This week, a Batman RPG is announced; histories of Greyhawk, Magic the Gathering and TSR litigation; a dungeon-design competition; and our two cents about the ALIEN RPG.
What We’ve Been Playing
This weekend we played “Hope’s Last Day”, the back-of-the-book adventure from Free League’s award-winning ALIEN RPG.
The acclaim makes perfect sense: the system is complex (a little punishingly so) but the rules are clever, elegant and capture the genre well. We were particularly thrilled with the system’s Stress mechanic and its resource-management system.
Coming up against the horrors of the world increases your character’s Stress level, which gives you more dice to roll — but if those dice roll poorly, your character may trigger a panic roll. It fits the genre brilliantly: fear gives you an adrenaline boost that makes you more likely to succeed under pressure — but leaves you vulnerable to losing control.
Meanwhile, the system finds an excellent compromise in the way it handles resources like ammunition and batteries: no need for extensive book-keeping, but roll badly on your Power Supply or Ranged Combat roll, and your motion sensor could die unexpectedly, or you could empty your gun in fear…
But, the trouble with there being so many great rules is that there are so many rules, and it feels a bit excessive to learn all of this for a game that we only really want for one-shots. (The game comes with rules for campaign play, but we don’t really get the appeal of a serial story set in this universe.)
Amy particularly disliked running Xenomorphs. When they attack, you must roll on a table to decide what attack, interpret a paragraph of rules about the attack, roll for the attack, and finally describe the results of the attack. It’s easy to see what they wanted: the aliens are (rightly) unpredictable and deadly; but they also stall the game constantly until you’ve learned their rules by heart.
Our friend, Eran Aviram of Up to Four Players pointed out that Free League’s reputation for high production values has trapped them. We’ve come to expect large, lushly illustrated tomes — meaning that producing a lighter system would be a risk for them. And a lighter system might have made more sense for a cinematic horror game.
If you’re willing to give the system the time and you think you’ll play it a couple of times, this one’s well worth it. But it is a difficult game to pick up and play.
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Inclusivity & RPGs
Gizmodo interviews the creators behind the D&D Combat Wheelchair and its associated miniatures. The 5e supplement detailing the wheelchair became a viral hit last month after it drew ableist responses (couched in criticism about mechanics).
An Autostraddle column reflects on the potential for queer spaces in Dungeons & Dragons.
David Hartlage continues his history of TSR’s legal battles with fans over content online.
SyFy remembers classic D&D dungeon, Castle Greyhawk.
The Gamer looks at the shared history of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering.
CNN looks at a D&D game that has been running for 38 years.
Chaosium ends its Small Publisher Limited License program, replacing it entirely with its community content program.
James Introcaso (Mythic Odysseys of Theros, Burn Bryte) joins MCDM (Strongholds & Followers, Kingdoms & Warfare) as a full-time line developer.
Sounds like MCDM is expanding production.
The winner of the Design-a-Dungeon contest, run in collaboration by Dungeons & Dragons and game development platform Core, was announced at PAX.
Kind of a gimicky showcase of the platform, but I’ll be interested to see if Core sticks. — Amy
Bundles & Deals
Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of old school renaissance RPG books.
New & Upcoming Products
Board game publisher, Monolith, announces Batman: Gotham City Chronicles — the Roleplaying Game. The game shares a name with Monolith’s 2018 Batman board game.
The announcement says “d20 system”, but we’ll be very surprised if they actually mean the d20 system. The 20-year-old system that boomed and busted the industry with games built on its engine would make a bizarre choice for a 2020 game.
Maybe they mean that it’s based on D&D 5e? Or it just uses d20s?
D&D Celebration brought some hints of upcoming products for 5e, including the news that they’ll be bringing back three classic settings.
Polygon looks at Ships of the Expanse, a sourcebook detailing starships for the Expanse RPG, including the Rocinante, the ship at the centre of the series.
Mi ye wanya du dzhogem da Expanse xiya. Wa diye ematim!
I still want to play this Expanse. Some day soon! — Amy
Goodman Games announces an Italian edition of Dungeon Crawl Classics.
Pelgrane Press announces the Yellow King Bestiary.
RPG-inspired board game hit, Gloomhaven, gets its own comics.
