

This weekend (17–19 May) will see D&D Live 2019: The Descent, Wizards of the Coasts’ latest marathon streaming event, tied to the release of its latest adventure book, Ghosts of Saltmarsh.

Jared Knabenbauer (aka ProJared) has pulled out of the event in the wake of a messy, public divorce announcement, and accusations that he solicited nude photographs from underage fans.

Dungeons & Dragons’ latest “Spoilers and Swag” video hints at some new product announcements that will be made at the event.

We’re starting to see some previews from writers with advanced copies of Ghosts of Saltmarsh, including (WARNING: Spoilers abound here) Enrique Bertran (aka Newbie DM), Beth Rimmels (aka Brimmels) and Russ Morrissey (aka Morrus).

D&D Art Documentary

Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons trailer

Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons, a documentary about the art and artists behind D&D which won Best Documentary at Gen Con 2018, will be streaming from this week. io9 gives us an exclusive preview, while PopGeeks interviews the creators.

Shadowrun 6th Edition Lineup

Cover for "Shadowrun: The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia"

Catalyst Game Labs details the lineup for the sixth edition of Shadowrun, featuring two sourcebooks, two campaigns, and several game aids.

Legendary Games working with Paizo on Kingmaker

Legendary Games is announced as Paizo’s partner on the forthcoming Kingmaker anniversary products, which we discussed last week.

Terror Australis launch party

Chaosium is hosting a launch party in Melbourne for its Terror Australis 2nd edition sourcebook.

Previews of upcoming books

Onyx Path gives us a preview of the upcoming game Legendlore, in which players play their fantasy alter-egos.

Fantasy Flight Games announces and previews the Gadgets and Gear sourcebook for Star Wars Roleplaying.

Geek & Sundry interviews Penny Arcade about their upcoming Acquisitions Incorporated sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons.

New Releases

Modiphius releases Conan the Monolith: a sourcebook which crosses over between their Conan roleplaying game and the Conan board game by Monolith Entertainment.

Fantasy Flight releases the Rise of the Separatists era sourcebook for Star Wars Roleplaying.

Green Ronin releases the PDF version of the Modern Age Companion.

Deals and Bundles

Bundle of Holding is offering two Sci-Fi Savage Worlds bundles: one centred on The Last Parsec, the other centred on Seven Worlds.

D&D Beyond has expanded its bundles to allow users to buy either all the site’s D&D sourcebook content or all its adventures for a reduced price. Previously both categories could be bought together in its “Legendary Bundle”.

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

Kingmaker 10th Anniversary: A revised version of the Kingmaker adventure path for Pathfinder 1e, 2e, and Dungeons & Dragons 5e, by Paizo Inc — May 22nd

Paizo has opted to use Game On Tabletop for this crowdfunding campaign, which has caused some controversy. The platform charges backers as soon as they pledge support, and in some cases has overcharged backers for postage. Nonetheless, it has had a strong first week, raising over $170,000 from more than 900 backers. The campaign also offers “Bestiaries” for converting the campaign to D&D 5e and Pathfinder 1e, suggesting that Paizo is attempting to cover all its bases here. No doubt they’ll be closely monitoring which system backers seem to be preferring.

Closing Soon

Odyssey of the Dragonlords is a Greek myth-inspired 5e campaign and sourcebook developed by veteran computer RPG designers. To date, it has raised over $316,000 from over 5,700 backers — May 16th

5e & Pathfinder

Spaceships & Starwyrms: A 5e Sci-Fi Game: A generic science fiction game based on D&D 5e, by Audrey Stolze — May 31st

Fearsome Foes: And Where to Fight Them: A collection of monsters and their environments for D&D 5e, intended to provide unique encounters for experienced players, by Joshua Greer — June 5th

Five Torches Deep: A game bringing roguelike, resource-focused style of play to D&D 5e, by Sigil Stone Publishing (Belly of the Beast RPG, Perseverant RPG) — June 6th

OSR

Four Perilous Journeys: New Adventures for The Fantasy Trip: Four new adventures for Steve Jackson Games’ The Fantasy Trip, by Douglas H. Cole (Dungeon Grappling) — June 9th

Urban Fantasy / Horror

The ORPHEUS Protocol: A roleplaying game of cosmic horror and paramilitary occult espionage, based on an original system developed over the course of an Actual Play, by Rob Stith — June 7th

Story Games

SPARK: The Magic of Storytelling: A game using music and images to tell collaborative stories, by Christopher Jones — May 17th

Facing the Titan: A GMless roleplaying story game about heroes fighting a Titan, and the cost of doing so, by Nicolas “Gulix” Ronvel — May 27th