4–10 August 2020: Alexa; Cortex; Wanderhome

Cover art from Jay Dragon's Wanderhome. Artist: Sylvia Bi

Like the rest of the UK we are slowly melting into buckets, and dreaming of a winter that we will almost certainly under-appreciate. We’re watching the global political stage with a dread so constant that it’s almost boring: a health crisis so mismanaged that it’s become ordinary to us, the white noise of white supremacy, the monotony of the goose-step.

Things are so terribly, damnably bad.

We suspect that’s why one of the biggest crowdfunding projects this week is what it is. Jay Dragon’s Wanderhome has raised over $100,000 in 7 days: pretty remarkable for a small press indie game. Honestly, it feels like just the kind of thing we need right now: a soft, kind, pastoral game about companionship, nature, and hope for a better world.

There’s also some interesting new releases in the more traditional gaming sphere: FANDOM announces another licensed property for the Cortex system, and Paizo releases three episodes of its Starfinder game for the Amazon Alexa.

And we’re also seeing a few reports on RPGs in the Pandemic: Roll20 releases its Q2 report, and Gen Con reports on its first ever online convention.

Stay cool and fight fascism, folks.

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Industry News

Chris Spivey reflects on the Diana Jones Awards’ honouring of Black Excellence in Gaming.

Roll20 releases its Q2 report, showing growth in all its top RPGs on its platform during the pandemic.

Gen Con reports back on its first online convention.

Michael Tresca looks at how the new D&D board game, Adventure Begins, could indicate a new strategy for Hasbro.

I agree with Tresca that D&D Adventure Begins feels like a new direction for Hasbro in how it markets D&D. But, in point of fact, Wizards of the Coast and later WizKids have been producing a range of board games “using D&D miniatures and rules” since 2010, the latest being Waterdeep: the Dungeon of the Mad Mage in 2019.

This new game also has to be understood in the context of Penguin Random House’s range of books for younger readers, starting with their iteration of the Endless Quest range of choose your own adventure books and followed by their system-less Young Adventurer’s Guide series.

So while this does look like a different attempt to attract a younger audience —
Adventure Begins certainly has a more accessible price point — they never really stopped trying. – James

New & Upcoming Products

FANDOM is developing a Masters of the Universe RPG titled, Legends of Grayskull. The game will use FANDOM’s own Cortex system.

FANDOM seem keen to continue Cortex’s legacy as an RPG for adapting licenses: they announced an RPG based on the Dragon Prince TV series just last month.

The Starfinder RPG game for Amazon Alexa, starring Nathan Fillion and Laura Bailey, launches with its first three episodes.

Chaosium announces The Dragon’s Eye, a sourcebook for customising the world of Glorantha in RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha.

MCDM announces Arcadia, a D&D magazine.

Comicbook.com hypothesises that Wizards of the Coast is planning new content set in Ravenloft.

EN Publishing announces Level Up, an “Advanced” 5e ruleset.

EN sure does love its crunch!

Chaosium showcases the team working on the Rivers of London RPG.

Fun Stuff

Manticore Games is running a D&D themed dungeon design competition.

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding is a bundle of Cthulhu Invictus books, two bundles of Space: 1889 books, and a complete collection of Dying Earth books.

Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of Star Trek Adventures books.

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

Wanderhome: A soft, pastoral, GMless RPG about nomadic animals, the world they travel through, and seasonal change, by Jay Dragon (Sleepaway) — September 3rd. This project has currently raised over $100,000 from 2,400 backers.

This project seems to have excited a wide variety of people, from Critical Role fans to Indie designers, and is quite different in tone to Jay Dragon’s last hit, the award-winning horror game Sleepaway. This one seems to have hit the zeitgeist.

No wonder this hit the zeitgeist: we’re hurting. Sure, this campaign got lucky in that it caught sight of some prominent influencers — Matt Mercer among them — but it is catching that wave because of what it’s offering. Now, in the midst of anger and fear and isolation, the prospect of imagining community and sincerity and kindness is a balm.

Doesn’t this description catch your heart?:

“It is a land that was once ravaged by violence, but is putting itself back together again. Wanderhome dares to imagine a better world, one where money and power are distant stories from a bygone age, and we can learn to begin the process of healing.”

I want that world, and I want this game. My pick of the week, for sure, and one of the most remarkable crowdfunding campaigns of the year. — Amy

Vampire: The Masquerade Rivals Expandable Card Game: An expandable card game for 2–4 players, adapting Vampire: The Masquerade, by Renegade Game Studios (Overlight RPG: A Roleplaying Game of Kaleidoscopic Fantasy, Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid Board Game) — August 21st. This project has currently raised $110,000 from 1,400 backers.

I don’t know what to say about yet another Vampire: the Masquerade tabletop game except: none of these seem to be exciting people beyond the initial Kickstarter campaigns. I guess that by the law of averages, one of them will end up standing the test of time but I’m not sure how good this is for the brand. — James

Closing Soon

Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall is a game about Chinese immigrant ghostbusters working out of a family restaurant. It has currently raised $82,000 from 1,400 backers. Ends August 14th.

An intriguing mixture of board game and RPG, with a strong Chinese theme and a creative team with strong Asian representation to avoid it drifting into orientalism. I’m looking forward to this one. — James

Dragonflight is a guide to dragons, both as PCs and NPCs, for your 5e game. It has currently raised $71,000 from 1,300 backers. Ends August 17th.

2CGaming has been producing a range of attractive looking 5e supplements for a while now. From the preview, it looks like this is more geared around a game in which all the players are playing dragons as opposed to, say, dragon PCs who can take human shape to ensure they can buy a round of drinks at the local inn. — James

5e & Pathfinder

Memorable Monsters: A guide to creating unique monsters and NPCs for 5e, by Justin Handlin — September 4th

1975 – MCMLXXV: An introductory, hex-crawl adventure for 5e, Pathfinder 1e, and Swords & Wizardry, by Frog God Games — August 12th

Supers & Sorcery: A superhero-themed 5e campaign setting, by Adam Hancock — September 3rd

When I read that description, I expected this to be another product that squeezes a new genre into a 5e shape — a design strategy that often results in wonky games. But instead, this blends superheroes & superheroic stories into a classic Fantasy setting — and it makes sense to me that this world could run on a D&D engine. It’s not my jam, but it’s an interesting take. — Amy

Other and Generic Fantasy

Trilemma Adventures: The Servants of Memory: A bestiary of fantasy monsters for the Year Zero Engine, by Michael Prescott (Trilemma Adventures Compendium) — September 1st


Vizor Role Playing System: A rules-light RPG system designed for pick-up games, by Crenshupiter Networks — August 24th

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

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