7–27 October 2019: Essen, Licensed Games, Werewolf 5th Edition

We’re back after a short holiday, and although things have been relatively quiet, the news has built up. Let’s dive in!

We get a glimpse of the small but growing presence of RPGs at the Essen Spiel convention. There’s some talk about the past, present, and future of Intellectual Property and Licenses in RPGs. And RPGs may be growing, but we have a reminder that creators are still not being paid enough.

There’s a host of information about the many (many) World of Darkness licensed games in the works, including an announcement that the fifth edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse will be made by somebody sometime.

Also: phone PDFs, a Christmas gift exchange, moth vampires, literary RPGs, and curses.

Featured Image: Concept art from Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Earthblood

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James reports from Essen Spiel last week:

Essen Spiel isn’t really a roleplaying-focused convention, let alone for anglophone RPGs. That said, the roleplaying presence was notably more significant than it was five years ago, with about a third of one hall (out of six) significantly dedicated to RPGs. In 2014, I’d estimate it to have been only 2–3 booths tucked away from the main halls.

The only publishers selling English-language games were Fria Ligan (aka Free League), Modiphius, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess — and the first two were pushing board- and miniature games as much as their RPGs. Fria Ligan were pushing the upcoming Vaesen, a Nordic horror RPG from Nils Hintze, the designer of Tales from the Loop.

[Editor’s note: Chaosium were also at Essen, though we missed them.]

The D&D presence was minimal — in Germany, the venerable game is eclipsed by The Dark Eye. With that said, WizKids’ presentation was notably focused on their D&D miniatures lines, including the launch of their new range of WarLock 3D dungeon tiles in 2020. Steve Jackson Games also reported that they were increasingly focusing on expanding their range of dice and other items such as the Kitten Adventurers Dungeon Survival Pack aimed at roleplayers.

General consensus at the GAMA retailers’ summit was that roleplaying sales are on the rise, and publishers are increasingly responding to that.

Licensing RPGs

Andrew Peregrine looks at what the Carnival Row RPG tells us about the state of licensed RPGs.

Jim Ward discusses the early licensing of Dungeons & Dragons computer games at TSR.

Aconyte, the fiction imprint of tabletop game publisher Asmodee, will be publishing prose novels based on the Marvel comics.

Obviously, this is not RPG news, but we’re keeping an eye on Asmodee’s use of this particular license: there may be a new RPG coming.

The Finances

Hasbro releases its Q3 report. The report cites growth in Dungeons & Dragons, but performance for the company was generally disappointing, and shares in the company took a hit.

Michael Tresca looks at the wave of RPG creators turning to crowdfunding to cover medical costs. He discusses how current rates in the industry are failing to support creatives, but argues that changes in the industry could make it possible.

Tresca’s point about RPG rates being too low is obviously true. But this article fails to mention that this problem is endemic to the US, where a lack of universal health insurance and the rising price of healthcare make bankruptcy from medical costs frequent. Commenters on EN World were quick to point this out.

James Introcaso discusses pay rates for freelance writers in the industry.

Industry News

Frog God Games and BJ Hensley have called for an end to attacks by third parties over the harassment of Hensley by Frog God Games CEO, Bill Webb. Accusations were levelled against Webb over his treatment of Hensley at PaizoCon 2017. Both parties appear to have reached an accord over the matter.

It’s worth pointing out that this is a potentially contentious story, and we’ve just linked to the most biased source possible — Webb’s own company. We don’t have anything to add, except, obviously, read critically.

A number of Phone PDFs have popped up on DriveThruRPG. Publishers offering PDFs designed specifically to be read on mobile phones, for quick reference at the table.

I doubt we’ll see this format replace regular PDFs, but it’s exciting to see it. I, for one, will definitely use these. — Amy

The Game Manufacturers’ Association launches Around the Table, an industry magazine.

Paizo announces several new team members joining Pathfinder and Starfinder.

Jason Bulmahn outlines the creation and playtesting of Pathfinder Second Edition.

EN World’s Egg Embry interviews Owen K.C. Stephens about the future of Green Ronin and Fantasy AGE.

New & Upcoming Releases

Chaosium remembers Greg Stafford a year after his passing. As a part of the #WeAreAllUs campaign in honour of the Chaosium founder, the company has released free adventures for HeroQuest, RuneQuest, 7th Sea, and Call of Cthulhu, as well as an adventure written by Stafford for Pendragon.

Paradox Interactive announces a fifth edition to Werewolf: The Apocalypse, to be created by a yet-unannounced partner.

