15–28 April 2019: RPG Industry Booming, Critical Role lands $11 million, Chris Spivey takes on the Weird West

Well, we’re back! We took an unscheduled break last week as Amy got hit with a lurgy, so this week we’re catching up with a fortnight’s worth of news. And oh, boy, has it been a big two weeks.

First off, we have the release of a number of industry and company reports from 2018 and 2019’s first quarter, showing a boom for the industry as a whole (though at least one company is struggling).

Secondly, we have the end of the record-breaking Critical Role The Legends of Vox Machina Kickstarter, and a number of reflections on what $11 million means for the show, and for the hobby as a whole.

We also get a little RPG history, three new game announcements that we are absolutely drooling over, a very cute Owl Bear, and the return of Dragon McDragonFace.

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The State of the Industry

Hobby game sales decline, but RPGs soar

ICv2 releases its estimates on Hobby Games sales for 2018. At just under $1.5 billion in the US and Canada, this is the first year since ICv2 began reports in which sales across the industry have declined. The sharpest declines have been felt in Collectible Games. Roleplaying Games (the smallest category), by comparison, have seen their biggest year of growth, seeing an 18% increase in sales.

After a rocky 2018, Hasbro Gaming sees huge growth

After a poor Q4 of 2018, Hasbro reports a 20% increase in revenue in their Gaming division (which includes D&D publisher, Wizards of the Coast) for Q1 2019. This growth is largely being driven by Magic the Gathering, and it’s clear that Wizards’ push into the streaming space is regarded as a huge success by its parent company. While there’s no mention of Dungeons & Dragons in the latest report, their 2018 report highlighted the game’s growth, and it seems safe to assume that it remains a strong (if small) product.

WoTC launches a new studio — and promises new IP

Wizards of the Coast is opening a brand new studio based in Austin, Texas, which will work on brand new intellectual properties. The studio will be headed by James Ohlen, formerly of BioWare, where he led design on games like Dragon Age: Origins and Neverwinter Nights. It’s unclear what kinds of products we’ll see coming from the studio, but we’re looking forward to seeing them create something new.

Kickstarter games hits $1 billion

Kickstarters Games (which includes computer games, boardgames, and RPGs) has now raised over $1 billion.

Paradox Interactive reports growth

Paradox Interactive (parent company of White Wolf Publishing) also reports a great year of growth. While their report makes frequent reference to the purchase of White Wolf, the roleplaying games do not feature in the report (and those sales are no doubt dwarfed by Paradox’s primary product: its video games). The Vampire: The Masquerade IP (and the upcoming sequel to Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines) are significantly more valuable to the company than the RPG publishing line.

Steve Jackson Games has another tough year

Steve Jackson Games releases its Stakeholder Report for 2018, reporting a small decline in profits. ICv2 reports that this is the company’s fourth year of declining sales.

WaPo on D&D’s popularity

The Washington Post reports on D&D’s popularity. We could quibble with a few of the finer points of this story (and some have), but it is a lovely testament to why we play.

Asmodee announces a fiction imprint

Asmodee, parent company of Fantasy Flight Games (along with more board game lines than we can count) announces a new fiction imprint called Aconyte. We will probably see some fiction set in Fantasy Flight’s RPG settings, but personally, I’m hoping for the novelisation of Ticket to Ride.

The Critical Role Kickstarter

What raising $11 mil. means

The Critical Role animated special kickstarter closed, having raised over $11 million to bring the adventures of Vox Machina to the small screen, making it the most funded Film & TV project, and the fifth most funded project in Kickstarter’s history.

Obviously, there have been a ton of articles discussing this, but some of our favourites:

Comicbook.com interviews Sam Riegel on the show’s past and future.

James Haeck raises the question: what does this mean for D&D? He points out that the show’s (presumably) adult content, and its distance from the D&D brand, places it in a different position to the 1980s cartoon, or any remake of it.

IGN gives us some of the cast’s reflections on the kickstarter.

Six years and counting…

Meanwhile, the cast celebrated the 6th anniversary of the home game that would become the live show.


A little D&D history

Robb Minneman gives us a fantastic article on the tonal differences across different editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

Keith Baker and Bill Slavicsek discuss the origins of the Eberron campaign setting.

Cubicle 7 turns 10

Cubicle 7 celebrates its 10 year anniversary. GeekDad gives us a breakdown of the games they make.

