29 September–12 October 2020: Paws, Pandemics, Power Rangers

In our bumper two-week update: a luxury RPG event goes digital; the pandemic’s effect on game stores; and a collaboration between Renegade and Hasbro brings a Power Rangers RPG — and more. Also: transgender superheroes, ghost hunters, and a fan-made finale to the D&D cartoon.

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What We’ve Been Playing

Our latest Friday Night game is the Free RPG Day scenario for Magpie Games’ Root — an adaptation of the board game of the same name. The setting features anthropomorphic animals in the middle of a political conflict, while the players take the role of vagabonds — not quite part of any one faction, but able to shift the balance of power between them.

The game is Powered by the Apocalypse — a system we’re pretty evenly split on. Those of us who love PbtA have been impressed by the game’s individual moves, but find the basic moves a little bland, especially because they don’t have interesting rules for failure. Our GM does an excellent job of keeping the game’s momentum — but the system doesn’t seem to do any of the heavy lifting.

One player — a fan of the board game — described the system as having an ‘identity crisis’: it’s not sure whether it should have the cooperation of a classic RPG or the conflict of a competitive board game. There are some (very fun) mechanics which pull us in both directions, but we haven’t found the right harmony between them yet.

But are our struggles with the game really flaws with the system and scenario, or are the players just in a malaise? As a group, we’re struggling with depression and anxiety (need we say why?), struggling to make time for gaming, and struggling to focus and connect when we do. It’s still early days, and we’ve seen a lot of potential in the game: we may yet fall in love with it.

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In the Pandemic

The team behind luxury RPG event, D&D in a Castle, have launched Sword & Scroll, a service that allows users to subscribe and play in online games run by professional game masters, including a number of well-known streaming personalities.

Yeah, this figures as a concept. RPG events have been moving online — it makes sense that this would happen at the higher end of the market, too.

Dicebreaker looks at the pandemic’s effect on game stores, including our friends at Leisure Games.

PAX Unplugged 2020 has been cancelled.

Fun Stuff

Fans have created a fully animated version of the never-created final episode of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.

The winners of the 2020 Origins Awards have been announced, with Renegade Game Studios’ Teens in Space taking Best Role-Playing Game.

RPG History

Jon Peterson looks at rolling for wandering monsters in early RPGs.

Upcoming & New Releases

Renegade Game Studios announces a Power Rangers roleplaying game, as well as new partnerships with Hasbro to create new hobby games for G.I. Joe, Transformers, and My Little Pony.

The Power Rangers RPG is 5e-based, for better or worse, to synergize with Hasbro-owned Wizards of the Coast. It’s interesting (though not surprising) that Hasbro is licensing its games to a different studio, rather than developing them through its own RPG studio. It makes sense from a brand-clarity point of view (and Hasbro definitely prefers licensing to in-house development), but it’s a pity that it keeps the Wizards team locked in a single mode of storytelling. Dungeons & Dragons would be a more interesting brand if its creators had a chance to play in a different sandbox.

River Horse proved you could make a commercially successful RPG based on My Little Pony and not rely on Dungeons & Dragons. As it’s intended audience is 6 year-olds, a simpler ruleset makes sense.

Atlas Games is offering a subscription to support the production of a line of supplements and adventures for Feng Shui 2.

Monte Cook Games announces Godforsaken, a fantasy sourcebook for the Cypher System.

Q Workshop has created a polyhedral dice Advent Calendar.

Baldur’s Gate III has entered Early Access.

Cyberpunk Red will be released November 14th.

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of magazines dedicated to Champions and the HERO System, a bundle of Girl Genius gaslamp fantasy graphic novels, and a bundle of Dracula Dossier books.

Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie comics, including Vol. 1 & 2 of Gillen’s RPG-inspired DIE. It is also offering a bundle of R.A. Salvatore novels.

DIE is excellent, and you can pick up the first volume for less than £1 here.

Crowdfunding News

Update: The HeroQuest Board Game, which we covered previously, is now available for pre-order in the UK via Zavvi. You can also now pre-order it in Australia via Zing. Presumably, other retail sites around the world will also make this available as time goes on.

Noteworthy New Projects

The Labyrinth: An artbook by Simon Stålenhag, envisioning an otherworldly dystopian future, by Fria Ligan/Free League (Twilight 2000, Vaesen, Tales from the Loop) —October 30th. So far this project has raised over 1.8m SEK ($209,000) from 3,900 backers.

This is an artbook, not an RPG. But let’s face it, Free League will be bringing out an RPG based on it sooner or later so you might as well get in on the ground floor.

Worlds Without Number: A sandbox fantasy game compatible with Stars Without Number, by Kevin Crawford (Stars Without Number, Godbound: A Game of Divine Heroes, Wolves of God: Adventures in Dark Ages England) — November 4th. So far this project has raised over $151,000 from 2,900 backers.

A very successful first week, largely presumably off the reputation and success of Stars Without Number.

Stargate SG-1 Roleplaying Game: An RPG based on the Stargate series, based on D&D 5e, by Wyvern Gaming (Cthulhu: The Horror in Dunwich, Sojourn – A Journey Through Time, Cthulhu: A Deck Building Game) — October 30th. So far this project has raised over $123,000 from 1,900 backers.

