This weekend was Gen Con, so the theme of this week’s update is primarily FOMO! (One day we’ll get there ourselves.) The biggest gaming convention in the world saw a huge number of announcements — I’m sure there’s some we’ve missed!
A host of new products were announced, featuring high school sports teams, drug cartels, a board game based on a computer game based on a roleplaying game, and a roleplaying game based on one of the most critically acclaimed fantasy series of the last 5 years.
It’s also been awards season! The ENnies, the Diana Jones Award and the Indie Groundbreaker Awards were all announced this week.
There are also industry stats, RPG history, board game ethics, Gucci going Dungeons & Dragons, your answers to our #RPGaDAY questions, and a game you can only play after the creator is dead.
We hope you’ve had an incredible Gen Con or Gen Can’t, whichever you had!
Featured Image: Star Crossed, by Alex Roberts. Courtesy of Bully Pulpit Games. Artist: Jess Fink
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The Past and Future of Games
The New York Times talks about the ethics of board games after the heated controversy of Scramble for Africa, a board game which gamified the brutal colonisation of the African continent.
We don’t usually talk much about board games, but this seemed worth note. The article’s point that board games lack a ‘mature media’ which can have critical conversations about the subjects of its games, seems true of roleplaying games. There’s a conversation to be had, for instance, about how the influence of pulp adventure novels on roleplaying games has influenced their portrayal of colonialism. These conversations are happening on the fringes, but they’re not baked into the core of games criticism.
Ed Greenwood, creator of the Forgotten Realms, reflects on the creation of the classic Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting in a new column on EN World.
Justin Alexander discusses what changed when Dungeon Model B3: Palace of the Silver Princess was rewritten in 1981, claiming that it marked a shift away from the “old school” style of gaming.
Jim Ward reflects on an unusual game played with Gary Gygax.
The head of gamification at Gucci talks about how Dungeons & Dragons informed the marketing strategy of the veteran fashion brand.
Where’s the link? This article was taken down for reasons unknown to us, and it hasn’t been cached on the Wayback Machine. Its ghost lingers here. Copies are out there if you’re okay with pirated news sites.
Gen Con saw the announcements of the winners of the ENnie awards!
That’s a long list to engage with! Certainly, Chaosium dominated this year, winning awards in every category for which it was nominated, and Lovecraftian games make up a large bulk of the winners.
The Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming goes to Alex Roberts’ Star Crossed.
And we also get the winners of the Indie Groundbreaker Awards.
ICv2 Gives us Industry numbers
ICv2 releases a list of the top-selling roleplaying games for the last quarter.
ICv2’s Rolling for Initiative takes a detailed look at hobby industry sales numbers for the last quarter.
ICv2 reports on the astonishing success of the DIE comics.
Free League releases Mutant: Elysium, an expansion for Mutant: Year Zero
Fantasy Flight Games launches a community content program for Genesys, called The Genesys Foundry.
Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, the writers of Spider-Man: Homecoming are in talks to direct the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons film.
Deborah Anne Woll (True Blood, Relics and Rarities) and Marisha Ray (Critical Role) are working on a new Dungeons & Dragons product.
Magpie Games announces a number of new products, including the release of narcofiction RPG, Cartel, a roleplaying game based on award-winning board game Root, a card-based space horror RPG called Airlock, a second edition of the urban fantasy RPG, Urban Shadows, and Armored Society, a political fantasy inspired by Irish/Celtic mythology.
Yyeeah, I want to play every single one of these. — Amy
Green Ronin Publishing will publish a roleplaying game based on N.K. Jemisin’s award-winning Broken Earth trilogy.
There’s a Cyberpunk 2077 card game coming. As this article puts it, a card game based on a computer game based on a roleplaying game. This comes just over a year after Fantasy Flight ended development on Netrunner, their reboot of a card game which was originally based on Cyberpunk 2020.
The Adventure Zone actual play is getting a board game designed by Twogether Studios.
Storybrewers Roleplaying, the publishers behind Good Society: The Jane Austen RPG, announces Fight With Spirit, a roleplaying game about high school sports.
Over on Twitter and Facebook, we’ve been teaming up with Leisure Games for #RPGaDay, a community content creation event taking place every day in August. Each day we’re asking for your answers to a specific question. Here are some of our favourites so far:
Day One: “First” — How did you first find out about RPGs?
“Games Workshop adverts in Starburst magazine. Then my mother’s first ‘boyfriend’ told me about the amazing adventures he had in the dungeons beneath Lake Geneva. Never got to game with him, but was intrigued.” — @Rlyeh Reviews
“Found a copy of the 1st Edition Players Handbook, DMG and Deities & Demigods in an Oxfam store.” — @TrimusDA
“[A friend] invited me to play Pathfinder’s Kingmaker without actually telling me what it was! He just said “Want to come play Kingmaker this weekend?” and one month later I started DMing!” — Brendan Ward
Day Two: “Unique” — What designers are doing unique things with RPGs right now?
