The US-China trade war, the cost of paper, and the economics behind roleplaying games

Since early 2018, the United States has been in the grips of a trade war with China. A series of escalating tariff increases on imports between the two countries has hit both hard, along with the global economy. After a short truce, negotiations appear to have failed, and President Donald J. Trump has announced plans to increase tariffs on new categories of products to 25%.

Those categories include books, dice, cards, and miniatures: the core components of roleplaying games.

I spoke to a few of the people behind some of our favourite games to get their views on what impact the tariff increase might have on the RPG industry. What I got was a glimpse at the economics behind the games we play, and why the price of roleplaying games may be rising — for more complicated reasons.

What is going on?

The complexities of the US’s trade relations with China are beyond the scope of this article, so it’s not something I’m going to go into in any detail here. In short, the Trump administration is presently engaged in a trade war with China.

Here’s Vox’s take on the Trade War.

Essentially, the US has raised tariffs (i.e. taxes) on certain Chinese imports in an attempt to weaken the Chinese economy, ostensibly motivated by unethical practices in China. China has retaliated with its own tariffs on US imports. While there was briefly hope in the form of negotiations, these have broken down, and in the wake, the US has announced tariffs on further imports.

Now, for obvious reasons, what I’m going to talk about here is purely the effect of this trade war on roleplaying games. It would seem disingenuous, however, for me to venture into this subject without acknowledging the severity of the situation.

Tariffs on Chinese imports are already having an impact on American consumers, which will be particularly hard on the poorest citizens, and the hit to US exports is endangering the livelihoods of American farmers. This is to say nothing of other ills inflicted by the current administration. There’s a lot to worry about right now, and roleplaying games are the smallest part of it.

Nevertheless, roleplaying games are our focus here, so let’s talk about how the tariffs will affect them.

Who does this affect?

China is famous as a powerhouse of manufacture, and this plays a huge role in the hobby games industry. The majority of the components of boardgames and roleplaying games, from dice to GM screens, cardboard tokens to miniatures, are produced in China. The complexity of many modern boardgames is also often only possible because Chinese factories have developed the capability to produce all their components in a single place, and to do so cheaply enough to allow for the prices that gamers expect.

A stack of products for Modiphius' John Carter of Mars
Boxed games and accessories are often produced in China, which is able to manufacture those products at a cost that is acceptable to consumers.

But books are at the heart of roleplaying games, and in addition to its position in manufacturing, China also has a massive (and highly competitive) printing industry. Not all game books are printed in China, but a significant number are, and for those publishers, an unexpected increase in costs (due to hit as soon as the end of June) is a threatening prospect.

For 13th Age and GUMSHOE publisher, Pelgrane Press, this has come at a bad time. Co-owner, Cat Tobin, tells us that after years of printing exclusively in the United States, Pelgrane has just received its first print run from China. The company made the decision after its two US printers both raised their prices by between 10 and 15 percent, citing a worldwide paper shortage leading to rising paper costs.

The cost of paper is a subject I’m going to come back to.

Now, facing a possible 25% tariff on future books, Pelgrane, who have had poor experiences working with printers in other countries, will likely need to turn back to US printers, and may be forced to raise the price of their books. There are also limitations, should they choose to do so: US printers are often unable to produce heavy-duty GM screens, slipcases, and box sets, at prices that customers will be willing to pay, while Chinese printers have built up the capacity to do so.

“The range of products we’re able to make has just opened up to us, and now it’s suddenly been shut down,” Tobin says.

Industry veteran, Chaosium (Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest), could well be hit hard as well. “The tariffs affect basically everything Chaosium produces, in one way or another,” company president, Rick Meints tells us. As the company prepares for this possibility, they’re looking at printers in a number of countries, including India, Indonesia, and Eastern Europe.

Covers for various RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu RPG books on display in a game store.
Chaosium games like RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu are largely printed in China.

Evil Hat Productions (Fate, Blades in the Dark) have had better luck in terms of timing, co-founder, Fred Hicks tells us. They print their books in the USA, and their latest run of dice and token products arrived from China before the tariffs entered the picture. Should the tariffs go into effect, they will have time to strategise before they need to restock.

Hicks is concerned, however, about what this could mean for new publishers, and fledgeling game makers: “It’s potentially disastrous for, say, folks who’ve Kickstarted a game that’s going to be manufactured in China but won’t be getting onto the water until after the tariffs are in effect. Suddenly finding out you need 25% more than you actually raised is seriously bad times, and if that’s an inaugural product for a fledgling publisher, it could kill the dream right then and there.”

