This week has been a quiet one on all fronts after last week’s flurry of new game announcements. The Dragonborn is coming to the tabletop as Modiphius announces an Elder Scrolls miniatures game. Paradox Interactive talks about the controversy of Vampire: The Masquerade, and how they’re planning to avoid it in future. And we get two much-anticipated D&D videos: one starring Stephen Colbert, and one starring a Renault KWID Outsider.
But first, hello!
We had quite a few new readers and subscribers joining us last week, and since this has also been a light news week, we thought we’d take a moment to (finally) introduce ourselves!
I am Amy Goodenough (yep), aka. Goonwuff. My partner in crime for this site is James Graham, aka. Semajmaharg. We are London-based tabletop gamers interested in the tabletop RPG industry, and this site is where we track and chart trends.
Every week we produce a roundup of the most important news in tabletop RPGs. I cover corporate news, new releases, and upcoming products, and James covers the most notable crowdfunding projects. We also create more detailed articles focused on various aspects of the industry: last week’s focus on tariffs was the first of these.
If you like, drop us a comment below to say hi! If you like us, you can subscribe to our newsletter, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. If you like us a lot, you can help us keep this website going by supporting us on Ko-fi.
Now, on with the news.
Paradox talks about Vampire controversy
Polygon interviews Paradox Interactive vice president, Shams Jorjani, about the controversy surrounding Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition. Jorjani cites the hard borders placed between the Paradox team and the publishers, White Wolf, as one of the factors that led to the controversy. Jorjani says that Paradox intends to oversee future Vampire projects more closely, but not clamp down on creativity.
The intent to find a balance between a lack of oversight and a stranglehold is a good one, but I doubt any media company has ever intended not to strike that balance, so it doesn’t tell us much about Paradox’s strategy going forward. We have seen quite a large number of officially licensed card and board games, and Modiphius has taken over production of the tabletop RPG. With the IP scattered across several companies, oversight of the brand is going to become exponentially harder. This article is (notably) focused on the computer game products.
Polygon also gave us a spotlight on Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines 2.
Two (very different) D&D videos
Stephen Colbert’s played Dungeons & Dragons with Matthew Mercer in aid of Red Nose Day.
The Brazilian Renault ad featuring characters from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon officially launched, featuring Tiamat, a unicorn, and an uncanny valley Dungeon Master.
I keep thinking we’ve hit peak D&D and then something new happens. Is this peak D&D?
Asmodee, parent company of Fantasy Flight Games (along with many board game companies) is launching a gaming accessory production studio under the name Gamegenic. It’s likely that this will focus on accessories for Asmodee’s board and card games, but we could see some accessories for Fantasy Flight’s roleplaying games.
We don’t normally cover miniatures news, but there are some folks wondering if we might not see Modiphius launch a tabletop RPG to follow, as they did with their Fallout line earlier this year. This is all idle speculation at this point, and we have no information regarding the licensing situation, and no reason to think this is true (beyond an idle hope).
Cubicle 7 gives us a preview of the rules for their forthcoming Warhammer: Age of Sigmar RPG, Soulbound.
WizKids releases info on its miniatures for Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, Dungeons & Dragons forthcoming storyline which was announced at D&D Live earlier this month.
IDW is launching a miniseries of comics to tie in with Avernus.
Geek Native gives us a preview of Pelgrane Press’s Hideous Creatures bestiary for the Cthulhu mythos, along with an interview with co-creator, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.
Grimmerspace: A Starfinder-compatible Sci-Fi Horror RPG, by Iron GM Games — June 24th
In its first week, this has raised almost $63,000 from just under 1,000 backers — no doubt in part because of the celebrity caché of having Sean Astin (The Goonies, Lord of the Rings, Stranger Things). It’s a very ambitious project, which looks like it has been in development for quite some time already. After a bit of a lull, there has been quite a lot of Starfinder and Sci-Fi 5e projects lately, so it will be interesting to see if this is a growing trend or just a coincidence.
Fantasy Grounds Unity has raised almost $400,000 from over 6,700 backers. The new iteration of the successful virtual tabletop software, rebuilt using the industry-standard Unity engine, offers enhanced drawing tools and image manipulation, animated image effects and 64-bit support for enhanced performance — May 30th.
Empire of the Ghouls: A 5th Edition Campaign has raised $100,000 from almost 1,500 backers. Kobold Press is a venerable and dependable publisher of third-party Dungeons and Dragons content, so it’s no surprise to see this project doing well — May 31st.
Trilemma Adventures Compendium has raised CA$66,000 from almost 1,500 backers. A compilation of adventures, each literally centred around a beautifully illustrated black and white map, it’s perhaps the most unusual of the highly successful projects ending this week — May 31st.
I have to admit, I’m tempted to back Trilemma; I’m a sucker for clean black and white artwork and this just looks great — James
5e & Pathfinder
The Deck of Many Destinies for 5e DnD: A beautifully illustrated, tarot-style Deck of Many Things prop, by Gametee (World’s Finest Wallet of Holding, Our Finest Mechanical Dice Pencil) — June 2nd
I’m pretty tempted by this one. I’ve never actually got round to playing Pugmire, but the setting’s gentle, melancholic whimsy appeals to me, and it’s high on my to-play list. Also everything’s better with pirates. — Amy
This has been a busy week in the industry, and not unexpectedly: D&D Live saw three days of Dungeons & Dragons hype, with a host of product announcements. Another bit of news that we should have predicted: the US Trade War with China could hit the RPG industry soon, with a new wave of proposed tariffs targeting a number of RPG components.
