26 August—2 September 2019: Dave Arneson, Tariffs, Crunch

We’re back after a little rest with a slightly-later-than-normal update! (Can I just say that I highly recommend holidays? — Amy)

This week we’ve got a fair bit of early D&D history, with a focus on the game’s contentious authorship. Notably, an article from Kotaku argues that Dave Arneson was the real genius behind role-playing games. (It seems to think this is more controversial than we do.)

The US trade war with China raises its many-eye-stalked head again as a tariff increase on books looms.

There are loads of pre-orders, two great bundles, Filipino folklore, Funko Pops, and more!

Featured Image: Pathfinder Second Edition Bestiary 2 cover art by Wayne Reynolds

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Dave Arneson and Early D&D

A newly released documentary, The Secrets of Blackmoor, offers a history of Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor campaign, the precursor to roleplaying games. It presents Arneson as the inventor of roleplaying games.

Kotaku offers a history of Dungeons & Dragons which challenges the story that Gary Gygax was primarily responsible for the game’s creation, emphasising Dave Arneson’s work.

This article presents the fact that Dave Arneson was just as pivotal as Gygax to the early development of Dungeons & Dragons as a major and recent revelation. We had assumed this was well known. If you’re interested in the subject, we recommend Designers & Dragons: 1970–1979 by Shannon Appelcline.

It’s no great mystery: Arneson’s name appears with Gary Gygax on the box of the very first edition. The fact is that roleplaying games arose out of a community of gamers who constantly riffed off one another’s ideas. Looking for an inventor of roleplaying games is like looking for an inventor of jazz: there are too many candidates, consensus is impossible, and the question misses the point.

None of which is to downplay the deplorable way in which successive publishers of D&D have failed to acknowledge Dave Arneson’s role, and denied him royalties. We owe him a great debt.

James Ward describes the origins of the term “Monty Haul” in Dungeons & Dragons.

Ed Greenwood continues his history of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.


The U.S. trade war with China continues to impact the RPG industry: tariffs on books printed in China will increase to 15% in October, which could be a blow to publishers printing there. We wrote about how the trade war could affect publishers earlier this year.

The Gauntlet is looking for an Editor in Chief for the Codex RPG Zine.

Upcoming and New Releases

Paizo announces the Character Operations Manual for Starfinder.

Paizo previews the cover art for Pathfinder Second Edition’s second Bestiary.

Bestiary 2 follows hot on the heels of the first Bestiary and it reinforces what we already knew: Paizo is pushing choice and “crunch*” as its unique selling point.

* There’s an interesting discussion on Twitter at the moment proposing “diegetic” and “non-diegetic” as alternatives to “fluff” and “crunch”. Some have pointed out (rightly) that those aren’t very accessible terms, but the discussion is worth diving into. — Amy

The PDF for Shadowrun’s sixth edition is now available.

There are new Dungeons & Dragons Funko Pop! figures coming.

7th Sea books are now available through Chaosium. Chaosium took over the publication of 7th Sea from John Wick earlier this year.

Savage Worlds Adventure Edition is available for pre-order.

IGN is running an actual play campaign to preview Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus.

Cubicle 7 opens pre-orders for the Twelfth Doctor sourcebook for the Doctor Who RPG.

Deals & Bundles

Bundle of Holding is running a bundle of Legacy: Life Among the Ruins books.

Bundle of Holding is running a bundle of system-neutral supplements by Goodman Games.

Crowdfunding News

Heavy Hitters Closing Soon

The new edition of Fiasco has raised over $200,000 from more than 3,500 backers and is Bully Pulpit’s most successful crowdfunding campaign to date. This isn’t a huge surprise: Fiasco has a long list of celebrity and designer fans. The campaign has surpassed all its (modest) stretch goals: access on Roll20, a fourth playset and an option to build your own playsets via a form-fillable PDF and a set of blank cards. Closes September 4th.

Grim Hollow has raised nearly AU$140,000 from over 2,000 backers. It looks like a perfectly competent 5e compatible supplement with attractive art and a clear identity. If we’re honest, though, having looked at these projects week after week for nine months, we are intrigued by which ones do well and which equally deserving and attractive projects languish. Presumably, advertising is a significant factor, but are there others? Closes September 7th.

Fantasy 5e & Pathfinder

The Islands & Aswangs Book: An illustrated book of Filipino folklore book which doubles as a sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons, by Islands & Aswangs — September 7th

We missed this one before now as it was listed as an art book: thanks to Martin Bentley for the tip. This is gorgeous, and definitely my pick for the week: we need more diverse folklore informing our games. — Amy

Eldritch Century – 5e RPG Dual System: An alternate earth setting and two new systems for 5e, by Draco Studios (Dragonbond: Dragons of the Red Moon, Eldritch Century: Resin Miniatures Wave 1) — September 19th

General Fantasy

Dungeon Fantasy Magic Items 2, Powered by GURPS: More magic items for the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game, Warehouse 23/Steve Jackson Games (The Fantasy Trip) — September 6th

Kings of War the Roleplaying Game: A roleplaying game based on Mantic’s Kings of War miniatures game, built with its own ruleset as well as a 5e conversion, Red Scar (Devil’s Run) — September 17th


Dossier Decks: Merchants, Mages, and Goblins: Sets of system-neutral cards for generating NPCs, by SkeletonKey Games (Arcane Scrollworks) — September 12th

Future World Creator: Modular tiles for Sci-fi tabletop RPGs: A collection of modular tiles and tokens for sci-fi games with an accompanying app, by Game Start (Fantasy World Creator) — September 19th

This update was made possible by Keenan Collett and the rest of our Patreon supporters.

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