This is Audio EXP for the 10th of July 2021, and the title of this episode is “A tabletop game caused 37 years of pain”
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #104]
I was looking at two dates to pick which story to allude to for today’s podcast title. I had the choice of 44 years and of 37 years. As you can tell, I went with 37 years.
So let’s begin with the 44 years.
After 44 years GAMA, that’s the Games Manufacturers Association, has voted to significantly restructure itself.
Created back in 1977, GAMA was really set up to protect and grow the Origins Game Fair; that’s a task they failed to do in the last year. Since 1977 they have somewhat succeeded in moving on to promote the interest of everyone in the tabletop hobby space.
It’s not GAMAs fault that lockdowns made conventions impossible, but they had to cancel the virtual trade fair after key figures walked out. Those tabletop celebs walked out because GAMA was seen to be lacklustre in its support for Black Lives Matter.
You might not want politics in your games, but it is a part of life outside them, and that’s the space GAMA operates in. Equally, the refusal to oppose evil is in itself a political stance. But let’s not get drawn into the boiling waters of the culture wars; you know which side I’m on.
GAMA took the hit and recognised what they did wrong. They even moved to do better, and, I think, it became pretty clear that their structure baked in artificial discrepancies from the hobby. It was, not surprisingly, dominated by game makers.
But what about retailers? What about the difference between creators and publishers? What about logistics? What about events? What about news sites or hobby blogs like Geek Native?
The restructure looks at these diverse groups and gives each one the same amount of Directors at Large for the GAMA board. The hope and I think it’s a sensible one, is that by having more evenly spread representation across all links in this hobby, GAMA will better represent the hobby.
I still can’t afford to join, and I remain puzzled why it costs media to join if GAMA exists to help give me stories to blog about and include in this podcast. Why put barriers in the way?
So, I’m calling that “44 years” story one of people doing the right thing, albeit a little slowly. Next up, we’ve a story of people not doing the right thing, not until 37 years later, and we’ll follow up with an account of people just doing mind-boggling things.
A board game caused a woman in New Zealand 37 years of pain. I’m not going to make you guess which.
The final straw was a COVID-19 test which had to be administrated with a nasal swab. This caused Mary so much pain that she finally went to the doctor about it and complained about her four decades of pain.
Mary also told the doctor a funny story of her, as a young girl, putting tiddlywink pieces up her nose so she could shoot them out and impress her brothers.
Thankfully, the doctor took that memory seriously.
A surgery later, they found a whole and calcified tiddlywink up Mary’s nose. The woman had had a game piece rammed up her nose for 37 years! And it hurt! And she did nothing about it!
If you’re feeling unwell the go to the doctor, please. Don’t be stubborn. In all but one country in the entire world, this is entirely free, although I appreciate it’s not easy to get to the doctor always. Just don’t be one of those people who hide behind the phrase “I don’t want to cause a fuss” because that road always ends up in greater fussville.
Right, I imagine you’re wondering if Mary’s story isn’t my example of people doing mind-boggling things, then what could be?
Brace yourself; I’m going to talk about TSR Games again.
I know; at one point, I thought it would make sense to stop giving this tarnished brand mentions. But it’s not that simple. For a start, there’s Solarian Games.
Solarian Games was TSR Games (2). That’s the company by Jayson Elliot, the one that published the Gygax Magazine until Gail objected, the one that had multiple Gygax brothers on board.
As I theorised before, they can’t stay with the brand any longer, nor want to. So they’ve rebranded to Solarian Games. I hope they do benefit from the extra light from the flickering trash fire next to them.
So, in theory, that leaves us with TSR Games (3), the company that snatched up the trademark rights, has Justin LaNasa, Jeff Leason, Ernie Gygax and Steven Dinehart on board. TSR Games (3) had been busy claiming to be the rebooted original TSR Games, aka TSR Games (1).
Well, they had been doing that. Then TSR Games (3) stopped and began to insist their company was all new. What happened? Sandy Petersen of Call of Cthulhu and Petersen Games pointed out that Dave Arneson, the creative brains and lead creator of D&D, had been clear; TSR Games (1) had treated him poorly.
That’s quite a U-turn, but we’re not near the end of the story yet.
Seemingly following on from their new attempts to distance themselves from TSR Games (1) ‘s legacy, TSR Games (3) rebranded itself to Wonderfiled.
