This is Audio EXP for the 24th of April 2021, and the title of this episode is “Solo RPGs and gaming for millions”.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #93]
I’m struck by the contrasts of stories in this week’s highlights show. We’ve publishers giving away solo RPG rules on one end and other companies raising $17m on their first attempt because big brains think tabletop roleplaying will become a mass broadcast spectator events.
But first, and with The Falcon and the Winter Solider wrapping let’s dig into some quirky superhero stats.
Did you know Captain America is not the most popular superhero in the United States of America? Spider-man is.
Captain America is the most popular superhero in Canada, Australia and Germany, though.
At least, this is according to research by GAME. As is often the case with this research done purely to feed blogs, Google search frequencies were used, and so by “popular”, GAME means “most searched for”.
Here in the UK, Wonder Woman is on top of that chart.
I think the villains’ data looks better. Over on the Geek Native blog, you can see maps of the world coloured and illustrated to match, and for nearly a third of the world, there’s darkness with the scowl of a hungry Venom leering out. Venom’s the most popular supervillain in 16 countries.
The Joker is second, in 21, including the UK and USA.
Overall, though, Thanos is top, most searched for in 66 countries. That has to be the impact of the movies, right?
I enjoyed Venom’s movie more than I thought I would. I’d watch the sequel, although it’s hard to see any Venom story being as impactful as the moment a new living weapon is created on Earth through the symbiosis.
This week, Geek Native offered up a quick review of the Name Your Own Price for the living weapon RPG Gimmick Zero.
That’s a game in which you play as a Weapon, someone with nano armour built into them, and therefore have power, and charged with taking down rogue Gimmicks.
It’s from Rookie Jet Studio and worth checking out. As it happens, I also reviewed, in much more depth, Rookie Jet Studios’ Over Arms RPG this week. I backed it on Kickstarter and got the collector’s edition hardback, but I’m wondering whether I like the standard edition better.
Let’s not judge a book by its cover, though. For a start, since there’s a Name Your Own Price tag on Gimmick Zero, you can use that or, even better, the free Quickstart Rules for Over Arms on DriveThruRPG to check out this JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure inspired to judge for yourself.
Over Arms, I think, is easy to pick up and designed for a quick splash of fun. A quick splash of fun that might well become a campaign.
The unique thing about Over Arms is that you can summon an Anima. In the anime JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, these spirits are known as Stands. Over Arms’s rule system, you mix your stats with your Anima’s stats to build your dice pools. It’s a nice feature.
While we’re talking about anime, two other highlights from this week.
Firstly, Aniplex is finally getting into the trading card game market. After all this time. You might ask, I did; why now?
Anime and card games go long back, with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh and countless others, but Aniplex, despite being huge, stayed clear.
Now, they’ll be launching Build Divide as an anime and interlinked game. The trailer is on the blog.
Secondly, Netflix has confirmed a third season for Love, Death + Robots. Don’t worry, you’ve not missed the second season, that’s still to air, but the trailer is now out, and it looks great.
Love, Death + Robots is a collection of short and adult animations that often touched on real-life concerns. It tackled fear, war and humanity wiping itself out.
Sci-fi often does that, it acts as a lens for whatever is troubling society at the time.
That’s the topic I dug into a bit with Jeff Barber as a follow up to the round table discussion on the Geek Native Discord.
Jeff and his company Biohazard Games is currently crowdfunding the third edition of Blue Planet. That’s an RPG that tackles environmental concerns head-on.
The sad thing is, as Jeff reminds us, those concerns are much more severe now during the funding of this edition of the game than they were when the first edition was published.
On that front, though, I did find some good news. American games company, The OP, aka USApoly, will plant trees for each board game they sell from their website.
To do this, they’re working with the charity One Tree Planted. I like this approach, it will make sure the seeds go into the ground, and it’s an obvious and wise program for a company that runs on dead trees to make.
Another environmental story takes us back into tabletop RPGs and lines us up to tackle that $17m I mentioned at the start of the podcast.
Let me frame it with a question. Which environment type do you think is underused in D&D?
That was a question for a Geek Native competition. It’s rare to see such a flat response; all-but-one environment had the same percentage after rounding.
Ready for it? 9% of the votes went to each of the following; arctic, coastal, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, Underdark and underwater.
The remaining votes, 18%, went to urban.
So, according to readers, cities, towns and villages aren’t used enough in D&D. Do you agree?
One of the free games released this week is all about traditional D&D settings; the Dungeons.
Bandit Camp has made the digital version of Wicked Ones a free download.
I backed the game on Kickstarter, like so many others. Although the game is free now, I don’t regret spending the money. If you want it hardback, then you can still buy it too.
In Wicked Ones, you’re trying to build and protect your dungeon, to follow the orders of the master and survive as one of the baddies. That’s right, in the Wicked Ones RPG, you are one of the wicked ones. You’re the goblin skulking in the shadows.
While the game is one of my favourites from last year, it does require some maturity. I would not have relished playing it with old teenage school buddies.
The other free release to make Audio EXP’s highlights this week is Solitary Defilement. It’s for MORG BORG and therefore also not suitable for kids.
The key thing about Solitary Defilement isn’t just that it’s free, as you do need the main core rules, is that it is a set of solo rules and other print-outs so you can play MORG BORG alone.
You can’t always find people to play the RPGs you’re interested in or help you to learn the system, and that’s especially front of mind during the lockdowns.
