11-17 February 2019: #AbuseIsNotAGame, Roll20 Data Breach, IP

Editor’s Note and Content Warning: We usually stick the most important story at the top of the page, but this week that story is about sexual abuse and assault. We understand that many of you might not want to be faced with this, especially after a week when the subject has dominated our social media spaces. So, this week, we’ve put the biggest news at the bottom of the page so that anyone who wants to avoid it can do so.

The Value of IP

Hasbro is launching a Stranger Things starter set for Dungeons and Dragons, coming May 1st. The Netflix show has already gained D&D a lot of attention, and the product has been covered pretty widely outside of gaming media. We expect to see similar products from Hasbro as they seek to capitalise on this popularity.

Paradox Interactive, current owners of the World of Darkness series of games, has launched Tender, a website masquerading as a dating website, presumably hinting at a new Vampire the Masquerade videogame. Apart from references to things like blood-types and ‘kindred’, Tender is also the name of a dating site referred to in the game’s Camarilla sourcebook. The latest edition of the long-running horror RPG proved disastrous for Paradox-owned publisher White Wolf, who more-or-less ceased to exist after a string of highly criticised editorial decisions, and who could be caught up in the abuse scandal we refer to at the end of this post. It will be interesting to see what Paradox might make of the World of Darkness IP if they have, in fact, decided to take it digital again, at a time when it is so controversial.

Big Screen, Small Screen, Live Stream

Nathan Stewart of Wizards of the Coast claims that its parent company, Hasbro, is closely involved with the upcoming Dungeons and Dragons movie, but admits that the time scale in Hollywood is pretty unclear, and the movie could well never happen.

Dungeons and Dragons’ next official streaming event, following on from the hugely successful Stream of Many Eyes, will be on May 17th-19th in Los Angeles. Wizards of the Coast anticipates that these streams will become an annual event.

Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws riff on the future of LARPing and eSports. It’s all idle speculation and sounds about as bizarre as Critical Role would have sounded a few years ago.

Nathan Stewart of Wizards of the Coast mentions that a set of Gary Gygax’s own dice (owned by Joe Manganiello) will appear in the upcoming Dungeons and Dragons episode of Big Bang Theory, entitled “The D&D Vortex”, coming out Feb. 21st.

Online Toolsets

Roll20 has been the target of a data breach.

Kate Welch, a designer for Dungeons and Dragons, talks with Digital Trends about how D&D works with third parties who create digital tools for the game.

With the announced closure of music-hosting site Fanburst, Roll20, which formerly allowed users to connect Fanburst music to their games, is now allowing users to upload their own music to their games.

D&D Beyond releases statistics on the race, class and sub-class of characters on their platform.


In response to the events detailed in our main story below, Dungeon Masters Guild is organising a bundle of Dungeons and Dragons products in support of anti-sexual violence charity, RAINN.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Bundle of Holding releases a bundle of two-player RPGs.

New Releases

Bully Pulpit’s Star Crossed, the two-player game of forbidden love designed by Alex Roberts, launched on Valentines Day. The game uses a Jenga tower mechanic, as pioneered by the award-winning horror RPG Dread.

Evil Hat launches a ‘Prototype’ text-only edition of the Fate Space Toolkit as an experimental way to fund artwork for the project after financial trouble left the project in limbo. The experiment seems to have succeeded.

PEG Inc releases a series of mini-settings for the latest edition of Savage Worlds.

Upcoming Games

Cubicle 7 announces Rough Nights, Hard Days, a set of scenarios for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition. The book reintroduces Gnomes as a playable race for the first time since the game’s 1st Edition. Gnomes had been retconned out of the game by Games Workshop, who have abandoned the grimdark Warhammer Fantasy for the high fantasy Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. It appears that Cubicle 7 is returning the latest edition of the RPG to its ’80s roots.

Chaosium has signed a deal with Eloso Förlag to produce a Swedish edition of RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha. This follows on from their announcement of a French edition earlier this month.

Monte Cook Games seems to be hinting at a version of Numenera for Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition.

Across Eberron, a by-the-fans, for-the-fans Adventure Path for Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition, is announced. Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron setting, first conceived for the game’s third edition, is the project’s executive producer. The first part of season one is due to launch on Tuesday 19 Feb.

Fantasy Flight Games previews Shadowlands, a sourcebook for Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying, now available for pre-order.

R. Talsorian will offer a set of quickstart rules for The Witcher RPG for Free RPG Day.

Chaosium announces the winners of the Cult of Chaos writing contest: scenarios they plan to run at conventions over the next two years.


Wizards of the Coast is looking for a Data Analyst Intern and a Logistics Coordinator.

Onyx Path talks about what they look for in and what they expect from, their freelance writers.

Mika Talley joins Pelgrane Press as part-time Community Manager.

Things We Like

James Mendez Hodes (7th Sea, Scion) offers an excellent discussion of how and why to play characters from another race.

A creator on 3D-printing community, Thingiverse, has released files to allow you to create a model of the shrine from the cover of Deities and Demigods.

Issues of Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans’ Roleplaying Games-inspired comic DIE are being reprinted due to high demand.