There’s also a whole lot of news coming out of Cubicle 7, a livestream featuring Stephen Colbert, a moving essay on gatekeeping in the industry, and a retrospective on the Satanic Panic.
The Trade War could hit RPGs
The Trade War between the US and China could soon be hitting the hobby industry, as a proposed new wave of tariffs includes the core components of RPGs.
We’ll have more on this subject later in the week.
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D&D Live Announcements
This weekend saw D&D Live: a three-day streaming event in celebration of the release of Ghosts of Saltmarsh, which saw a whole series of new product announcements. There was too much for us to round-up ourselves, but one Reddit user has given a pretty thorough summary of the event.
Some highlights include:
D&D announces hellish Descent into Avernus
D&D Live gave us details of the next Dungeons & Dragons adventure: Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. EN World gives us a round-up of everything we know about the adventure.
The D&D Essentials Kit
Wizards also announced the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit: an introductory set of rules for D&D. The product seems to serve the same function as the Starter Set, though it comes with a new adventure, and (excitingly) includes rules for one-on-one play. The product will launch at Target on June 24th, over two months before it arrives anywhere else.
Eberron hardcover is coming
After the PDF of Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron, we’re finally getting a hardcover Eberron setting book.
Rick and Morty gets a D&D Adventure
Crossover comic, Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty is being made into a D&D adventure. Given that a new Rick and Morty tabletop game seems to come out every week, we are exactly not at all surprised.
Other Upcoming Products
Cubicle 7 takes over Warhammer 40K from Ulisses Spiele
Cubicle 7 announces that they are taking over the license to create Warhammer 40K RPGs from German game publishers, Ulisses Spiele. This is Cubicle 7’s third Warhammer RPG, giving them the license to all three Warhammer settings: the high fantasy, Age of Sigmar, the grim fantasy, Warhammer Fantasy, and now the grimdark future of 40K.
James gives us some context:
It’s not entirely clear what has happened here. Cubicle 7’s announcement suggests they will stick with the Wrath & Glory system and continue a close working relationship with Ulisses Spiele, but Ulisses themselves have removed all mention of Wrath & Glory from their website.
The game certainly seems to have had a mixed publishing history. First announced in August 2017, the game itself appeared to be released in October 2018 but physical copies, in the UK at least, weren’t available in distribution until March this year.
Ulisses’ Wrath & Glory has been well-received, although Tabletop Gaming, while positive about the game itself, described the core book itself as “badly written” and singled it out for the number of mistakes and errors.
Cubicle 7 are apparently committed to producing a revised edition of the Wrath & Glory core book, but in their statement implied that they would be developing Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying games plural – suggesting we may see future releases focusing on more specific parts of the setting.
Two more Cubicle 7 Announcements
Cubicle 7 announces a second edition of its The One Ring RPG, designed to be backwards-compatible with the first edition. It is due to launch between Q4 2019 and Q1 2020. We ought to have predicted this last month, when the company was seeking writers for its Middle-earth books.
Not that we’re biased, but The One Ring is one of our favourite games (we’re about to resume a long-running campaign), so we’re pretty damned excited about this one.
Cubicle 7 has also announced the official name of its Warhammer: Age of Sigmar RPG: Soulbound.
Critical Role and Stephen Colbert stream for Red Nose Day
White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade gets another adaptation, this time a narrative RPG from Big Bad Wolf.
Paradox Entertainment does seem to be playing rather freely with its IP here. This Vampire’s second upcoming computer game, and we’ve seen several board and card games announced. With several overlapping editions (the 20th Anniversary line, Chronicles of Darkness, and this fifth edition), the World of Darkness is already punishingly hard to keep track of, and it looks like it’s only going to get more confusing.
Some game previews
Catalyst Game Labs gives us some details about Shadowrun’s 6th edition.
Chaosium gives us updates on their Down Darker Trails weird west series.
Pinnacle Entertainment shows us the proofs of the Savage Worlds Adventure Edition.
Fantasy Flight Games gives us a preview of its Courts of Stone supplement for Legend of the Five Rings.
Minis for Cyberpunk and The Witcher
R. Talsorian is teaming up with Monster Fight Club to produce miniatures for its Cyberpunk and The Witcher games.
A Brazilian commercial for Renault uses a live action version of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. The mysterious teaser for something coming 23-05-2019 has some wondering if this might be more than a car ad… We’ll find out soon enough.
On the subject of the cartoon, what’s the bet that we see a reboot in the next few years?
Goodman Games republishes Bill Owen’s tribute to the late Bob Bledsaw Sr. of Judges Guild, on the 76th anniversary of Bledsaw’s birth.
The State of the Game
Gatekeeping, Race, and Roleplaying Games
Nick Masyk discusses gatekeeping in Roleplaying Games, particularly as it relates to racism at the table. We liked author N.K. Jemisin’s take on it: “early D&D’s racial essentialism still oozes through the groundwater of fantasy even today.
It’s worth keeping an eye on platforms like Kickstarter, which have had such a profound impact on our hobby.
Martin Ericsson leaves White Wolf
Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition (V5) creator Martin Ericsson has announced his departure from White Wolf Entertainment/Paradox Interactive by setting up a blog to chronicle the next chapter in his life as a freelance writer and designer.
As lead storyteller and creative director at White Wolf, he presided over the development of V5 and its rocky launch in 2018 that resulted in Paradox restructuring White Wolf to focus on licensing, while handing the development of the World of Darkness RPG line (including Vampire) to Modiphius Entertainment.
Despite the controversy surrounding V5, Ericsson is confident that he will be rehired by Paradox to consult on the World of Darkness IP. He has also launched an actual play podcast for a new Vampire chronicle which he will be games mastering (in English).
