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


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


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


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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