And we’re back with all the news that we missed over the past three weeks! Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything disappoints on promised changes to race; Wizards of the Coast sued again; GAMA changes the Origin Awards; and… well, you know what, there’s a lot, let’s just get started.
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What We’ve Been Playing
During our break, we played Chaosium’s Adventure of the Great Hunt, a Quickstart scenario for the 6th edition of Pendragon:
Oof. I found the experience of running this a little heartbreaking. I have a lot of affection for Chaosium and Greg Stafford’s tremendous legacy. But my experience in recent years of playing games using their Basic Roleplaying system has not been great. I had hoped to find Pendragon’s mechanics simpler than RuneQuest, but our experiences of the two games have been similar: lots of dice rolls that don’t seem to go anywhere and a system that alienates the players.
It wasn’t totally the system’s fault: the scenario in the QuickStart is very focused on the player-knights taking part in repeated hunts, and doesn’t do much to highlight many of the system’s more unique features, like passions or courtly romance. But ultimately the system simply isn’t set up to make failure interesting; neither does it get the procedural stuff out of the way to focus on the drama. At least not for our group. — James
I share James’ criticism here, and add the same criticism that I have had of every Chaosium game I’ve ever played: succeeding at anything takes too many dice rolls.
Hunts were particularly egregious: we rolled Hunting over and over again, sometimes getting closer to our quarry, sometimes letting them get ahead. Our dice rolls never actually let us catch anything, and since the scenario cannot go anywhere until you do… we just got bored and gave up.
From what I can tell, Passions — the things that your character cares about — and Traits — spectrums like Honest/Deceitful, Worldly/Spiritual — would have been right up our street. But the characters in this Quick-Start are cyphers, and the scenario never called on us to explore these mechanics.
Also, the whole thing is about a Panther burp and while that’s hilarious, it made it damned difficult to take anything seriously. — Amy
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Tasha’s Cauldron of Not Quite Everything We Expected
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, the latest Dungeons & Dragons supplement, has been released. The book has been met with some positive reviews, but its promised changes to the game’s controversial race mechanics are disappointing.
Rather than overhaul the way race works, the sourcebook offers a short section on how to change your background so that your character is atypical for their race — in a sense, the exception that proves the rule. D&D Lead Designer Jeremy Crawford said that the changes in Tasha’s are “part of a much broader set of steps we’re taking, which are really going to take several years to fully implement.”
There’s the lumbering pace of the RPG world’s colossus: changes to problematic content in the game will take years — and presumably quite a few sourcebook sales — to reach us.
Two observations from me. Firstly, the talk of gradual changes over several years puts paid to the idea that we’ll see a new edition of D&D any time soon (not that that was ever likely.)
Secondly, this sucks. The Gamer’s Patrick Tierney writes that “Wizards of the Coast seems to view new racial mechanics as a feature that needs to be added, and not a mistake that needs to be rectified.” Those of us who care about getting rid of racist content in D&D will have to pay for that feature, and the gamers who view anti-racism as an affront will be able to ignore it.
It’s a decision that has capitalism written all over it. — Amy
Numerous designers have shown Wizards that this is a solvable problem — Ancestry & Culture, An Elf and an Orc Had a Little Baby, and the upcoming Ancestry Awakened being examples. Key for me is that this isn’t just an opportunity to fix a problem, but an opportunity to encourage more interesting and unique characters. But doing so means admitting that D&D has a problem, something which Tasha’s Cauldron seems to believe it can sidestep.
But what a public relations disaster. It is one thing to fail to fix this issue; quite another to launch this book after so many promises that it doesn’t live up to. It seems clear that this page-and-a-half of optional rules was cooked up at the last minute following the wave of criticism over the summer. The bulk of Tasha’s Cauldron is a perfectly decent addition to the game, but it’s managed to leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. — James
Gale Force Nine, manufacturers of third-party Dungeons & Dragons accessories, is suing Wizards of the Coast. The companies have issued a series of breach of contract notices against one another after Wizards of the Coast sought to end its license with GF9 at the end of this month.
A return, it seems, to Dungeons & Dragons’ litigious past.
This is the second lawsuit against Wizards of the Coast in recent months: Dragonlance authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are also suing Wizards for breach of contract.