Fantasy Grounds releases new stats
Fantasy Grounds releases new statistics about the games played on its platform.
SyFy discusses DM’s Guild and third-party publishing in RPGs.
MindShift discusses the ways in which Dungeons and Dragons can contribute to children’s Social-Emotional Learning.
Deals and Bundles
Bundle of Holding repeats its bundle of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game products. Note: this one closes shortly after we go to print, so if you want it, hop to it!
Bundle of Holding launches a bundle centred around Alderac Entertainment’s 900-page megadungeon, The World’s Largest Dungeon.
Note: See news about Kickstarter’s employee union above.
Noteworthy New Projects
Good Society: An Expanded Acquaintance: Four new expansions for the Jane Austen-themed Good Society RPG, bringing magic, swashbuckling, political intrigue, and the lives of servants to the game, by Storybrewers Roleplaying (Good Society, Alas for the Awful Sea) — June 9th
James recommends: The first Good Society Kickstarter delivered an attractive, unique product. This project seeks to build on it by producing four alternative expansions, two of which build on previous stretch goals, which can be mixed and matched. A very strong first week for a story game.
Amy recommends: Everything about this charms me utterly, from the unusual concept (not yet another bestiary, but mycology for your game), to the illustrations (delicate watercolours that remind me of children’s books). The project happens to close on my birthday, and I’m taking it as a sign. What a lovely project…
Fate of Cthulhu has raised over $76,000 from over 2,100 backers thus far — despite Evil Hat encouraging people from outside of the US who want physical copies to get them from their local game stores instead. Not merely another game using the Call of Cthulhu setting with a different system, Fate of Cthulhu promises a game where you play people who have survived an apocalypse caused by some Lovecraftian monstrosity travelling back in time to prevent it from happening in the first place. A standalone game, it introduces a corruption mechanic in place of the standard Lovecraftian game reliance on insanity. Ends May 21st.
Closing Soon Extended
Kingmaker 10th Anniversary has had its campaign extended by two weeks, now set to close on June 4th. A successful campaign so far by most standards, it nonetheless still has 5 unlocked stretch goals at the time of writing, suggesting that Paizo had hopes that it would have done slightly better than it has. It’s unclear to what extent using Game On Tabletop as opposed to the more familiar Kickstarter has impacted this, or whether other factors at play. A reboot of a classic Pathfinder campaign for that game’s second edition, the Kickstarter also includes add-on items to enable people to run the revised campaign with both Pathfinder 1st edition and 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons.
5e & Pathfinder
GeneFunk 2090: A biopunk/cyberpunk game about mercenaries specialising in investigation and violence, based on the 5e Open Gaming License, by CRISPR Monkey Studios — May 30th
Dark Trails RPG: A weird West RPG based on Dungeon Crawl Classics, by Stiff Whiskers Press — June 16th
MÖRK BORG: An OSR RPG and art book described by its creators as a “spiked flail to the face”, which is a description that makes me want to have a cup of chamomile tea and play Mouse Guard, but the art sure does look cool, by Johan Nohr — June 16th
Sci Fi & Cyberpunk
Hard Wired Island: A retrofuture cyberpunk game, set in the distant future of… 2020, and inspired by 90s anime, by Paul “Ettin” Matijevic (Retrocausality, Breakfast Cult) — June 14th
Powered by the Apocalypse
Hearts of Wulin: A Powered by the Apocalypse game of wuxia melodrama, by The Gauntlet Gaming Community (Codex RPG Zine, Volume 1 Hardcover) — June 17th
Film & Animation
Tales of Alethrion – Season Two!: A fantasy webseries, including an accompanying roleplaying game, by Mikkel Mainz (Tales of Alethrion – Season One, The Reward – Tales of Alethrion) — June 7th
After our scramble to keep track of the news last edition, this has been an oddly sedate week. Perhaps the RPG world is holding its breath before the weekend-long marathon of D&D Live, coming 17–19 May, along with the release of Ghosts of Saltmarsh.
Speaking of which, this week we have a few previews of Saltmarsh, along with a number of other upcoming products. We briefly had an Elder Scrolls adventure for D&D, before it turned out to have been flagrantly plagiarised. There’s also a new publisher on the scene, a D&D art documentary streaming soon, and all sorts of new releases.
We’re working on streamlining our site! If you’d like to help, consider dropping us a dollar here.
A Miscellany of News
Bethesda steals Elsweyr from elsewhere*
Bethesda, developers of the Elder Scrolls games, released a free Dungeons & Dragons adventure to celebrate the release of the Elsweyr expansion for Elder Scrolls Online. The adventure was then taken down, after it was discovered to have been plagiarised from Paige Leitman and Ben Heisler’s Adventurer’s League adventure, “The Black Road”. Ars Technica covers the story.
Inverse interviews Stan Brown, writer of the Stranger Things starter set adventure for Dungeons & Dragons, about how the adventure imagines the trauma of Hawkins kids. The article discusses a subject we’ve been seeing a great deal of lately: RPGs as therapy (see, for instance, this interview with Dr Megan Connell of Clinical Role).
1 Million square feet of battlemaps
Reddit user, Zatnikotel, challenged themselves to create 1 million square feet of Battlemaps, and has released them online.
Ghosts of Saltmarsh and D&D Live
This weekend (17–19 May) will see D&D Live 2019: The Descent, Wizards of the Coasts’ latest marathon streaming event, tied to the release of its latest adventure book, Ghosts of Saltmarsh.
Jared Knabenbauer (aka ProJared) has pulled out of the event in the wake of a messy, public divorce announcement, and accusations that he solicited nude photographs from underage fans.
