10–16 June 2019: Origins Awards; Free RPG Day; RPGs Shape Us

And 2019 has passed the halfway mark!

This week’s update includes a number of moving pieces on gaming and the games industry, including a moving tribute to the late James Mathe, and Jim Zub’s reflections on how gaming shaped his life.

This weekend past saw the Origins Game Fair, and with it the Origins Awards. Saturday was also Free RPG Day, and James gives us some insights into how it went from the perspective of our FLGS.

There’s also a defamation suit, a Stargate RPG, a queer post-apocalypse, and more on the trade war.

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How gaming shapes us

We are saddened to learn that James Mathe, founder of RPG digital platform, RPGNow, has passed away. Steve Wieck, offers a tribute to him.

Comic book creator, Jim Zub, gives a TEDx lecture on how Dungeons & Dragons shaped his relationship with his older brother, and allowed him to find his courage and creativity.

The Atlantic spotlights a group of friends who have been playing the same Dungeons & Dragons campaigns since the early 90s.

Inverse talks about D&D Live, and Dungeons & Dragons’ popularity.

An editorial in the New York Review of Science Fiction discusses the Glorantha setting from the RuneQuest family of games.

More on the Trade War

RPG historian, Shannon Appelcline writes about how tariffs arising out of the US-China trade war will affect tabletop gaming, answering a number of questions and objections that have been raised. (We’re also cited, which is cool!)

ICV2’s Rolling for Initiative discusses the tariffs from the perspective of publishers.

The Origins Awards

This weekend saw the Origins Game Fair, at which the Origins awards were given. The RPG winners are:

  • Best Roleplaying Game: Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition (Judges & Fan Favourite)
  • Best Role-Playing Game Supplement: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes (Judges & Fan Favourite)

You can see the full list of winners here.

Free RPG Day

This weekend saw Free RPG Day, an annual event where game stores showcase RPGs with games and free products from publishers. James gives us a view on the day from our friendly local game store, Leisure Games:

It was a somewhat muted Free RPG Day this year, although I’m sure other shops’ experience will have varied.

The lack of buzz surrounding this year’s event is presumably linked to the fact that in March the event was bought from Impression’s Aldo Ghiozzi by Gaming Days LLC, a new company set up specifically for the purpose of promoting Free RPG Day. So we’re in a bit of an interregnum period. Hopefully the new owners can revive the event to ensure that it comes back bigger and better next year.

A number of the publishers who regularly participate in the event did not do so this year, and unlike previous years, there wasn’t that one item in the bundle that has people scrambling for a copy. Locally, the day has tended to be dominated by Paizo but this year the apparent lack of interest in Pathfinder 2nd Edition appears to have affected interest in the day.

Free RPG Day came about in response to the popularity of Free Comic Book Day, an event which takes place every May. Comic book publishers have become quite adept at using that event to promote all their upcoming books and storylines, hyping their giveaways months in advance.

But ultimately, roleplaying games aren’t comics. Whereas comic book publishers churn out multiple books on a monthly basis, most roleplaying publishers release just 1–6 new books over the course of each year and operate with much smaller teams, and much smaller budgets. So, roleplaying publishers wanting to make the most of the event need to think much more strategically about how to make the most of the day.

Threats from Zak S.

OSR designer, Zak S., who has been credibly accused of abuse and harassment on multiple occasions, has filed a defamation claim against one of his accusers, and threatened to sue those who repeat those claims.

We covered some of these accusations in February, but we are not going to link to the blog post in which Zak made these threats. They do not belong on this site.

Upcoming & New Products

Harper’s Tale is a series of adventures in aid of Friends of Kids with Cancer, which will be crowdfunding in September.

There is an RPG based on the Stargate TV series coming.

Free League’s Things from the Flood sourcebook for the award-winning Tales from the Loop is now available.

There is a Chinese-language edition of Call of Cthulhu coming.

Death on the Reik, the second volume in Cubicle 7’s revised Enemy Within campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, is coming in October.

Geek Native interviews Free League’s Tomas Härenstam about the upcoming Alien RPG.

