This is Audio EXP for the 17th of April 2021, and the title of this episode is ‘How long do your RPG sessions last”?.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #92]
This podcast is being recorded on the 50th birthday of traditional tabletop roleplaying.
The first session of Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor game was held on April 17th in 1971. It started at 1pm and ran to midnight.
Let’s tackle that opening question first. How long do your tabletop gaming sessions last? Do they also run from 1pm to midnight?
Thanks to a poll of polls that the blog Seed of Worlds pulled together, we’ve got a good idea of the average.
As usual, there’s an entire post on Geek Native that goes into this in more detail, but I’ll tell you the average. Most gamers, those who took part in the polls anyway, get weekly sessions that last for about five hours.
Few gamers get longer sessions. Over time, more gamers are getting more regular sessions.
I thought it might be fun, perhaps also helpful, to open a Geek Native poll on the same topic. So, I’ve done that. You’ll find it embedded in the transcript to this podcast, and you’ll find the link to that in the show notes. I’ll also share it on Discord.
I can also imagine a time when more people are spending more time living in games. That’s the future of books like Ready Player One see, after all. In that near sci-fi vision, virtual reality is so good, cheap and ubiquitous that most of humanity spends a good chunk of the day plugged in. Going to school is done as their VR avatars, so is dating and so forth.
Announced this week, the Chinese-American company Epic, has raised 1 billion dollars to build the Metaverse.
What does that look like? Well, we’re not at Ready Player One technology yet.
First, Epic is going to add social features to their current games. Then they’re going to connect those together and extend those connections to other games.
The Unreal Engine will develop along these lines.
Next, Epic want to let you take characters from one game to another.
I imagine that concept of “this is me” is precisely what they’re aiming for. The digital self. Your cloud avatar. Your online persona and whether it’s virtual reality or not, they want to be the company that coordinates it all.
Raising 1 billion dollars means big companies with big budgets believe in Epic’s vision and their ability to deliver. One name stands out on the list of companies that provided cash. That’s Sony.
Sony provided $200,000 of that 1 billion. Sony, of course, makes the PlayStation.
Let’s stick with that theme and talk about One More Multiverse. That’s a new company, with a new platform, currently in closed beta but which will open to the rest of us in the next few months.
One More Multiverse is a virtual tabletop style solution designed to make your tabletop RPGs easier to play. The company insists, by the way, it’s all about tabletop RPGs.
However, looking at the demos, you might think they’re playing a JRPG 2.5D style game. Sprites move around a world map, health bars go down in combat as characters jump back and forth to land hits against spawned monsters.
The demo even shows a Twitch audience sending in votes to help determine an outcome.
If successful, I think One More Multiverse will really challenge us as to what “tabletop roleplaying” is.
It’s become the thing to add TT or T in front of RPG to make it clear you’re not talking about a computer roleplaying game. I get it. However, isn’t the table the most minor thing in a traditional roleplaying games?
It’s not the furniture that makes RPGs great. It’s the complete freeform and the social interaction around them that brings storytelling, adventure and characters to life. It’s about choice.
Also, this week, By Night Studios started taking pre-orders on Mind’s Eye Theatre: Vampire Volume 2.
Mind’s Eye Theatre is the World of Darkness live-action roleplay, and this is a genre of RPG that technology has not yet touched. You dress up as your character, you go out to a location – and I used to do this in pubs here in Edinburgh – and act out your vampire. You talk to people. In fantasy LARPs, you might have a foam dagger in which to plunge into their heart if they talk back.
I’m glad Mind’s Eye Theatre is still going, but I’m frustrated that I missed By Night Studios did a whole crowdfunding exercise around Vampire Volume 2.
Sadly, it’s as impossible for publishers to tell every hobby blogger about all their plans as it is for bloggers like me on Geek Native to know all the projects and find time to write them up.
But, I’m here now, telling you about the book while it’s on pre-order. It has rules for playing as Vampire elders.
I haven’t found time for LARPing since well before the lockdown, but it may be something I consider after it.