An announcement which teases, but tells us almost nothing: that feels very much in line with computer game marketing.

Modiphius would be a sensible partner here, as the new publishers of the Vampire: The Masquerade. Onyx Path would also be a sensible candidate, as the creators of Chronicles of Darkness, and licensees of Vampire: The Masquerade.

That said, Paradox seems ready to license World of Darkness to as many people as it can, so the unnamed partner could be anyone.

Onyx Path will release Chicago By Night for Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition in January 2020.

Modiphius will release a new line of Vampire: The Masquerade miniatures.

Details and a trailer for Bigben and Cyanide’s Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Earthblood computer game dropped at PDXCon.

The Big Bad Wolf computer game adaptation of Vampire: The Masquerade has a name: Swansong.

The anniversary edition of Tyranny of Dragons has launched.

Monte Cook Games releases The Stars Are Fire, a hard sci-fi campaign setting for Cypher System.

Paizo reveals Near Space, a Starfinder supplement coming in 2020.

Modiphius announces the development of an RPG based on the Homeworld computer games.

Paizo releases a preview of the monster and hazard creation rules from its forthcoming Gamemastery Guide for Pathfinder Second Edition.

Green Ronin announces the release of Abzu’s Bounty, a campaign for The Expanse.

James D’Amato releases The Ultimate RPG Gameplay Guide.

Sales & Deals

DriveThruRPG is hosting a Halloween sale.

Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of World of Darkness books, and a bundle of Rogue Trader books.

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of Clockwork & Cthulhu books, a bundle of Deadlands books, and two bundles of Delta Green books.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

RPGGeek is running a gift exchange for Christmas.

Crowdfunding News

Kickstarter United

Kickstarter has begun proceedings to ballot all members of staff on whether or not to recognise a union of workers. The following Kickstarters which are mentioned this issue have also stated their position on this issue:

Arcana Academy: We love Kickstarter as a platform and recognize it enables us to create things we otherwise couldn’t. We want to make it clear that we stand with the people who make this platform possible in their attempts to unionize.

The Big Book of Amazing Tales: Amazing Tales supports Kickstarter United and their efforts to secure their rights at work. A full statement is here.

Doykayt: Okay, first thing’s first: Kickstarter’s union is currently trying to be recognized, and we fully believe in their right to unionize. The union is not currently calling for a boycott, but they’ve called for people to support them by applying pressure on Kickstarter’s senior leadership to recognize Kickstarter United. We in turn are urging those reading this to let Kickstarter know they should #RecognizeKSRU!

Moth Children: FIRST: I stand with the union. #RecognizeKSRU Period. Want to know more? https://kickstarterunited.org/ It is our prerogative as project runners and those who make this site happen to support the union. 

Voidheart Symphony: I stand in solidarity with those working at Kickstarter trying to organise and win recognition for their Union. As of the time of writing, the union has not called for creators with planned projects to boycott the site, so I’m going ahead as planned, but I’m monitoring the situation so that I can act if that advice changes. 

Noteworthy New Projects

Kingdoms, Warfare & More Minis! A supplement for 5e introducing domain-level play. A follow-up to Strongholds & Followers, by Matt Colville (Strongholds & Streaming) — November 22nd

At the time of writing, this project has raised over $900,000 from over 11,600 backers — a phenomenal level of funding for an RPG project. Colville’s last Kickstarter project — Strongholds & Streaming raised over $2,000,000 from 29,000 backers so it is clear that is could go much further before the campaign closes.

What’s behind the success? Presumably, Colville’s personal celebrity and his association with the Critical Role cast are involved. But it’s also a product with a clear selling point, from a proven creator, for the world’s most popular system. And it has one thing that tends to rake in cash on Kickstarter: miniatures.

Closing Soon

Another solid release from Kobold Press, Deep Magic for 5th Edition: A Tome of New Spells & Arcana has raised over $172,000 from over 3,000 backers. Closes October 30th.

