This is Audio EXP for the 5th of June 2021, and the title of this episode is “The new Marvel TTRPG and its easter eggs”
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #99]
I was writing the introduction to Friday’s RPG news summary, which I do after putting the meaty body of the article together and typing the words “It’s been a busy week” when Marvel’s news broke. The movie and comic book powerhouse are getting back into tabletop roleplaying games.
Hey, if they can make superheroes in space work, they can surely get superheroes on the tabletop to work. Again, that is, as they’ve already got a pretty good track record.
I want to distract you with a question first, yes, another quirky poll.
What space job do you think would make a good RPG?. That was the question Geek Native’s blog readers had to answer to win a copy of Pew Pew! Bounty Hunters in Space.
There were six choices to vote for, and I’ll give you them in reverse order.
- Space bards – 9.9%
- Space plumbers – 11.9% – oh dear, people would rather play as a plumber than a bard?
- Space vets – 11.9% – I thought this one would do better
- Space miners – 16.8%
- Space graffiti artists – 20.8%
- Space rescue response – 28.7%
I’ve launched a new always open poll on the site, with those six and one slot for “Other”, if you disagree with the competition poll, you can speak up in the new one.
Also, keep listening for more competition news.
Let’s tackle the headline news, shall we? Marvel will launch a new tabletop RPG.
It’ll probably be called “Marvel Multiverse Role-Play Game”. I say probably because the full title of what’s actually been announced is “Marvel Multiverse Role-Play Game Playtest Rulebook. That’s due in 2022, and I imagine the results of the playtest, which have not yet been announced, will change things, and a complete RPG is due for 2023.
The game is being written by Matt Forbeck. He wrote Shotguns and Sorcery, a series of novels then turned into a Cypher System RPG by Robert Schwalb. That’s a game due more love.
Forbeck, of course, has written RPGs of his own! Including Mutant Chronicles and supporting Deadlands and Tales from the Loop.
Let’s look for easter eggs or, at the very least, interesting quirks in the text and decisions made around this newly announced Marvel RPG.
First up, I grinned when Marvel described the game as an evolution of “the most popular tabletop role-playing games”. By the time you’re at “most popular” you’re thinking of D&D, in part because that’s correct, but in part, because WotC insists publishers use phrases like that to describe the ruleset rather than use “Dungeons & Dragons”.
I get that they have to protect their brand, but I dislike the arrogance. I also don’t like the use of 5e as there are other games with fifth editions. The World of Darkness, for example.
Pick a better code for D&D, Hasbro, or savvy companies like Marvel can use it against you.
There’s another connection to D&D in the attributes the Marvel RPG will use, and this is more of an easter egg. The attributes are;
They line up with stats like Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Perception, Charisma and Intelligence, right? That’s not all. The acronym also spells MARVEL.
That’s one easter egg. Wondering why they don’t call it the “Marvel system”, they’ve gone with D616 instead.
That’s a nod to Earth-616. In the multiverse, 616 is the universe variant that most Marvel Comics are set. There’s even a documentary that explores the cultural impact of comics called Marvel 616.
In Thor: The Dark World, the movie, Dr Selvig has the phrase 616 Universe scribbled on his chalkboard map of the Nine Realms, and there’s plenty of others; for example, in the last Avengers, Scott Lang comes out of a storage locker labelled 616, there’s a mention of it in season 2 of Iron Fist, when police are describing suspects, and perhaps most directly Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home calls this realm Earth-616.
And it’s not an easter egg, it’s in plain sight, but the game isn’t Marvel Role-Play Game; it’s the Marvel Multiverse Role-Play Game. The company is choosing to highlight the existence of the multiverse in the very name of the product.
That’s a good sales idea. Imagine all the spin-offs you empower by doing that from the outset.
Marvel has had RPGs before. They were last active in 2013 when they departed Margaret Weis Productions and took the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. That caused the RPG to surge to the top of DriveThruRPG’s sales chart for a while as fans rushed to buy it while they still could.