What I can promise I’ll do after the lockdown is support my local gaming store. There’s one within walking distance, but I’ve never been. In my defence, it’s hidden. It doesn’t have a shop-front. I think it’s in the basement downstairs, and I sometimes need a stick to move, so you can see my cautious about trying to find a hidden basement games store.
But Scotland is coming out of the lockdown, and I’m determined to find it.
The chance to win £1,000 in cash for my pocket is another reason to make an effort, right? Here in the UK, that’s what Asmodee is offering. Okay, so that’s all stores that they deal with in the UK and England will open for retail before Scotland, but that doesn’t mean my chances are zero.
If you’re in the UK, the same is true for you. If your local games store gets stock from Asmodee, and they probably do, then that first prize could be yours, or one of the other follow up prizes.
Sticking with the theme of lockdowns and prizes, it’s worth noting that there will be a Virtual Crunchyroll Expo this year in August.
If you can register now for free and do so before the end of April, you’ll get some free downloads. No competitions, these prizes are guaranteed. Additionally, you also book your place in any future prize packs not yet announced.
It’s very late in the lockdown for me to be discovering ideas for clever things to do while in the lockdown, but I have. That’s reskinning board games. Or as not to sacrifice your games, cutting out bits of card and downloading graphics to print off and glue on.
The idea of board game skinning comes to me via Pokesonne, which is a fantastic Pokemon version of Carcassone.
The blog has links for Pokemon pixel style map tiles and rules for the retheme. There are even photographs showing what swapping standard meeple out with Pokemon meeple look like. Spoiler; it looks great!
And on the subject of looking great, the first issue of Locke & Key / Sandman is out. The series is called Hell & Gone, and Joe Hill is a writer.
That’s right, the keys open the gates to hell and Sandman is involved. It makes perfect sense to me, and the trailers for it look great.
There’s even a free to download Hell & Gone #0 edition. That’s 46-pages of great story and art to persuade you to invest in the rest of the series.
Previews, I find, are much better than trailers for predictors of quality!
That warning to take trailers with a pinch of salt is on my mind this week too. I’m sorry to report that I did not enjoy The Way of the Househusband as much as I had hoped.
The anime is about an ex-Yakuza who gives up his life of crime to work hard on being a great househusband. The trailer was filled with great gags.
Sadly, that’s it. There are five episodes on Netflix, and each one has the same joke told about five different times. It’s more motion comic than anime, although the visuals work for me.
I may be in the minority, though. The anime I didn’t like was Netflix’s top anime in Japan, and season two is on the way.
No doubt Netflix are happy with the figures. Earning more of the anime market in Japan has to be a win for them, and if they didn’t like the quality of what they got when they commissioned The Way of the Househusband, they never would have aired it.
You might remember that Wizards of the Coast had, or claimed they had, issues with the quality of commissions for their Dungeons & Dragons in Japan.
Those claims and their attempt to end their translation license with Gale Force Nine resulted in lawyers and then an out of court settlement. Wizards of the Coast will stick with Gale Force Nine, for now, until the contract ends.
Asmodee were another translation partner, but in Italy, the company has announced they’re no longer providing that service to Wizards of the Coast.
While Asmodee will still help distribute D&D in Italy, Wizards of the Coast are taking control of the translations.
This story, somewhat surprisingly, was popular on Geek Native this week with readers from outside Europe. I can only imagine that people are generally curious about any news that might point at potential future plans for D&D from Wizards of the Coast.
Another popular story this week also relates to quality, curiosity and companies in control of franchises. That story is about LUMEN getting a SRD.
With one exception, LUMEN is a little known indie – as most indie RPGs tend to be – optimised for playing fast-action and hi-octane games. The SRD, the systems reference document, means that third party designers can now use LUMEN as the engine of their own games.
I did say that there was an exception. LUMEN was going to be used for an RPG inspired by the computer game Warframe. The designer, the creator of LUMEN, Spencer Campbell even had a Kickstarter going for it.
