1–7 September 2020: The Digital Future of Roleplaying Games

Cover art from space station RPG, Orbital.

This week, a Silicon Valley VC firm takes a look at the future of tabletop games, Astral’s Virtual Tabletop seeks a competitive edge with a key partnership, Wizards of the Coast announces two very unsurprising crossovers, and a fantastic bundle of award-winning RPGs.

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What We’ve Been Playing

For most of the summer, James has been running a 13th Age campaign. A few weeks ago, he opted to take a back seat while his friend Simon ran 13th Age Glorantha (“13G”).

13th Age is a game I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, in terms of combat and the way it distinguishes classes, it has in many respects become my favourite F20 RPG. On the other hand, it isn’t much more than a combat system, and the narrative elements are under-written and hard to use in practice. This is particularly a problem with players who weren’t used to that much narrative control.

I’m not a huge fan of 13th Age’s default setting, the Dragon Empire, which is largely a matter of personal taste. By contrast, while I deeply love the setting of Glorantha, the venerable fantasy setting originally developed by Chaosium-founder Greg Stafford in the 1960s, I find the RPG system it is most closely associated with, RuneQuest, far too crunchy. So I’m hopeful that I will find 13th Age Glorantha to be the best of both worlds.

So far I’m liking it and even the narrative elements seem to work better (or at least I find it easier to get my head around). I really like the Glorantha-themed classes and only wish there were at least half a dozen more.

It’s early days, but I’ve been having fun with my Wind Lord Aranda the Cursed as our party embarks on a HeroQuest to protect the town of Alda-Chur from the incursions of Chaos from the infamous Snakepipe Hollow  — despite her inability to hit any trollkin during her first combat encounter! — James

Good god, Glorantha is a punishingly detailed setting! — Amy

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The Digital (And Financial) Future of Tabletop Games

Two partners at veteran Silicon Valley Venture Capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, look at the future of tabletop games.

James described this article to me as “Martians writing about Earth”: nothing is false but it’s written from such an alien perspective that it’s nearly unrecognisable. Still, I think a lot of the insights here are valid.

But I’m a lot more interested in the source. Venture Capital plays some role in the tabletop gaming industry, but seeing a prestigious (and sizeable) firm writing about Dungeons & Dragons has me sniffing the air. Is that a new wave of interest rolling in from investors?

At least for the moment, I don’t see much evidence that Andreessen Horowitz has put its money where its mouth is: apart from a streaming service, a videogame studio that emphasises its tabletop RPG roots, and some AR/VR tech that I could imagine being utilised in a next-gen VTT, there’s nothing tabletoppy going on in their active (public) portfolio.

Astral Tabletop teams up with DriveThruRPG to allow publishers to sell Astral modules on the DriveThruRPG marketplace.

As this article points out, this is a clever move by Astral to stake a claim. Roll20 may still be the market leader in virtual tabletops, but there are some serious competitors, and especially after the Covid-19 boom, the waters are going to get bloody.

Wired looks at the D&D community on TikTok.

Kids these days with their Tiks and their Toks… — Amy

Graphic Novels

A disagreement broke out over compensation for Fan Artist contributors to First Second’s The Adventure Zone graphic novels.

Critical Role’s Vox Machina: Origins, Vol. 2 hits the New York Times best-seller list for graphic novels & manga.

Upcoming & New Releases

Wizards of the Coast announces a Forgotten Realms-themed Magic The Gathering set.

The inevitable crossover.

A Stranger Things/Dungeons & Dragons crossover comic is announced.

The inevitable crossover.

Andrews McMeel picks up choose-your-own-adventure RPG book, Into the Dungeon.

Onyx Path releases Titanomachy for Scion.

Bundles & Deals

itch.io is offering a bundle of 6 indie games (including the award-winning Thousand Year Old Vampire and Sleepaway).

This one’s an absolute steal, grab it! — Amy

Bundle of Holding is offering two bundles of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay books, a bundle of Jovian Chronicles books, and a bundle of FUDGE books.

Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of 3D-printable models and a bundle of OSR RPG books.

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

Scion: Demigod: A sourcebook for the third tier of power for Scion 2nd edition, by Richard Thomas/Onyx Path — October 1st. So far this project has raised over $98,000 from 1,500 backers.

Scion was a mythological supers RPG that came out in 2007 published by White Wolf and received a second edition a few years ago using Onyx Path’s storypath system.

It’s a little odd to me that the second edition Scion books feature the same cover art as the first. I’m also a little intimidated by a crowdfunding project with such a complex set of tiers that you have to download a PDF chart to understand it all.

