This week is dominated again by crowdfunding, with the continuation of ZineQuest and the launch of Free League’s The One Ring 2e (oh, boy, do we have opinions). Meanwhile, news from Roll20 shows us the games played online in 2020 (spoiler alert: lots). And Jon Peterson looks at a game that could be the real first RPG. Also, witches, raccoons, anti-capitalist investigators, and pistol packing bondage nuns.
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Roll20 releases its report on the games played on its platform in Q3 2020.
Reports like these illustrate quite how predominant D&D is in the hobby, but there are signs that some other systems are breaking through. Call of Cthulhu is rapidly rebuilding its number 2 position as the number two RPG. Pathfinder 2e has also shown signs of growth, although it is notable that it is still only getting a third of the gameplay as 1e. ORR has also highlighted the growth of Powered by the Apocalypse games and in particular Monster of the Week.
Wizards of the Coast and Gale Force Nine (GF9) have settled their lawsuit over Wizards’ termination of GF9’s contract. It appears that Gale Force Nine will continue to produce miniatures and accessories for Dungeons & Dragons.
Dicebreaker looks at the popularity of Call of Cthulhu in Japan.
Steve Jackson Games reports on its Kickstarter revenue for 2021.
Quest publisher, The Adventure Guild, announces a grant to support adventure writers for their system.
Dicebreaker looks at the history of the Eberron D&D setting.
Chaosium will republish Greg Stafford’s White Bear & Red Moon and Dragon Pass, board games set in the Glorantha setting.
Chaosium has been hinting that these new editions have been in the works for a while now. These games helped establish Chaosium, which would prove to be one of the most influential roleplaying companies to come out of the 1970s, so they have a special place in RPG history.
It isn’t entirely clear to what degree they will be faithful reproductions of the original or reworkings with more modern gameplay. I hope they veer more towards the latter. I own a copy of Dragon Pass (the reprint of White Bear & Red Moon published by Avalon Hill in the 1980s) and the combat system made my head spin. — James
Jon Peterson looks at the Western Gunfight wargame from 1970, and considers whether it might be considered the first roleplaying game.
We keep seeing articles like this, that the first roleplaying game was invented before D&D — maybe long before. But the RPG history hill I will die on is that Gygax, Arneson et al might have invented a role-playing game, but nobody invented roleplaying games. — Amy
Bundles & Deals
Humble Bundle is offering a bundle of third-party 5e books.
There are significantly fewer ZineQuest 3 offerings this week compared to last week, we are seeing a great variety of projects in terms of subject and original systems. Once again, we recommend Pandatheist’s ZineQuest page for a full list of current and upcoming projects.
Noteworthy New Projects
The One Ring™ Roleplaying Game, Second Edition: The second edition of the roleplaying game set in Tolkien’s Legendarium, by Free League (Twilight 2000, Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying, Forbidden Lands). So far this project has raised 7.7m SEK ($930,000) from 7,600 backers. Ends March 4th
As a One Ring Loremaster in the middle of a long-running campaign, I could write a whole essay here about my thoughts about this, but I’ll try to keep things brief. Ish.
Overall, this looks like an encouraging future for the game, after a frustrating couple of years that saw the Cubicle 7 second edition cancelled just weeks before the PDF was due to be published. I’ve tried to piece together why the deal with C7 fell apart, and as far as I can tell it was down to the C7 developers pushing for a much more generic version of the game, which lead designer Francesco Nepitello and license holders Sophisticated Games were not happy about.
From the covers alone, the C7 and Free League iterations of TOR 2e couldn’t look more different, with the C7 version looking much more like a generic high fantasy RPG and the Free League version looking, well, Scandinavian. Certainly, the Free League version looks more like the bleak-punctuated-with-hope game we’ve been playing.
As well as a core book, the Kickstarter is also focused on the production of a starter set. I’m a big fan of starter sets in general, and in particular starter sets that offer something of value to people who are already in the market for the core book. This one is focused on the hobbits of the Shire itself (the pre-generated characters include Frodo’s parents) and has a lighter tone overall compared to the core book. It’s an interesting approach.
So far, this project is already the biggest one to launch on Kickstarter in 2021, and with more than a fortnight to go could well be Free League’s most popular campaign to date. EN World is even hypothesizing that it will break RPG crowdfunding records, though there’s still a long way to go. — James
James has said most of what I want to say here. I’m excited to see what Free League is doing with this project — if a little irked by how much the art reminds me of the ALIEN RPG.