“The forthcoming game Heart by Rowan, Rook & Decard really has some cool mechanics – I got to play test it and it’s a joy to pick up and play!” — @DrMattTyrer
“I’m not super in the know about the industry but I really loved seeing Starcrossed come out this year!” — Jessica Gao
Day Three: “Engage” — How can we as the RPG community engage new players?
“I really want to see more games like [Alex Roberts’] For the Queen which require absolutely no prep or reading/comprehending rules before play. One of my ideas in my backlog is a dungeon-crawling game inspired by FtQ!” — @mouseholepress
“I think there is more of an acceptance at the moment for RPGs than there’s ever been, largely thanks to Stranger Things and the crossover from video RPGs… The problem I’m seeing personally though is that they only want to play D&D and aren’t interested in anything else. So for me it’s getting new players to realise there are games out there other than D&D.” — Daniel Irwin
Day Four: “Share” — What role does social media play in your gaming life?
“I actually didn’t use social media much before I got really into gaming but now it’s a huge part of my interaction with other players.” — Jessica Gao
“It unfortunately plays a massive role as it makes attending games and events a hell of a lot easier. (when I say unfortunately, I mean it has become pretty crucial. If you don’t have Facebook, you have an uphill battle to find games).” — Tim Cleverly
“These days it’s mostly how we organise: when are we playing, where are we playing, who’s bringing snacks. And it’s how I keep in touch with international gamers. … Oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever used it to find a group.” — Amy
D&D Beyond is running a competition to play in a special one-shot game and win a Legendary Bundle, containing all the products on the site.
Bundles & Deals
From 15 July to 15 August, Kickstarter is running Break Kickstarter, a campaign to create Kickstarter projects that break the conventions of Kickstarter. Some of the projects this week are a little odd as a result!
TaleSpire, a virtual tabletop roleplaying game simulator, has raised over 2.7 million Norwegian Krone (approx. $300,000) from over 6,000 backers. Both of us have been a little sceptical about how effective the finished version of this project would end up being, but it’s clear that a lot of people have put their faith in it. Could this be Minecraft for roleplaying? Time will tell. Closes August 8th.
Demigods has raised $28,000 from over 900 backers. We were both pretty intrigued by this project when it first launched, and it has done very well for a Powered by the Apocalypse project run by someone who has never run a Kickstarter before. The fact that a quickstart of the game is freely downloadable can have only helped. Closes August 8th.
Fantasy 5e & Pathfinder
World of Aetaltis – RPG Campaign Setting for 5E: A new fantasy game setting for D&D 5e, by Marc Tassin (The Heroes of Thornwall, Champions of Aetaltis) — August 24th
Epic Legacy Campaign Codex: 5th Edition Beyond 20th Level: Additional content for Epic Legacy, a guide to playing D&D 5e beyond 20th level, by 2CGaming (Total Party Kill Handbook, Epic Legacy Core Rulebook) — August 26th
Powered by the Apocalypse
The Tower: A tabletop game dealing with deadly violence, which may only be played after the creator’s death. Part of the Break Kickstarter campaign, by The Warden (High Plains Samurai) — August 17th
Call me a cynic, but I’m completely unsold on an RPG that I can’t play until the creator is dead — partly because I suspect he’ll outlive me! If this intrigues you though, go for it. — James
This game-as-art doesn’t particularly speak to me, but it’s always cool seeing games-as-art. — Amy
Break Kickstarter: Twelve Hundred Words: A collection of tiny RPGs about mental health, in which the Kickstarter itself is a roleplaying game. Part of the Break Kickstarter campaign, by Taylor Smith (Make/100! Spell: The RPG & Spellbook Engraved Wood Box Set) — August 10th
| BLACK | RED | WHITE | Nonexistent Games: A collection of three games that haven’t been created yet. Part of the Break Kickstarter campaign, By Nathan D. Paoletta (The World Wide Wrestling Roleplaying Game, Imp of the Perverse) — August 13th
Fiasco: The Cinematic Game of Plans Gone Wrong: A second edition of the classic GM-less game of ambitious plans gone wrong, by Bully Pulpit Games (Star Crossed, Night Witches) — September 4th
Fiasco holds a special place in my heart and I’ll be fascinated to see how big this project end up getting, as it’s a fairly tried and trusted brand with a lot of celebrity fans. Bully Pulpit’s Star Crossed (which itself got nearly 2,000 backers when it was Kickstarted last year) winning the Diana Jones Award last week won’t have hurt them either, and like that game, this is a very explicit attempt to blur the line between roleplaying and board game. Could this be the time Fiasco hits the mainstream? Time will tell. — James
Fiasco was the first game I played outside of the mainstream, and will always be a favourite of mine. It will be interesting to see how the card-based mechanics affect the game’s hackability, but as James points out, it will make it very easy for new players to just pick up and play. My pick of the week. — Amy