The Game Manufacturer’s Association has changed the categories for the Origins Awards, including splitting the RPG category by genre, giving awards for the best Fantasy RPG, the best Science Fiction RPG, and the best Family/General Audience RPG.
Why? Does everything that isn’t fantasy or sci-fi get lumped in with “general audience”? Romance; mystery; horror; soap opera; cosy; historical — it’s all the same? Meanwhile, Fantasy & Sci-Fi get split into separate categories, and we can have long arguments about where Science-Fantasy goes? What about generic systems and games that span multiple genres? Starfinder and Pathfinder are treated as completely different, but small-press fantasy games must duke it out with D&D?
What a bizarre way to divide this award… — Amy
I’ve seen the rumour that Wizards will be sold crop up relatively frequently — especially in the Magic: The Gathering community, so I have no idea how seriously to take speculation like this. — Amy
Stars of Star Trek: Discovery talk about playing Dungeons & Dragons together.
Jeff Tidball talks about§ how online gaming conventions can better capture what makes IRL conventions great.
New & Upcoming Releases
Pinnacle Entertainment Group announces a new partnership with Paizo to create Savage Pathfinder — an adaptation of Pathfinder rules and Adventure Paths (beginning with the award-winning Rise of the Runelords) to the Savage Worlds system.
Ooo boy I’m excited! Rise of the Runelords is a bucket list campaign for me — I’ve tried running it twice and had the campaigns cut short by emigration & divorce. These days I don’t go in for Pathfinder much, but I’ll be excited to give the campaign another go in a new system. — Amy
Twogether Studios announces that its upcoming Adventure Zone board game will not be sold on Amazon over the holiday period, in order to support brick & mortar game stores.
There are Dungeons & Dragons Pop Tarts now.
Sure, ok. — Amy
Pathfinder announces Secrets of Magic for Pathfinder 2e.
Bundles & Deals
Grab the Bonus Collection on the Indie Cornucopia for Flotsam (Amy loves it) and the award-winning Thousand Year Old Vampire.
Story Bundle is offering a bundle of books on games, including several books on roleplaying games.
Noteworthy New Projects
Immersive Battle Atlas. Immersive Maps for Tabletop RPGs: A book of dry-erasable battlemaps, by Tanner Yarro (Immersive Battle Maps for Tabletop Roleplaying Games, Infinidungeon). So far this project has raised $336,000 from 2,900 backers. Ends December 9th
50+ Tabletop maps for dungeons and dragons and other games: A collection of digital battlemaps, by Adam O’Brien (5th Edition Spell Sleuth, Menagerie of Magic: A collection of Magic items for DnD 5e). So far this project has raised $11,000 from 1,300 backers. Ends December 25th
Maps, maps… so many maps! — James
Southlands 5th Edition: An Africa-inspired 5e setting, by Kobold Press (Creature Codex, Deep Magic for 5th Edition, The Scarlet Citadel). So far this project has raised $135,000 from 1,300 backers. Ends January 2nd 2021
Whenever a crowdfunding project dips its toe in a setting that isn’t Northern Europe, I always get nervous that about white dudes carrying out some tone deaf cultural appropriation, but in this case it would appear that Kobold have made an effort to avoid this. I do wish calling African-coded fantasy countries “Southlands” wasn’t such a trope in TTRPGs though! — James
This feels like such pedantry, but the name really does bother me. The real-world cultures I see here are North African and Middle-Eastern: they’re only South from a European perspective. And presumably in the setting, the Southlands wouldn’t be called the Southlands unless they were named from the point-of-view of Northern outsiders. It’s a tiny gripe about a setting that looks way better than a lot of similar ones, but it’s symptomatic of a culture that doesn’t imagine the point of view of, oh, I don’t know, South Africans? — Amy
Blood Drive: A Cattle Drive campaign for Deadlands, by Shane Hensley/Pinnacle Entertainment (Rifts® for Savage Worlds, Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, Deadlands: the Weird West). So far this project has raised $48,000 from 1,100 backers. Ends December 15th
Fairly low numbers compared to some of Pinnacle’s other recent crowdfunding campaigns, but this is understandable as this is a campaign rather than a core book. — James
Heroes of the Cypher System is a collection of three hero-themed setting books using Monte Cook’s in-house system. So far this project has raised $150,000 from 1,400 backers. Ends December 12th.
