22–28 September 2020: Funny Names and Foundations

This week: how the HeroQuest trademark changed hands (again); Critical Role forms the non-profit Critical Role Foundation; Onyx Path releases the Contagion Chronicle; and a limited docuseries about videogames.

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What We’ve Been Playing Watching

This week, Amy’s been watching High Score, Netflix’s limited docuseries on the history of video games. It’s a pretty broad strokes history, from teletype games to arcades, consoles to computers. Entertaining and beautifully produced, it’s good popcorn television, but it fails to say anything particularly meaningful.

It focuses on particular creators and creations, spotlighting charismatic individuals behind seminal moments in gaming history. It’s the Great Man approach, and while it does a commendable job of making sure that not all the people it focuses on are straight cis white and Japanese men, it still loses sight of the broader forces that actually made their work happen.

This is less a history, and more a series of well-crafted and only vaguely connected anecdotes. It’s good viewing, and very entertaining, but it lacks substance.

Also you may find yourself gritting your teeth when they talk about Dungeons & Dragons, that famous “board game”.

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The Critical Role Foundation

Critical Role announces the Critical Role Foundation, a non-profit organisation raising funds for partner organisations. The Foundation’s first campaign sees them partnering with First Nations to raise funds for a number of initiatives supporting American Indian communities.

RPG History

RPG Historian Jon Peterson looks at early play-by-post D&D in Britain.

New & Upcoming Products

Polygon looks at Hasbro’s upcoming revival of the 1989 board game, HeroQuest.

EN World’s Egg Embry interviews Chaosium Vice President, Michael O’Brien about the “HeroQuest” trademark, which has been transferred to Hasbro in preparation for the revived board game. Chaosium originally took over the name when the board game HeroQuest went out of print, and the trademark allowed to lapse, allowing the RPG Hero Wars to be renamed HeroQuest, as it was originally meant to be called. HeroQuest the RPG is now being rebranded as Questworlds.

I guess that it’s a notable brand name now, but why on earth were so many people vying for such a silly name? — Amy

How dare you. — James

HeroQuest always makes me think of Adventure Quest — did anyone else play that? — Amy

Onyx Path releases The Contagion Chronicle sourcebook for Chronicles of Darkness.

Holler: An Appalachian Apocalypse becomes an official Savage Worlds setting.

The Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Starter Set is now available for pre-order (with a PDF immediately available).

Modiphius releases The Unexpected Shepherd, a solo-play encounter for the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare RPG.

Hasbro announces an action figure of Forgotten Realms character, Drizzt Do’Urden.

Speaking of silly names… — Amy

Bundles & Deals

DriveThruRPG is running a sale on 2d20 RPG books.

Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of R.A Salvatore books.

Bundle of Holding is offering two bundles of Tiny D6 RPG books and a bundle of isometric maps.

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

HeroQuest Game System: A reboot of the classic Milton Bradley/Games Workshop dungeon-crawl board game, by Avalon Hill/Hasbro — November 6th. So far this project has raised over $1,600,000.

This is a very straight adaptation of the original board game, albeit with some of the Games Workshop-specific creatures removed. It isn’t available to anyone outside of North America (or, for that matter, Quebec), which is particularly harsh on the UK where the game was originally published.

It’s interesting to see a company as large as Hasbro go down the crowdfunding route for this game, an approach they reserve for projects they consider to be incredibly niche. I’m guessing they decided the cost of plastic these days meant that they couldn’t produce a version that would satisfy fans of the original at a price that was affordable for the high street.

Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Begins, another dungeon-crawling board game, is due for publication this month, and I guess they also didn’t want to overshadow its launch with this one.

Hopefully, a more affordable version will get a global release. It would be a shame if this is the last we see of it for another quarter of a century. — James

Grim Hollow: The Players Guide: A player’s guide for the Grim Hollow 5e campaign world, by Ghostfire Gaming (Grim Hollow: The Campaign Guide for 5th Edition) — October 24th.  So far this project has raised over $247,000 from 2,900 backers.

Ghostfire Gaming’s first Grim Hollow Campaign Guide was highly successful, raising AU$280,000 ($200,000) from over 4,500 backers. This project seems to offer more of the same; a high-fantasy take on the dark fantasy genre. — James

Grim Hollow has done well, and they clearly know the formula for success: based on 5e, palatable setting, lots of miniatures. To me, it looks only mildly grim, but very hollow. — Amy

The Wagadu Chronicles: An Afrofantasy MMO and 5e-compatible setting, by Twin Drums — October 30th. So far this project has raised over €247,000 ($129,000) from 1,700 backers.