Speaking of DriveThruRPG, I think the Marvel RPG is important because of what it might do to retail.
Marvel points people at comic book stores as a place to buy the playtest. I imagine Marvel already pitch their products to game stores. This will now ramp up.
As it looks like Fandom’s Cortex is not involved in the Marvel RPG, which digital markets do we expect to see the game on? Comixology? Itch? DriveThruRPG? Will Marvel make their own?
Which virtual tabletop, if any, will get the license. Will Marvel have an Open Gaming License?
Already lots to think about, and as I said, it’s been a busy week, so let’s rush on. Let’s pick up with this chat about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and stay with the big screen for a bit.
Infinite stars Mark Walhberg who’s character discovers his weird visions aren’t hallucinations or flashes into virtual reality, but moments from other and infinite lives.
I guess we’ll find out if these are past lives, a multiverse of its own, or whether he comes back to life with memories changed.
The trailer for the first Neill Blomkamp film since critics tore apart Chappie is out. I didn’t think Chappie was all that bad; I really didn’t! I appreciate it was no District 9, though.
The film is called Demonic, and looks pretty darn creepy!
It was made on a budget, probably a hundred times the budget of indie films, but inspired by movies like Paranormal Activity and made over the lockdown.
The plot involves a woman in virtual reality who encounters a demon.
Hugh Jackman has a movie coming out called Reminiscence coming out. It’s set after floods change the world forever, and people use virtual reality to escape to their memories.
Right, did you notice? There was a virtual reality thread, albeit stretched out, in all three movies. Each has trailers out this week and on Geek Native.
That’s my link to reality mods coming to tabletop games. Foundry Six is already successful in this space, with millions of people using their tech via Instagram.
They’re now coming to the virtual tabletop space; specifically, the camera chats part of it, with a Kickstarter called Arealm.
Arealm is a virtual camera compatible with Discord, Google Meet, Zoom, and all the rest. It applies virtual facemasks to you and backgrounds to bring augmented reality to your tabletop sessions.
I’m not sure the Kickstarter is going as well as hoped, it’s a hard pitch as they’re not the only one in this space, but it’s another example of the competitive and healthy marketplace.
Outside of Kickstarter, in the realm of “it’s a done deal,” Astral TableTop released their HD cam chat this week.
In the announcement, they said what you might be thinking; the camera options on some virtual tabletops are not great. They blame cheap peer-to-peer connections for this and say they’re going to do it right. They don’t say what the difference is, but just that they coded it from scratch.
I assume if they’re not using peer-to-peer, there’s a central hub involved. If so, I wonder if that now means a lot more stress on their servers? Or does Cloud power not make that a big problem these days?
Astral’s HD cam options are not for everyone. You need a GM with either a Gold or a Platinum account to get it. The whole group doesn’t need that level of access, just the GM.
Of course, it’s not only movies and big screens that tie into virtual tabletops, but books do too.
The Fateful Force is a forthcoming fantasy novel, and to promote it, the website has a collection of free digital battle maps and a free to use token generator.
You can find the link on Geek Native, probably just by web searching for The Fateful Force or via the show notes.
I think The Fateful Force is an indie project, so I’m happy to be able to find it and recommend it.
Now, this next one isn’t an indie project, it’s published by Osprey, who are part of the mighty Bloomsbury, but I’m also happy to recommend Jackals: Bronze Age Fantasy Roleplaying.
It’s a lite-d100 system and a great world from John-Matthew DeFoggi. It manages to be both narrative and OSR, which might confuse some people until they read the book and depends on which definition of OSR you prefer.
However, it’s narrative because it’s about the story. It’s OSR because of the rules system, tables and flavour.
I’ve also been able to share lots of free downloads this week. Let’s run through some fairly quickly.
First up, ahead a Kickstarter launch, there’s the free quickstart for the D&D 5e-powered Blood Sword. The game is being written by Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson and is based on the 80s gamebook. You’ll be a mercenary working for the Ruling Knights of Legend and therefore sent on dangerous tasks including, but not limited to, looking for fragments of the Blood Sword.