But by this point Onyx Path know what they’re doing and have an established audience. This project has done well in its first few days, although given the Kickstarter for the first two books had over 4,000 backers I would have expected it to have done somewhat better. — James

Closing Soon

Old-School Essentials: Advanced Fantasy expands 2019’s Old-School Essentials with a host of new character options and adventures. Ends September 11th. So far this project has raised over $238,000 from 3,000 backers.

I haven’t seen much to distinguish Old-School Essentials from the increasingly crowded field of OSR retroclones, but a lot of the time I feel that’s to miss the point. This is more of the same, albeit from a studio with a growing reputation for well-designed material. — James

Wondrous Expeditions: Forests – Roleplaying Guide is a worldbuilding book for any fantasy RPG, focusing on forest-based journeys. Ends September 10th. So far this project has raised over €106,000 ($125,000) from 2,500 backers.

This looks set to be the first in a line of books from LoreSmyth focusing on making journeys more interesting, building on the success of their Remarkable Shops book from last year. In a crowded field of setting guides and monster manuals, I certainly welcome publishers exploring more original material and can see myself making use of this book and am wavering over whether to back it myself. — James

ORBITAL, a space station RPG zine is a GM-less and diceless storygame in which you play a group of people trying to survive on a space station against the backdrop of an interstellar war. Ends September 8th. So far this project has raised over £19,000 ($26,000) from 1,700 backers.

We both expressed our excitement about this project last week and I don’t have much to say other than I’m very pleased to see it doing so well. — James

5e & Pathfinder

Into the Fey: A low-level 5e adventure module themed around Fey, by The DM Lair — October 1st

The Red Opera RPG: A 5e campaign set in a city ruled by warlocks, and featuring its own themed soundtrack, by Apotheosis Studios (The Last Amazon: Post-Apocalyptic Graphic Novel) — October 1st

The game doesn’t especially interest me, but I love the music! — Amy

65 Enchanted Trinkets for D&D 5th Edition: A collection of minor magical items for 5e, by Morrus/En Publishing (Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters for D&D, A Touch of Class: 7 New Classes for 5th Edition, Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD Roleplaying Game) — September 15th

Captain Hartchild’s Guide to Rare Dragons: A collection of unique, individual dragons for 5e, by BiteSizedGaming (Captain Hartchild’s Guide to Oceanic Depths, Motherload) — September 21st

Stat Trackers Friends & Foes DM Tool: An expansion for the Stat Trackers stat block cards for 5e, by James Keleher (Stat Trackers: A GM accessory for 5E Dungeons and Dragons) — September 24th

The Devil’s Bridge: A Slavic folklore-inspired low-level 5e adventure, by Yellow Madhouse — October 1st

Condition Coins – Metal Status Marker Rings for D&D: A collection of metal rings for tracking conditions on miniatures, by Dice Dungeons (Character Coins: RPG Token Sets by Dice Dungeons, Dragon Scale Dice – Metal Dice Sets for Tabletop RPG Gaming, Quest Decks: Adventure Cards for your RPG Games) — October 6th

OSR

The Majestic Fantasy RPG: A set of stand-alone basic OSR rules and a setting supplement for Swords & Wizardry, by Robert Conley — September 9th

Other & Generic Fantasy

For Coin & Blood: Second Edition: A new edition of the grimdark fantasy RPG in which you play the villains, by Gallant Knight Games (Monster Hunter International RPG: Savage Worlds Edition, Tiny Dungeon: Second Edition, Tiny Supers: Minimalist Superhero Roleplaying) — September 10th

OpenQuest 3rd Edition: A modern twist on the d100 system that powered early RuneQuest, by Newt Newport/D101 Games (Crypts and Things Remastered, Monkey, the Roleplaying Game of the Journey to the West, River of Heaven Science-FIction Roleplaying Game) — October 1st

Science Fiction/Cyberpunk

Lowlife 2090: A fantasy cyberpunk RPG set in a dystopian 2090, by Pickpocket Press (Low Fantasy Gaming) — September 29th

Urban Fantasy/Horror

Locus: A mystery-horror RPG about consequences and morality and guilt, by CobblePathGames — September 17th

I can see the aesthetic influence of Limbo — a computer game that I absolutely adore. Not sure if I get what this is, but I’m still intrigued. — Amy

The Wretched: A solo alien horror RPG, by Chris Bissette (Under The Floorboards: A Zine Quest RPG) — September 24th

A solo horror RPG using a Dread-style block tower? What’s not to like? At only £12 for a print copy and the soundtrack, this was an instant purchase for me — James

I laugh at your puny attempts to stick me in a genre. Pah! (Maybe fantasy)

GUN&SLINGER: “A game of mystery, hope, and finding your way in a world twisted by the forgotten child of a god that ate the sky.”, by Nevyn Holmes — September 12th

Generic Systems

The BOLT RPG Engine: A fast-paced, setting-agnostic RPG, by Ajey Pandey — October 4th

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

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