Cubicle 7 is releasing Erebor Adventures for Adventures in Middle-earth in September.

Atlas Games interviews Jonathan Tweet about the latest edition of Over the Edge.

A note on upcoming computer RPG products

A great deal of ink has been spilt this week about Cyberpunk 2077, Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines 2, Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory, and Baldur’s Gate III. In fact, there has been so much news lately regarding computer RPG adaptations of tabletop RPGs, that we’re worried we might be losing our focus. Going forward we’re going to try to slim down our coverage: we may occasionally note big announcements in this area, but we’re not going to get into the minutiae as we have in the past.

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of books based in the Tékumel setting.

Monte Cook Games are having a sale on their books.

Crowdfunding News

Fantasy 5e & Pathfinder

Ultimate Kingdoms: A sourcebook for D&D 5e and Pathfinder 1st Edition, covering kingdom-building and war, by Legendary Games (Alien Bestiary, Forest Kingdom Campaign Compendium) — July 4th

Sci-fi 5e & Starfinder

Rocket Age RPG for 5e: A pulp action sci-fi system and setting, adapted to the 5e rules, by Why Not Games (Imperial Jupiter) — July 4th

Fantasy

Earthdawn 4th Edition – The Adept’s Journey: Mystic Paths: A sourcebook for Earthdawn, featuring magical organisations and disciplines, by FASA Corporation (1879, Earthdawn 4th Edition) — July 10th

Dust Wardens: A queer RPG about magic-users finding safety and community in a post-apocalyptic world, by Nora Blake — June 24th

Historical

King for a Day: Revised: An update of the system-neutral, semi-historic campaign set in a c. 800 A.D. England, by Postworldgames/Jim Pinto (Bloodwraith, Protocol Fantasy Game Omnibus) — June 27th

Forged in the Dark

Wicked Ones: Described by the creators as “Dungeon Keeper meets Blades in the Dark,” in this game you play monsters raiding human lands, by B-Design.io — July 10th

Accessories

The Roleplayer’s Guide To Heists: A system- and setting-neutral guide to heists, featuring maps, essays, and a collection of heists for various games, by San Jenaro Co-Op — July 15th

Story games

Sleepaway: A Tabletop RPG: A horror game based on the Belonging Outside Belonging system, about camp guarding their wards against nightmarish monsters, by Jay Dragon — July 5th

I’m intrigued to see how the Belonging Outside Belonging system, originally developed for Avery Alder’s Dream Askew, will work as a horror game. It’s a GM-less and diceless system (although Sleepaway does apparently involve cards as a randomizer). It’s just such a shame that physical books aren’t available outside of the US… — James

Although I’m not nearly as much of a fan of story games as James is, I’m intrigued by the rich emotional landscape suggested by this concept. Not my kind of game, but definitely my kind of story. — Amy

Cover Image: Simon Stålenhag, from Things from the Flood

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3–9 June 2019: Baldur’s Gate 3; Keanu Reeves; Yet more Vampire

Well, it’s another week, and oh, boy, is it an exciting one for the computer RPG fans! Mindflayers! Keanu Reeves! Another Vampire: The Masquerade game, or wait, is this one of the ones we’ve spoken about before honestly I can’t tell any more there are approximately three thousand now!

We can see some industry booms and busts in the form of a spotlight on rising (risen?) star Modiphius, the bankruptcy of Clockwork Publishing, and recurring fears about the impact of tariffs.

Also featuring: Third Edition history! Literary criticism! Business networking social media platforms! Luxury yachts!*

* My accountant informs me that we cannot afford a luxury yacht. If you would like to help us get one (and more importantly, keep making this site), please support us on Ko-fi.

Computer Game News

As was hinted at last week, Larian Studios, creators of Divinity: Original Sin, announces Baldur’s Gate 3, the long-awaited third title in the famous Dungeons & Dragons computer RPG series, this time based on 5th Edition rules. Larian also gave us a very grizzly trailer for the game.

Content warning: Gruesome body horror. Hide your kids and/or boss.

The Cyberpunk 2077 computer game cinematic trailer is out, and it features… Keanu Reeves?

