8–14 September 2020: This Pandemic Sucks

This week we reflect on the difficulties of online gaming during the pandemic; we look at legal battles over fansites and an LGBT videogame from the ’90s; Hasbro revives a classic dungeon-crawl board game; and Andrews McMeel continues their push into RPGs…

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What We’ve Been Playing

In one column this week, a GM describes gaming online as an “environment full of strain and discord,” and honestly, that resonated. As grateful as we are for the VTTs, video and voice chats that help us bridge distances (whether it’s 6 feet or 5000 miles), sometimes they suck a bit.

Our Tuesday Apocalypse World game was a mess of dropped connections, bad audio, mishearing and misunderstanding. We ended the game early, exasperated. Friday’s game of Root (more on the system once we’ve played more) was better — at least, we could laugh off the frequent disconnect.

This pandemic sucks. It sucks in ways too big and too terrible to address seriously in a blog about gaming. But it also sucks because of the lag. Because although we’ll keep playing with Roll20 and Google Hangouts and Zoom, we’ll find ways to spend time almost together, that almost is there in the background, and sometimes it’s difficult to ignore.

That’s alright. We’ll keep playing. We’ll use voice notes and text chats and mobile phones. We’ll reboot routers and try with the video off. Most of the time, we connect.

And sometimes it’ll just suck.

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Gaming in the Pandemic

Critical Role’s Brian W. Foster talks about making Talks Machina (and, of course, Critical Role) in the Covid-19 world.

In contrast to the enthusiasm for online gaming during the pandemic, Dicebreaker looks at the frustrations of running games online.

RPG History

David Hartlage looks at TSR’s legal battles with fan creators on the internet in the 1990s.

The Gamer looks at GayBlade, a gay Dungeons & Dragons-inspired computer game from 1992, which is playable on archive.org.

Well, there goes my weekend. Just as soon as I can figure out the controls! — Amy

Miscellanea

The Black in Gaming Awards honours R. Talsorian founder and Cyberpunk creator, Mike Pondsmith, with the Jerry Lawson Lifetime Achievement Award.

The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Iowa is running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign to teach Czech and Slovak folklore.

We often come across local news stories about community roleplaying games, but this one just made me kinda happy. — Amy

Dicebreaker looks at the Dungeons & Dragons cosplay community.

Upcoming & New Releases

Hasbro announces a revival of the HeroQuest dungeon-crawling boardgame, shortly after restructuring the Avalon Hill imprint under its own wing, rather than under Wizards of the Coast.

Confusingly, there are in fact two distinct tabletop games called HeroQuest. The game being relaunched by Avalon Hill is apparently based on the one originally published by another Hasbro subsidiary Milton Bradley, which was a co-production with Games Workshop in 1990.

This game was one of the more successful dungeon crawler, “D&D in a box” board games to have emerged over the last few decades, and helped firmly establish Games Workshop in the US. It has been out of print since the early 90s.

It is not to be confused with Chaosium’s RPG, HeroQuest. That game, which predominantly uses Greg Stafford’s Glorantha setting, was originally published as Hero Wars, but was rebranded when Hasbro allowed their trademark to expire in the early 2000s. Recently, Chaosium began rebranding this game line again as QuestWorlds, presumably due to a deal they had struck with Hasbro over the name.

To add further confusion, earlier this year Restoration Games filed a trademark claim for the name “HeroQuest Legacies” – whether this is a failed attempt to secure the rights or part of Hasbro’s relaunch plans remains to be seen.

Paizo’s next Lost Omens setting book focuses on the African folklore-inspired Mwangi Expanse setting.

I broadly trust Paizo but boy do I hope (and doubt) that this is being led by African writers. — Amy

Into the Mother Lands, a Cortex System-powered sci-fi RPG and stream, is announced. The project is funded by Twitch, directed by Tanya DePass, and is run by an all-POC development team, cast and crew.

Paizo announces a new series of mini adventures for Pathfinder called Pathfinder Bounties.

Andrews McMeel releases Neverland, a 5e setting based on the world of Peter Pan.

Andrews McMeel will publish Swordsfall Studios’ Afropunk setting book, Welcome to Tikor.

Andrews McMeel seems to be making a real push into the RPG market at the moment, with Into the Dungeon announced last week. The only problem, with my hobby retailer’s hat on, is getting their books outside of the US seems to be extremely hard. — James

Adult Swim announces a roleplaying game based on the Tigtone animated series.

Similar to the Carnival Row RPG published last year, this is a full RPG product that has been published by a TV production company simply to market a TV show — the sort of thing an RPG publisher would be expected to spend thousands of dollars of licensing fees to produce. It’s an interesting indication of how roleplayers are increasingly being seen as marketable demographic (see also the Wendy’s/Critical Role debacle).