This isn’t as much a 5e project as it is an MMO. In fact, the 5e setting book, including an introductory campaign, is free to download. I’m not so sure that it wouldn’t be better served with a different system, but it’s an interesting marketing tool nonetheless – and a unique and interesting setting. — James

The project has backing from Riot Games, which makes me a little more confident in its ambitious goal. — Amy

Closing Soon

Creatures: Complete Monster Compendium for 5E: Another 5e bestiary from the critically acclaimed Studio Agate. So far this project has raised over $342,000 from 5,400 backers. Ends October 3rd.

Bestiaries are pretty safe bet on Kickstarter, especially ones as pretty as this one. I think this one’s most unique feature is probably a return to 3e-style templates in the form of “archetypes.” — James

Return to Planet Apocalypse: A board game expansion and a 5e setting book. So far this project has raised over $365,000 from 3,400 backers. Ends October 6th.

Given the success Petersen Games have had with their Cthulhu Mythos books, it was not that surprising that they would want to develop Planet Apocalypse into a 5e supplement as well. Like the Cthulhu Mythos books, this is very much about adding elements of the setting to your fantasy game rather than attempting to create a modern-day 5e setting (which is wise in my opinion.) — James

Scion: Demigod: the third book in the second edition of the Scion RPG.  So far this project has raised over $124,000 from 2,000 backers. Ends October 1st.

The original edition of Scion had five core books, so if anything this project feels overdue. I’m a little concerned about the lack of a mention of sensitivity reading given the different religious pantheons being covered. — James

The Red Opera RPG is a 5e campaign and setting which focuses on warlocks and dark pacts. So far this project has raised $128,000 from 1,800 backers. Ends October 1st.

This project stands out to me for two reasons: the focus on music, and specifically tracks to coincide with the major beats of the campaign, is a refreshingly unique selling point. Secondly, the focus on a specific theme rather than a bunch of material you could just yank into any setting means that I feel I have a stronger sense of what this campaign is about, compared to a lot of similar projects. (Plus, I admit it, I have a weakness for warlocks.) I don’t think I’m in the market for any more 5e books at the moment but if I was this would be my pick of this week’s crop. — James

Into the Fey: an adventure module for levels 1–5 focused on the fey. So far this project has raised $76,000 from 1,700 backers. Ends October 1st.

This looks like a well put together adventure module (or modules — there are 11 complete adventures in it apparently.) — James

5e & Pathfinder

They Came at Night: An alien abduction adventure for 5e, by Andy Hand (Ruins of the Lorn Keep Card Game, The Secrets of Warwick Village, Return to Renwald Castle) — October 2nd

Over the Next Hill: A collection of ‘plug-in’ locations for 5E, by Morrus/EN Publishing (Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters, A Touch of Class, Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD Roleplaying Game) — October 6th

The Cosmic Dragon Breviary: A sourcebook bringing neutral dragons to 5e, by Tony Casper — October 21st

Esper’s Emporium of Esoterica: A compendium of new monsters, class options, spells and magic items for 5E book, by Esper — October 22nd

Urban Fantasy/Horror

Arkham Archives: the Lovecraftian gamebook. Chapter I of IV: An interactive storybook set in a Lovecraftian setting, by Delta Dreams — October 23rd

Pulp Adventure

Broken Compass: An English edition of the Italian pulp adventure RPG, by Riccardo Sirignano (Anime e Sangue, The Spleen Orchestra – Tim Burton Tribute Album) — October 13th


Epitaph: A biography-creation story game in which you learn about a character’s life, beginning with their death, by Marc Hobbs (Eden) — October 7th

Kingdom (2nd Edition): A game about the rise and fall of communities, by Ben Robbins (Microscope Explorer, Follow) — October 14th

I’ve been playing the first edition of Kingdom since it was in playtest and, while I’d consider myself a fan, I’ll admit that I’ve had mixed results with it. So I’m excited to see how this new edition might clean it up, and make the pace of the game flow more naturally. At it’s core, it’s such an interesting idea. — James


The Deck of Rumours: A deck of small quest cards to use on an Adventurers Wanted-style noticeboard, by Unlimited Realms Ltd — October 24th

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

3 Comments on "22–28 September 2020: Funny Names and Foundations"

  1. Yes Amy, I *DO* remember AdventureQuest. I played it a bunch on the school computers back in undergrad. Did you ever do the quest where your character becomes a ‘werepyre’? Fun times 🙂


  2. A journalist friend referred to an RPG as a “board game” in one of her newspaper articles. I knew she knows what an RPG is (we’ve been in a Blades in the Dark campaign together!), so I asked about it. She told me that for the newspaper audience, it would take too many words to explain what an RPG is, whereas they know board games. And with every article being on a word limit, she chose to write more about the actual subject of the article rather than explain RPGs, which I think is a totally fair judgement call.


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