There’s also news on two World of Darkness computer game adaptations, but we’ll get to that below.

The World of Darkness continues to spread

Primer for new readers: The World of Darkness is a line of RPGs originally developed in the 90s, featuring (primarily) horror in a modern setting. Of those games, Vampire: The Masquerade is easily the most famous, followed by Werewolf: The Apocalypse. The company who developed the game, White Wolf, were dissolved by parent company, Paradox Interactive, after a series of controversies related to Vampire’s 5th (and latest) edition.

Geek Pride interviews Matthew Dawkins (a.k.a. The Gentleman Gamer) about Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition, and Onyx Path Games’ role now that Modiphius has taken over the game’s core production.

Image: Draw Distance

There is yet another Vampire: The Masquerade computer game coming, this time a Telltale-style story game.

This is a new one, right? Honestly, there have been so many new Vampire products announced in the past few months, that I have lost track. At some point, we’ll need to do a roundup of all the upcoming products set in the World of Darkness. As I intimated last month, I am somewhat sceptical of how Paradox Interactive intends to make good on its promise to keep better control of the IP when it has been licensed to so many different companies.

Variety gives us details on the forthcoming Werewolf: The Apocalypse computer game from Bigben and Cyanide.

This blog post talks about reading the various iterations of Vampire: The Masquerade as social commentary, particularly on capitalism.

The state of the industry

ICV2 interviews Chris Birch, CEO of RPG publisher and distributor, Modiphius, about the company’s history, its present scope, and the state of the industry. If you read one article on the industry this week, it should be this one.

Board game and RPG designer, Mike Selinker, writes about how the US-China trade war will affect the board games industry.

ICV2’s Rolling for Initiative talks about how tariff increases in Canada impacted a game store in Ottawa: perhaps a warning regarding how the present protectionist climate could affect hobby shops.

The UK Games Expo reports an 18% increase in attendance for 2019, and maintains its position as the world’s third-largest tabletop gaming convention (although with Origins this weekend, we could see that change).

Dark Conspiracy publisher, Clockwork Publishing, has gone bankrupt.

Meredith Gerber and Joseph Carriker have compiled a list of LGBTQ+ creators in the RPG industry.

RPG History

The Gauntlet continues its history of licensed RPGs.

Ars Magica and 13th Age co-designer, Jonathan Tweet, begins a series of monthly columns on EN World with a history of how the Third Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, for which he was the lead designer, came about.

The nature of roleplaying games

Paste Magazine reflects on the differences between Dungeons & Dragons as streamed, and Dungeons & Dragons as played, and what this new era of game-as-performance means for the hobby.

SyFy Wire talks to Mike Mearls about how Dungeons & Dragons incorporates monsters from folklore into the game.

LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman, talks about what Dungeons & Dragons and RuneQuest taught him about strategy.

Upcoming Products & New Releases

R. Talsorian have announced a delay on the release of Cyberpunk Red, but also announce a Jumpstart Kit for the game.

Onyx Path releases Scion 2nd Edition.

A French-language edition of RuneQuest is crowdfunding soon.

Kieron Gillen, author of the grim fantasy RPG comic, DIE, launches an open beta for the game’s own RPG.

Jobs

Pelgrane Press is looking for an Administrative Assistant.

Deals & Bundles

Bundle of Holding launches a bundle of Mutant Epoch books.

Crowdfunding News

Fantasy 5e & Pathfinder

Fantastic Adventures: Ruins of the Grendleroot for 5e: A set of ten underground adventures for 5e, by Mike Shea (Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, Sly Flourish’s Fantastic Adventures for 5e) — July 3rd

Fearsome Foes: And Where to Fight Them Relaunch: A collection of unusual, high CR monsters for 5e, by Joshua Greer — July 8th.

This is a relaunch of a project which did not meet its funding target. The new project has half the funding goal, the reduced cost being due to them no longer printing physical copies of the book, which instead will be an optional extra. It will be interesting to see if this approach is successful.