RPGs, Hacking, and Constitutional Law

Internet activist Jon Lebkowsky talks about the history of Internet Activism in Austin, Texas, which includes a brief discussion of the landmark case, Steve Jackson Games vs the US Secret Service. This case, which followed a Secret Service raid on RPG publisher, Steve Jackson Games, on suspicion of hacking crimes (for which they briefly considered GURPS Cyberpunk evidence), was one of the first cases in US history to establish internet communication as speech for the purpose of free speech law, and is one of the most surreal events in RPG history.

New & Upcoming Products

Three very exciting games announced

Chris Spivey (Harlem Unbound, Cthulhu Confidential) is creating a Weird West RPG.

I’d like to draw a little more attention to that one. Spivey made his name with Harlem Unbound, an RPG which brings the Cthulhu mythos to the Harlem Renaissance. The game turns Lovecraftian horror away from its racist origins and uses it to tell stories about African-American characters. The news that he is looking to turn his pen to the Wild West was the highlight of my week.

Art from Free League’s forthcoming Alien RPG. (Image: Free League Publishing)

Free League (Tales from the Loop, Coriolis) is creating an officially licensed Alien RPG.

Evil Hat (Fate, Blades in the Dark) is publishing Fate of Cthulhu, a Fate-powered game of Lovecraftian horror and time travel.

Some classic game products return

Cover art from Enemy in the Shadows, Part 1 of the Enemy Within Campaign, featuring a goblin being chased through a carnival.

Cubicle 7 announces that the first part of their revised The Enemy Within campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay fourth edition will arrive in Quarter 3 of this year. The Enemy Within, originally released from 1986-1989 for the game’s first edition, is one of Warhammer’s best-regarded campaigns. We already reported that Cubicle 7 has brought back Gnomes to the game for the first time since the game’s first edition, so this is in line with their return to the original style of the RPG, before Games Workshop turned its focus to their miniature wargame line.

Goodman Games opens pre-orders for a Dungeon Crawl Classics sourcebook for Lankhmar, the classic fantasy city setting created by Fritz Leiber which has appeared in several RPGs, including Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Sneak peeks and previews of upcoming games

We get a sneak preview of Dungeons & Dragons’ upcoming Ghosts of Saltmarsh, courtesy of Gale Force 9.

Paradox gives us a sneak preview of Vampire: the Masquerade — Bloodlines 2.

Matthew Dawkins gives us a little detail about the upcoming Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition.

Chad Brown talks about the design philosophy of the second edition of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and how the game hopes to simulate the cooperation of an adventuring party better than its predecessor.

Rob Heinsoo gives us some details about WizKids forthcoming recreation of the classic Dungeons & Dragons card game, Three Dragon Ante.

Dragon+ magazine launches

The latest edition of Dragon+ magazine has been released, including an interview with our friend and RPG artist, Aviv Or.

Monte Cook Games wants you to have better games

Monte Cook Games’ book of player and GM advice, Your Best Game Ever, is available for preorder.

Gaming in spaaaaaaaaace

WizKids and Paizo announce a partnership to create the Starfinder Battles line of miniatures.

Fantasy Flight Games releases the Allies and Adversaries sourcebook of NPCs their Star Wars Roleplaying Game.

RPG-related products

The Mountain Goats’ Dungeons & Dragons-inspired album, In League With Dragons dropped.

The Owl Bear figurine from Ultra-Pro (Image: Ultra-Pro)

Ultra-Pro announces the “Figurines of Adorable Power“, a series of Funko-Pop-style figurines featuring Dungeons & Dragons monsters.

Deals and Bundles

Humble Bundle releases a bundle of 3D-printable models for RPGs.

In honour of the start of the final season of Game of Thrones, Bundle of Holding teams up with Green Ronin to release a bundle of products for the A Song of Ice and Fire RPG.

Bundle of Holding releases a bundle of games by Jason Morningstar, focused around his game of Coen-esque farce, Fiasco.

Cubicle 7 is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a sale on DriveThruRPG.


Wizards of the Coast seeks a Brand Manager in Italy.

Virtual Tabletop

Virtual tabletop, Astral Tabletop, gets a redesign, and partners up with DriveThruRPG.

On May 1st, Roll20 will be permanently reducing its prices on certain Dungeons & Dragons products.

Fun Stuff

The Daily Fandom talks about the rise of D&D-related comics.

There’s a Disney-related Easter Egg in the D&D Monster Manual.

There has been a somewhat heated debate (because of course there has) about whether published adventures should include boxed text for GMs to read aloud in game.

The Renton dragon, which earlier this month arrived in the home of Dungeons & Dragons, needs a name. Naturally, Dragon McDragonFace has been proposed. (Dragon McDragonFace was also proposed as the name for the GenCon dragon earlier this year, but cooler heads prevailed, and she was named Genevieve, or Genny for short.)