What’s going to happen

We don’t yet know whether these tariffs will go into effect. One publisher seemed confident that they won’t. Others seemed certain that they would. Part of the problem is the unpredictability of the US president: we just don’t know when there will be a return to the negotiating table.

Some publishers are hoping that the Game Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA) will step in to lobby against these tariffs, as they have done before, possibly in conjunction with lobbyists from the more lucrative toy industry (whose products are also affected in this wave of tariffs).

Certainly, GAMA is concerned about the effects of these tariffs, and executive director, John Stacy, claims they are “doing what they can“, but with the possibility that the tariffs will come into effect at the end of June, there isn’t much time to mobilise before higher costs hit publishers.

One other hope I heard expressed is that other factors in the economy will serve to offset the trade war. As the Chinese Yuan strengthens against the US Dollar, for instance, Chinese manufacturers may be able to lower their prices to hold on to business from US companies hit by the tariffs.

But there’s a strong chance that publishers will face higher manufacturing costs.

How the cost is passed on

Profit margins in the RPG industry are extremely narrow, meaning that if publishers’ costs rise, they will almost certainly need to raise their prices. “A lot of companies will be crunching the numbers,” Meints predicts, “We hope not to have to raise our prices, but we want to make a living. That will be tougher with a 25% increase to the cost.”

If publishers have to raise their prices, then distributors will have to pass that cost on to retailers. For small retailers, this is potentially disastrous. An increase in cover prices at game stores is likely to turn customers to Amazon, whose scale puts it in a better position to withstand changes like this.

“Usually, at the end of the day, it’s the retailers that suffer,” Chris Birch, co-founder of Modiphius (Star Trek Adventures, Fallout: Wasteland Warfare), warns.

A fish-eyed photograph of a hobby shop, with boardgames set out on the table, and the blurred figure of a shopper picking out a game book.
Friendly local game stores could be hit hard by rising prices.

For everyone involved, a price increase will mean less room for other risks. Retailers will buy only products they know they can sell to customers at a profit, distributors will buy only what they can sell to retailers, publishers will make only what they can sell to distributors. Birch’s prediction seems likely: “This is going to make it worse for the games that aren’t in massive demand, and I don’t think it will matter at all to the games that are in massive demand.”

Even if these tariffs don’t go through, publishers seem to be shaken by the threat, and we will see them proceed more cautiously for as long as the present attitude of protectionism remains in the White House.

It has already affected the strategy at Evil Hat, as Fred Hicks tells us: “Certainly this President’s love of tariffs was somewhere in mind in our decision to pull back from board and card games. The possibility that this would hit the game industry was more when than if. Ultimately it was a safe bet that this administration was going to be more of an enemy to American businesses than any other.”

Boxed games by small publishers, like Alex Roberts’ recent, groundbreaking game, Star Crossed, are likely to become riskier endeavours if the trade war continues.

The cost of paper

Although the trade war was at the front of everyone’s mind, the concern in the back of everyone’s mind was a different one: the rising cost of paper. Most gamers don’t think too much about the cost of the raw materials behind our games, but it turns out to be a massive concern for the people making them, because it is a cost which is rising exponentially, and (with the possible exception of rising fuel prices), it seems to be the biggest factor behind rising prices in the industry.

There are a number of factors behind these rising costs. One industry report labelled it a “perfect storm” of environmental and social pressures. Storms are, in fact, a part of the problem: the last three years of violent storms in the US have hit the country’s paper mills hard, forcing many to close or halt production.

Simultaneously, concerns about climate change, and the resulting push away from plastic toward recyclable packaging have put stress on supplies of paper and pulp. Since producers of packaging can buy in massive quantities, this has raised the price of paper for book printers considerably.

Recyclable packaging is not the only ‘green’ issue here. Paper manufacture is a huge contributor to pollution, because the chemicals used to produce it are extremely environmentally harmful. If we see a global push against pollution — and with the threat of climate change, we have to hope we do — then a move to greener paper production will also raise costs.

Chris Birch points out that unless we develop cheaper ways to produce environmentally friendly games, we will inevitably see prices go up:

“The big push for recyclable and green products is going to kick off, especially with the huge pressure on us to change things or die. That price is going to be passed down to the consumer. It might be that we’ve been really lucky to be in this mega-consumer culture. Maybe that’s going to come to an end. It’s the price of saving the planet.”