Sci-fi 5e & Starfinder

Amazing Adventures 5E RPG: A set of 5e-based rules for playing RPGs in multiple genres, including modern fantasy, pulp adventure, and science-fiction genres, by Stephen Chenault/Troll Lord Games (Castles & Crusades, 5th Edition Players’ Guide to Aihrde) — July 2nd

General Fantasy

The StoryMaster’s Tales “Weirding Woods”: A hybrid RPG, adventure game and board game, in a dark fairytale setting, by Oliver McNeil (Cthulhu & Horror Soundscapes, Fantasy Soundscapes) — June 30th

Remarkable Shops & Their Wares: A systemless guide to creating shops in fantasy RPGs, by LoreSmyth (Remarkable Inns & Their Drinks, Dungeon Discoveries) — July 4th

This has had the biggest launch of the week, with nearly 900 backers raising almost €29,000. Not bad for a systemless book about shopping! It looks to be a very attractive book to be fair, and is building off of the back of LoreSmyth’s previous book about inns. — James

James may be surprised, but I’m not. I reckon you could draw a direct connection between the existence of Pumat Sol and the success of this Kickstarter. Everyone loves a good shopping episode. — Amy

27 May–2 June 2019: UK Games Expo; Unsafe Gaming; RPGs on screen

Welcome to Pride month, everybody! From our queer hearts to yours, we hope you have a safe and happy one.

This past weekend was the UK Games Expo, the largest gaming convention in the UK. Unfortunately, the big news coming out of the con is an incident involving distressing content in one of the con games.

There’s a lot of news this week about RPGs on TV and in computer games, with a few histories of old adaptations, and a few announcements of new ones.

And as always, there’s also some RPG history, some sneak peeks, a bundle of books, and a bunch of new kickstarters.

Help us live keep the air-con lights on and the champagne water flowing by supporting us on Ko-fi.

(Un-)safe gaming

Content Warning: This story contains discussion of sexual assault as a subject in RPGs. Although we have not linked directly to any explicit content, comments and replies are upsetting in places. Browse with care. If you’d like to skip to the rest of the news, click here.

The UK Games Expo took place this weekend, and the line-up of RPGs was marred by one particular game. An RPG event, run using Free League’s Tales from the Loop (though not organised by Free League), included (without warning) a scene in which the player characters were raped, to the distress of the players.

One of those players, Anjuli (a.k.a. GeekGirlBookWorm), tweeted about the game, prompting a wide outcry, and a discussion regarding player safety at the convention, and in RPGs generally. This caught the attention of the mainstream media, and the incident was reported on (sensationally and with errors) by a handful of national newspapers.

We were able to connect with Anjuli to get some perspective on the incident. Although some steps taken by the convention to ensure safe play seem to have failed (the GM running the game in question was the room officer, and other channels for communicating issues seem to have been unclear or unavailable), Anjuli was impressed by the way the incident was handled by the Expo’s directors once they became aware of it.

The GM’s games were cancelled, and he was expelled from the convention. As a result of these events, the Expo’s directors are reviewing their game submission process, as well as their safety procedures going forward. Anjuli is hopeful that these steps will yield a safer experience for players in future.

I am taking it as read here that it is a bad thing to unexpectedly introduce sexual assault at a table, where it is likely to trigger trauma for many players. Assuming that you’re willing to acknowledge the need to play games in ways which avoid psychological harm, there are a number of tools for enabling players to communicate discomfort safely: Breakout Con has a good list of some of the more popular methods, which they use at their convention.

RPGs on Screens

There’s an animated series based on Magic: The Gathering coming to Netflix. Although this is not strictly RPG news, it will be interesting to see what this could mean for certain other Wizards of the Coast properties…

CBR gives us a history of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, and calls for a Dungeons & Dragons TV show to replace Game of Thrones.

EN World gives us a list of RPG-themed episodes in cartoons.

Gamereactor gives us a history of the Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines computer game, and its oft-forgotten predecessor, Redemption.

Wizards of the Coast and mobile games developer, Ludia, launch Warriors of Waterdeep, a free-to-play turn-based RPG.

Laria Studios, makers of Divinity: Original Sin 2, might be hinting a new Baldur’s Gate game.