Dungeons & Dragons’ latest “Spoilers and Swag” video hints at some new product announcements that will be made at the event.
We’re starting to see some previews from writers with advanced copies of Ghosts of Saltmarsh, including (WARNING: Spoilers abound here) Enrique Bertran (aka Newbie DM), Beth Rimmels (aka Brimmels) and Russ Morrissey (aka Morrus).
D&D Art Documentary
Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons, a documentary about the art and artists behind D&D which won Best Documentary at Gen Con 2018, will be streaming from this week. io9 gives us an exclusive preview, while PopGeeks interviews the creators.
Shadowrun 6th Edition Lineup
Catalyst Game Labs details the lineup for the sixth edition of Shadowrun, featuring two sourcebooks, two campaigns, and several game aids.
Legendary Games working with Paizo on Kingmaker
Legendary Games is announced as Paizo’s partner on the forthcoming Kingmaker anniversary products, which we discussed last week.
Terror Australis launch party
Chaosium is hosting a launch party in Melbourne for its Terror Australis 2nd edition sourcebook.
Previews of upcoming books
Onyx Path gives us a preview of the upcoming game Legendlore, in which players play their fantasy alter-egos.
Fantasy Flight Games announces and previews the Gadgets and Gear sourcebook for Star Wars Roleplaying.
Geek & Sundry interviews Penny Arcade about their upcoming Acquisitions Incorporated sourcebook for Dungeons & Dragons.
Modiphius releases Conan the Monolith: a sourcebook which crosses over between their Conan roleplaying game and the Conan board game by Monolith Entertainment.
D&D Beyond has expanded its bundles to allow users to buy either all the site’s D&D sourcebook content or all its adventures for a reduced price. Previously both categories could be bought together in its “Legendary Bundle”.
Noteworthy New Projects
Kingmaker 10th Anniversary: A revised version of the Kingmaker adventure path for Pathfinder 1e, 2e, and Dungeons & Dragons 5e, by Paizo Inc — May 22nd
Paizo has opted to use Game On Tabletop for this crowdfunding campaign, which has caused some controversy. The platform charges backers as soon as they pledge support, and in some cases has overcharged backers for postage. Nonetheless, it has had a strong first week, raising over $170,000 from more than 900 backers. The campaign also offers “Bestiaries” for converting the campaign to D&D 5e and Pathfinder 1e, suggesting that Paizo is attempting to cover all its bases here. No doubt they’ll be closely monitoring which system backers seem to be preferring.
Odyssey of the Dragonlords is a Greek myth-inspired 5e campaign and sourcebook developed by veteran computer RPG designers. To date, it has raised over $316,000 from over 5,700 backers — May 16th
This has been a huge week in roleplaying games, with a whole host of big announcements. We have the nominations for the Origins Awards, which feature at least one peculiar choice. We have a whole host of upcoming projects announced: Paizo are making a product for D&D 5e, Shadowrun is getting a sixth edition, Gen Con are creating pop-up conventions… Honestly, there’s more than we can keep in our heads, let alone precis!
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Origins Awards Nominees Announced
The nominees for the Origins Awards for excellence in game design have been announced. Awards are given for in several categories, including board games, but since our focus is on Roleplaying Games, we’re listing only the relevant categories here. Winners will be announced at the Origins Game Fair, which runs from 12–16 June this year.
The nominations for the Roleplaying Games category are a strange mix. We haven’t played the majority of these (and some have yet to reach UK shops), so we can’t comment on the games themselves, but this does seem to be a list attempting to compare apples with oranges. There are some deluxe editions, some starter sets, one book that seems better suited to the Supplement category, and one that we wouldn’t have thought any awards committee would touch with a 10ft pole.
Dusk City Outlaws, by Scratchpad Publishing
A game of heists and thievery in a light fantasy setting, sold as a box set, designed to be played without preparation.
Flash Gordon Limited Edition Collectors Box Set, Pinnacle Entertainment Group
An adaptation of the pulp space opera setting of Flash Gordon to Savage Worlds, sold with the usual Savage Worlds accoutrements (GM screen, dice, cards, and bennie tokens), along with battle maps.
Forbidden Lands, by Free League
A sandbox survival game in a setting which takes novel twists on classic fantasy. Free League has been something of a darling since its multi-ENnie award-winning Tales from the Loop.
Invisible Sun, Monte Cook Games
If we’re seeing some deluxe editions on the list of nominations, Invisible Sun is the deluxest. The surreal fantasy game’s box set contains an astonishing number of components, and is available for preorder at $252.
Midgard World Book, Kobold Press
Kobold Press’s Midgard campaign setting, inspired by Eastern and Central European mythology, originally built under the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition Open Gaming License. This book adapts the setting to 5e and Pathfinder.
It’s interesting that this one is nominated as a Roleplaying Game rather than a Roleplaying Game supplement. The rest of the products in this category are stand-alone games, while this book requires the core rules of D&D 5e or Pathfinder, and the Midgard Heroes Handbook, which has separate editions for each system.
Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook, Green Ronin Publishing
A stripped down, self-contained version of the 3rd Edition of Green Ronin’s superhero RPG.
Numenera Discovery/Destiny Corebook Slipcase Set, Monte Cook Games
The revised core rules and setting book for Monte Cook Games’ science fantasy game, Numenera.
Star Trek Adventures Starter Set, Modiphius Entertainment
A beginners’ box set for Modiphius’ 2D20 Star Trek roleplaying game, including rules, a short campaign, and components for play.