What makes our games

The unstable nature of global politics makes it impossible to predict what is going to happen next. The tariffs may go ahead, or they may not. The trade war may change what publishers can make, or it might not. Maybe this will cause us to turn to PDFs and other digital formats, or maybe publishers will simply turn to other printers. The price of paper will almost certainly continue to rise, but it is hard to see how this might be offset by other factors.

But whatever happens, it’s going to ripple through game publishers, and distributors, and it will touch our friendly local game stores, and our favourite livestreamers, and our weekly game nights.

The global economics behind the games industry are often easy for us to ignore, as gamers, but the fact is that they shape the games we play. This trade war could give us a sharp lesson to that effect if we see prices rise and games not being made — or, worse, creators losing jobs, or companies closing their doors.

But the economics of our games are complicated. The people who make our games aren’t just thinking about tariffs and paper prices. They’re also thinking about the cost of fuel, the environmental impact of plastic, the unionisation of creative professionals, the strength of international currencies. None of which I thought about the last time I bought a book. I’ll probably think about it the next time.

Especially if the price seems a little steep.

Sincerest thanks to Cat Tobin, Chris Birch, Fred Hicks, and Rick Meints for taking the time to talk to us on this subject.

Want to help us make more articles like this? Please consider dropping us a dollar on our Ko-fi.


13–19 May 2019: Trade War, D&D Live Announcements, Satanic Panic

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.

Polygon discusses the situation with the Game Manufacturer’s Association.

We’ll have more on this subject later in the week.

Want to help us weather the trade war with our incorrigible RPG habit intact? Consider supporting us on Ko-Fi.

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

Critical Role is teaming up with The Late Show host, Stephen Colbert, for a one-on-one Dungeons & Dragons adventure, in aid of Red Nose Day. Those donating to the campaign can vote on key aspects of the adventure, which will air on May 23rd.

More Vampire adaptations

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.

RPG History

The National Library of Scotland has launched a retrospective collection of essays and multimedia focused on the 1980s. Included in the first run of essays is a discussion of Dungeons & Dragons and the Satanic Panic, and how it resonates with our modern day experience of fake news hysteria.

Tales of Mystara gives us a look at the Japanese-language translation of the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia, from 1994.

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?

Andrew Logan Montgomery talks about the significance of Chaosium’s Pendragon RPG.

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.

Kickstarter refuses to recognise union

Kickstarter has announced that it will not recognise Kickstarter United, a labour union organised by its staff.

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.

Third-party Publishing

SyFy discusses DM’s Guild and third-party publishing in RPGs.

A view on the Russian RPG Scene

EN World interviews RPG designer Gleb Igumnov about the RPG scene in Russia.

D&D and Social-Emotional Learning

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.

Crowdfunding News

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.

Fungi of the Far Realms – a fictional fungal field guide: An illustrated encyclopedia of, and system-neutral sourcebook to, fictional mushrooms, by Danil Sell/Melsonian Arts Council (TROIKA!, Crypts of Indormancy) — June 12th

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…

Closing Soon

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

Ultramodern5, a 5E universal sci-fi sourcebook: The second edition of a set of rules for playing sci-fi games in 5e, by Chris Dias (Amethyst – Fantasy & Technology Collide) — June 13th


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

6–12 May 2019: Plagiarism, Saltmarsh, Beholder

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.

* Yes, I know I’m going to hell for that pun.

Andrews McMeel joins the RPG industry

Publisher and syndicator, Andrews McMeel Universal is launching a new roleplaying game line, to be led by Daniel D. Fox (Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG).

The Stranger Things starter set and trauma

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.

Upcoming Products

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 trailer

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

Cover for "Shadowrun: The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia"

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.

New Releases

Modiphius releases Conan the Monolith: a sourcebook which crosses over between their Conan roleplaying game and the Conan board game by Monolith Entertainment.

Fantasy Flight releases the Rise of the Separatists era sourcebook for Star Wars Roleplaying.

Green Ronin releases the PDF version of the Modern Age Companion.

Deals and Bundles

Bundle of Holding is offering two Sci-Fi Savage Worlds bundles: one centred on The Last Parsec, the other centred on Seven Worlds.

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”.

Crowdfunding News

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.

