This has been a huge week in roleplaying games, with a whole host of big announcements. We have the nominations for the Origins Awards, which feature at least one peculiar choice. We have a whole host of upcoming projects announced: Paizo are making a product for D&D 5e, Shadowrun is getting a sixth edition, Gen Con are creating pop-up conventions… Honestly, there’s more than we can keep in our heads, let alone precis!
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Origins Awards Nominees Announced
The nominees for the Origins Awards for excellence in game design have been announced. Awards are given for in several categories, including board games, but since our focus is on Roleplaying Games, we’re listing only the relevant categories here. Winners will be announced at the Origins Game Fair, which runs from 12–16 June this year.
The nominations for the Roleplaying Games category are a strange mix. We haven’t played the majority of these (and some have yet to reach UK shops), so we can’t comment on the games themselves, but this does seem to be a list attempting to compare apples with oranges. There are some deluxe editions, some starter sets, one book that seems better suited to the Supplement category, and one that we wouldn’t have thought any awards committee would touch with a 10ft pole.
Dusk City Outlaws, by Scratchpad Publishing
A game of heists and thievery in a light fantasy setting, sold as a box set, designed to be played without preparation.
Flash Gordon Limited Edition Collectors Box Set, Pinnacle Entertainment Group
An adaptation of the pulp space opera setting of Flash Gordon to Savage Worlds, sold with the usual Savage Worlds accoutrements (GM screen, dice, cards, and bennie tokens), along with battle maps.
Forbidden Lands, by Free League
A sandbox survival game in a setting which takes novel twists on classic fantasy. Free League has been something of a darling since its multi-ENnie award-winning Tales from the Loop.
Invisible Sun, Monte Cook Games
If we’re seeing some deluxe editions on the list of nominations, Invisible Sun is the deluxest. The surreal fantasy game’s box set contains an astonishing number of components, and is available for preorder at $252.
Midgard World Book, Kobold Press
Kobold Press’s Midgard campaign setting, inspired by Eastern and Central European mythology, originally built under the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition Open Gaming License. This book adapts the setting to 5e and Pathfinder.
It’s interesting that this one is nominated as a Roleplaying Game rather than a Roleplaying Game supplement. The rest of the products in this category are stand-alone games, while this book requires the core rules of D&D 5e or Pathfinder, and the Midgard Heroes Handbook, which has separate editions for each system.
Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook, Green Ronin Publishing
A stripped down, self-contained version of the 3rd Edition of Green Ronin’s superhero RPG.
Numenera Discovery/Destiny Corebook Slipcase Set, Monte Cook Games
The revised core rules and setting book for Monte Cook Games’ science fantasy game, Numenera.
Star Trek Adventures Starter Set, Modiphius Entertainment
A beginners’ box set for Modiphius’ 2D20 Star Trek roleplaying game, including rules, a short campaign, and components for play.
Uprising: The Dystopian Universe, Evil Hat Productions
A dystopian RPG, based on Evil Hat’s Fate system and set in the universe of the Coup, One Night Revolution, and The Resistance board games.
Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition, White Wolf/Modiphius Entertainment
The fifth edition of the classic game of ‘personal and political horror’.
This one is a bizarre choice as a candidate for a ‘best game’ list. The production for the game was famously disastrous, ultimately causing the original publishers, White Wolf, to be disbanded by parent company, Paradox Entertainment, after the release of its first sourcebooks. Modiphius, originally distributors for the game, have now taken over production of the game’s line, though they were not the publishers of the book nominated. Incidentally, at time of writing, the Origins nominees page incorrectly lists the game’s art team as its writers.
This one is a far less surprising list than the above: mostly made up of setting books for well-regarded RPGs, in addition to two bestiaries and a classic campaign.
Aldis: City of the Blue Rose, Green Ronin Publishing
A city sourcebook for the Blue Rose RPG.
Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyarlathotep Slipcase Set
A classic campaign for Call of Cthulhu, adapted to the game’s latest edition.
Conan: Book of Skelos, Modiphius Entertainment
A sourcebook for the Conan RPG, focused on sorcery and magic.
Creature Codex for 5th Edition, Kobold Press
A collection of monsters for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
Dungeons & Dragons: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, Wizards of the Coast
A sourcebook focused on conflicts between races in Dungeons & Dragons, including a bestiary.
Legend of the Five Rings: Emerald Empire, Fantasy Flight Games
A setting sourcebook for the Legend of the Five Rings RPG.
Star Trek Adventures: The Command Division, Modiphius Entertainment
A sourcebook for Star Trek Adventures, focused on the Command Division of Starfleet.
Starfinder: Pact Worlds, Paizo
A setting book detailing the core worlds and civilizations of the Starfinder roleplaying game.
The Dark Eye: The Warring Kingdoms – Nostria and Anderghast, Ulisses Spiele
A regional setting sourcebook for the Dark Eye roleplaying game
Traveller: The Great Rift, Mongoose Publishing
A setting book and guide to deep space exploration for the Traveller roleplaying game.
James Ward’s column on Dungeons & Dragons history gives us a few stories about dice production at TSR.
I was intrigued by a throwaway line in Ward’s article about prisoners being forbidden dice. This led me to this fascinating 2017 article about how roleplaying games are played in prison in the United States.
DM David gives us some history of the Grimtooth’s Traps books.
Owen K. C. Stephens reflects on five years at Paizo.
Michael J. Tresca talks about the She-Ra RPG Hoax, and how this has all happened before.
Paizo tests the D&D market
Paizo is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Kingmaker with an adaptation of the adventure path to Pathfinder’s second edition. Interestingly, the project also intends to work with a third party to rework the game’s Bestiary for Dungeons & Dragons 5e.