Kickstarter News

Our Picks

Black Mass by Will Jobst is a “pointillistic tarot-based roleplaying game” for up to 8 players about two people escaping their community to the woods. (March 1st)

Shards: Worldbuilding Zine – Quickstarter by Stephen Coffey is a monthly zine dedicated to science fiction and fantasy worldbuilding. (March 4th)

Verona by Farthest Star Media is a GM-less Shakespearean RPG. (March 10th)

Icarus: How Great Civilizations Fall by Hunters Books is a collaborative storytelling game. (March 11th)

D&D 5e and Pathfinder

Waterdeep Dragonheist D&D RPG Maps and Art Packs by Daniel Pryor (February 28th)

Lasers & Liches – New 5E Sourcebooks by Chris Lock (March 14th)

The Demon’s Veins: A Module by Douglas Sun (March 11th)

The Hags of Hades by Luke Seymour (March 14th)

Citadel of Terror – An Adventure by New Comet Games (March 15th)

OSR (Old School Rennaissance)

Check This Artifact by Jim Wampler (March 4th)

Castles & Crusades Codex Egyptium by Stephen Chenault (March 5th)

Ghostlike Crime: An RPG Zine of Modern Weirdness by Kane Cathain (March 13th)

Terror of the Stratosfiend : A DCC RPG Zine by Sean Christopher Charles Richer (March 17th)

Powered by the Apocalypse

Casket Land by Marie Enger (March 9th)

Comrades: A Revolutionary RPG by W.M. Akers (March 15th)

Super Destiny High School Rumble!! by Ruth Lampi (March 17th)

New RPGs

Mall Kids – RPG about teens and malls by Matthew Gravelyn (February 22nd)

MAZES The RPG of Dice, Danger, and Dungeons by 9th Level (February 28th)

Goblinville Gazette by Michael Dunn O’Connor (March 1st)

Master of the Rogue Spire by Samuraifight (March 13th)

The Ultraviolet Grasslands by Exalted Funeral (April 14th)

Supplements for other RPGs

Exalted 3rd Edition: Lunars: Fangs at the Gate by Onyx Path (March 14th)

Savage Worlds: Heroes of Terra: The Mushroom War by Jeremy Puckett (March 15th)

Misc Zines

Other Magic by Jesse Ephraim (March 1st)

Love Letters from the Baker House Band by Meguey Baker (March 11th)

Abuse in the Industry

Content Warning: The stories below relate to abuse and assault (physical, emotional, and sexual), and many of the links contain detailed discussions of those topics. We mark links below (CW) where they contain descriptions of abuse and assault, but ALL the links that follow contain some difficult discussions and many of the comments on the pages we link to are upsetting. Please take care.

Editor’s Note: This story has been a hard one for us to follow, and a hard one to pin down. It has become clear to us as we tried to capture these events that the abuse coming to light this week is neither new nor isolated. This has been happening for a long time. We have not found a single source that we felt could capture the story, so we have included a number of links to reflect a number of different perspectives. This is still an incomplete picture, and we do not endorse all the views that we link to. We urge readers to read critically and thoughtfully.

Zak S.

OSR (Old School Rennaissance) RPG creator Zak S. (aka Zak Smith, Zak Sabbath) has been accused of abuse by Mandy Morbid, as well as two other women, Jennifer and Hannah, in (CW) an open letter on Facebook. The post has gained a great deal of traction and led to a great deal of heated discussion on social media, largely under the hashtag #AbuseIsNotAGame.

A (CW) second Facebook post by Vivka Grey details her own abuse and assault by Zak S.

Zak S. has been a controversial figure for many years, having been accused of abuse and harassment many times in the past, but nevertheless having continued to be hired on numerous projects: he consulted with Wizards of the Coast on Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition, worked with White Wolf on Vampire the Masquerade Fifth Edition and mobile games for Vampire and Mage, and has worked on numerous projects for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

Several organisations and individuals who have worked with or defended Zak S. in the past have made statements distancing themselves from Zak S. and in some cases offering apologies:

Mike Mearls of Wizards of the Coast offered a statement which claims that Zak S. was a playtester for D&D until 2014 (Zak is in fact credited in the Player’s Handbook as a consultant, not a playtester). Mearls has been the subject of criticism for his handling of an investigation of accusations that were levelled against Zak during that consultancy process.

Kenneth Hite (who collaborated with Zak on several projects, including the recent Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition) apologized, and announced that he would not work with Zak on any further projects, and will donate his pay for their most recent collaboration to a Chicago-based organisation working against domestic violence.

DriveThruRPG has stated that it will no longer accept titles in which Zak is listed as a contributor, and will be donating their share of any titles they currently list to which he contributed to anti-sexual abuse organisation, RAINN.

Gen Con claims to have investigated the matter, but do not give any indication of what decision they might have reached or any action they plan to take, merely link to their Anti-Harassment Policy.

Mark Diaz Truman of Magpie Games issued a retraction of a 2016 post which had been critical of accusations against Zak S.

The Gauntlet issued a statement announcing that they will no longer cover his work.

There have been comments from many others, including Matthew Mercer (Critical Role) Michael Prescott (Trilemma Adventures), Geek Girls Rule, Indie Press Revolution, and Contessa.

Zak himself has released a (CW) statement.

Matthew McFarland and Michelle Lyons-Farland

Further accusations have been levelled against Growling Door Games writer Matt McFarland, who left Onyx Path Publishing in 2017 following allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as against his wife, Michelle Lyons-McFarland.

Indie Press Revolution have announced that they will no longer sell games by Growling Door Games, or any future games by Matthew Mcfarland or Michelle Lyons-Farland.

Matthew McFarland’s company, Growling Door Games, has announced that it is shutting down and that neither Matthew McFarland nor Michelle Lyons-Farland will be engaged in any freelance games work. 

Editor’s Note: We believe Mandy, Jennifer, Hannah, Vivka, and Cheyenne, and we salute their courage in coming forward. Abuse has no place in our industry.

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