27 April–10 May 2020: Orcs, Kickstarter Lay-Offs, Comic Relief

We took a week off to clear our heads, but oh, things kept rolling in games. It’s a bumper double issue today!

There’s rough, but not exactly surprising news from Kickstarter, as the company announces massive layoffs in the face of decreasing pledges.

Arguments flared up around the presence of “evil races” in RPGs — a subject that’s always just below the surface of the industry — leading to a flurry of articles (good, bad, and extremely ugly) on the subject.

There’s word of a changing of the guard as Wizards announces a new head of the D&D team — though the old head turns out to have left months ago.

And, well, there’s play-by-mail, My Little Pony, picaroons, and Sue Perkins.

Happy May everybody!

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The Industry

Kickstarter has laid off 40% of its staff after reporting severe losses as projects dwindle during the pandemic.

This is devastating, but it is a relief to see the only-just-recognised union, Kickstarter United, negotiating in the midst of this.

Ray Winninger is announced as the new head of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG team, replacing Mike Mearls, who apparently left “sometime last year”.

D&D have certainly played their cards close to their chest here… Mearls has been very much out of the public eye since the #AbuseIsNotAGame wave.

Hasbro releases its Q1 Quarterly Report, citing growth in Dungeons & Dragons.

Virtual Tabletop, Roll20 releases its Q1 Industry Report, citing massive growth: the number of active campaigns has nearly doubled since Q4 2019.

Nothing surprising there, of course! These numbers will decrease as lockdowns end, but it will be interesting to see if Roll20 and other VTTs see some permanent uplift at the end of this.

Polygon looks at the RPG dice industry.

CBR.com looks at why D&D 5e has been so successful.

Variety looks at Joe Manganiello’s star-studded Hollywood D&D campaign.

Race & RPGs

A perennial subject raises its head again…

A new wave of debate online around the racism inherent in RPGs’ “evil races” led to a few hot (and many tepid) takes on the subject, from Comicbook.com, Bell of Lost Souls, and others. James Mendez Hodes also offered a summary of a key point on this subject from his excellent 2019 twopart series on orcs and racism in RPGs.

Most of the articles we saw came from white writers, and I don’t particularly want to add to the downpour of white opinions on racism in RPGs (I’m reminded of pigeons whitewashing statues) with a take of my own.

Fellow white gamers: listen to people of colour when they tell you that something is racist. They know more than you about racism. — Amy

SyFy Wire looks at how Matt Mercer’s Wildemount setting approaches traditionally “evil” races.

I do like Mercer and I think what Wildemount does with the Kryn Dynasty is interesting, but man, who signed off on that headline? — Amy

Covid-19 Delays

The upcoming Dungeons & Dragons movie has been delayed six months to May 2022. However, the film could soon be under the wing of Entertainment One — the entertainment company recently acquired by Hasbro — as the company signs a first-look agreement with the film’s new producer, Jeremy Latcham.

The UK Games Expo for 2020, which was postponed to August 2020, has now been cancelled.

The organisers of Gen Con (slated for August this year) have delayed event registration while they monitor the health situation.

D&D’s upcoming Magic the Gathering sourcebook, Mythic Odysseys of Theros has been delayed.

Covid-19 Relief

Wizards teamed up with Comic Relief UK for a D&D one-shot with Sue Perkins, Nish Kumar, Ed Gamble and Sara Pascoe.

Inverse looks at how playing D&D online is helping us cope with the pandemic.

EN World looks at how some tabletop RPG companies have been lending a hand during the crisis.

The Dungeon Master’s Guild and Storyteller’s Vault will give 100% of sales revenue to content creators until 17 May.

DriveThruRPG is offering three 97% off bundles in aid of Covid-19 relief efforts.

RPG History

Jon Peterson looks at play-by-mail D&D in the ’70s.

Screenrant looks at the history of legal battles between Dungeons & Dragons and the Tolkien Estate.

New & Upcoming Releases

Chaosium announces the publication of the new English-language edition of Würm: The Ice Age Roleplaying Game.

Bit of a weird one this in that Würm has been in distribution, in the UK at least, for nearly a year — albeit not directly from Chaosium. — James

Pelgrane Press is playtesting GUMSHOE Kids — an edition of GUMSHOE… for kids…

Cubicle 7 releases PDFs of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, with hard copies available for pre-order.

The Altered Carbon RPG is available for pre-order.

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is now available on two digital tabletops.