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy Projects

A Korean translation of Chaosium’s Masks of Nyarlathotep is breaking crowdfunding records.

We’ve been seeing a huge number of non-English translations of products lately (especially from Chaosium), and it’s great to see one doing so well. We don’t see much in the way of English-language coverage of roleplaying outside of North America and the UK, so we’re hoping we can cover this a bit more fully in future.

Odyssey of the Dragonlords: 5th Edition Adventure Book: A setting book for D&D fifth edition combining classic fantasy and Greek mythology. The project is being led by ex-Bioware designers, James Ohlen and Jesse Sky, along with author Drew Karpyshyn, by Arcanum Worlds — May 16th

James Ohlen, Jesse Sky and Drew Karpyshyn’s portfolio has no doubt helped with this project’s launch. Ohlen, as we covered above, has been tapped by Wizards of the Coast to run their new studio. The project is has partnered with Modiphius (who partner with a lot of smaller studios. It currently has over 4,300 backers and has raised over $230,000.

Fate of Cthulhu: A Fate-powered game of Lovecraft-esque horror and time-travel, by Fred Hicks / Evil Hat (Fate) — May 21st

James’ favourite project of the fortnight: A new spin on Fate and a very different, post-apocalyptic take on RPGs set in the Lovecraft mythos, this new Evil Hat project has had a strong first week despite Evil Hat’s policy of encouraging non-US fans who want a physical copy of the book to order it directly from their local game shops rather than paying the inflated shipping costs of sending it from the US.

World’s Finest Wallet of Holding – By Gametee: A wallet designed for holding gaming supplies, by Gametee (World’s Finest Leather Notebooks for Gamers) — May 12th

Amy’s favourite project of the fortnight: We don’t normally include RPG accessories, because if we did, we’d end up drowning in campaigns for dice. We’re including this one for one simple reason: Amy really wants it.

Closing Soon

Party Backstory Generator for 5e and Other Systems has raised nearly $40,000 from over 1,400 backers. It promises a comprehensive and collaborative way to develop character backstories and campaign setting material. Closing April 30th.

Animal Adventures: Tales of Cats and Catacombs has more than 8,000 backers and has raised almost £230,000. While primarily a miniatures project, backers will receive PDFs for a 5E-compatible sourcebook, including rules for cat PCs, and a one-shot adventure. Closing May 1st.

Ultimate Bestiary: The Dreaded Accursed for 5th Edition! has raised nearly $110,000 from nearly 2,700 backers. Another monster manual, this one has a focus on the undead. Its success seems to largely stem from the reception of Nord Games’ previous projects. Closing May 3rd.

5e & Pathfinder

The Koryo Hall of Adventures 5e Compatible Campaign Setting: A Korea-inspired campaign setting for D&D fifth edition, by Aurelien Laine — May 16th

The Adventurer’s Guide to Theria Volume 1: A setting book based on the “Dungeons and Randomness” actual play podcast, by Jason Massey (Dungeons and Randomness) — May 20th


Old-School Essentials: A rules-light old-school style RPG compatible with the 1980s Basic and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, by Necrotic Gnome — May 12th

Savage Worlds

Rifts® for Savage Worlds: American Armageddon: Three new worldbooks for the Rifts game for Savage Worlds, which funded in seven minutes, by Shane Hensley / Pinnacle Entertainment Group (Rifts for Savage Worlds, Deadlands Noir) — May 7th

Punchy Punchy

Fight! 2nd Edition: The second edition of a game designed to tell stories in the arcade fighting game genre, by Christopher Peter — May 16th

Powered by the Apocalypse

Once Upon a Time in Jianghu: A wuxia-inspired Powered by the Apocalypse game, by Ben Woerner (Nighty Knights the RPG, A World of Dew) — May 14th

Urban Fantasy/Horror

Monsterpunk: A post-apocalyptic RPG of humans making pacts with, and becoming, monsters, by Gegenschein Games (Battle Century G – A Cinematic and Tactical Mecha RPG) – May 6th

Dark Conspiracy – A Roleplaying Game of Supernatural Horror: A reworking of a classic GDW game of horror in a dystopian future, Uhrwerk Verlag (Space: 1889) — May 8th

The Cthulhu Alphabet: A reference guide for Lovecraftian horror design, by Goodman Games (Dungeon Crawl Classics) — May 22nd


One Child’s Heart: An empathy-building game about children’s mental health, by Camdon Wright — May 16th

A Town Called Malice – A Nordic Horror Story Game: A game of Nordic noir and small-town horror, by Monkeyfun Studios, LLC (Bedlam Hall, Spirit of 77) — May 24th

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