However, some Warframe fans took umbrage. Despite LUMEN only being inspired by Warframe, despite not reusing any Warframe assets, these fans launched a campaign of harassment or perhaps uncoordinated angry messages, and Campbell had to cancel.
I’m pleased to see that his experience has not sent Spencer Campbell fleeing from the scene. It’s such a shame that some geeks get so aggressively possessive of their fandoms.
A much larger company that’s been launching SRDs and working with people to adapt projects to them is the French publisher Studio Agate. They’re the talent behind projects like FateForge the 5e setting.
Right now, they’re running a French crowdfunding campaign for Vermin 2047. That’s a post-apocalyptic RPG when the dominant force on the planet becomes, just as the name suggests, the vermin.
Sound interesting? I noticed in a tucked away Instagram comment that they’re actively working on an English language translation. I fear that Kickstarter is going to get even more of my money at this rate.
Since I seem to be spending much of this podcast grumbling about my finances, let’s inject some good news. Paizo has done us proud and made available, for free, a Pathfinder – Fists of the Ruby Phoenix Player’s Guide.
It’s a chunky but spoiler-free document that you can give to your players, or they can grab themselves, ahead of Paizo’s big focus for 2021. It’s a good idea as it means players can read about the setting, the players can know what their characters might know.
Hopefully, for Paizo, this Player’s Guide is more of a curation project than a creation project, and therefore relatively cheap for them to produce. I’m sure freebies also help to recruit people to Pathfinder.
Roll20’s latest data shows that Pathfinder is the fourth most popular system on their virtual tabletop. Pathfinder 2e in the fifth.
Call of Cthulhu is third, homebrew second and D&D 5e first.
So, yeah, perhaps no surprises there.
What is surprising is the growth of systems. Which RPG system do you think has seen the most significant growth?
Apocalypse World? Nope, that’s in second place and, in percentage terms, miles behind.
Year Zero Engine? Nope, that’s in fourth place behind Cyberpunk.
AGE? Wrong again, that’s 8th behind the Pokemon system and 3D&T Alpha, which I’ll have to do some research on.
The star of Roll20’s growth charts is Luke Crane’s Burning Wheel system. The same Luke Crane who, by mutual agreement, left Kickstarter after an outcry over his The Perfect RPG Kickstarter campaign.
I guess this could be an example of how there’s no such thing as bad publicity. The Burning Wheel is a great system. I just worry the timing sucks. I don’t like the idea that because Crane genuinely hurt some people, that others decided to reward him with their time. I don’t know him, but I doubt he’d want that either. The Burning Wheel certainly doesn’t need to be any gammon’s sympathy system of choice.
If you are looking for a new system, I’ve a curveball idea for you. Firstly, I think my current favourite is still the Cypher System from Monte Cook Games, but I was thinking about The Game Machinery’s Defiant again this week.
As it happens, they’ve big news, with plans for a hardback and an above-and-beyond way to make that fair for people who might have believed a hardback would never be available. They will also do a quick start and outline a potential roadmap that takes the adult supernatural game through a series of expansions and supplements.
I also want to recommend some bundles; they seem to connect up my moaning about cash, search for good deals and are a clever way to try something new.
In the Bundle of Holding, there are some downloadable blueprint style battle maps from 0one. They include a design for 221B Baker Street, a Nautilus and some cities.
In a separate deal, there’s also a host of Mike Resnick sci-fi ebooks. In fact, I think there’s over $200 in retail value available if you can make the threshold price.
In Humble Bundle, there’s a chance to get your Warhammer 40K reading ahead of the series of releases that Warhammer Entertainment is planning with a Black Library deal.
There’s also a D&D comic book bundle deal from IDW.
Lastly, tonight on the Discord server, we’ll be hosting a round table to discuss inhospitable setting. Audience tickets are free, and you’re welcome to join us. Expect write-ups afterwards.
On that note, let’s wrap there, so please keep safe, don’t forget the session duration poll, and we’ll see you next week.
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