24 June–7 July 2019: Race, Orcs, Hasbro, 80s Nostalgia

Well, we’re back, and this is a bumper, two-week special issue. Twice the news! Twice the Kickstarters! Three times the speculation!

This one’s a political edition: controversy around a game writers views on race science; a biting article on the racism of Orcs in D&D; the suspension of tariffs on RPGs; and cyberpunk as (IMHO outdated) political commentary.

We can also see some changes in the industry: the waves of Hasbro’s new interest in its D&D brand; GMing as a paid service; Game writing as art.

Oh goodness, what else? Gen Con goes green; D&D for visually impaired readers; Dice to open rifts in the multiverse; 80s nostalgia —

Oh hell, just read it!

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RPGs, Race, Politics

Pelgrane disavows 13th Age co-creator’s views on race science

Pelgrane Press have issued a statement distancing themselves from 13th Age co-creator, Jonathan Tweet, clarifying that he no longer works on 13th Age and does not receive royalties on Pelgrane’s 13th Age products:

This appears to be in response to the controversy surrounding a number of statements Tweet himself has made regarding race science, as well as sharing a tweet on the legalisation of cannabis by the far-right politician and comedian Mark Meechan (aka “Count Dankula”).

Some of these statements, including the retweet, have now been deleted, although he has since made a number of similar comments on the topic of race.

Responding to the Pelgrane statement, Tweet has now placed an extensive comment on RPG.net. In it, he claims that he has had political differences over “semantics, strategy, and science” with the company for some time.

We missed this story when it actually started: 13th Age distanced themselves from Tweet in May.

Mendez on Orcs and Racism in gaming

James Mendez Hodes releases part two of his discussion of the racism of orcs and other races in Dungeons & Dragons and its descendants.

Mendez is a brilliant and compelling writer on the fraught and urgent subject of racism in RPGs. We strongly recommend following his work. That goes twice for us white gamers.

Tariff increase on RPGs suspended

The proposed tariff increase on board games and toys, which would affect RPG products, has been suspended for the present.

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Cyberpunk and Politics

Mike Pondsmith of Cyberpunk publishers, R. Talsorian, talks about the politics of the Cyberpunk RPG games.

I’ve been feeling pretty underwhelmed by the politics of the cyberpunk genre lately, especially with the controversy surrounding transphobia in the computer game adaptation. This article fell short of its intent to me, particularly around its discussion of technology — especially YouTube — as a “leveller” of power structures, something which does not feel true today in the way it felt 10 years ago. — Amy

Our Changing Industry

The Essentials Kit launches, and why Wizards might be partnering with Target

The Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit launched in stores at Target. The product will release elsewhere on September 3rd.

The choice to release this product at Target first is notable. Earlier this year, Wizards announced that it would no longer be releasing its books early at brick and mortar hobby shops, so that fans wouldn’t have the confusion of multiple release dates. Then, shortly afterwards, they announced a product with multiple release dates, this time benefiting a massive national retailer, instead of small businesses. This feels like something that may have come down from Wizards’ parent company, Hasbro. I’m speculating, but I’d bet that Hasbro is courting Target (and other big retailers) after being hit so hard by the closure of Toys R Us.

A new executive role at Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast is looking for an “Executive Producer” for D&D. This appears to be a brand new role, focused on the business side of Dungeons & Dragons.

Again, I wonder if we aren’t seeing the Hasbro influence here: as the parent company pays more attention to the value of the Dungeons & Dragons brand, I’m sure we’ll see them try to optimise that value. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Remembering industry veterans we’ve lost

Lee Garvin, creator of Tales from the Floating Vagabond, has passed away. RPG historian, Shannon Appelcline offers an obituary for Garvin, as well as for Larry DiTillio and James Mathe, both of whom passed away this year.

Game Mastering as a paid service

Tessera Guild interviews Kenny Mahan about the time he spent GMing for tips at a game store.

This is the first I’ve heard of GMing for tips, but it has been interesting to see lately the rise of, for instance, paid games on Roll20, and luxury paid games like D&D in a Castle. There is a market for GMs to provide a service and be paid for it.

Game writing as art

Game writer, Sangjun (aka Magister Ludi), reflects on the art of “No-Player” RPGs.

I adore this genre of using game rules as a medium to create art, as well as (or instead of) games. Here’s my favourite. — Amy

The end of the Solomon Kane RPG

Savage Worlds creators, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, will lose the license to the Solomon Kane IP at the end of this year.

On the new wave of computer adaptations of tabletop RPGs

PC Gamer talks to the makers of Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines 2, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, and Baldur’s Gate 3 about the complexities of adapting a tabletop RPG to the computer.

Origins sees growing attendance figures

The Game Manufacturers’ Association have announced that they saw an 11% increase in attendance this year.

More thoughts on Free RPG Day

ICV2’s Rolling for Initiative discusses this year’s Free RPG Day.

Some Positive Steps

D&D book available for visually impaired gamers

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has made the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook available in navigable audio form, and the other core rulebooks are coming soon.

This service is primarily made available for US Residents and Citizens living abroad, but we understand that it may be available in some other countries under the Marrakesh Treaty. If any of our readers know more about this, we’d be curious to hear.

