25 November—1 December 2019: Dragonmeet, The One Ring, Rivers of London

"Rivendell" by Michele Parisi, from the never-to-be second edition of The One Ring by Cubicle 7

It’s been a week of huge downs and ups, and we are still recovering from the emotional whiplash.

In the biggest (and saddest) news of the week, Cubicle 7 will lose its license to create RPGs based on The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit at the end of this year. This comes as a huge shock, and means the end of Adventures in Middle-earth and The One Ring, including its second edition.

This weekend also saw Dragonmeet — London’s biggest RPG convention — and an exciting chance to catch up with fans, designers & publishers, not to mention hear some exciting news about upcoming games.

There’s also some discussions of queer erasure by Wizards of the Coast, Gygaxian family photographs, a Guardian article, and two wonderful indie bundles.

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Last Saturday was Dragonmeet, an annual RPG convention held in London. Amy spent the day running around the convention. Here are her impressions of this year’s con:

Dragonmeet may be my favourite time of the year: the small-town nerd in me still hasn’t got used to being surrounded by thousands of gamers and meeting the writers and publishers of some of my favourite games.

The Pelgrane Press (13th Age, GUMSHOE) table is always a personal favourite, this year showcasing the beautiful and ambitious The Yellow King RPG, and Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops. Both games are based on Robin Laws’ GUMSHOE system, the latter based on the one on one variant, GUMSHOE One-2-One.

Chaosium’s most impressive item on show was the gorgeous, gilt-edged Paladin, but the real highlight of the con was their announcement that they will be producing an RPG based on Ben Aaronovitch’s urban fantasy series Rivers of London.

Cubicle 7’s biggest news of the week was the loss of its license to produce Lord of the Rings RPGs, and there was a definite air of mourning around the table as fans and creators communed over the end of The One Ring and Adventures in Middle-earth. By midday, The One Ring had almost sold out as fans scrambled to collect it before it goes out of print.

I admit I was lax in my attention to Modiphius this year, but their most visible presence was the Fallout miniatures game and its accompanying RPG.

Free League (Tales from the Loop, Coriolis) had its own table for the first time since winding down its distribution deal with Modiphius, though it seemed like it was being manned by a third party. This featured my most anticipated release of the con: the Alien RPG, which was selling quickly soon after the doors opened.

EN Publishing also had their own table for the first time, spotlighting their Touch of Class books and the new Judge Dredd RPG.

There was a sour note in the presence of Lamentations of the Flame Princess and its Zak Smith apology, Zak Has Nothing To Do With This Book. It was inevitable really.

Much more heartening was a strong indie presence at the con: there were several tables run by indie publishers, and a very successful indie games on demand event. I noted the UK Indie League, representing a number of different indie publishers, a model which has promise to help more small publishers make big waves at conventions.

In short, it was an excellent Dragonmeet, and as soon as my feet stop hurting, I’ll be looking forward to next year!

Industry News

An unexpected end to The One Ring, Adventures in Middle-earth

Sí vanwa ná, Rómello vanwa, Valimar!

Namárië! Nai hiruvalyë Valimar.
Nai elyë hiruva. Namárië!

Galadriel’s lament in Lórien, The Lord of the Rings

Cubicle 7 has announced that they have had to end their licensing agreement with Sophisticated Games, and will no longer be creating The One Ring or Adventures in Middle-earth. Due to time constraints, the upcoming second edition to The One Ring has been cancelled, though it was nearing completion. They have offered instructions for refunding pre-orders of the product.

Edit (3 Dec. ’19): Sophisticated Games has subsequently released a statement stating that they were surprised by this announcement, which came in the middle of negotiations over the future of its partnership with Cubicle 7. The company states that it will continue to work with Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi to release TOR 2nd Edition. It’s not clear what’s going on here.

We are heartbroken. As we’ve said before, The One Ring is one of our favourite games: a rare and loving tribute to Tolkien’s work, which captures the opposing pulls of companionship and discord, hope and despair. It’s a great loss to see it end, and to see the promise of a second edition dashed.