Closing Soon

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

5e & Pathfinder

Spaceships & Starwyrms: A 5e Sci-Fi Game: A generic science fiction game based on D&D 5e, by Audrey Stolze — May 31st

Fearsome Foes: And Where to Fight Them: A collection of monsters and their environments for D&D 5e, intended to provide unique encounters for experienced players, by Joshua Greer — June 5th

Five Torches Deep: A game bringing roguelike, resource-focused style of play to D&D 5e, by Sigil Stone Publishing (Belly of the Beast RPG, Perseverant RPG) — June 6th


Four Perilous Journeys: New Adventures for The Fantasy Trip: Four new adventures for Steve Jackson Games’ The Fantasy Trip, by Douglas H. Cole (Dungeon Grappling) — June 9th

Urban Fantasy / Horror

The ORPHEUS Protocol: A roleplaying game of cosmic horror and paramilitary occult espionage, based on an original system developed over the course of an Actual Play, by Rob Stith — June 7th

Story Games

SPARK: The Magic of Storytelling: A game using music and images to tell collaborative stories, by Christopher Jones — May 17th

Facing the Titan: A GMless roleplaying story game about heroes fighting a Titan, and the cost of doing so, by Nicolas “Gulix” Ronvel — May 27th

29 April–5 May 2019: Origins Awards Nominations, Pathfinder for D&D 5e, Shadowrun 6

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!

Like our updates? Consider supporting us by sharing this with your friends, or buying us a coffee.

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.

Roleplaying Games

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.

Roleplaying Supplements

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.

RPG History

James Ward’s column on Dungeons & Dragons history gives us a few stories about dice production at TSR.

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.

DM David gives us some history of the Grimtooth’s Traps books.

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.

Upcoming Releases

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.

Cam Banks is announced as editor on the upcoming Alien 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.

Bundle of Holding offers a bundle of Neoclassical Geek Revival products.

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy New Projects

Fantasy Grounds Unity: A reworking of the Fantasy Grounds virtual tabletop, built from the ground up in Unity, by SmiteWorks — May 30th

This Kickstarter has had a tremendous first week, thanks mainly due to the popularity of the existing Fantasy Grounds platform and significant growth of online and computer-assisted play.

Babble On Equity Project: A campaign to send people of colour to Big Bad Con, Babble On Equity Project.

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.

Closing Soon

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.

Rifts® for Savage Worlds: American Armageddon continues PEG’s growing line of Rifts books for people who don’t want to use the Rifts system. It has raised nearly $200,000 from 1,700 backers.

5e & Pathfinder

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

Monsters of the Underworld for 5th Edition: A collection of Underworld monsters and lore for D&D 5e, by Cawood Publishing (World of Myrr, Monsters of Feyland) — May 29th

Empire of the Ghouls: A 5th edition campaign against the undead, featuring new monsters and player options, by Kobold Press (Tales of the Old Margreve, Creature Codex: 5th Edition Monsters) — May 31st


Trilemma Adventures Compendium: A compendium of systemless, old school style locations for fantasy role-playing games, by Michael Prescott — May 31st

General Fantasy

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

15–28 April 2019: RPG Industry Booming, Critical Role lands $11 million, Chris Spivey takes on the Weird West

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.

Want these updates sent to your inbox instead? Sign up here.

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.

WaPo on D&D’s popularity

The Washington Post reports on D&D’s popularity. We could quibble with a few of the finer points of this story (and some have), but it is a lovely testament to why we play.

Asmodee announces a fiction imprint

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: interviews Sam Riegel on the show’s past and future.

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.

IGN gives us some of the cast’s reflections on the kickstarter.

Six years and counting…

Meanwhile, the cast celebrated the 6th anniversary of the home game that would become the live show.


A little D&D history

Robb Minneman gives us a fantastic article on the tonal differences across different editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

Keith Baker and Bill Slavicsek discuss the origins of the Eberron campaign setting.

Cubicle 7 turns 10

Cubicle 7 celebrates its 10 year anniversary. GeekDad gives us a breakdown of the games they make.

RPGs, Hacking, and Constitutional Law

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.

Art from Free League’s forthcoming Alien RPG. (Image: Free League Publishing)

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

Cover art from Enemy in the Shadows, Part 1 of the Enemy Within Campaign, featuring a goblin being chased through a carnival.

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.

Monte Cook Games wants you to have better games

Monte Cook Games’ book of player and GM advice, Your Best Game Ever, is available for preorder.

Gaming in spaaaaaaaaace

WizKids and Paizo announce a partnership to create the Starfinder Battles line of miniatures.

Fantasy Flight Games releases the Allies and Adversaries sourcebook of NPCs their Star Wars Roleplaying Game.

RPG-related products

The Mountain Goats’ Dungeons & Dragons-inspired album, In League With Dragons dropped.