Fantasy 5e & Pathfinder

The Cursed Collective: 5E / PF 2.0 Compatible Cursed Items: A collection of Cursed Items for Pathfinder and D&D 5e, by  Levi Clark (The Decks of Adventurer’s Allurement, The Tome of Magical Mystery) — November 1st

The Secrets of the Drow trilogy: A collection of three adventures for D&D 5e, by Midnight Tower — November 2nd

Scavenger: A bronze-age survival fantasy setting for D&D 5e, by Shardstone — November 11th

GrymmWorld: A dark fairy-tale setting and sourcebook for 5e, by 2CGaming (Epic Legacy Campaign Codex, Total Party Kill Bestiary) — November 11th

Corpus Malicious – The Codex of Evil for 5E: A supplement containing options for evil player characters, monsters, and NPCs, by Dream Realm Storytellers (Svilland: The Norse Mythology Setting for DnD 5E) — November 14th

Tome of Horrors 2020 for Fifth Edition: A revived collection of monsters for D&D 5e! Available in both print and PDF, by Necromancer Games (Necromancer Games) — November 21st


Hexagram #3, an Old-School RPG Zine for The Fantasy Trip: A retro zine for The Fantasy Trip, by Warehouse 23 / Steve Jackson Games — November 1st

Wolves of God: Adventures in Dark Ages England: A dark age historical fantasy RPG, by Kevin Crawford / Sine Nomine Publishing (Stars Without Number, Godbound) — November 8th

Castles & Crusades: NPC Almanac: A collection of pre-generated NPCs for Castles & Crusades, by Stephen Chenault / Troll Lord Games (Lost City of Gaxmoor, Amazing Adventures) — November 12th

General Fantasy

Pocket Companion: A guide to Cities and Towns: A guide to building settlements in RPGs, by Jason Watson (The Tavern Companion) — November 10th

Against the Darkmaster: An epic fantasy RPG, by Open Ended Games — November 21st

Urban Fantasy / Horror

Moth Children: “Each year, a door in the world releases a moth. That moth finds a sleeping host and enters the sleeper’s mouth, transforming them into a creature that lives in the night and wishes for the sun”, by Dane Asmund (NuÆther – Mechanix, Mutations, & Magic) — November 1st

I’m making this my pick of the week because although I haven’t gone as far as backing it, every time I come across it I’m intrigued by its fascinatingly original take on the vampire myth, as well as the beautiful character sheet (which admittedly both intrigues me and turns me off as it looks like it might break my brain.) — James

Powered by the Apocalypse

Voidheart Symphony: A Powered by the Apocalypse game of “psychic rebellion”, by Jay Iles (Legacy: Life Among the Ruins, Mysthea: Legends From the Borderlands) — November 15th

Arcana Academy – A Magic School Role-Playing Game: A magic school RPG, by Jordan (For the Dungeon!) — November 15th

The Harry Potter RPG in my heart would either be way darker or way queerer than this. But it’s cute, and I’m tempted. — Amy

Kids and Family

The Big Book of Amazing Tales: A collection of adventures for the Amazing Tales RPG, for kids aged 4+, by Martin Lloyd – Amazing Tales — November 9th


Doikayt: A Jewish TTRPG Anthology: “A collection of tabletop RPGs written and illustrated by Jews about the ways we see our Judaism”, by Riley Rethal (Dusk to Midnight, synthesis) — November 9th

I love that we’re seeing more of this kind of thing: RPGs that aim at a kind of meaning-making usually reserved for more conventional literary forms. RPGs as literature: my pick of the week. — Amy


Found Worlds: An artbook collecting the work of Todd Lockwood, including Dungeons & Dragons illustrations, by Todd Lockwood — November 16th

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

5 Comments on "7–27 October 2019: Essen, Licensed Games, Werewolf 5th Edition"

  1. There was more RPG on Spiel this year, for sure. Even a relatively ‘fringe’ ruleset as NIPAJIN had its own stand.

    I was disappointed to see LotFP feature ‘Zak has nothing to do with this book’ on their stand. It seems like they do not care one whit about the state of the community. Major downer for me.


    1. I’ll have to check out NIPAJIN! I have noticed that even as Spiel has grown they’ve done quite a good job at not pricing out the smaller publishers, preferring to simply expand instead – although that now makes it all somewhat overwhelming!

      After their recent behaviour, I didn’t spend too much time around the LotFP booth beyond noting they were there. They obviously feel they have a point to make. It’s a shame they’ve chosen this particular hill to die on rather than, say, the censorship over She Bleeds and some of their other publications last year.


  2. >The only publishers selling English-language games were Fria Ligan
    >(aka Free League), Modiphius, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess

    Chaosium had a stand at Essen too, having been attending every year since 2015.


    1. Fair enough. I didn’t see them, although I was specifically looking out for them. I did managed to pick up a bunch of Glorantha fanzines though.


    2. Sorry that James missed you! I’ve added a note to this effect to the article. Thanks for letting us know! 😀


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