25–31 May 2020: Herodotus, Gen Con, A Silent RPG

Fresco of dice players in Pompeii

This week we see the impact of Gen Con’s cancellation, hear about how games helped people cope in a crisis in the second millennium BCE, and get a whole lot of RPG history.

Don’t Support Us

Every week we ask for your support in keeping this website running, and we have been so grateful for all the kindness we have received. This week, though, we don’t want your money. If you have something to give, we’re asking you to support protestors against police brutality. They’re fighting monsters.

Delays & Cancellations

Techraptor talks to various gaming companies about the impact of Gen Con’s cancellation.

Free RPG Day has been rescheduled to July 25th.

RPGs and History

Michael Tresca compares gaming during the pandemic to Herodotus’ gaming in the ancient kingdom of Lydia during a famine.

Screenrant looks at a number of controversial pieces of D&D history: Firstly, the early battles between TSR and Chaosium over Lovecraftian monsters published in Dungeons & Dragons’ Deities & Demigods. Secondly, how the names of demons & devils were changed in response to the satanic panic and legal threats from the Tolkien Estate. Thirdly, the early D&D books that were shipped with mature audience warnings.

The article on Deities and Demigods contains a number of factual inaccuracies; Chaosium never “owned the copyright”, and TSR didn’t think that Lovecraft’s work had fallen out of copyright when they published Deities and Demigods in 1980. It’s worth reading the post by James M. Ward that it is based on as it gives a much clearer account. — Grumpy James

New & Upcoming Releases

Games Workshop will release a 9th edition of the miniature wargame, Warhammer 40K, which will include a narrative-focused Crusade mode.

We don’t usually cover miniature wargame news, but it will be interesting to see whether this narrative mode will draw anything from the various Warhammer RPGs in the works.

The Hollywood Reporter talks to Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley about the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons film.

Hunters Books announces Alice is Missing, a silent RPG where players communicate with text messages.

Chaosium announces an English edition of the Spanish medieval fantasy RPG, Aquelarre.

This is the second European RPG published by Nocturnal Media that Chaosium is distributing this year — an English edition of the French Würm was announced earlier this month.

Paizo showcases a number of Pathfinder books and Starfinder books coming in late 2020/early 2021.

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of history books about RPGs.

Crowdfunding News

Closing Soon

Menagerie of Magic: A collection of Magic items for DnD 5e has currently raised £151,000 ($187,000) from 4,300 backers. It looks like a very well put together package, with a simple rewards programme — and has been helped by a heavy Facebook marketing campaign. Ends June 6th.

5e & Pathfinder

Island of Sorrow: An old school style 5e level 3–5 adventure, by Frog God Games (Rappan Athuk: Reborn for Fifth Edition! Go down the Well!, Tegel Manor Returns!, The World of the Lost Lands — June 3rd

Ancestry Awakened: “Ancestry” as an alternative to race in 5e, by Tim Gonzalez (Archive of Magic Items for 5th Edition) – June 4th

Always good to see designers engaging constructively with the debate surrounding race in fantasy d20 games. I think I prefer the focus on culture in Ancestry and Culture, a zine that was kickstarted earlier this year, but both attempt to solve a problematic aspect and have the bonus of making character creation more fun and varied. — James

Terrain Toolbox for 5E and Pathfinder 2E: A compendium of interesting terrain for combat, by Matthew J. Hanson (The Runewild, Broken Earth, The Fastest RPG I’ve Ever Played) — June 11th

Doing this every week, I see so many monster manuals, magic item books and adventures, while this project tackles one of the things I think are most neglected in fantasy d20 games: interesting terrain in combat encounters. I know it’s something I struggle with in my games so the more designers focus on it, the better. — James

Unfamiliar: A sandbox campaign & bestiary set in the beast-filled ruins of a vanished civilisation, by Red Eyed Rabbit — June 16th

Roll & Play: The Game Master’s Tabletop Toolkit: A book of random generators & setting inspiration for d20-style fantasy games, by Sam Bartlett — June 18th

This looks like quite a nice iteration of a familiar concept. — Amy

Wretches & Rewards Mini Adventures for 5e: A collection of mini adventures focused on pairing monsters and loot, by Anthony Woods — June 19th

Cat’s Cradle: A three book set including a sourcebook, an adventure book, and an NPC compendium, by Frog God Games (Rappan Athuk: Reborn for Fifth Edition! Go down the Well!, Tegel Manor Returns!, The World of the Lost Lands) – June 27th


The Stygian Library: Remastered: A remastered edition of the dungeon-crawl adventure set in a library, by SoulMuppet Publishing (Beneath The Missing Sea, A Doom To Speak: The Crypt Collection, Best Left Buried: The Zinequest Quartet) — June 9th

General Fantasy

Tiny Thunderscape: A new TinyD6 edition of the fantasy steampunk Thunderscape RPG, by Shawn Carman (Thunderscape: The World of Aden, Infinity’s Edge: A LitRPG-Inspired Tabletop Roleplaying Game) — June 12th

Science Fiction

Slipgate Chokepoint: An RPG supplement inspired by ’90s first-person shooter computer games, by Andrew Walter — June 17th

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

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