Uprising: The Dystopian Universe, Evil Hat Productions
A dystopian RPG, based on Evil Hat’s Fate system and set in the universe of the Coup, One Night Revolution, and The Resistance board games.
Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition, White Wolf/Modiphius Entertainment
The fifth edition of the classic game of ‘personal and political horror’.
This one is a bizarre choice as a candidate for a ‘best game’ list. The production for the game was famously disastrous, ultimately causing the original publishers, White Wolf, to be disbanded by parent company, Paradox Entertainment, after the release of its first sourcebooks. Modiphius, originally distributors for the game, have now taken over production of the game’s line, though they were not the publishers of the book nominated. Incidentally, at time of writing, the Origins nominees page incorrectly lists the game’s art team as its writers.
This one is a far less surprising list than the above: mostly made up of setting books for well-regarded RPGs, in addition to two bestiaries and a classic campaign.
Aldis: City of the Blue Rose, Green Ronin Publishing
A city sourcebook for the Blue Rose RPG.
Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyarlathotep Slipcase Set
A classic campaign for Call of Cthulhu, adapted to the game’s latest edition.
Conan: Book of Skelos, Modiphius Entertainment
A sourcebook for the Conan RPG, focused on sorcery and magic.
Creature Codex for 5th Edition, Kobold Press
A collection of monsters for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
Dungeons & Dragons: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, Wizards of the Coast
A sourcebook focused on conflicts between races in Dungeons & Dragons, including a bestiary.
Legend of the Five Rings: Emerald Empire, Fantasy Flight Games
A setting sourcebook for the Legend of the Five Rings RPG.
Star Trek Adventures: The Command Division, Modiphius Entertainment
A sourcebook for Star Trek Adventures, focused on the Command Division of Starfleet.
Starfinder: Pact Worlds, Paizo
A setting book detailing the core worlds and civilizations of the Starfinder roleplaying game.
The Dark Eye: The Warring Kingdoms – Nostria and Anderghast, Ulisses Spiele
A regional setting sourcebook for the Dark Eye roleplaying game
Traveller: The Great Rift, Mongoose Publishing
A setting book and guide to deep space exploration for the Traveller roleplaying game.
I was intrigued by a throwaway line in Ward’s article about prisoners being forbidden dice. This led me to this fascinating 2017 article about how roleplaying games are played in prison in the United States.
Owen K. C. Stephens reflects on five years at Paizo.
Michael J. Tresca talks about the She-Ra RPG Hoax, and how this has all happened before.
Paizo tests the D&D market
Paizo is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Kingmaker with an adaptation of the adventure path to Pathfinder’s second edition. Interestingly, the project also intends to work with a third party to rework the game’s Bestiary for Dungeons & Dragons 5e.
This is a very small step, but it’s big news. James has been saying for ages that Paizo ought to adapt the Pathfinder setting to D&D. Amy has been saying that they were unlikely to do so, given that Pathfinder was developed precisely because Paizo was burned by Wizards of the Coast. Working with a third party to develop a small product for 5e is a clear sign that the company is testing the waters, while outsourcing some of the risk. If this goes well, we’ll see more of this.
Big Eyes, Small Mouth returns, along with controversy
Dyskami Publishing announces the fourth edition of anime RPG, Big Eyes, Small Mouth, to be updated by its creator (and Dyskami President), Mark MacKinnon. The news has brought old controversy to the fore: MacKinnon’s previous company, Guardians of Order, went bankrupt in 2006, owing money to freelancers who had worked on its games. Several have sharply criticized MacKinnon’s handling of the situation, and his treatment of freelancers and fans.
Some background on the disgruntlement is offered by Designers & Dragons’ author Shannon Appelcline (worth following for anyone interested in RPG History). This BoardGameGeek thread from 2013 also offers some context.
Shadowrun gets a 6th Edition
Catalyst Game Labs announces the sixth edition of Shadowrun, entitled Shadowrun, Sixth World. This year marks the game’s 30th Anniversary, so there has been some speculation that we’d see an announcement of this sort.
Gen Con announces pop-up conventions
Gen Con has announced an initiative of Pop-Up Conventions in US game stores, to coincide with the main convention in August.
More details on previously announced games
Ivan Van Norman talks about the upcoming Altered Carbon RPG.
We get more previews of the upcoming Acquisitions Incorporated sourcebook.
We get a little more information about the previously-announced Labyrinth adventure game, scheduled for Q3 this year.
Upcoming digital tools
Fantasy Grounds is rebuilding its virtual tabletop system from the ground up in the Unity development platform. Apart from the new features promised in this version of the game (map painting, line of sight, Fx Layers, etc.), this is a smart move for Fantasy Grounds, generally. Unity is an industry standard for game development, making it much easier to bring in new developers to work on the tool going forward. From a user perspective, it’s also worth noting that one of Unity’s strengths is in creating cross-platform games. Fantasy Grounds is already available on PC, Mac, and Linux, but this move could also make it easier to develop mobile products going forward (though none have been announced).
R. Talsorian is teaming up with tabletop audio creators, Syrinscape, to create an official SoundSet for Cyberpunk Red. Syrinscape is already partnered with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, and Chaosium on their games.
Livestreams & Actual Plays
The schedule and cast lists for D&D Live 2019: The Descent have launched.
CollegeHumor is continuing its Dungeons & Dragons actual play, Dimension 20.
D&D cartoon models available for preorder
Iron Studios and Sideshow open pre-orders on models based on characters from the 1980s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.
Bundles & Deals
DriveThruRPG is having a sale on Dungeons & Dragons-related products.
