15–28 June 2020: Racism, Cops, Harassment

Cover Art from Paizo's Agents of Edgewatch adventure path

The past weeks have been angry ones in gaming, as they have been angry everywhere. In this update we see some of the bigger publishers in the industry respond to their complicity in racism, police brutality, & sexual harassment: Wizards promises sensitivity readers; Paizo apologises for a police-themed Adventure Path; Onyx Path suspends its Operations Manager.

In other news, we have a seminal figure in D&D’s fan history, surprises at the latest GAMA elections, and a host of products announced at D&D Live.

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Racism, Cops

Wizards promises revisions to race rules, and to the company that built them

Wizards of the Coast has made a statement regarding how Dungeons & Dragons will change in response to calls for racial sensitivity, promising revisions to the game’s race rules, the incorporation of sensitivity readers into the production line, and the hiring of “new, diverse talent”.

The move has been met with criticism on both sides of the argument, as either too little too late, or pandering to the overly sensitive. I saw one Comicsgater refer to it as the work of the “Intersectional Intifada” — a name I’m going to do my best to live up to. It definitely strikes me as a decidedly positive move (if, indeed, they keep their promise), but it shows the lumbering pace of D&D as a brand that it has taken this long to take actions that are fairly standard in the indie scene. — Amy

The Huffington Post looks at the origins of races in D&D, and the long fight to get D&D to acknowledge the problem.

A column in Forbes looks at how eliminating evil races from D&D is an opportunity for better storytelling.

Paizo apologises for fantasy police adventure path

Paizo Publishing’s Erik Mona has apologised for Pathfinder’s buddy cop-inspired Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch, acknowledging that the game went forward despite concerns from staff. Paizo will include new options for players wanting to get away from the police theme, and will donate a portion of the profits to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

D&D Community episode pulled for blackface

Netflix pulls the Community episode, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” due to its inclusion of blackface drow makeup.

Harassment & Abuse

Onyx Path Publishing has suspended Operations Manager, Matt McElroy, after he was accused of harassment & grooming. Additionally, the publisher will remove images of Shane DeFreest, credibly accused of rape, from future V20 books.

McElroy has been accused amid a series of allegations of abuse by several men in the RPG & Sci-Fi/Fantasy publishing worlds.

A Polygon article looks at recent allegations of harassment and abuse in the games & comics industries.

Industry News

GAMA elects new board members amid BLM backlash

Elections for the board of the Game Manufacturers’ Association look to have been a little strained (or at least, strange) this year, with three candidates dropping out shortly before the event. The new board members voted in are:

Vice President: Chris Spivey (Darker Hue Studios)
Treasurer: Gary Alaka (Gap Closer Games)
Directors at Large: Julie Ahern (Greenbrier Games) and Jeff Pinsker (Amigo Games)

GAMA is currently facing a backlash over its response (or lack thereof) to Black Lives Matter protests. In addition, the organisation lost $100,000 last year (better than projected, but a significant loss) and will be facing difficulties after the cancellation of its convention, Origins.

Paizo names new president

Jeff Alvarez is named President of Paizo, with CEO and co-founder Lisa Stevens stepping back from day-to-day operations.

RPG History

David Hartlage looks at the role Lee Gold played in the fan community of Dungeons & Dragons during its early days.

I don’t know enough about RPG history or the source to vouch for the accuracy of this account, but I’d like to learn more about Gold. There aren’t a lot of women who loom large in the Great Man accounts of the rise of D&D. (With the exception of Lorraine Williams, the manager and later owner of TSR who is eternally demonised as the woman who destroyed the company.) While I wait for a revisionist history of roleplaying games, I’m glad to see some focus on a female figure in the industry’s history. — Amy

EN World looks at the history of the Umber Hulk and the Rust Monster.

New & Upcoming Releases

D&D Live confirmed the next D&D storyline: Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden.

Two new D&D comics were announced at D&D Live. Spirit Halloween is launching a line of official D&D costumes. There’s a D&D official cookbook coming. And there are a whole lot of cute toys.

Virtual Tabletop, Roll20, announces Burn Bryte, an RPG built exclusively for Roll20.

I can’t say the setting or rules description sparks joy for me here, but colour me fascinated anyway. I’m looking forward to seeing what a game built for Roll20 looks like. — Amy

Paradox Interactive releases three audio-first Vampire: The Masquerade novellas.

Wild West action game, Desperados, gets a tabletop RPG.

Ares Games will distribute two Italian games, Lex Arcana and Brancalonia, in English-language markets.

Bundles & Deals

Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of 5e RPG books and a bundle of Profantasy mapmaking software.

Bundle of Holding is offering two bundles of Dark Eye RPG books, a bundle of Tunnels & Trolls books, and a bundle of Fellowship books.