There are some of the usual Kickstarter tricks going on here: the goal of the project is well below costs, so that “Funded in 4 Minutes” sticker is a bit funny. And most of the stretch goals were announced at a time when Free League were going to release this without crowdfunding. That’s nothing new, of course: it’s just the way you Kickstart-for-marketing.
So I’m in two minds about this. I’m eager for a second edition of what might be my favourite RPG. I also trust Free League to do a good job. But I just couldn’t bring myself to back a project which is a foregone conclusion, especially during this month of the year where Kickstarter is full of amazing RPGs that actually need crowdfunding. — Amy
The Wilderness Books of Modular Maps for Tabletop Roleplay: A set of wilderness themed mapbooks, by Loke Battle Mats (Towns & Taverns, The Dungeon, Battle Mat Books). So far this project has raised £134,000 ($187,000) from 2,900 backers. Ends March 1st
Loke is well established as a reputable publisher of map books, and its projects are becoming increasingly ambitious (not to mention large!).
Hexbound: A 5e supplement for making witch characters of any class, with an accompanying AR app, by Hit Point Press (Humblewood, The Deck of Many Animated Spells, Heckna!). So far this project has raised $141,000 from 2,100 backers. Ends March 11th
I dunno about this one… having a witch sub-class for every class seems to dilute what it means to be a witch, and what’s the point of an app that only works for one book? Still, what do I know? — James
Vault of Magic for 5th Edition: A magic item compendium for 5e, by Kobold Press (Creature Codex, Deep Magic, Tome of Beasts 2). So far this project has raised $77,000 from 1,300 backers. Ends March 18th
Kobold Press hasn’t had a campaign with fewer than 2,000 backers since 2018, and we don’t expect this project to be an exception.
Bucket of Bolts is a solo RPG zine in which you follow the story of a spaceship as it is passed onto various captains. So far this project has raised £66,000 ($92,000) from 3,500 backers. Ends February 16th.
Your last chance to get this and write the history of your favourite pew-pew. It still looks set to be the biggest hit of ZineQuest 3.
Scion: Dragon and Scion: Masks of the Mythos is a collection of two sourcebooks for Scion 2e. So far this project has raised $148,000) from 1,900 backers. Ends February 18th.
The success of this project, and the Demigod project last year, has established Scion as one of Onyx Path’s most successful lines.
Gods of Metal: Ragnarock is a heavy metal-inspired fantasy RPG. So far this project has raised $97,000 from 1,200 backers. Ends February 23rd.
My sharp edge eye syndrome significantly limits my enthusiasm for a game based around d4s, but this feels like another departure for Hunters Entertainment who seem hard to pin down as a company at the moment. — James
The Lighthouse At The Edge Of The Universe is a solo RPG about observing the universe from the depths of space. So far this project has raised AU$13,300 ($10,400) from 1,000 backers. Ends February 19th.
No surprise that the other big project to come out of ZineQuest 3 this week is also a solo game. It looks lovely, but I’m still a little traumatised by that Robert Eggers film and worry my subconscious would spoil it. — James
Incredible Creatures: An art-inspired 5e bestiary, by Alan Tucker — February 21st
Book of Bounty and Treasure Hunts for D&D 5E: A set of adventures for 5e, by Jason DM (Bounty Hunts Vol 1: Contracts for 5E) — February 28th
Magnum’s Tome of Unshackled Spells: A collection of spells for 5e, by Dave.Paints (Cards Against the DM – 400% funded) — March 3rd
Crystalpunk Campaign Setting for 5e: A future-fantasy neo-noir setting for 5e, by Plus Three Press — March 6th
Thrones & Bones: Norrøngard: A Norse-inspired 5e setting, by Lou Anders — March 12th
Wukong, Journey to the West collection: Journey to the West-inspired 3d miniatures and a one-shot adventure, by Bloody Sword Miniatures — March 14th
Where the Wheat Grows Tall: A low-level adventure inspired by Slavic myth, by Evlyn Moreau — February 22nd
Vampire Cruise: An adventure vacation featuring a lot of undead, by Amanda Lee Franck (You Got A Job on A Garbage Barge) — February 23rd
3DIE6: An insect-themed dungeon-crawling RPG, by Tabletops and Tentacles — February 25th