Representation of people of colour in roleplaying games, and especially at conventions, is an urgent subject, and one that we’ve had occasion to bring up regularly. We’re delighted to see this project, featuring some incredible creators and thinkers, doing so well.
Lancer has been a tremendous success, with over 7,200 backers and having raised nearly $340,000 — a fact which appears to have taken the organisers by surprise, given the low level of the stretch goals. The game (minus art and layout) is already available for free online.
Old-School Essentials joins a crowded field of nostalgic OSR games, but has successfully raised nearly €100,000 from over 1,600 backers.
Rebels of the Drifting City: A one-shot adventure for D&D 5e in which the adventurers quest to overthrow the despotic wizards who rule a mysterious city in the sky, by Justin Spath, Space Daddy Games — May 23rd
Afterlife: Wandering Souls: a macabre fantasy roleplaying game about souls stuck in the afterlife, by Elizabeth Chaipraditkul (Familiars of Terra, WITCH) — May 31st
Traveller Fifth Edition: A reprint and reworking of the fifth edition of the Traveller roleplaying game, by Marc “Traveller” Miller (Traveller 5th Edition, GROGNARD: Ruminations On 40 Years In Gaming) — June 6th
LumaCast: Area-of-Effects: A projector tool for measuring areas of effects in RPGs, by C&C Woodsmith (Minimalist Miniatures, Character Crate) — June 1st
Sundown: A transhumanist, queerpunk roleplaying game set on a science-fantasy frontier, by Grasswatch Games — May 11th
Well, we’re back! We took an unscheduled break last week as Amy got hit with a lurgy, so this week we’re catching up with a fortnight’s worth of news. And oh, boy, has it been a big two weeks.
First off, we have the release of a number of industry and company reports from 2018 and 2019’s first quarter, showing a boom for the industry as a whole (though at least one company is struggling).
Secondly, we have the end of the record-breaking Critical Role The Legends of Vox Machina Kickstarter, and a number of reflections on what $11 million means for the show, and for the hobby as a whole.
We also get a little RPG history, three new game announcements that we are absolutely drooling over, a very cute Owl Bear, and the return of Dragon McDragonFace.
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The State of the Industry
Hobby game sales decline, but RPGs soar
ICv2 releases its estimates on Hobby Games sales for 2018. At just under $1.5 billion in the US and Canada, this is the first year since ICv2 began reports in which sales across the industry have declined. The sharpest declines have been felt in Collectible Games. Roleplaying Games (the smallest category), by comparison, have seen their biggest year of growth, seeing an 18% increase in sales.
After a rocky 2018, Hasbro Gaming sees huge growth
After a poor Q4 of 2018, Hasbro reports a 20% increase in revenue in their Gaming division (which includes D&D publisher, Wizards of the Coast) for Q1 2019. This growth is largely being driven by Magic the Gathering, and it’s clear that Wizards’ push into the streaming space is regarded as a huge success by its parent company. While there’s no mention of Dungeons & Dragons in the latest report, their 2018 report highlighted the game’s growth, and it seems safe to assume that it remains a strong (if small) product.
WoTC launches a new studio — and promises new IP
Wizards of the Coast is opening a brand new studio based in Austin, Texas, which will work on brand new intellectual properties. The studio will be headed by James Ohlen, formerly of BioWare, where he led design on games like Dragon Age: Origins and Neverwinter Nights. It’s unclear what kinds of products we’ll see coming from the studio, but we’re looking forward to seeing them create something new.
Kickstarter games hits $1 billion
Kickstarters Games (which includes computer games, boardgames, and RPGs) has now raised over $1 billion.
Paradox Interactive reports growth
Paradox Interactive (parent company of White Wolf Publishing) also reports a great year of growth. While their report makes frequent reference to the purchase of White Wolf, the roleplaying games do not feature in the report (and those sales are no doubt dwarfed by Paradox’s primary product: its video games). The Vampire: The Masquerade IP (and the upcoming sequel to Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines) are significantly more valuable to the company than the RPG publishing line.
Steve Jackson Games has another tough year
Steve Jackson Games releases its Stakeholder Report for 2018, reporting a small decline in profits. ICv2 reports that this is the company’s fourth year of declining sales.
Asmodee, parent company of Fantasy Flight Games (along with more board game lines than we can count) announces a new fiction imprint called Aconyte. We will probably see some fiction set in Fantasy Flight’s RPG settings, but personally, I’m hoping for the novelisation of Ticket to Ride.
The Critical Role Kickstarter
What raising $11 mil. means
The Critical Role animated special kickstarter closed, having raised over $11 million to bring the adventures of Vox Machina to the small screen, making it the most funded Film & TV project, and the fifth most funded project in Kickstarter’s history.
Obviously, there have been a ton of articles discussing this, but some of our favourites:
James Haeck raises the question: what does this mean for D&D? He points out that the show’s (presumably) adult content, and its distance from the D&D brand, places it in a different position to the 1980s cartoon, or any remake of it.
Internet activist Jon Lebkowsky talks about the history of Internet Activism in Austin, Texas, which includes a brief discussion of the landmark case, Steve Jackson Games vs the US Secret Service. This case, which followed a Secret Service raid on RPG publisher, Steve Jackson Games, on suspicion of hacking crimes (for which they briefly considered GURPS Cyberpunk evidence), was one of the first cases in US history to establish internet communication as speech for the purpose of free speech law, and is one of the most surreal events in RPG history.
New & Upcoming Products
Three very exciting games announced
Chris Spivey (Harlem Unbound, Cthulhu Confidential) is creating a Weird West RPG.