Why did it happen? It’s not at all clear. We have a conspiracy theory (with no evidence) that someone down the chain wanted to make an RPG product to tie in with the upcoming Amazon series. We will watch the movement of the license with suspicion.

For now, a group of incredible creators have had the rug pulled out from under them, Cubicle 7 will be taking a significant financial hit, and the industry is losing a gem. If you are in any way a fan of Tolkien, we recommend picking up The One Ring while you can.

WotC accused of queer erasure

We have been watching, with growing concern, accusations of queer erasure by Wizards of the Coast. MTG has a spotty history in its treatment of the LGBTQ+ community, and has come under fire more recently for its handling of a same-sex relationship in a recent novel. The author has expressed regret that the relationship did not meet expectations, and the company has apologised, but the apology is not available in several countries with hostile laws and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ folk.

We don’t ordinarily cover Magic: The Gathering, and I definitely don’t know enough about the game to do so, but I’ve been keeping my eye on this one. MTG operates on a very different scale to D&D, but I’m uneasy watching the RPG giant’s publishers make misstep after misstep towards queer fans of its biggest product. — Amy

RPGs in Popular Media

The Guardian looks at Dungeons & Dragons’ popularity, while SyFy Wire looks at the potential therapeutic effects of roleplaying games.

Eberron is a bestseller

Eberron: Rising From the Last War appears on the USA Today and the Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.

New & Upcoming Releases

Chaosium announces an RPG based on the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.

The upcoming Dungeons & Dragons film looks to be set in the Forgotten Realms and will feature a hunt for the Hand of Vecna. There have also been rumours that Zac Efron is being considered for a role, though we’ve seen that role named as Palarandusk the dragon, or as a mage named Melanthius. We take all these announcements with many pinches of salt.

I’m on board for Zac Efron, but everything from the core plot to the character names leaves me pretty sure that this is going to be a deeply embarrassing film.

Aconyte, Asmodee’s fiction imprint, announces its initial lineup of books for 2020, including two novels set in the world of the Legend of Five Rings.

Cubicle 7 releases the Enemy in the Shadows Companion.

RPG History

Age of Ravens continues its history of Steampunk & Victoriana RPGs.

Luke Gygax shares three sets of photographs showing the history of D&D co-creator, Gary Gygax, and his then-wife, Mary Walker, showing their work at TSR.

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding offers a bundle of Indie RPGs.

itch.io hosts a bundle of indie “analogue” games.

Crowdfunding News

Kickstarter United

No major new Kickstarter tabletop RPG projects this week have stated their position on the campaign for union recognition for Kickstarter employees.

Noteworthy New Projects

GRADIENT DESCENT: Module for Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG: A zine-sized module for the Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG, by Alan Gerding (A Pound of Flesh, Two Rooms and a Boom) — December 19th.

This isn’t a bad start for a module for an RPG still in alpha, albeit one that won an ENnie this year. So far it has raised over $37,000 from over 1,200 backers; it’s quite low compared to other popular projects because the main tier is just $15 for the small module. Their previous module A Pound of Flesh raised $43,000 from just under 1,300 backers earlier this year. Assuming they eventually launch a full Mothership Kickstarter campaign next year, I suspect it will be big.

Closing Soon

A Dozen Troubling Rumors is another popular campaign that has only raised a small amount of money — in this case, because the basic and most popular tier is just $1! Philip Reed’s format of one-page adventure seeds has certainly found an audience. It has raised over $8,000 from over 1,200 backers. Ends December 5th.

Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition has raised over $53,000 from 1,100 backers. This is a little on the low side compared to previous Onyx Path projects but still double its initial target. Ends December 5th.

5e & Pathfinder

Pathfinder 2 – Zeitalter der Verlorenen Omen, a German translation of Pathfinder 2e by Ulisses Spiele — December 11th

General Fantasy

The StoryMaster’s Tales “Deeper into the Woods” Hybrid RPG: An expansion to the Weirding Woods boardgame-RPG-gamebook hybrid, by Oliver McNeil (The StoryMaster’s Tales “Weirding Woods” Hybrid RPG, Fantasy Soundscapes) — January 3rd

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

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