Psalm IV:I: An adventure module zine for Mörk Borg, by Scott A. — February 25th
d36: A Strange RPG Zine: A quarterly zine of strange RPG content, by Chris Bissette (Under The Floorboards, The Wretched: Second Printing) — February 25th
Marching Order: A chaotic tactical backstabbing RPG, by Crumbling Keep — February 27th
Other & Generic Fantasy
Pungeon Quest: A pun-filled system-neutral dungeon-crawling adventure, by Star and Flame Games — February 16th
The Thawing Kingdom: A system-agnostic setting about a kingdom thawing after centuries covered in ice, by Rowan Algoet — February 17th
Definitely Wizards: A Game About Not Being a Wizard: A rules-light RPG about faking wizardry, by Elliot Hand-Thoennes (Witch Hat Pride Pins) — February 20th
Other Magic #3: A zine using real-world magic from ancient cultures to inspire RPGs, by Jesse Ephraim (Other Magic, Other Magic #2) – February 22nd
Trudvang: Seed of Vanirs: A sourcebook detailing the elves of the Trudvang setting, by RiotMinds (Trudvang Adventures, Trudvang Chronicles, Trudvang Chronicles: Muspelheim) — March 5th
Dying Hard on Hardlight Station: a Mothership Adventure: Die Hard meets Alien for the Mothership RPG, by David Kenny — February 23rd
Flott’s Miscellany Volume Two: A system-agnostic zine of random lists for a doomed fantasy city setting, by Andrew D Devenney (A Visitor’s Guide to the Rainy City) — February 25th
External Containment Bureau, a Zine Quest RPG! A bureaucracy-tinged paranormal investigation RPG, by Eli Kurtz (Oligarchy RPG Zine, The Blackwood for the Savage Worlds RPG System) — February 23rd
Paranormal Inc.: An anti-capitalist paranormal investigation game built on the Brindlewood Bay system, by Alicia Furness — February 23rd
I’m Sure You’re All Wondering Why I’ve Gathered You Here…: A murder house story game in which you must be the sole survivor by morning, by Logan Jenkins — March 12th
Stealing the Throne: A heist RPG in which you must steal an ancient mech, by Nick Bate — February 23rd
The Gaia Complex – A Game of Flesh and Wires: A post-apocalyptic cyberpunk vampire game, by Chris ‘Shep’ Shepperson (Package!? – An abstract tabletop game) — March 2nd
Token—a ZineQuest offering: A two-player game about a hero and a monster circling each other, based on the Trophy system, by Gabriel Robinson (Candlelight – an RPG zine compatible with Trophy Dark) — February 24th
Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG: A reprint of the Austen-inspired game of “romance, reputation, manners and marriage”, by Storybrewers Roleplaying (Alas for the Awful Sea: Myth, Mystery & Crime in 1800s UK, Good Society: A Jane Austen Roleplaying Game, Littlebox RPGs: two complete story games in two little boxes) – March 10th
The game that was Bridgerton before Bridgerton was A Thing is back with a new reprint and more play options.
We played this a few years ago and it was pretty great. The incomparable Aviv Or (our friend & supporter) is one of the artists on this project, and thus we love it even more. — Amy
Pistol Packing Bondage Nuns from Dimension Sex: “almost certainly a bad influence and contains very little nutritional value”, by Andi Lennon — February 18th
That’s…….. quite a title.
Lacuna: Read Once and Destroy: A metatextual RPG zine, by Jared A. Sorensen (Z-Ward: a survival-horror Parsely game, Parsely: Featuring Action Castle and Other Adventurers) — February 22nd
Possibly the least accessible Kickstarter page I’ve ever seen — though here there’s artistic intension behind it. I like ergodic literature enough to be intrigued. Have there been many ergodic game books? — Amy
Wise Women: An RPG about women who “have the power to protect their community but also exist on its margins”, by Aleksandra Brokman — February 23rd
I really like the themes that are running through this. I’ve backed it because there are women in my life I want to play this with. — Amy
The Book of Hanz for the Fate RPG: A guide to running the Fate system, by Randy/Amazing Rando — February 24th
Raccoon Sky Pirates: A GM-less RPG about… raccoon sky pirates, by Chris Sellers — February 26th
Precious Little Animal: A solo journaling game in which you turn events from your life into stories about a cute little animal, by Alex Roberts — February 24th
Love Alex Roberts & love this. — Amy