It does seem as if we’re rapidly going back to that period in the early 2000s where all licensed RPGs were based on D&D. I guess this is a sign of its growth but I’m not entirely convinced it fits all settings, least of all with this one. — James

Closing Soon

Kingdom (2nd Edition) is a revised story game about building a community and tearing it down. So far this project has raised over $38,000 from 1,300 backers. Ends October 14th.

I have backed this one — James & I both enjoyed the 1st edition. — Amy

The Scarlet Citadel is a classic dungeon crawling adventure from Kobold Press. So far this project has raised over $118,000 from 1,900 backers. Ends October 16th.

Brinkwood: The Blood of Tyrants is a Forged in the Dark “castlepunk” RPG in which you take down evil vampire overlords. So far this project has raised over $50,000 from 1,700 backers. Ends October 17th.

5e & Pathfinder

Midderlands Setting and Bestiary for Fifth Edition: A 5e adaptation of the OSR weird fantasy setting, by Necromancer Games (Necromancer Games: Back for 5th Edition!, Tome of Horrors 2020 for Fifth Edition, Tome of Alchemy: Magic Item and Potion Creation for 5e) — October 29th

Nazi Dracula Must Die: An alternate-reality World War II setting for 5e, by Crystal Quill Press — October 29th

Zargoth’s Tome of Familiars for 5e: A compendium of pets and familiars for 5e, by Arcana Games (Arkadia: The Mythic Greek Setting for 5e, Fate of the Oracle: A Greek Adventure for 5e, The Frost Papers: Ten Games to Play in the Dark) — November 5th

Blackstorm Realms: A 5e campaign setting blending sword & sorcery with space fantasy, by Jetpack7 (Gods and Goddesses, Masters and Minions, Legendary Dragons) — November 7th

Adventures from the Potbellied Kobold for 5E: A collection of low-prep 5e one-shot adventures, by Jeff Stevens — November 7th

OSR

Ancient Undead Spider Wizard: A 7″ EP featuring instrumental music, and a dungeon-crawl adventure for the Black Hack and OSR games, by Fish in the Pot (Fish in the Pot One-Page Dungeon Collection, Fish in the Pot: TTRPG Characters Collection) — October 31st

Other & Generic Fantasy

Good Strong Hands RPG: A “darkly whimsical” in which you play fantastic creatures trying to save their fantastic world, with the help of human allies from earth, by Craig Campbell (CAPERS RPG, Die Laughing RPG, Murders & Acquisitions RPG) — October 23rd

Seven of Seven: A pantheon of gods for used in fantasy RPGs, by Deep Dungeon Games (Diception, Niwri’s Marvelous Menagerie of the Multiverse, The Mineralogy Manual) — October 27th

Sig: City of Blades: A planar fantasy RPG based on Blades in the Dark, by Jason Pitre (The Spark Roleplaying Game, After the War Roleplaying Game, Palanquin RPG – Zinequest) — October 31st

This is actually the third time Jason Pitre has used this Planescape-inspired plane hopping setting (after a sourcebook for The Spark and a standalone RPG). The Forged in the Dark system looks like a good fit; indeed it looks like a somewhat more high fantasy version of Blades in the Dark, albeit with some unique features such a more modular system for character creation. — James

Forged In Shadows: A 0-level funnel adventure for use with fantasy RPGs, by Mystic Dragon Games, LLC (The Moebius Deck of Wonders) — November 4th

The marketing blurb says “compatible with any TTRPG system” but it seems pretty clear that it’s designed with F20 games in mind.

Realm Fables: A collection of sourcebooks with mini settings and generators for fantasy RPGs, by Jay Merritt — November 5th

Mortasheen: A weird fantasy monster battling RPG based on the Mortasheen comics, by Jonathan Wojcik (The World’s Weirdest Insects) — November 14th

Urban Fantasy/Horror

Ghost Hunters for World of Darkness 20th Anniversary: A paranormal investigation RPG based on the World of Darkness 20th Anniversary games, by Onyx Path — October 31st

The World of Darkness is such a tangle. Here Onyx Path is doing new content based on the rules of a revival edition of a game world that also has two different new editions…

Widdershins: An eldritch investigation RPG based on the queer romance series, Whyborne & Griffin, by Library of the Omniverse Press — November 1st 

Flames of Freedom: A Zweihänder based American gothic horror RPG set during the American Revolutionary war, by Daniel Fox (Zweihänder, Main Gauche) — November 4th 

Superheroes

Hero Too: Super Edition: A solo RPG about transgender teenage superheroes, by Maria Fanning — October 14th

Transgender identity and superheroes are themes that resonate pretty well. I’m keen. — Amy

Storygames

Spindlewheel: A tarot-inspired “interpretive” storytelling game, by Sasha Reneau — November 7th

Accessories

Deck of Dungeons: A collection of card-sized dungeon maps, by Mythical Ink — October 30th

The Deck of Stories and NPC Cards: A deck of cards to generate story hooks, by The Deck of Stories — 31st October

Theory

Game Theory in the Age of Chaos: A collection of essays by Mike Selinker on game theory and politics, by Lone Shark Games (The Maze of Games: An Interactive Puzzle Novel, Thornwatch, Lords of Vegas 10th Anniversary: Underworld and Boss Bundle) — October 21st

Tenuous, if indeed any, link to RPGs in this case, but Selinker is a prominent hobby game designer, and I might read this if I can bear it. — Amy

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

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