I won’t be surprised at all if publisher 1d10+5 has a hit with this download. I hope it helps raise their profile in exchange.
Last week, we talked about the first-ever traditional tabletop RPG session, which was 50 years ago and lasted for 11 hours. I opened a poll on how long your RPG sessions tend to last and invited listeners to take part.
Thank you to everyone who responded or helped share it. I can see that more than 1 in 5 people struggle to get a gaming session in at all.
The most likely cause of this, according to the data so far, is schedule challenging, but some people just don’t have gaming friends.
And it’s here I want to focus a little on the RPG community. You can make friends online. Looking at the data, I worry about how lonely some people are. In this podcast, we’ve even already talked about genuine concerns over the threat the whole planet is under.
Well, Jasper’s Game Day is coming up. It’s a week-long day, and it is all about helping people use games to deal with suicidal thoughts. Actual play GM, Waffles, from the WafflesMapleSyrup network, put together an article for Geek Native called Can you help prevent suicide by playing TTRPGs?. In it, you’ll find out more about Jasper’s Game Day and hotlines to phone if you need someone to speak to right now.
It’s hard to follow a serious story like that so I’m just going to dive into that $17m I’ve been talking about. Regular listeners will know the name, as I’ve mentioned them before.
One More Multiverse has raised the money, and people like founders of Oculus, Twitch and Crunchyroll have provided the money.
You see the connection, right? Screen-based escapism. Entertainment.
One More Multiverse really does portray itself as a tabletop games company. We’re the community that they want to be part of.
However, the technology turns virtual tabletops into a JRPG-like experience and provides GMs and players with tools to imagine their characters as pixel sprites to explore those 2.5D worlds.
I see the attraction. I also already wonder whether that’s hi-tech enough. A small studio called TxK Gaming will soon release a Kickstarter for Dungeon Full Dive. The teaser video for it is on the blog, and it looks incredible.
It’s a virtual virtual tabletop. Don your VR headset and then stand next to your friends, virtually bend over the virtual table to roll virtual dice. Then, if you want, slide your perception down into the table and watch battles or scenes unfold.
Roleplayers as storytellers will, I think, become more and more mainstream in the next few years. I think it’s a healthy trend.
I had a chat about the future of RPGs, albeit it a brief one, with Louis Porter Jr of LPJ Designs this week too.
LPJ Designs is the winner of this month’s RPG Publisher Spotlight, as voted by Patrons; thank you patrons.
We talked about the paradox the community has gotten itself into with art. We want to pay creators more, we want our RPGs to be filled with art, but we don’t want to pay very much for RPGs.
That got us on to talking about the DMs Guild. I don’t want to put words in Louis’ mouth, but I think it’s safe to say he’s concerned about the cut the marketplace takes and whether that’s always the best route.
Of course, it’s the marketplace cut that will help One More Multiverse earn back that $17m in Series A investment.
DMs Guild and One More Multiverse aren’t the only markets in this week’s RPG section either. I’ve put D&D Beyond in too.
Why? Well, they’re having a sale, and that includes 25% off on the pre-order for Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft.
What if you’d pre-ordered it already? Do they have a pre-order price promise like Amazon, making sure you get the book at the lowest price it was ever assigned before release? I hope so. I’d be pretty annoyed if I’d pre-ordered at full price otherwise!
Taking stories out of this week’s Routinely Itemised, there’s even a physical marketplace story.
Oh, I guess physical marketplace is a jargon way of saying; shop—a store—a place to go and buy games. The founder of Fantasy Flight Games, Christian Petersen, has created a new company, Gamezenter, and bought the retail operations of Fantasy Flight Games Center from Asmodee. That’s 17,000 square feet of retail space.
I think it’s a great time to buy space. It must be cheap due to the hit of lockdown. I’m sure Petersen has plans for it. Is 17,000 square feet enough to hold events? I think so.
Here in the UK, but also online, there’s Forbidden Planet. Actually, there are two rival brands called Forbidden Planet, but I’m talking about the one with the big store in London and owned by Titan Publishing.
I presume that ownership has helped them land an exclusive and signed collection of variant covers for Grady Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group.
If you’ve seen many horror movies, then you’ll know the trope; at the end, one girl gets away. She’s the final girl.
The Final Girl Support Group is a story about a survivors club of Final Girls. It’s also likely to come to TV as company Annapurna are making the series. You don’t have to visit the store to buy one of those signed books. You can order that online.
Briefly, in other publisher news, Modiphius has announced another new RPG. This one is set in the same universe as Achtung! Cthulhu and is called Against the Gods Themselves.
You don’t need me to tell you that in Against the Gods Themselves, the PCs will go up against the gods themselves.
Also, Cubicle 7 have not only announced they’ve retained the Lone Wolf license, but they have new supplements for the adventure game coming out.
To take us out of the podcast for the week, let me mention one competition and one great bundle.
On Geek Native, if you’re in the UK or at least have a mail address here, you have a chance to win History Heroes – Children. This is a quiz-style memory game that’s won awards for being fun and an excellent way to boost memory and teach your kids a bit about history.
The bundle news is actually two bits of news, as Goodman Games has two different Dungeon Crawl Classics deals up on the Bundle of Holding. One of them contains the core rules for the OSR game. So, if you’ve ever been tempted by the RPG, I can’t think of a better time to take the plunge.
On that note, let’s wrap there, so please keep safe and we’ll see you next week.
Join in the discussion below, start us off or pop over to the chat portal.