The website address was, and is, tsr.games, but the social media accounts for the new publisher were deleted. Co-founder Stephen Dinehart tweeted that he had fallen out with Wizards of the Coast and blocked them on Twitter. This lead many people to believe that the lawyers had finally arrived.
There’s clearly a resolution that needs to happen. Wizards of the Coast publishes an old TSR Games RPG called Star Frontiers. TSR Games (now Wonderfiled) say they now have the rights and will publish a game using that name. Both companies use the same front cover in their messaging, and that’s a front cover that mentions Dungeons & Dragons.
Two more plot twists to come. Stick with me.
Remember when we first saw TSR Games (3) beginning to emerge? There was a weird can-we-trust-it-or-not single press release down PR.com that made the claim a Gary Gygax Jr had rebooted the company. That person, of course, turns out to be Ernie Gygax. Remember also how TSR Games (3) said last week that they’d departed company with their old coms person.
Well, a new statement appeared on PR.com and only on PR.com. As their social media accounts had been deleted, that made a little more sense. Oddly, two different people use the same pinhole for press releases rather than any of the usual loudspeakers.
Anyway, the new statement said three things;
- It’s all the fault of the old social media/tech individual; who has been fired.
- TSR Games are trying to get their social media accounts back.
- Ignore any of the horrible things TSR Games (3) said, also ignore what Justin LaNasa and Ernie Gygax’s social media accounts said.
I’m confused about how to spell LaNasa as the PR.com statement uses one S, but the old TSR Games Twitter account had it with two Ses.
Along with the blame-the-intern news was a new TSR Logo and the tagline “The Game Wizards”. Wizards, eh? I can think of other RPG publishers who call themselves Wizards too.
As a side note, TSR Games’ new coms guy, Michael, gets his full name mentioned in the release and… wait for it… but he appears to be real. At least, there’s a LinkedIn account with years of history that matches his name and does put him at TSR Games.
So, TSR Games are back again. TSR Games (4), or TSR Games (3.5), I dunno, but at the very least, it’s a rebranding of TSR Games (3).
The final twist, at least so far in this dumpster that keeps burning, comes from Stephen Dinehart. He’s the guy who said he was breaking up with Wizards of the Coast. If that was him and not the social media TSR Games (3) intern controlling his account.
He now says he’s broken up with TSR Games (3) and is taking GiantLands with him. He won’t pay for the use of the trademark.
So, tsr.games, the website, is plugging GiantLands. GiantLands’ front cover says Wonderfiled. Meanwhile, TSR Games are trying to get their social media accounts back but have said nothing about the website.
GiantLands was the Twitter account that called a transwoman disgusting, we don’t know who was at the wheel at the time, but it’s a blight that will be hard for anyone to move on from.
So that, my listener friends, is the mind-boggling update I wanted to share with you this week. If you’re just joining Audio EXP at this point and don’t know all the drama that got us this far, then, well, it’s probably for the best!
Right! Let’s do superheroes. That’s a change of tone, I have got lots of discoveries to share, and we can wrap up Superhero Week.
First up, I wrote a review of Martin Lloyd’s Amazing Heroes!. If that sounds familiar, Lloyd is the designer of the very popular Amazing Tales, a kids RPG.
One of the great things about Amazing Heroes is that it’s also great for kids, but if you hand the game to a kid, even a teen, I don’t think they’ll say, “Hey, this is for babies!”
The other great thing about it is the system, which is super smooth, yet with nuances and appropriate for adults too.
It’s an easy recommendation to make and for everyone.
Next up is the indie RPG Kindred Souls. This is also a recommendation, but not for everyone.
Kindred Souls is a magic girls game in that your character is a magic girl. Realy, though, you can be a magic boy, or magic whomever you want. What matters is that you transform from mundane to super to defend the world and are part of a colourful squad.
By colourful squad, I mean other magic girls are fighting with you, and each one of you has a colour association. You know this from the Power Rangers, right; Red Ranger, Pink Ranger and so forth. That’s a whole thing in some anime genres and has game mechanics in Kindred Souls.
The last thing I’ll say about Kindred Souls is that it’s brutal. It’s fierce resource management of a descriptive fight, a group effort by necessity, in a battle royale against the odds and waves of enemies. Youch!
If you think a hardcore magic girl RPG was an exciting discovery for Superhero Week, what about a game where you play as the burning building, or the crashing plane, or the government conspiracy?