I’d like to draw a little more attention to that one. Spivey made his name with Harlem Unbound, an RPG which brings the Cthulhu mythos to the Harlem Renaissance. The game turns Lovecraftian horror away from its racist origins and uses it to tell stories about African-American characters. The news that he is looking to turn his pen to the Wild West was the highlight of my week.
Free League (Tales from the Loop, Coriolis) is creating an officially licensed Alien RPG.
Evil Hat (Fate, Blades in the Dark) is publishing Fate of Cthulhu, a Fate-powered game of Lovecraftian horror and time travel.
Some classic game products return
Cubicle 7 announces that the first part of their revised The Enemy Within campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay fourth edition will arrive in Quarter 3 of this year. The Enemy Within, originally released from 1986-1989 for the game’s first edition, is one of Warhammer’s best-regarded campaigns. We already reported that Cubicle 7 has brought back Gnomes to the game for the first time since the game’s first edition, so this is in line with their return to the original style of the RPG, before Games Workshop turned its focus to their miniature wargame line.
Goodman Games opens pre-orders for a Dungeon Crawl Classics sourcebook for Lankhmar, the classic fantasy city setting created by Fritz Leiber which has appeared in several RPGs, including Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
Sneak peeks and previews of upcoming games
We get a sneak preview of Dungeons & Dragons’ upcoming Ghosts of Saltmarsh, courtesy of Gale Force 9.
Paradox gives us a sneak preview of Vampire: the Masquerade — Bloodlines 2.
Matthew Dawkins gives us a little detail about the upcoming Mummy: The Curse 2nd Edition.
Chad Brown talks about the design philosophy of the second edition of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and how the game hopes to simulate the cooperation of an adventuring party better than its predecessor.
Rob Heinsoo gives us some details about WizKids forthcoming recreation of the classic Dungeons & Dragons card game, Three Dragon Ante.
Dragon+ magazine launches
The latest edition of Dragon+ magazine has been released, including an interview with our friend and RPG artist, Aviv Or.
There has been a somewhat heated debate (because of course there has) about whether published adventures should include boxed text for GMs to read aloud in game.
The Renton dragon, which earlier this month arrived in the home of Dungeons & Dragons, needs a name. Naturally, Dragon McDragonFace has been proposed. (Dragon McDragonFace was also proposed as the name for the GenCon dragon earlier this year, but cooler heads prevailed, and she was named Genevieve, or Genny for short.)
We’ve been seeing a huge number of non-English translations of products lately (especially from Chaosium), and it’s great to see one doing so well. We don’t see much in the way of English-language coverage of roleplaying outside of North America and the UK, so we’re hoping we can cover this a bit more fully in future.
Odyssey of the Dragonlords: 5th Edition Adventure Book: A setting book for D&D fifth edition combining classic fantasy and Greek mythology. The project is being led by ex-Bioware designers, James Ohlen and Jesse Sky, along with author Drew Karpyshyn, by Arcanum Worlds — May 16th
James Ohlen, Jesse Sky and Drew Karpyshyn’s portfolio has no doubt helped with this project’s launch. Ohlen, as we covered above, has been tapped by Wizards of the Coast to run their new studio. The project is has partnered with Modiphius (who partner with a lot of smaller studios. It currently has over 4,300 backers and has raised over $230,000.
Fate of Cthulhu: A Fate-powered game of Lovecraft-esque horror and time-travel, by Fred Hicks / Evil Hat (Fate) — May 21st
James’ favourite project of the fortnight: A new spin on Fate and a very different, post-apocalyptic take on RPGs set in the Lovecraft mythos, this new Evil Hat project has had a strong first week despite Evil Hat’s policy of encouraging non-US fans who want a physical copy of the book to order it directly from their local game shops rather than paying the inflated shipping costs of sending it from the US.
World’s Finest Wallet of Holding – By Gametee: A wallet designed for holding gaming supplies, by Gametee (World’s Finest Leather Notebooks for Gamers) — May 12th
Amy’s favourite project of the fortnight: We don’t normally include RPG accessories, because if we did, we’d end up drowning in campaigns for dice. We’re including this one for one simple reason: Amy really wants it.
Animal Adventures: Tales of Cats and Catacombs has more than 8,000 backers and has raised almost £230,000. While primarily a miniatures project, backers will receive PDFs for a 5E-compatible sourcebook, including rules for cat PCs, and a one-shot adventure. Closing May 1st.
This was set to be a quiet little update, with some lovely selfies, a Washington dragon, and yet more computer and board game adaptations. At the last minute, however, the ugly business of harassment in the industry raised its head again.
A Peculiar Response to Harassment
Content Warning: Links mentioned in this story contain some discussion of sexual harassment. While they are not especially graphic, links and comments within them may be or become distressing.
Steve Jackson Games have taken the peculiar stance of offering partial refunds after backers of The Fantasy Trip expressed concerns that the company had teamed up with Bill Webb and Frog God Games. Webb is a controversial figure, at the centre of a harassment scandal in 2017. While the company is offering refunds to backers who object to the partnership on ethical grounds, Steve Jackson himself nevertheless claims that they have no intention of terminating that partnership.
Editor’s Note: We became aware of this story (which seems to have been brewing for a few days) very shortly before publishing this update. The subject of how industry leaders should respond to harassment is a complicated, and vital, and we do not feel it has been treated rigorously enough in the sources we’ve given here. There has not, however, been much time for us to be especially rigorous ourselves. We hope to provide more on this story next week, and in the meantime urge you to read critically.
D&D in the Wide World
After an SNL sketch fell back on a pretty outdated portrayal of D&D fans as socially awkward, bespectacled white cis-men, fans responded with #DnDselfies showing the diversity of the hobby.