The Owl Bear figurine from Ultra-Pro (Image: Ultra-Pro)

Ultra-Pro announces the “Figurines of Adorable Power“, a series of Funko-Pop-style figurines featuring Dungeons & Dragons monsters.

Deals and Bundles

Humble Bundle releases a bundle of 3D-printable models for RPGs.

In honour of the start of the final season of Game of Thrones, Bundle of Holding teams up with Green Ronin to release a bundle of products for the A Song of Ice and Fire RPG.

Bundle of Holding releases a bundle of games by Jason Morningstar, focused around his game of Coen-esque farce, Fiasco.

Cubicle 7 is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a sale on DriveThruRPG.


Wizards of the Coast seeks a Brand Manager in Italy.

Virtual Tabletop

Virtual tabletop, Astral Tabletop, gets a redesign, and partners up with DriveThruRPG.

On May 1st, Roll20 will be permanently reducing its prices on certain Dungeons & Dragons products.

Fun Stuff

The Daily Fandom talks about the rise of D&D-related comics.

There’s a Disney-related Easter Egg in the D&D Monster Manual.

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.)

Crowdfunding News

Noteworthy Projects

A Korean translation of Chaosium’s Masks of Nyarlathotep is breaking crowdfunding records.

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.

Closing Soon

Party Backstory Generator for 5e and Other Systems has raised nearly $40,000 from over 1,400 backers. It promises a comprehensive and collaborative way to develop character backstories and campaign setting material. Closing April 30th.

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.

Ultimate Bestiary: The Dreaded Accursed for 5th Edition! has raised nearly $110,000 from nearly 2,700 backers. Another monster manual, this one has a focus on the undead. Its success seems to largely stem from the reception of Nord Games’ previous projects. Closing May 3rd.

5e & Pathfinder

The Koryo Hall of Adventures 5e Compatible Campaign Setting: A Korea-inspired campaign setting for D&D fifth edition, by Aurelien Laine — May 16th

The Adventurer’s Guide to Theria Volume 1: A setting book based on the “Dungeons and Randomness” actual play podcast, by Jason Massey (Dungeons and Randomness) — May 20th


Old-School Essentials: A rules-light old-school style RPG compatible with the 1980s Basic and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, by Necrotic Gnome — May 12th

Savage Worlds

Rifts® for Savage Worlds: American Armageddon: Three new worldbooks for the Rifts game for Savage Worlds, which funded in seven minutes, by Shane Hensley / Pinnacle Entertainment Group (Rifts for Savage Worlds, Deadlands Noir) — May 7th

Punchy Punchy

Fight! 2nd Edition: The second edition of a game designed to tell stories in the arcade fighting game genre, by Christopher Peter — May 16th

Powered by the Apocalypse

Once Upon a Time in Jianghu: A wuxia-inspired Powered by the Apocalypse game, by Ben Woerner (Nighty Knights the RPG, A World of Dew) — May 14th

Urban Fantasy/Horror

Monsterpunk: A post-apocalyptic RPG of humans making pacts with, and becoming, monsters, by Gegenschein Games (Battle Century G – A Cinematic and Tactical Mecha RPG) – May 6th

Dark Conspiracy – A Roleplaying Game of Supernatural Horror: A reworking of a classic GDW game of horror in a dystopian future, Uhrwerk Verlag (Space: 1889) — May 8th

The Cthulhu Alphabet: A reference guide for Lovecraftian horror design, by Goodman Games (Dungeon Crawl Classics) — May 22nd


One Child’s Heart: An empathy-building game about children’s mental health, by Camdon Wright — May 16th

A Town Called Malice – A Nordic Horror Story Game: A game of Nordic noir and small-town horror, by Monkeyfun Studios, LLC (Bedlam Hall, Spirit of 77) — May 24th

8–14 April 2019: #DnDSelfie, Cthulhu Computer Games, Ethics

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.

Renton, Washington, home of Wizards of the Coast, gets a massive dragon installation.

“Creepy isn’t a crime. Neither is D&D.”

D&D Beyond releases stats on the most-used spells in Dungeons & Dragons.

More Adaptations

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.

The latest Vampire: The Masquerade gets yet another adaptation as Everything Epic announces a megagame based on the product. We’re already expecting a new computer game and a legacy board game based on the White Wolf RPG.


Cubicle 7 is hiring freelance writers for The One Ring and Adventures in Middle-earth.

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding gives us two bundles of Rifts products.

