18–24 May 2020: Abuse in the Industry; D&D Live; Gen Con Cancelled

Cover art from Beamdog's Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition

This week is a somewhat sombre one. Last year’s #AbuseIsNotAGame has echoes in a new Twitterstorm this week, targeting one of Dungeons & Dragons’ designers. Meanwhile, not unexpectedly, Gen Con has been cancelled in the face of the pandemic — the first time the con has been cancelled in over 50 years.

Dungeons & Dragons is announcing an announcement, with the next D&D Live event taking place in June. (There are some wild theories about what the next adventure setting will be — and Amy has a wild theory of her own.)

Also featuring: D&D’s editionless future, choose-your-own-adventure audiobooks, and one of Amy’s favourite games on Kickstarter.

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D&D and Abuse

Content Warning: The links in this section contain allusions to sexual abuse and harassment, and some comments & replies may be upsetting to readers.

D&D’s new head, Ray Winninger, announced that Mike Mearls is back working full-time on the D&D team. This comes just a few weeks after it Jeremy Crawford revealed that Mearls had left in 2019.

The news raised something of a Twitter storm under the hashtag #FireMikeMearls: Mearls drew criticism last year during the #AbuseIsNotAGame scandal, when allegations of sexual abuse and harassment by OSR designer, Zak Smith, came to the fore. In 2014, while Smith was working as a consultant on D&D 5e, Mearls led an investigation into allegations of Smith’s abuse, during which he passed information about accusations to Smith.

I’m conflicted as to how to approach this story. Mearls behaved badly and caused real harm — he handed Smith information about people who were accusing him of abuse.

Yet there is an extent to which the current outrage feels manufactured & performed. Ash Kreider’s anger at how the Twitterstorm ignores the victims of the abuse it is supposedly condemning felt relevant. (Kreider was a target of Smith’s abuse.)

On the other hand, the failure of D&D to acknowledge its role in the Smith business (beyond Mearls’ much-lambasted apology) still stings. And it’s clear from the dog’s breakfast of these announcements (“He left ages ago — No actually he’s back”) that they don’t have a handle on how to manage this story.

It leaves me with the uneasy feeling that they haven’t grasped the gravity of these accusations. — Amy

Big Events

Gen Con 2020 has been cancelled in the face of the pandemic, making 2020 the first year the event hasn’t taken place since 1967. In place, a free-to-attend digital conference will be held. The ENnie Awards will be live-streamed on July 30th. Meanwhile, Gen Con has extended its contract with Indianapolis to 2026.

Wizards of the Coast announces D&D Live 2020: Roll W/ Advantage, the next in the line of D&D Live events, which will take place June 18th to 20th. The show will feature previews of the next D&D storyline, and will raise money for Red Nose Day to help children affected by the pandemic. Some rumours suggest that the setting of the next adventure could be Icewind Dale.

Interesting if true. It makes sense to return to Icewind Dale after stopping in Baldur’s Gate: the Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate video game series are sisters after all. If these rumours turn out to be true, I wonder if that doesn’t suggest that Icewind Dale 3 might be in the works in a studio somewhere. After all, D&D worked very closely with Larian Studios in the development of Baldur’s Gate 3 (tying the release of Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus to that game), and Icewind Dale seems equally poised for a nostalgic revival.

The RPG Industry

The One Ring co-creators, Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi have joined the design team at CMON.

Michael Tresca looks at how D&D may be moving beyond editions into a strategy emphasizing compatibility.

The Guardian looks at how Dungeons & Dragons is soothing players during the lockdown.

New & Upcoming Releases

Random House will release audiobook editions of the Endless Quest D&D choose-your-own-adventure books.

Crowdfunding News

Closing Soon

M20 Technocracy Reloaded has raised £160,000 from 1,900 backers. It’s the first World of Darkness 20 Kickstarter project since Changeling in 2015 (which raised $380,000 from 2,700 backers) and the first supplement they have crowdfunded for Mage (the original Kickstarter campaign for which raised $670,000 from 3,900 backers). Closes May 28th.

5e & Pathfinder

Clash at Kell Crenn: A D&D 5e Adventure: A tier 2 5e adventure set in a River-Fort besieged by gnolls, by William Murakami-Brundage (Descent into Mirefen: A D&D 5e Adventure, Adûl, City of Gold: A D&D 5e Adventure, Ghoul Cove: A D&D 5e Adventure) — May 29th

The Book of Fiends 5E: A 5e update of Green Ronin’s 3e/3.5 demon and devil-focused bestiary, by Green Ronin (Fantasy AGE, Blue Rose) — June 9th.

FATUM. A Character creator Tarot deck: A collection of tarot-style cards for creating character backgrounds for 5e and other fantasy games, by Fatum — June 17th

This sort of tool has really been common this year on Kickstarter, and as with a lot of them, I’m disappointed that they have opted for literal D&D character classes, backgrounds, etc. A themed deck of major and minor arcana would, I think, encourage people to make greater creative leaps when coming up with their backstories, rather than relying on what is literally on the card. — James


More Perilous Journeys: A collection of five adventures for The Fantasy Trip, by Douglas H. Cole (Four Perilous Journeys: New Adventures for The Fantasy Trip, The Citadel at Norðvorn) — June 14th


Littlebox RPGs: Two no-prep storygames in portable boxes: Villagesong, which explores an encounter between a small village and some greater power; and Our Mundane Supernatural Life which explores the relationship between a supernatural person and a person they love, by Storybrewers Roleplaying (Good Society: A Jane Austen Roleplaying Game, Alas for the Awful Sea: Myth, Mystery & Crime in 1800s UK) — June 9th

As a storygamer, this is very much my bag, although I was hoping for more streamlined play along the lines of For The Queen. Of the two games in the project, I think Villagesong is probably the most appealing for me — James

I recently tried the beta version of Our Mundane Supernatural Life with friend of the blog, Jessica Gao. It was an absolute delight: a charming concept executed with exactly the right balance of flexibility and structure. Absolutely backing this, and heartily recommend. — Amy

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

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