Dungeons & Dragons wins an award for the Stream of Many Eyes. The three-day streaming event to announce showcase new releases is set to become a repeat event, with “D&D Live 2019: The Descent” coming in May.
Chaosium announces that it is teaming up once more with Focus Home, who last year published the Call of Cthulhu computer game (to mediocre reviews), to produce a series of computer games based on the Call of Cthulhu RPG. Focus Home announces “an exclusive agreement for video game adaptations of [Call of Cthulhu] for the next ten years”. (So while we are still waiting for details of what Focus Home might be bringing us, we can be sure no one else is going to be working on the IP.) Focus Home’s 2018 Call of Cthulhu title will shortly be coming to Nintendo Switch.
Lancer: Lancer is a Mecha RPG combining rules-light narrative play with gritty tactical combat, by Massif Press (first project) — May 11th
Lancer has had a huge first week, raising over $200,000 from nearly 4,500 backers – presumably in part due to Tom Parkinson Morgan’s success as artist and writer of Image Comics’ Kill Six Billion Demons. The project also boasts a large number of cartoonist and illustrators working on it, including Callum Alexander Watt who has just been announced as a costume designer for Star Wars Episode IX.
Critical Role’s phenomenal Kickstarter ends this week after breaking records and shattering expectations. The animated special is no longer a one-off special but a whole series based on the hugely successful D&D live-stream. With a few days to go the project has raised nearly $10,000,000 from over 72,000 backers. It is currently the sixth biggest Kickstarter project of all time. It will be interesting to see, given the considerable interest this project has demonstrated, whether a streaming service or TV channel picks up the project. (Or perhaps the real question is, which?)
Picks of the Week
James picks Relics: A Game of Angels: I’m intrigued by a new game using the Fugue system, following on from Alas Vegas, and this looks like a good match for setting and system.
Relics: A Game of Angels: An RPG in which players play angels lost on earth, seeking meaning in a world without God (first project) — May 10th
April Fools naturally brought a string of fake products and inevitably broke a few hearts. There’s big news as Chaosium takes over publishing a classic. James gives us a look at some of the top-selling games of 2018. We take a look at tabletop RPGs becoming computer games (and some reflection on what makes tabletop RPGs better).
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The New York Times gives us an op-ed piece about how Dungeons & Dragons brings people back to face-to-face friendship in an age of online toxicity.
We get the first trailer for Black Shamrock’s adaptation of the Paranoia RPG, developed in partnership with Cyanide. As we mentioned last month, Black Shamrock is also developing an adaptation of Runequest.
Paradox Interactive are developing a new strategy computer game, and there’s a little bit of speculation that it might use the World of Darkness IP. (We’re going to bet against this one: it seems like fairly idle speculation, and the World of Darkness doesn’t strike us as particularly good fodder for a strategy game.)
Critical Role gave us a “preview” of their forthcoming Vox Machina animated series.
Some jokesters announced a She-Ra RPG and a lot of people were very, very angry when it turned out not to be real.
Chaosium “discovers” that according to a “lost” note by the RuneQuest’s creator, Greg Stafford, one of the tribes of Glorantha ride on giant weasels. (I’m sure James will try to convince me that that’s weirder than Glorantha already is.)
Green Ronin Publishing “announces” that they are adapting their superhero game, Mutants & Masterminds, to classic superhero game, Champions. (We suspect this is funnier if you know more about these games than we do!)
The fifth issue of Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans’ glorious comic of fantasy horror in an RPG, DIE, is released.
Pelgrane Press announces that the Shards of the Broken Sky campaign for 13th Age, which was commissioned in 2013, and originally slated for release in 2015, will be coming out this year, after a long and arduous publication process.
Editor’s Note: Given that our focus is on tracking broader trends in the industry, when it comes to crowdfunding, we focus more on what projects are gaining traction, rather than covering everything. So we only report on projects that have a certain level of support (which we’ve rather arbitrarily set at around 200 backers), although we include interesting projects with less support if we think it’s newsworthy. This happens to have been a quiet week, so we’re also looking back at some of the more popular projects which are finishing this week.
Four projects are ending this week which have more than 1,000 backers:
Welcome to Tikor isn’t actually an RPG — yet. The project raising funds for an imagined pre-colonial Afropunk setting and art book which will form the basis of a future RPG which is still in development. The project itself has since grown to include a professions book, a pantheons book, and a creatures book. Primarily the work of writer Brandon Dixon and artist T’umo Mere, thus far it has raised over $75,000 and has over 1,300 backers. Here’s a great interview with Dixon from Kotaku on the project.
Humblewood aims to do for birds and other woodland creatures what Pugmire did for dogs, by introducing a setting based on anthropomorphised animals into 5e. It isn’t a million miles away from the setting of the hugely popular new boardgame Root, which is also set to be developed as a roleplaying game by Magpie Games later this year. Currently more than 3,100 people have backed the project and it has raised almost $600,000.
Arcana of the Ancients by Monte Cook Games promises to port the science-fantasy of their popular Numenera game into 5e. Monte Cook himself was one of the co-developers of D&D 3e so this represents his return to the game. Currently more than 3,100 people have backed the project and it has raised over $270,000. The stretch goal for Beneath the Monolith — a campaign setting book bringing the world of Numenera to 5e — has just been unlocked.
The Ultraviolet Grasslands and the Black City is a system neutral setting book inspired by psychedelic heavy metal, the Dying Earth genre, and classic Oregon Trail games. It is the work of designer, writer, and artist Luka Rejic. So far it has almost 1,500 backers and has raised nearly $80,000.