20–27 July 2020: Free RPG Day; Expo Awards; Dragon Prince

Free RPG Day has come and gone — a strange one in the middle of lockdown, but we still came away with some great swag.

The UK Games Expo has announced its shortlists for the 2020 awards — Chaosium and Free League clean up, each taking 3 out of the 9 nomination slots. (Though when two companies account for two-thirds of the nominations, and every single nominee is a past winner, things look pretty stagnant.)

And there are some exciting new product announcements: a D&D board game for RPG novices; an RPG based on a Netflix show; and an RPG adaptation of a 40-year-old wargame.

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Due to some changes in our schedules, we’ll be moving our weekly updates to Tuesday afternoons.

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Free RPG Day

Saturday 25 July was Free RPG Day and James reflects on the event:

For obvious reasons, this year’s event was somewhat muted and this must have been very frustrating for Gaming Days who took over the organisation of the event from Impressions last year. Nonetheless, the items on offer seemed quite popular and we don’t seem to have that many that are likely to go to waste.

The biggest innovation this year was 9th Level’s Level 1 Indie Game Anthology, which was sponsored by a variety of other publishers. As someone who spent years trying to promote indie games at past Free RPG events it was nice to see them enjoy a higher profile this year. I think anthology/zine formats have a lot of potential for this event as they allow smaller publishers to share the cost of participating. I hope we see a lot more of this kind of thing in future events.
— James


The ENnie Awards announce the hosts for the 2020 awards show: Misha Bushyager, Kenneth Hite, Robin D. Laws, Mike Pondsmith, & Chris Spivey.

The UK Games Expo announces its 2020 Awards Shortlist, including:

Best Role-Playing Game

  • Paladin — Warriors of Charlemagne (Chaosium)
  • Runequest Roleplaying in Glorantha (Chaosium)
  • The ALIEN Roleplaying Game (Free League Publishing)

Best Role-Playing Expansion

  • Berlin — The Wicked City (Chaosium)
  • Eberron: Rising from the Last War (Wizards of the Coast)
  • Symbar — Mother of Darkness (Free League Publishing)

Best Roleplaying Adventure

  • Chariot of the Gods (Free League Publishing)
  • Mother’s Love (All Rolled Up)
  • Rough Nights & Hard Days (Cubicle 7)


The Washington Post looks at the “inflection point” facing D&D amid a rising fanbase and accusations of racism.

Chaosium looks back at the three editions of Cthulhu Dark Ages.

Modiphius cuts ties with Adam Koebel in response to the controversy around an in-game sexual assault on the livestream, Far Verona.

Upcoming & New Releases

Wizards of the Coast reveals Dungeons & Dragons: Adventure Begins, a D&D-themed board game based on the D&D world.

This is interesting. It’s not a Starter Set by any stretch (beyond allusions to DMs, Race, & Class, and the inclusion of a d20, this has almost nothing in common with D&D rules). But it’s definitely being marketed as a gateway product.

The game seems very Hasbro — the “oldest goes first” rule mentioned in the How To Play video definitely brings to mind the family board game cupboard. But there are also a few interesting RPG elements — a few mechanics call for players to describe narrative elements.

On the one hand, making new products for a casual audience from a familiar brand makes sense, but it also feels like they wanted to get that audience used to roleplaying at the same time. — Amy

FANDOM announces Tales of Xadia, a Roleplaying Game based on the Dragon Prince animated TV series, using the Cortex system.

Chaosium announces a roleplaying game based on Lynn Willis’ 1978 board war game, Lords of the Middle Sea.

Monte Cook Games opens preorders for We Are All Mad Here, a Cypher system supplement focused on fairy tales.

Fun Stuff

Pelgrane Press is running a Community Content contest.

Well, this is familiar.

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding is running a bundle of Old School Revival games and the complete collection of Dying Earth books.

Crowdfunding News

Closing Soon

Nightfell is a grimdark horror fantasy setting for 5e. It has currently raised €162,000 ($191,000) from 2,200 backers. The most popular tier is “Lost in Darkness” for physical and PDF copies of the corebook and bestiary (€24 / $28). Shipping excluded from pledge. Ends July 30th.

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters for D&D is a reference book of heroic figures and monsters from myth and history for 5e. It has currently raised £102,000 ($131,000) from 1,900 backers. The most popular tier is “Hardcover Myths” for physical and PDF copies of the book (£40 / $51). Shipping included in pledge but not only available for Europe, North America and Australasia. Ends July 31st

A Dozen Frightening Rumors is a set of fleshed out rumours and story seeds which GMs can use as the basis of encounters for any fantasy RPG. It has currently raised $12,000 from 1,600 backers. The most popular tier is for PDF copies of A Dozen Frightening Rumors PDF and all 11 stretch goals ($1). Digital rewards only. Ends July 30th

Monster Care Squad is a Studio Ghibli-inspired fantasy RPG about caring for injured fantasy creatures. It has currently raised $50,000 from 1,400 backers. The most popular tier is for the PDF and all stretch goals, mostly improvements to the book and a soundtrack ($25). Digital rewards only. Ends August 2nd

5e & Pathfinder

The Deck of Many Things: Reprint!: A reprint of an illustrated Deck of Many Things, by Ian Haramaki (The Deck of Many Things) — August 14th.

General Fantasy

INSPIRISLES: A Celtic-inspired fantasy RPG for teenagers that teaches sign language as you play, by Hatchlings — August 17th

The educational bent of this project is pretty interesting… I’ve never seen an RPG promise to teach a particular skill before.

Science Fiction

Brass Rings: A pocket-sized steampunk RPG about rats living in the rings of Saturn, by Orcs Unlimited (Escape from Teddy Bear Island! and More) — August 9th

Urban Fantasy/Horror

They Came from Beyond the Grave!: A hammy, satirical horror game inspired by ’70s horror, a follow up to They Came From Beneath the Sea!, by Richard Thomas/Onyx Path (Chronicles of Darkness lines, Pugmire) — August 20th

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

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