This is a very small step, but it’s big news. James has been saying for ages that Paizo ought to adapt the Pathfinder setting to D&D. Amy has been saying that they were unlikely to do so, given that Pathfinder was developed precisely because Paizo was burned by Wizards of the Coast. Working with a third party to develop a small product for 5e is a clear sign that the company is testing the waters, while outsourcing some of the risk. If this goes well, we’ll see more of this.
Big Eyes, Small Mouth returns, along with controversy
Dyskami Publishing announces the fourth edition of anime RPG, Big Eyes, Small Mouth, to be updated by its creator (and Dyskami President), Mark MacKinnon. The news has brought old controversy to the fore: MacKinnon’s previous company, Guardians of Order, went bankrupt in 2006, owing money to freelancers who had worked on its games. Several have sharply criticized MacKinnon’s handling of the situation, and his treatment of freelancers and fans.
Some background on the disgruntlement is offered by Designers & Dragons’ author Shannon Appelcline (worth following for anyone interested in RPG History). This BoardGameGeek thread from 2013 also offers some context.
Shadowrun gets a 6th Edition
Catalyst Game Labs announces the sixth edition of Shadowrun, entitled Shadowrun, Sixth World. This year marks the game’s 30th Anniversary, so there has been some speculation that we’d see an announcement of this sort.
Gen Con announces pop-up conventions
Gen Con has announced an initiative of Pop-Up Conventions in US game stores, to coincide with the main convention in August.
More details on previously announced games
Ivan Van Norman talks about the upcoming Altered Carbon RPG.
Cam Banks is announced as editor on the upcoming Alien RPG.
We get more previews of the upcoming Acquisitions Incorporated sourcebook.
We get a little more information about the previously-announced Labyrinth adventure game, scheduled for Q3 this year.
Upcoming digital tools
Fantasy Grounds is rebuilding its virtual tabletop system from the ground up in the Unity development platform. Apart from the new features promised in this version of the game (map painting, line of sight, Fx Layers, etc.), this is a smart move for Fantasy Grounds, generally. Unity is an industry standard for game development, making it much easier to bring in new developers to work on the tool going forward. From a user perspective, it’s also worth noting that one of Unity’s strengths is in creating cross-platform games. Fantasy Grounds is already available on PC, Mac, and Linux, but this move could also make it easier to develop mobile products going forward (though none have been announced).
R. Talsorian is teaming up with tabletop audio creators, Syrinscape, to create an official SoundSet for Cyberpunk Red. Syrinscape is already partnered with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, and Chaosium on their games.
Livestreams & Actual Plays
The schedule and cast lists for D&D Live 2019: The Descent have launched.
CollegeHumor is continuing its Dungeons & Dragons actual play, Dimension 20.
D&D cartoon models available for preorder
Iron Studios and Sideshow open pre-orders on models based on characters from the 1980s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.
Bundles & Deals
DriveThruRPG is having a sale on Dungeons & Dragons-related products.
Bundle of Holding offers a bundle of Neoclassical Geek Revival products.
Noteworthy New Projects
Fantasy Grounds Unity: A reworking of the Fantasy Grounds virtual tabletop, built from the ground up in Unity, by SmiteWorks — May 30th
This Kickstarter has had a tremendous first week, thanks mainly due to the popularity of the existing Fantasy Grounds platform and significant growth of online and computer-assisted play.
Babble On Equity Project: A campaign to send people of colour to Big Bad Con, Babble On Equity Project.
Representation of people of colour in roleplaying games, and especially at conventions, is an urgent subject, and one that we’ve had occasion to bring up regularly. We’re delighted to see this project, featuring some incredible creators and thinkers, doing so well.
Lancer has been a tremendous success, with over 7,200 backers and having raised nearly $340,000 — a fact which appears to have taken the organisers by surprise, given the low level of the stretch goals. The game (minus art and layout) is already available for free online.
Old-School Essentials joins a crowded field of nostalgic OSR games, but has successfully raised nearly €100,000 from over 1,600 backers.
Rifts® for Savage Worlds: American Armageddon continues PEG’s growing line of Rifts books for people who don’t want to use the Rifts system. It has raised nearly $200,000 from 1,700 backers.
5e & Pathfinder
Rebels of the Drifting City: A one-shot adventure for D&D 5e in which the adventurers quest to overthrow the despotic wizards who rule a mysterious city in the sky, by Justin Spath, Space Daddy Games — May 23rd
Monsters of the Underworld for 5th Edition: A collection of Underworld monsters and lore for D&D 5e, by Cawood Publishing (World of Myrr, Monsters of Feyland) — May 29th
Empire of the Ghouls: A 5th edition campaign against the undead, featuring new monsters and player options, by Kobold Press (Tales of the Old Margreve, Creature Codex: 5th Edition Monsters) — May 31st
Trilemma Adventures Compendium: A compendium of systemless, old school style locations for fantasy role-playing games, by Michael Prescott — May 31st
Afterlife: Wandering Souls: a macabre fantasy roleplaying game about souls stuck in the afterlife, by Elizabeth Chaipraditkul (Familiars of Terra, WITCH) — May 31st
Traveller Fifth Edition: A reprint and reworking of the fifth edition of the Traveller roleplaying game, by Marc “Traveller” Miller (Traveller 5th Edition, GROGNARD: Ruminations On 40 Years In Gaming) — June 6th
LumaCast: Area-of-Effects: A projector tool for measuring areas of effects in RPGs, by C&C Woodsmith (Minimalist Miniatures, Character Crate) — June 1st
Sundown: A transhumanist, queerpunk roleplaying game set on a science-fantasy frontier, by Grasswatch Games — May 11th