Borderlands 2‘s Dungeons & Dragons-inspired DLC, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, gets a tabletop game.

Bundles & Deals

Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of Old School Revival RPG books.

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of isometric art packs, a bundle of FUDGE books, and a bundle of Jovian Chronicle books.

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

Creatures: Complete Monster Compendium for 5E: A collection of monsters, NPCs & playable species for D&D 5e, by Jim Searcy (Shadows of Esteren: A Medieval Horror RPG) — ends October 3rd. So far this project has raised over $213,000 from 3,600 backers.

This is a very attractive and well put together bestiary, with some interesting looking features. But it is another bestiary.

Heckna! Carnival Horror Campaign Setting for 5e DnD: A horror campaign for 5e set in an endless, nightmarish carnival, by Hit Point Press (Humblewood, The Deck Of Many: DnD 5e Reference Cards) — October 8th. So far this project has raised over $238,000 from 2,600 backers.

Hit Point Press had a big hit on their hands with Humblewood last year, and so it’s no surprise that this campaign has had a great start.

The Book of Collected Rumors, for use with Fantasy RPGs: A collection of rumours, for GM inspiration, by Philip Reed (Fantasy City Sites and Scenes, Delayed Blast Gamemaster, Outdoor Encounter Cards) — September 17th. So far this project has raised over $20,000 from 2,100 backers.

Philip Reed has been pumping out a lot of these Kickstarters recently, and this looks like the culmination of the work he’s been doing; a compendium of adventure seeds for any system. Like his other campaigns, it is pretty basic and still offers a lot of PDF for your buck if you aren’t interested in physical books.

Closing Soon

Adventure Journal is a notebook for curating your D&D PCs, each volume of which can hold 3 PCs. Ends September 19th. So far this project has raised over $90,000 from 1,500 backers.

If I was less of a dictator GM who insists on taking my players’ character sheets with me to avoid them being left at home, I might be tempted by these. For the right person these are quite pretty. — James

Now I just feel nostalgic for the days we had physical character sheets that you could take home… — Amy

Zan’s Book of Stupid Magic Spells for 5E DnD is a compendium of 17 largely useless and humorous spells. Ends September 15th (today). So far this project has raised $1,400 from 1,200 backers.

It only costs a dollar for the PDF, so this is a cheap and cheerful idea that seems to have caught a fair number of people’s attention. What campaign wouldn’t be improved by toilet wine? — James

Eww no — Amy

Over Arms is a rules light RPG seeking to replicate manga series such as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Ends September 17th. So far this project has raised over $29,000 from 1,000 backers.

A fairly unique setting and some beautiful artwork sell this project quite effectively. Note that the tiers for physical books don’t include the cost of print-on-demand in them.

5e & Pathfinder

Bag of Tricks (revisited): The classic D&D magic item reworked as a set of reference cards with stats and tokens, by Duke Davidson (Kingdom Hearts Wayfinder Necklaces) — September 27th

I like this. The Bag of Tricks is a neat item that I give out a lot (because it’s fun), and this makes it better. If I weren’t feeling a bit done with D&D at the moment (and also well over my RPG budget), I’d back this. — Amy

SKULLKICKERS: Caster Bastards and the Great Grotesque: A 10th-anniversary of the Skullkickers comics, along with an accompanying 5e-compatible rulebook, by Skullkickers — October 3rd

Monsters of Murka: Restaurants and Retail: An expansion for the Monsters of Murka satirical 5e setting, by Action Fiction — October 10th

OSR

Crypt of the SCIENCE-WIZARD: A science-fantasy module for Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics, by Skeeter Green (CRYPT OF THE SCIENCE-WIZARD 5E S&W RPG) — September 22nd

Lost Tomb of the Bitchin’ Chimera – Dead Milkmen RPG Module: An officially licensed RPG based on punk rock band, Dead Milkmen, by Severed Books (Massive Gelatinous Cube, Party Backstory Generator for 5e and Other Systems, Party Backstory Generator) — October 8th

Other & Generic Fantasy

Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne RPG: Monte Cook’s fantasy campaign setting for d20, rebuilt using the Cypher System, by Here Be Dragons Games — October 8th

Superheroes

Atma: A full card-based superhero RPG playable out of the box, by Meromorph Games (The Shipwreck Arcana, Norsaga) — September 29th

I’m a sucker for out-of-the-box games in small packages, so this one is my pick of the week. The artwork is attractive as well. — James

Storygames

FUTURES: A card-based roleplaying game about imagining future worlds, by Good Party Games (Diesta) — October 3rd

Accessories

The Token Vault: A browser-based token creation tool for DnD, by Ryan Haden — October 8th

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

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