Thanks to Patreon supporters, MonkeyDM released the 5e-powered Scales of Justice. That’s a beginner-friendly adventure with a moral choice to characters to face.
Outside D&D and into Savage Worlds, Knight Errant Media expanded the world of Titan Effect with Bio-Augmented Solider Rules.
These rules have been long requested by fans. I sense that designer Christian Nommay may have been waiting for the official PEG Super Powers Companion for Savage Worlds but gave up and published this free download anyway.
It’s back to D&D, at least in part, because I also want to highlight The Dread from Venger’s Decks. It’s an encounter pack made possible by Patreons and includes maps, monsters and even sound effects. While the stats are for 5e, there’s a lot in this freebie you can use for whatever system you fancy.
And since we’ve come back to D&D, let’s stay there a bit longer as I can tell you that Wizards have re-released The Complete Starter Set: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Game 2e as a digital download on DriveThruRPG.
They must have finally got scans of good enough quality, but interestingly they have to tell people that the download doesn’t actually come with the dice mentioned on the cover scan.
Imagine being part of DriveThruRPG’s customer care team if that’s what people think!
It’s not going to be a great month for that team, by the way. DriveThruRPG has let it be known that big price rises are coming to the cost of premium colour books.
We’re not talking about PDFs, black and white or any other option. It’s just the top tier. It looks to be an issue with the quality they want versus what the printers can offer.
We were hoping that maybe there would be a price fall for other books to compensate, but apparently, if there have been any wins on the production costs, they aren’t large enough to impact prices.
But, hey, at least DriveThruRPG go through all this to facilitate print-on-demand in the first place. In all my chat about RPG marketplaces, there are very few others who even bother.
I hand-on-heart, do think DriveThruRPG tries to be helpful to publishers whenever they can. And in the spirit of being helpful to publishers, as it’s the start of the month, Geek Native Patreons can vote for the July 2021 RPG Publisher Spotlight.
Here are the five candidates;
Samurai Sheepdog won this month, and right after publishing this, I’ll let them know.
Other efforts worthy of a bit of spotlight are those conventions bravely trying to open in meat-space or run digitally. As ever, please check out the Geek Native conventions calendar, or make recommendations for it.
The three events I highlighted at the start of the week are the WOMEN+ RPG Con, Otakon, which is hoping to rock into Washington in August, and then Gamehole Con which isn’t due until October put publishers like Monte Cook Games are already recruiting GMs for.
WOMEN+ RPG CON is a digital event for loads of people, including women and genderfluid
Now, I did allude that you should keep listening to get competition news, so let’s get around to that. I’ve a digital copy of Paranormal Affairs Canada to giveaway.
You’ll need a copy of FATE to play, but FATE is a free download.
In Paranormal Affairs Canada, you’re an agency agent who works hard to keep Canada and the world safe from supernatural threats.
Lastly, as it has become a bit of an Audio EXP podcast tradition, let’s look at some bundles.
For $60, on Itch, you can get 235 indie computer games from queer designers and developers. The money goes to them to support them, and some desperately need it.
An even bigger bundle, is a pay-at-least $5 for 1,020 games and support Palestinian Aid. There are computer games, art, music and tabletop games in that.
The Bundle of Holding has two deals on for the sci-fi classic Traveller, in the 2e-flavour from Mongoose.
Lastly, on DriveThruRPG, Wizards of the Coast have put a bundle together. It’s for Gamma World 1e.
I speculated whether this makes Gamma World more likely to be one of the classic D&D settings that WotC are hoping to bring back. I’m sure it’s a contender irrespective of what happens on DriveThruRPG, but I can certainly see people are still interested in the post-apocalyptic setting.
On that note, let’s wrap there. Let’s hope this isn’t all a great virtual reality hallucination, and we’ll see you next week.
Do you have any thoughts on this article? Let us know in the comments below.