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

The Book of Dungeon Encounters: A collection of system-neutral dungeon encounter ideas, by Philip Reed (A Dozen Sinister Rumors, for use with Fantasy RPGs, Fantasy City Sites and Scenes, for use with Fantasy RPGs) — July 9th

Philip Reed has certainly been producing a lot of crowdfunding campaigns recently, his most popular being A Dozen Sinister Rumors in October 2019 which had almost 2,000 backers (his more recent Fantasy City Sites and Scenes projects did almost as well). They are pretty basic projects – essentially a repository of encounter and adventure ideas, but that is always useful.

Closing Soon

Alice is Missing: A Silent Role Playing Game has currently raised $128,000 from 5,200 backers. The most popular tier is for the physical copy and PDF ($20). Ends June 29th.

For the record, I’ve ended up backing this! — James

Fantastic Lairs: Boss Battles & Final Encounters for 5e D&D has currently raised $54,000 from 3,000 backers. The most popular tier is the physical tier, which includes the PDF, ePub version, VTT assets, a print on demand copy (at cost) and all stretch goals ($20). Ends July 1st.

Age of Antiquity: An Ancient World Setting for 5E has raised $109,000 from 2,000 backers. The most popular tier is for the physical hardback copy of the book ($45). Ends July 5th.

KULT: Divinity Lost – Horror Guide & Scenario Collection has raised SEK 1,500,000 ($160,000) from 1,200 backers. The most popular tier is for the print and PDF versions of the three books, and weapon deck (SEK 1,150 / $123). Ends July 2nd.

Rise of the Ice Dragons Trilogy: Three RPG Adventures for 5e has raised £22,000  ($27,000) from 1,100 backers. The most popular tier is for the print and PDF versions, and a mention in the book (£20 / $25). Ends July 2nd.

5e & Pathfinder

Aztlan Awakens: A hex crawl adventure with 3D-printable miniatures & terrain, by Chris G. Williams (Zine Quest 2: Explore Dungeons #1) — June 28th

The Doom of Northwood: A bestiary and an adventure set in a doomed undead city, by Maciontherrocks — July 4th

Truly Wild Magic: Remastered! Random Magic Effects for RPGs! A deck of random magical effects for 5e, by Ralph Levi Clark (The Tome of Magical Mystery, The Decks of Adventurer’s Allurement, The Cursed Collective) — July 5th

The Crystal Corruption: An adventure & setting book with 3D-printable miniatures, by Anima Games — July 9th

5th Edition Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde: The third part of the Aihrde trilogy of campaign setting books, by Stephen Chenault / Troll Lord Games (The Lost City of Gaxmoor 5E, The Starship Warden, Amazing Adventures 5E RPG) — July 15th

Veil of Ruin: a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting with 3D Printable miniatures, by Project Dark Water — July 24th

Apparently 3D Printable Minis are in vogue right now. — Amy


The Precipice of Corruption: A 0-level funnel adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics, by Nick Baran (Rabid Dogs – A DCC RPG Zine) — July 2nd

2 WORM 2 FURIOUS: A DCC RPG FUNNEL & MINI-SETTING: A 0-level funnel adventure & mini-setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics, by Sean Christopher Charles Richer (Terror of the Stratosfiend, Terror of the Stratosfiend #2) — July 7th

Science Fiction

Terra Oblivion: A “pre-apocalyptic game of eco-espionage”, set on a world slowly being killed by humanity’s need to consume, by Jerry D. Grayson (Atlantis: The Second Age RPG, MYTHIC D6, BASTION: Afrocentric Sword and Sorcery fantasy) — July 10th

Project Infinite Hole: A research & development-themed campaign & sourcebook for Paranoia, by Matthew Sprange / Mongoose (Traveller RPG, Paranoia RPG) — July 19th

Urban Fantasy/Horror

Journal d’Indochine: A Call of Cthulhu campaign sourcebook set in French colonial Vietnam, by Sons of the Singularity LLC (The Sassoon Files) — July 20th

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

2 Comments on "15–28 June 2020: Racism, Cops, Harassment"

  1. “Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e” which was kickstarted during the second wave of zinequest, does exactly what it says on the tin. It separates the ancestry (what features you got from your parents) from the culture (what you learned from how you grew up), thereby doing away with the icky racial essentialism — and also explains why that essentialism is a problem.
    The cool thing is that you can now also mix & match, so you can play the child of a Halfling and a Dwarf who grew up in an Elvish culture, without breaking the game.

    Best thing WotC can do is to take those rules and put them in D&D 5.5, I think.


  2. Don’t forget Liz Danforth’s contributions to RPGs from the 1970s to the present day. Most feel her development and editing skills get the best out of Ken St Andre on the Tunnels and Trolls RPG, and her cover for TnT UK edition is one of the iconic covers of the early RPG industry

    For reference- other iconic covers- AD&D Player’s Handbook; Runequest 2nd ed; and Traveller.


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