Gen Con going greener

Gen Con announces plans to make the convention more environmentally sustainable.

The ENnie Awards

EN World reports on changes that have been made to its process of judging the ENnies, particularly with regards to improving transparency.

The nominations for the 2019 ENnie Awards have been announced.

Ummm… Wait… Is that my name? What? It appears that a Pathfinder fanzine that Brendan Ward and I contributed a small article to has been nominated. — Amy

D&D Lore and 80s Nostalgia

RPG Site interviews Larian Studios’ Swen Vincke and Dungeons & Dragons’ Mike Mearls about the upcoming Baldur’s Gate 3. It’s pretty focused on the game, but it was interesting to see D&D’s Creative Directors’ attitude to adaptation and canon.

SYFY Wire talks about the history of Dungeons & Dragons’ Demogorgon, of Stranger Things fame.

Polygon talks about the secret lore and continuity of the Forgotten Realms and the rest of Dungeons & Dragons.

In what feels to this 90s kid like peak 80s nostalgia, D&D is bringing back a character based on a 1983 action figure.

To celebrate its 1000th episode, BBC’s Click, a weekly technology news programme, created an interactive episode inspired by Games Workshop’s 1980s Fighting Fantasy adventure books.

Dice!

Google has updated its dice widget to roll polyhedrals, including bonuses.

This dice is everything from a d2 to a d100, and I presume also bends space-time.

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Upcoming Products

Paizo previews the character creation system for Pathfinder Second Edition.

Pelgrane Press gives a great overview of the various games in the GUMSHOE system.

Renegade Game Studios announces the Teens in Space RPG (it’s what it says on the tin), powered by their Kids on Bikes system.

EN World interviews Free League’s Tomas Härenstam on the publisher’s forthcoming ALIEN RPG.

Polyhedron Collider interviews Modiphius’ Chris Birch about the Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms miniatures game. There’s a brief discussion of the possibility of an Elder Scrolls roleplaying game: it’s not in the works, but Birch doesn’t rule it out either.

Modiphius is teaming up with Black Void Games to distribute their Kickstarter funded game, Black Void.

The second series of the Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins comic series starts July 10th.

Bundles and Deals

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of Paranoia books as well as a bundle of TinyD6/Tiny Dungeon books.

Crowdfunding News

Fantasy 5e & Pathfinder

Fateforge: a 5th Edition Role-Playing Game: A colourful, sword-and-sorcery campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons 5e, by Jim Searcy/Studio 2 Publishing (Shadows of Esteren) — July 18th

Tome of Delving: A specialised notebook designed to replace 5e character sheets, by Dungeon Notebook — July 19th

The Blood Queen’s Defiance: A DM-less adventure book featuring 3 5th Edition 3 adventures, by Limitless Adventures (Limitless Encounters, 5th Evolution: New Genres for Your 5E Game!) — August 1st

Modern/Sci-fi 5e & Starfinder

The Spy Game: 5th Edition Action/Espionage Roleplaying Game: A 5e-powered espionage action RPG, written by the developer of Star Trek: Adventures, by Black Cats Gaming — August 9th

General Fantasy

Zafir: Tactical Roleplaying Game: A fantasy RPG set in a 1930s-style world of airships and magic, by Zafir Games — July 13th

Fragged RPG | Regions: Three new region books for Fragged Empire, by Wade Dyer (Fragged Empire) — July 27th

Chivalry & Sorcery – the Medieval Role Playing Game: A new edition of the classic medieval fantasy RPG, by Steve Turner, Brittannia Game Designs — July 31st

Superheroes

Trinity Continuum: Aberrant: A new edition of the 1990s superheroes game, Aberrant, by Richard Thomas/Onyx Path (so many things) — July 30th

Sci-fi & Cyberpunk

Torg Eternity – Aysle: The continuation of Torg Eternity, which is something, I don’t know man, there are so many Kickstarters in this issue I can’t research all of them, I guess if you’re interested in this you already know what Torg Eternity is, according to James it’s because I’m too young, have a good day, by Ulysses Spiele (Torg Eternity, The Dark Eye) — July 30th

Urban Fantasy/Horror

Innsmouth ’86 for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition: An adventure and setting book for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, featuring teen investigators in the ’80s, by Stygian Fox Publishing (Fear’s Sharp Little Needles, Occam’s Razor) — August 1st

Storygames

moonflower: a story game of impossible journeys: A zero-prep, GM-less tabletop role-playing game featuring tarot cards, by magister ludi — July 23rd

Accessories

Jon Hodgson Map Tiles: Modular battlemap tiles, by Jon Hodgson (The Forest Dragon Card Game) — July 9th

We’re both big fans of Jon Hodgson’s artwork (mainly via The One Ring) and have backed this.

Mimic’s Grid: The Infinitely Customizable D&D Adventure Tile: A modular magnetic game tile set, by Cursed Crypt — July 13th

RPG Minimalist Creature Dice & Status / Condition Markers: Minimalist cubes to take the place of tokens and condition markers, by quEmpire Gaming (The Dice Pen with Standard, CCG, Fate, Backgammon & 5mm Dice) — July 18th

Tale Spire: A 3D online tabletop system, by Bouncyrock — August 8th

Cover Image: Wizards of the Coast

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