Noteworthy New Projects
Return to Planet Apocalypse: Expansions for the Planet Apocalypse board game, and a setting sourcebook for 5e, by Sandy Petersen/Petersen Games (Cthulhu Wars, The Gods War, Cthulhu Mythos for 5e) — October 6th. So far this project has raised over $195,000 from 1,500 backers.
This project is to fund both two new expansions for the Planet Apocalypse miniatures board game, and a 5e sourcebook based on the Planet Apocalypse setting. Sandy Petersen is, of course, the creator of Call of Cthulhu who has since had a successful career in video games (he worked on Doom). This is actually the second 5e sourcebook Petersen Games has worked on, and it looks like there may be some crossover in the content, but while Cthulhu Mythos was a straightforward Lovecraftian bestiary, this has an overtly apocalyptic tone to it.
The Scarlet Citadel: A classic mega-dungeon crawl adventure for 5e, by Kobold Press (Tome of Beasts, Creature Codex, Deep Magic for 5th Edition) — October 16th. So far this project has raised over $91,000 from 1,400 backers.
Kobold Press are a well established company, currently focused on 5e sourcebooks and adventures. This project is for a relatively straightforward dungeon-crawler, with some VTT resources.
Reckless Deck: PSYCHE: A collection of card prompts for your character’s psyche, by Clark Huggins (Reckless Deck) — October 13th. So far this project has raised over $112,000 from 1,100 backers.
This deck is a creative tool rather than an overt RPG product, but looks like it might be of some use if like us you like to delve into the psychology of your PCs (and mess them up!).
5e & Pathfinder
Glimmering Crypt of the Ioun King: A weird fantasy adventure dungeon crawl adventure, by Levi Combs (Jungle Tomb of the Mummy Bride, The Phylactery, Escape from Skullcano Island) — September 29th
Bounty Hunts Vol 1: Contracts for 5E: A collection of Bounty Hunts mini-adventures for 5e, by Jason DM — September 30th
Tome of Summoning: The All-In-One 5e Reference System: A collection of reference cards for 5e monsters and NPCs, by Tome of Summoning — October 9th
Call to Adventure: A collection of prop coins, condition tokens and counters, by Ralph Levi Clark (The Cursed Collective, Truly Wild Magic: Remastered!, The Tome of Magical Mystery) — October 12th
Judges Guild Deluxe: Dark Tower, Caverns of Thracia, & More: A compilation of digital & print reproductions of classic Judges Guild RPG books, by Goodman Games (Grimtooth’s Ultimate Traps Collection, Mutant Crawl Classics RPG, How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck) — October 10th
Best Left Buried: Deeper: A new edition of rules-light fantasy horror roleplaying game, Best Left Buried, by SoulMuppet Publishing (A Doom To Speak: The Crypt Collection, Beneath The Missing Sea, The Stygian Library: Remastered) — October 15th
Other & Generic Fantasy
.dungeon: A tabletop RPG set in an MMO, by John (On the Shoulders of Colossus) — October 4th
Yeah, cute! — Amy
Parselings: A deck-building RPG about collaborative word magic, by Smunchy Games (Fray) — October 8th
I’m quite attracted to the wild setting, great art and interesting sounding mechanisms. I’m intrigued by how the deck-building mechanic will work in practice (it uses a regular set of playing cards, so I’m unclear how intuitive it will be when you need to look up what each card represents.) — James
Brinkwood: The Blood of Tyrants: A castlepunk RPG using the Forged in the Dark system, by Erik Bernhardt (Crone: A Tabletop Roleplaying Card Game, Crown of Tines) — October 17th
This looks very much like Castlevania the RPG with the serial numbers filed off and honestly, I’m okay with that. The Forged in the Dark system seems like a good fit. The only good vampire is a dead vampire as far as I’m concerned, so I’m tempted. Plus, it’s very pretty… — James
Skyjacks: The Album: A soundtrack of the original music the One Shot Network’s Skyjacks actual plays, by James D’Amato (Noisy Person Cards, Dungeon Dome: Season 1, A Woman With Hollow Eyes) — October 8th
I have only listened to a little bit of Skyjacks but I liked it, and the music is lovely. I can see this finding its way into my ears. — Amy
RuneQuest – Rollenspiel in Glorantha: A German-language version of RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, by Uhrwerk Verlag — October 12th