10–16 November 2020: World of Darkness; Haunted West; QAnon as LARP

Artwork from Paradox Interactive's Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2

This week: Paradox takes back the reins on the World of Darkness; controversy around Matthew Mercer’s character on Haunted West; and an ARG and LARP designer looks at how the QAnon delusion uses the same principles as a game.

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A Break

Amy’s moving house! We’re going to take a short break to give her some time to pack boxes, and wonder just how she has so many RPG books after living in the UK for only 3 years. We’ll be pausing the round-ups for a few weeks, and we’ll be back with our next post on December 8th.

What We’ve Been Playing

Currently, James is running a campaign of 13th Age Glorantha for our Tuesday night group.

We’ve kicked off with a scenario from the very first RPG product I ever bought: The Rainbow Mounds, which appeared in the UK RuneQuest boxed set. It’s unusual for an early dungeon crawl in that it features an environment that feels like an actual place, rather than a collection of rooms with a bunch of random monsters wandering around. 

I’ve been making full use of the dynamic lighting feature on Roll20, and I’m not sure the party has any idea where they’re going at the moment. It was particularly fun having them chase down a small party of escaping Trollkin only for them to run into a much bigger group.

I’m also really liking how characterful the character classes are; in particular, we’ve all been enjoying the dynamic that the Trickster class (played by our podcast producer, Jess) adds to the group. Overall, I’m glad to finally be playing a Gloranthan RPG with my favourite group of players, which they seem to be actually enjoying! Or maybe they’re just being nice.
— James

Friends know never to get me and James started on the world of Glorantha — he adores the setting, whereas I really dislike it, and our arguments about it are interminable.

Glorantha is highly original and deeply intricate, which is part of what its fans love — but makes it inaccessible as a setting. Until you know quite a lot about the lore, it’s almost impossible to even begin creating a character. And then someone will turn around and tell you that there are sentient ducks and Jack O’Bears.

Every previous encounter with Glorantha has made me feel like an absolute muggle: out of my depth, and incredibly grumpy. But I am kind of loving this game.

The 13th Age system takes me back to my 3.5 days, without ever feeling as cumbersome as 3.5 and even Pathfinder have begun to feel. Combat is fast and fun and ferocious — and is a welcome, low-stakes kind of social interaction for the Zoom era. I’m even starting to like the setting itself…

Just don’t tell James. If he ever thought I was starting to agree with him, I’d never hear the end of it. — Amy

Audio: Critical Role & The Island Kingdoms

In the latest episode of the d100 Newscast, we look at Critical Role’s new publishing house, Darrington Press, and talk to the developers behind Kara-Tur — The Island Kingdoms: Bawa. Find the d100 Newscast on your favourite podcast app!

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The Future of the World of Darkness

Paradox Interactive has announced that it is moving the development of the World of Darkness line in-house. Meanwhile, Renegade Game Studios will handle the publication of the World-of-Darkness RPGs. Also announced is the Vampire: the Masquerade Companion, a free sourcebook and errata update to the game’s 5th edition.

The World of Darkness line under Paradox has so far been something of a mess. Controversies around the Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition led to Paradox shutting down the studio responsible for it and handing the license to Modiphius — who would go on to publish just one of the four RPG products that they announced, and nothing from their announced line of miniatures.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen five non-RPG tabletop game projects crowdfunded. (Was it really only five? It feels like more. — Amy) That’s before we get into the eight Vampire, two Werewolf and two Wraith video games announced. A lot has been promised from this IP — and little actually delivered. (Even the flagship Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines 2 has been delayed a whole year.)

Partnering with Renegade is a sensible move: Renegade is publishing one of the aforementioned Vampire board games, and have a well-established relationship with Hunters Entertainment, who are working on the Werewolf RPG. They seem like a safe pair of hands to work with Paradox on this.

It would appear that Paradox and the World of Darkness team are at last attempting to take a firmer grip of the reins (they promised this in May last year, and we were sceptical then). It remains to be seen how much control they will be able to keep of this oh-so-fragmented property.

But an interview with World of Darkness Creative Lead, Justin Achilli, reminds us of Paradox’s priorities: “We are building the TTRPG to help communicate to other partners: this is what the World of Darkness is.” For Paradox, most of the value in World of Darkness is that it can be licensed out — that’s how we ended up with so many different games.

Ultimately, the money to be made out of the World of Darkness IP is not via tabletop RPGs but video games. And if the RPGs prove to be too troublesome, Paradox will drop them fast.

Haunted West Controversy

A livestreamed Actual Play of Chris Spivey’s Haunted West is being delayed after a controversy surrounding the inclusion of Matthew Mercer (who is white) playing a Chinese-American character. Mercer’s character (created for him by Spivey) drew criticism, both for having a white actor playing an Asian character, and for particular elements of the character perceived as stereotypical or whitewashed.

Mercer stepped down from the show after his character was revealed, stating that he shared some of the concerns he saw being raised.

This is, as Jeeyon Shim put it, a “conversation for POC to have with each other about how we use white allyship”. I’ve found threads by Shim, Daniel Kwan, and Ajit George informative.

Speaking more broadly, this is an interesting moment where the ethics of roleplaying (is it okay for a white gamer to play a POC character?) and the ethics of acting (is it okay for a white actor to play a POC character?) collided. The answers to those two questions may be different, but in Actual Play, both questions apply.

I doubt this is the last time we’ll have to reconcile these two dimensions. — Amy

RPG Industry & History

An article by Reed Berkowitz draws an analogy between the collective delusion, QAnon and LARPing.

That sounds crazy, but this has some fascinating insights both about QAnon and about game design. — Amy

The Atlantic interviews Mike Pondsmith about his “prophetic” Cyberpunk RPG, and the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077.