Splintered Realms Publishing’s Super Solo is a low-cost solo RPG that does just that.
Superheroes tend to react to problems and return the world to the status quo, which makes them a tricky genre to adapt to solo RPGs. Splintered Realms’ solution is to flip it so that you take on the role of the problem these heroes are trying to fix and provide a framework for seeing how far they get.
I even managed non-superhero RPG reviews this week. I took an early look at Zweihander and Andrews McMeel publishing’s Flames of Freedom.
This is an occult horror set during the American revolutionary war. I’m Scottish, I know very little about that conflict, except the outcome, of course, and one piece of good news is that I don’t think that impairs my ability to play and enjoy the game.
The book is enormous. I wrote about using it as a weapon. It actually hurt my fingers.
Despite that bulk, the rules are straightforward and explained in a couple of pages. Those pages go to professions, monsters, world and other things to help Historians – the slightly odd name for a Flames of Freedom GM – run better games.
The game is about horror and conspiracy but is very clear about how to play. Flames of Freedom isn’t a game about slavery, inequality, racism or any rubbish like that. Take it elsewhere. Don’t feature it. Just have ghouls eat people instead. That’s the horror players have signed up for.
Another horror game to pop on your radar is Vast Grimm. There are a few reasons for this mention.
It’s an RPG from Infinite Black; you might know them for their hugely successful mythos dice. I think this is their first RPG, and it’s a sci-fi Mork Borg.
They’re also funding it on Gamefound, not Kickstarter, and I think this makes them one of the few RPGs to take that route.
Also, there are various competitions and deals. They launch on the 13th, but if you sign-up for alerts before then, and back the project, you get a free d20.
There’s one competition to win one of the prototype dice developed for the game.
There’s another, with many prizes the top being worth $1,000.
There are many ways to enter both those competitions. I did so without joining any more Discords, mailing lists or spamming people.
It’s also amazing that we’ve made it this far into the podcast, and we’re nearly on to the bundle deals and competitions without mentioning Geek Native’s worldwide exclusive.
This week I got to reveal the a|state 2e cover.
A|state is a dystopian sci-fi, with will be a Forged in the Dark system with this edition, and a city you cannot leave. It’s Scottish, being developed across the Forth from me. I’m %100 backing this and Vast Grimm as I want my free d20.
Lastly, before we do the bundles, did you notice that Wizards of the Coast granted a major publisher an exclusive D&D license this week?
That publisher is non-other than HarperCollins. Thankfully for the ecosystem of third-party publishers that surround D&D, the exclusive license seems pretty specific. It’s “Middle grade” content which, I believe, is a US school reference.
The first book is from a new range called D&D Dungeon Academy, or just Dungeon Academy, but they wanted to put the D&D logo on there too, and it is called No Humans Allowed. Parents, please feel free to let me know if it’s any good.
The first bundle I want to point out happens to be a Storytellers Vault on, but you’ll get over $60 worth of vampire content for just about $20. It’s the Disability Pride – Character and City building bundle. The author is disabled; funds go straight to them after Paradox and OBS’ cut.
Next up is Zobeck for D&D 5e at the Bundle of Holding.
I’d admit I didn’t recognise the name Zobeck, but I did Kobold Press and Empire of the Ghouls. Zobeck is part of Midgard, also known as the Clockwork City. So, if you’re a Midgard fan, this one is for you.
Last week we had the surprising news that Cubicle 7 was splitting from Lone Wolf. There’s a 50% sale on at DriveThruRPG as they clear their digital shelves while they can. Now, there’s also a Lone Wolf Bundle of Holding deal which might be even better value, depending on the books you want, and certainly is fewer clicks.
The last bundle is computer games and via Slitherine and Humble Bundle. The Unleash Destruction deal as Master of Magic, a Battlestar Galactica game and lots of Warhammer 40K. That’s well over £150 for less than £10, but it isn’t live for very long.
Lastly, one for The Witcher fans based in the UK. Author Andrzej Sapkowski has a new trilogy coming out, and the first book is the prize at a new Geek Native competition. So pop over to the blog and look for The Tower of Fools if you fancy a chance. Right now, the next person who enters has a 2% chance of winning.
On that note, let’s wrap there. Keep safe, don’t be a fool, and we’ll see you next week.
Your considerate thoughts are welcome. Do you have something to add to this article? Please let us know in the comments below.