I really love this crunchy monster of a game. If you like the tactics of the 3e family of games, it’s worth a go. — Amy

Hasbro is releasing a Dungeons & Dragons My Little Pony set.

It comes with a DM screen. I know some DMs who need this. — Amy

Bundles & Deals

Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of Warhammer 40K Deathwatch books.

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of Powered by the Apocalypse games.

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

Brancalonia: A picaresque, Italian “Spaghetti Fantasy” setting for D&D 5e, by Acheron Books – May 10th

Oops, we missed this because we took a break last week! Although this is Acheron Books’ first Kickstarter campaign, they’re a fairly well established Italian indie RPG publisher. This appears to be their biggest attempt to produce an English-language supplement, albeit one set in a “back to front” version of Medieval Italy.

M20 Technocracy Reloaded: A supplement bringing the Technocratic Union to Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition, by Richard Thomas/Onyx Path — May 28th

This is Onyx Path’s first Kickstarter for a Mage supplement since their campaign for the core book in 2014. It’s performing about as well as most Onyx Path World of Darkness crowdfunding projects go, currently having raised $141,000 from 1,700 backers.

Closing Soon

Dice by Wyrmwood: Resin, Handcrafted Gemstone, Glass & Wood has raised $1.3m from 10,000 backers. Wyrmwood feels like the roleplaying sector’s first “lifestyle” brand, and much of their marketing is based on endorsements from influencers (in this case Satine Phoenix and Matthew Lillard, but they have also been showcased on Critical Role frequently). None of which is to say their craftsmanship looks anything less than stellar. This project includes both regular dice and “high variance” dice, which are numbered to favour high and low results while keeping overall averages the same. Ends May 14th.

Amy and I disagree about the desirability of high variance dice — I’d certainly be careful what system to use them for! — James

I am, to be fair, exactly the sucker that wants Critical Role’s GM screen and table and dice boxes and and and, so Wyrmwood already has me hooked. But I love the idea of high variance dice. Not for every session, but every now and then, when everything’s riding on a single die roll, you don’t want a ‘meh’ result: you want spectacular success or spectacular failure. I would love dice for that moment. — Amy

Deadlands: The Weird West has raised $450,000 from over 3,800 backers, making it Pinnacle Entertainment’s third most successful Kickstarter campaign after the Savage Worlds: Rifts supplement and the new Savage Worlds Adventure Edition. Ends May 13th.

Quest Decks: Adventure Cards for your RPG Games has raised $125,000 from 2,700 backers. A pretty basic concept well done. Ends May 14th.

Torchbearer 2nd Edition has raised $256,000 from 2,600 backers (the first edition raised just $65,000 from 1,700 backers back in 2012). The campaign has done a particularly good job at getting backers to back higher-end tiers. The most popular tier is the $100 “Games Master” which, as well as including the core books, includes a screen, cards, wooden card holders, custom dice and metal coins. Ends May 16th.

5e & Pathfinder

Menagerie of Magic: A magic item compendium for 5e, by Adam O’Brien (5th Edition Spell Sleuth) — June 6th

Aegis of Empires Adventure Path: A fantasy-horror adventure path for D&D 5e and Pathfinder 1st & 2nd edition, by Legendary Games (Ultimate Kingdoms for DnD 5E or PFRPG, Pirate Campaign Compendium for 5E and Pathfinder RPG) — June 6th

Journey to Beryl’s Reach: A GMless adventure path for D&D 5e, by Limitless Adventures (Limitless Encounters, The Blood Queen’s Defiance) — May 29th

Ekphrastic Beasts: A collection of horrifying RPG monsters created from the artwork up, by Janaka Stucky — May 28th

Grimmsgate: A first-tier adventure for 5e and Pathfinder 1st edition, by Frog God Games — May 14th

General Fantasy

Lost in the Fantasy World: A family-friendly game about kids transported to a magical world, by Gallant Knight Games (Monster Hunter International RPG: Savage Worlds Edition, Tiny Supers: Minimalist Superhero Roleplaying) — June 12th


NPC Portraits Decks: NPC character card decks featuring art on one side and character ideas on the other, by Inkwell Ideas (Worldographer: Hexographer 2 – Easy Map/World Creator, DungeonMorphs Revenge – RPG Dungeon Dice & Cards) — May 21st

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

1 Comment on "27 April–10 May 2020: Orcs, Kickstarter Lay-Offs, Comic Relief"

  1. Didn’t think I’d end up agreeing with “high variance dice”, but Amy makes a really good argument.


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