Onyx Path are running a sale on their 20th Anniversary World of Darkness books.

New Releases

Onyx Path releases Gods & Monsters for Mage: The Awakening 20th Anniversary Edition.

The delayed RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha Slipcase arrived.

Check out other New Releases at our FLGS, Leisure Games!

Crowdfunding News

Notable Projects

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: The Legend of Vox Machina Animated Special: An animated show based on the first campaign of the world’s most popular actual play, by Critical Role (first project) — April 19th

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

Amy picks Critical Role: The Legend of Vox Machina Animated Special: I know we can’t shut up about this one, but it is still absolutely incredible to me than an animated show based on a live-stream of a D&D game raised nearly $10 million in funding from a global community of fans.

5e & Pathfinder

Ultimate Bestiary: The Dreaded Accursed for 5th Edition! A bestiary of undead and cursed monsters for D&D 5e, by Nord Games (Ultimate Bestiary: Revenge of the Horde!) — May 3rd

Reroll: Visual Character Sheet App for 5e DnD: A digital character sheet app featuring a pixel art character generator, by Team Reroll (first project) — May 21st


The Umerican Road Atlas and Umerica Unnatural: Two sourcebooks for the gonzo post-apocalyptic Dungeon Crawl Classics setting, Umerica, by Reid San Filippo (The Umerican Survival Guide) — May 7th

General Fantasy

For the Dungeon! A comedy RPG in which you play the hapless minions of a dungeon, by Jordan (first project) — May 10th

1–7 April: Top Selling Games, April Fools, Computers vs. RPGs

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).

Want to help support our caffeine habit and keep this site going? Consider buying us a coffee.

Industry Talk

Our very own James appeared on the On the Shoulders of Dwarves podcast to talk about top-selling games at Leisure Games.

John Wick, creator of 7th Sea, joins Chaosium, who will take over publishing the RPG. GeekNative gives a little background on the move.

Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana, the recent visual history of the game, has been nominated for a Hugo Award.

James M. Ward talks about his first encounters with Gary Gygax and Dungeons & Dragons.

EN World publishes a guide to freelance rates for writers and editors in the industry.

Computers & RPGs

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.

PC Gamer gives us a history of the Fallout series of computer games, and its origins as a GURPS game.

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.)

Fooling Around

In honour of April Fools, EN World offers a list of (real) comedy RPGs.

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.)

Modiphius releases Tribbles as a playable race for Star Trek Adventures.

ThinkGeek’s Mimic Package

ThinkGeek “offers” a Mimic FedEx package to deter package thieves.

R. Talsorian “announces” a farming supplement for The Witcher RPG. (I would play this.)

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!)

New Releases

DIE #5, released this week

The fifth issue of Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans’ glorious comic of fantasy horror in an RPG, DIE, is released.

In anticipation of their science-fantasy D&D 5e RPG, Arcana of the Ancients, Monte Cook Games releases a free book of creatures and items.

Onyx Path releases Dragon-Blooded: What Fire Has Wrought, a supplement for Exalted.

Upcoming Products

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.

The Acquisitions Incorporated D&D book is officially announced (even though we already knew about it, and were given previews last month).

Flyos Games announces a story-driven legacy-style board game based on Vampire: The Masquerade.

Pelgrane Press gives us a look at the social combat system for its forthcoming sword-and-sorcery GUMSHOE game, Swords of the Serpentine.

Cool Stuff

D&D Beyond’s Todd Kendrick interviews Dr. Megan Connell of Clinical Role on D&D as a tool for therapy. (This has been a subject we’ve been seeing a fair bit of lately.)

In February we heard that the next Dungeons & Dragons streaming event would be in May. We now have more details about “D&D Live 2019: The Descent”.

Larp designer, Robb Minneman, is running a challenge to design an RPG supplement in 24 hours.

Bundles & Deals

Bundle of Holding launches a bundle of EABA books, as well as a surprise bundle of Yeld books.

Kickstarter News

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.


Dungeon Crawl Classics: Soul for the Ocean Dark: A 0-level adventure made for Dungeon Crawl Classics, by By the Keep Studios (first project) — April 21st

Powered by the Apocalypse

Deniable Assets – The CyberCorporate Villain RPG: A cyberpunk game in which you play the mid-level corporate villains, by Rutskarn (first project) — May 4th


STEAM Hack: RPG Zines for STEM Education: Two zine RPGs to teach real-life engineering and science subjects, by STEAM Hack RPGs (first project) — April 27th

Star Projects Closing 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.