This campaign hasn’t grown considerably since we last mentioned it three weeks ago, although it has added a third setting book. — James
Gooey Cube is a collection of boxed adventures for 5e. So far this project has raised $81,000 from 340 backers. Ends December 14th
The Warlock’s Book of Secrets: A supplement for the warlock class for 5e, by Jon Leitheusser — December 10th
The Wizard’s Dice Tower — A D&D Brick Set with a Campaign: A Lego-ish dice tower with a 5e campaign and battle maps, by Game Tank (Dice Tower Brick Set) — December 11th
Presents for Goblins: A collection of Festive material for 5e, by Morrus (A Touch of Class, Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD Roleplaying Game, Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters) — December 14th
Dead Man’s Rust: A physical edition of the 5e Scarred Lands mega-adventure, by Onyx Path (Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition, Hunter: The Vigil Second Edition, Ghost Hunters for World of Darkness 20th Anniversary) — December 23rd
Wrenn’s Guide to the Modern World and its Cities: A supplement detailing a number of fantasy cities for 5e, by Fumble pals — December 23rd
The Scourge of the Scorn Lords: A post-apocalyptic fantasy setting for Old School Essentials, by Wind Lothamer (Worm Witch: The Life and Death of Belinda Blood, Old School & Cool) — December 10th
Extinguish the Sun: A limited edition collection of miscellanea for Troika!, by Chance Phillips (Phantasmagoria #1, Blood Floats in Space, Dancing With Bullets Under a Neon Sun) — December 14th
Scientific Barbarian No.2: A post-apocalyptic RPG magazine, by Jim Wampler (Check This Artifact, Fight This Mutant, Mutant Murder Hobo Dice) — December 15th
A Packet of Particular Peaks: An OSR-inspired system-neutral set of mountain settings, by L.F. OSR — January 1st 2021
Other & Generic Fantasy
Date Night Dungeon: A date night couple’s adventure for D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder, by Tom and Catherine Thrush (Silidor Valley Map, RPG Adventure Journals, Dungeon Monsters & Tavern Tales: A Gamer’s Coloring Book) — December 24th
The Well Roleplaying Game: A lightweight dungeon-crawling game, by Shoeless Pete Games — December 27th
Voyages of the Vagabond: A set of system-neutral fantasy supplements focusing on travel, by Deep Dungeon Games (Diception, Niwri’s Marvelous Menagerie of the Multiverse, The Mineralogy Manual) — January 2nd
WILD: A tarot-based game about exploring dreams, by Stoo Goff (The Gaslight Club) — December 14th
The House Doesn’t Always Win: A playing card-based game about revolution, by Michael Whelan — 18th December
Slowquest Stick-A-Hero: A collection of dress-up doll-like stickers for making character art, by Bodie H. (Slowquest Character Cards) — December 17th
Monster Description Cards: A collection of cards for generating monster and event descriptions, by Conflict Games (Combat Description Cards, Magic Description Cards) — January 9th
This looks like an interesting project and I’m tempted by it — but I’m not entirely clear how, once you scratch the surface, it doesn’t just leave you with a bunch of random stuff you may or may not be able to make sense of — just like any number of random tables I’ve come across over the past four decades. — James
Polyhedral: A collection of interviews with RPG developers and streamers, by HTTPaladin — December 23rd
Looks like a hefty list of respectable creators in line to be interviewed in this, maybe a bit skewed towards the conventional end of the industry for my taste but that’s no bad thing in and of itself. It’s not a cheap project to buy into, but a good thing to support. — James
Vision Layers: A set of accessibility-focused PDF layers and educational resources for RPG creators, by The Warden (High Plains Samurai, The Tower, The World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game: The Zine) — December 12th
A great idea (it isn’t for me to say how practical it is), but perhaps the project has performed less well than it could have done due to the somewhat scattergun choice of games being offered. My hope is that if the concept proves itself that publishers will approach them to make this a core part of the crowdfunding games moving forward. — James