Jon Peterson looks at a polyhedral dice patent from the 1960s.

Evil Hat’s Fred Hicks looks at company sales during this pandemic year.

New & Upcoming

R. Talsorian releases the PDF of the much-anticipated Cyberpunk Red, which ties in with the much-delayed Cyberpunk 2077.

Critical Role announces a new series of comics looking at the origins of the Mighty Nein (the adventurers from the show’s second season). This mirrors its first series of comics which focused on characters from the first season.

Paizo shows us the contents of the new Pathfinder 2e Beginner Box.

The box includes a solo adventure for new players — a great move. Being able to start playing right away on your own is a great way to introduce new players. That said, at ±$40, it has a high price point that will limit its audience.

The Op is bringing out Dungeons & Dragons Monopoly.

We predicted this a year ago — though it was an easy bet. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to be unbearably smug about being proved right. — Amy

Goodman Games announces Dungeon Denizens, a book of monsters for 5e.

Nightfall Games drops a few details about its upcoming Terminator RPG.

Paizo runs down the latest releases for Pathfinder and Starfinder.

Evil Hat releases Fate Condensed.

RPG creator & disability consultant Sara Thompson offers resources for handling disability in The Witcher RPG. (Thompson’s thread on disability in the novels also caught the attention of the TV adaptation’s showrunner, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, who has promised to explore this in later seasons.)

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding is running two bundles of Symbaroum books, two bundles of GM advice, and a bundle of third-party Starfinder books.

Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of Conan RPG books

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

Heroes of the Cypher System: Sourcebooks bringing superheroes and real-world first defenders to the Cypher System, by Monte Cook Games (Numenera, Your Best Game Ever!, Ptolus: Monte Cook’s City by the Spire) — December 12th. So far this project has raised $115,000 from 1,100 backers. 

This project is to fund two sourcebooks for the Cypher system: a traditional one for superheroes, and one for real-world first defenders, with two more sourcebooks potentially available as stretch goals (one of which has been funded so far). I’m curious about the decision to force backers to purchase both books, with no option to pick and choose despite the supers book presumably being the more commercial one. I wonder if that has put some people off from backing it. (That said, they are available separately as add-ons.)James

Closing Soon

Urban Shadows: Second Edition is the second edition of the Powered by the Apocalypse urban fantasy RPG. So far this project has raised $152,000 from 2,800 backers. Ends November 19th

The slicker second edition has almost three times as many backers and raised over four times as much money as the original edition managed back in 2013. I’m hoping this new edition will fix a game which I found fell a bit flat when brought to the table. — James

Crown of the Oathbreaker is a sandbox campaign for both D&D 5e and Pathfinder 2e. So far this project has raised $45,000 from 1,400 backers. Ends November 19th

This is yet another slick-looking, “dark fantasy” setting, the most noteworthy distinction being that it is one of the few Kickstarter projects we’ve seen over the past 12 months to utilise the Pathfinder 2e Compatible License. It remains to be seen if this is a blip or if we’ll start seeing more PF2 projects appear over the next few months. I have my doubts. — James

5e

Dark Places & Demogorgons 5e: A 5e edition of the 80s high school horror OSR game, by Wet Ink Games (Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall, Never Going Home, Tenebria: Remnant of Rome) — November 20th

The Lost Triptych: A level 8–12 campaign centred around cleric characters, for 5e and B/X, by Pacesetter Games & Simulations (Into the Unknown: A Solo Campaign for 5e, B/X, and S&W, Path of the Vanished: A 5e & B/X RPG Campaign, Basic and Expert RPG Sets Remastered!) — November 20th

Advanced Rules Miscellany: A collection of miscellaneous 5e rules originally published in EN5ider magazine, by EN Publishing (Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD Roleplaying Game, A Touch of Class, Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters for D&D) — November 23rd

GeneFunk 2090: Shadows of Korea: A biopunk future Korea setting for 5e by CRISPR Monkey Studios (GeneFunk 2090) — December 10th

I don’t think there are any Korean creators or consultants on this project which is a bit of a red flag for me, but I may have missed something. — Amy

Dreadful Realms: Caverns of the Wise Minister: A dark fantasy Underworld setting and campaign for 5e, by Ex Stasis Games — December 12th

Gooey Cube: A collection of boxed adventures for 5e, by Gooey Cube — December 14th

Other & Generic Fantasy

The Map is not The Territory: An anthology of adventures, mini-games, and essays all inspired by a single map, by Chris Longhurst (Pigsmoke: A Roleplaying Game of Sorcerous Academia, Bleak Spirit, Sunlands: A Hexcrawl Zine) — November 19th

Neat! — Amy

Sci-Fi

Slugblaster: an RPG about “small-town teenage hoverboarders who sneak into other dimensions”, by Mikey Hamm — December 3rd

Anime & Manga

BESM Extras: A collection of expansions and accessories for Big Eyes Small Mouth, by Dyksami Publishing (Worker Placement — The Temp Agency Strategy Board Game, Warband: Against the Darkness Strategy Board Game) — December 4th

Accessories

The Wanderer’s Guide: A set of labelless fantasy maps and art for making your own RPG campaign, by The Wanderer’s Guide — December 5th

Immersive Battle Atlas: A book of battle maps, by Tanner Yarro (Immersive Battle Maps for Tabletop Roleplaying Games, Infinidungeon) — December 9th

Translations

レックス・アルカナ 日本語版プロジェクト: A Japanese edition of the Roman fantasy RPG, Lex Arcana by Kaizoku Press (I Coboldi Mangiano i Bambini + Munchkin, Mutants & Masterminds – Guida del Gamemaster, Rappan Athuk) — November 24th

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

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