We get some details about the enhanced editions of Baldur’s Gate and other classic Dungeons & Dragons computer games coming to console later this year.

RPG History

James Ward discusses the history of the Deities and Demigods rulebook for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, a book which became the centre of a conflict over copyright for its use of material from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos and Michael Moorcock’s Melnibonéan mythos.

Game historian, Shannon Appelcline talks about the economics of manufacture in board games, focusing on the scarcity of Elizabeth Hargrave’s Wingspan. We don’t ordinarily report on board game news, but there’s some wisdom here that’s relevant to roleplaying games, and a glimpse at the near-collapse of RPG publisher, Chaosium, in the mid 90s.

Games Awards

The UK Games Expo gave out its awards for the best games of the year. These included several RPG categories, including:

  • Best Role-playing Game: Forbidden Lands, by Free League
  • Best Role-playing Expansion: Adventures in Middle-earth Bree-land Region Guide, by Cubicle 7 Games
  • Best Role-playing Adventure: The Cthulhu Hack: Valkyrie Nine, by All Rolled Up
  • Best New Accessory: Giant Book of Battlemaps, by Loke BattleMats

Meanwhile, self-nominations are now open for judges for the 2020 ENnies. Previous panels for these awards have drawn criticism for their lack of diversity: this year, for instance, the panel is entirely male.

If you know any women, people of colour or LGBT folk who should be judging, please encourage them to apply. We desperately need better representation at the ENnies.

Upcoming Products

Comicbook.com talks to Nathan Stewart, senior director of Dungeons & Dragons, about the recently announced Essentials Kit. The discussion gives us an interesting glimpse at company strategy. By collaborating with discount department chain, Target, to sell a product designed to introduce single players to the game, the company is clearly pushing to expand the game even further into the mainstream.

Cubicle 7 gives us more details about the rules of its Warhammer: Age of Sigmar tabletop RPG, Soulbound.

Last weekend was PaizoCon, and Paizo offered some sneak previews of Pathfinder Second Edition to drum up excitement for the game’s release in August.

Cubicle 7 announces a massive, 10-book collectors edition of its revised Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign, The Enemy Within.

Shadowrun Line Developer, Jason Hardy, talks about the development of Sixth World, the game’s sixth edition.

R. Talsorian details the Jumpstart Kit for its forthcoming Cyberpunk Red.

Deals and Bundles

Bundle of Holding is offering a bundle of Fantasy Hero products.

Crowdfunding News

Closing Soon

Traveller Fifth Edition: this project has raised over $135,000 from over 1,000 backers. Led by Marc Miller, the original creator of Traveller, it is a reprint and tweak of Traveller5, which was originally published in 2013. This is not to be confused with Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller 2nd edition, which is also currently in print (after 45 years, the publishing history of a lot of the “classic” RPGs has now got extremely convoluted) — June 6th.

General Fantasy

The Dark Eye – Magic of Aventuria: A supplement for The Dark Eye, featuring new spells, as well as setting material and an adventure, by Ulisses Spiele (The Dark Eye, TORG Eternity) — June 18th

Savage Worlds

The After: A sci-fi, post-apocalyptic savage frontier setting for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, by Jon Gibbons/Jade Monkey Studios — June 21st

Urban Fantasy / Horror

Quietus: A no-prep game of melancholic horror with rules inspired by the Forged in the Dark system, by Oli Jeffery — June 30th

This looks very interesting to me. Having just finished (paused) our latest Scum & Villainy campaign, also Forged in the Dark, I can see how the system could be skewed to a horror game. Plus, the production on this one looks very slick. — James

Film and Animation

JourneyQuest 4: The fourth season of the fantasy comedy series, by ZombieOrpheus (Attacking the Darkness, Strowlers Preludes) — July 13th

I feel a sense of nostalgic duty toward Zombie Orpheus, the production company behind amateur gamer-related cult films like Gamers: Dorkness Rising. The stuff they make is weird, low budget, kind of hammy, and a little cringeworthy at times, but I’ll probably be quoting them in my head until the day I die. Flaming hand of fiery doom. I seduce the priestess! — Amy