This is Audio EXP for the 9th of October 2021, and the title of this episode is “Whiffs of Spelljammer in the air”
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #117]
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Grim & Perilous Studios is in the spotlight this month, as voted for by Patreons.
Good news on the Grim & Perilous front. I reached out over Facebook, got a response, and got an email back from owner Adam Rose to set up an interview.
I’ll respond tomorrow, no later. Tomorrow, by the way, is the 10th of October for me. This podcast is recorded the day it goes out. Usually, but that’ll change next week due to a clash.
Tomorrow is also World Mental Health Day and the charity Safe in Our World looks after the mental health of people who work in computer games. If that’s you, you’re not alone, and they have a Discord where you can go chat and swap coping techniques with peers and get some help.
Let’s kick off this week which is a purchase I made with giddy excitement. I know it’s not supposed to be a purchase, not a retail experience, but I rushed back SLA Industries 2nd edition on Kickstarter.
I loved the first edition. You’re an agent for SLA Industries, the megacorporation that owns the world, and many others, in Mort. It’s always raining. You hunt and track serial killers, which are a common problem since so many people flip and lose it in the industrial nightmare. Your cases are filmed, broadcast and used as entertainment to distract the masses.
You’ve the best gear money can buy, your company makes it and owns the banks, but security levels, secrets, and bosses are to navigate.
You’ll soon find layers of clever plots, should you wish to look, around the senior staff of the company SLA Industries and the planet Mort.
SLA Industries 2 is every bit as good, but with a better system and more material.
Given the comments I got. I sense Nightfall Games, the publishers, weren’t entirely happy with my review. I think there are two reasons for this. First, I began with a story of how I wanted to put the game in my top ten releases for 2020 for my indie gaming group, but I couldn’t, as Nightfall wasn’t rated indie enough.
I told that story to underline how highly I rated the game. Nightfall wanted to be considered indie, I think. I also think they have full-time staff and several names on the payroll. I can see why voices were asking, “are they indie?” It’s a debate.
Secondly, I expressed my frustration at how SLA 2 was put together. It goes back hundreds of years to tell a story that weaves together strands and flavour for all the potential depth. My concern was that newbies wouldn’t know why it mattered, especially since it was irrelevant to the game they wanted to play.
Hook me on the fundamental brilliance of the game first, then give me the fan lore.
Oh well, at least I tell it as I see it in Geek Native reviews.
Hopefully, Chaosium will have a more straightforward time with their acquisition. They’ve bought a website called The Dhole’s House. Dhole here is spelt with an H. It’s not a reference to the weird dog creature from real life but the far creepier snake monster from Lovecraft’s mythos.
The Dhole’s House is a character sheet and prop generator for Call of Cthulhu. Lee Carnell, the fan who created it, has joined Chaosium as a full-time developer for the publisher. It’s an acqui-hire.
Also, in the spirit of buying things, convention giant ReedPop has launched a site called The Haul. It’s a good idea on paper, but I think it’ll be hard to make work.
Wanting to do more in digital, but being a company that brings sellers together with buyers at conventions, ReedPop’s The Haul is an online marketplace.
You often get special deals at conventions, new releases and lots of stands. The idea, I think, is that The Haul is the online version of that. A shopfront for special convention or event deals.
I imagine it’ll be lots of work and fiddly, but I hope it takes off.
An example of the deals we can’t get online is the launch of Eternus. At Comic-Con New York this week, had we been, we might have been able to buy a copy of the comic book and have it signed; otherwise, we’ll have to wait until next year.
Eternus is written, in part, by the actor and director Andy Serkis. Yeah, Andy Serkis from Lord of the Rings, Black Panther and the director of Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
It’s set after Zeus has been murdered, Greek gods are fading, and Herakles is a drunk.
Since it’s big convention season, we also got plenty of big trailers. I share some and should share more on the Geek Native Discord trailers channel. The one that made it to the blog, though, was House of the Dragon.
This Game of Thrones prequel has Mat Smith of Doctor Who, as Prince Daemon Targaryen. He’s the narrator of the dragon-filled trailer.
I think it looks good, but I don’t have easy access to the channels it will likely run on here in the UK since my breakup. I’m not sure I’ll buy yet another subscription to watch it. Time will tell.
Picking channels and which subscriptions to have are minor fry problems compared to running conventions or launching sites like ReedPop does.
An independent convention that is in the news for the wrong reasons again is Gary Con. Now some severe allegations are flying around. It’s like someone’s filled up a blunderbuss of grievances and let rip.
Like Gygax has had to respond, and you can read all that, including the lengthy paperwork on the blog. Links in the usual place, from the transcript in the show notes.
This is me not getting into the details. If it’s an ongoing case, no one should.
A more straight-up situation is what happened to Twitch. Someone else with a grievance posted 125gig of source code and data to 4chan.
Yes, this is a hack. So change your password. Sorry, you really should.
But it’s more than a hack. The Amazon-owned site had its inner workings revealed to all, the code itself.
In that data, we see that Critical Role are the platform’s most highly paid streamers. From Twitch alone they made nearly $10m.
That’s a lot of money. Remember how I mentioned Nightfall Games, the SLA Industries publishers wanted to be indie? Some Critical Role fans also had a moment where $10m clashed with the indie-pal vibe they wanted from Critical Role.
I understand the mental summersaults.
However, after a brief flare-up of protests, the community pretty much seemed to calm down. If you divide $10m over several years, remove the cost of the studio, the behind the scenes team and divide between the cast, then that colossal figure starts approaching an annual salary.
It doesn’t include sponsorships, of course, or merch, but it was enough of a drop to take the heat out of much of the debate.
And, of course, you don’t have to like Critical Role; you don’t have to dislike Critical Role. No one should feel any pressure.
Except me. I called this podcast Whiffs of Spelljammer in the air, and we’re only now into D&D territory. So there’s some pressure there to hurry up!
Firstly, let’s start with the surprise news of Minsc and Boo’s Journal of Villainy. That’s a Wizards of the Coast D&D book that appeared on the DMs Guild. It supports the Extra Life charity.
Minsc and Boo are characters from the Baldur’s Gate computer game series. Boo is a hamster, but still a character.
The game was created by James Ohlen, and Ohlen is also the author of the $15 supplement.
Then it vanished from the DMs Guild. Spoiler, it’s back now, but for half a day, I thought a big fight had happened.
You see, James Ohlen doesn’t work for Bioware anymore. He left and created the D&D tabletop adventure Odyssey of the Dragonlords. It was a big Kickstarter success. It was one of the first times a big name from computer games had left to join the D&D growth.
Then, Wizards of the Coast hired him to work on one of their new computer game studios, saying it wasn’t a D&D project.
I don’t think that stops him from working on a for-charity and Wizards of the Coast project like Minsc and Boo’s Journal of Villainy.
However, within hours of that supplement coming out, Arcanum Worlds and Modiphius launched a free download for Raiders of the Serpent Sea Players Guide.
There’s a Kickstarter for the complete 5e setting coming later.
Arcanum Worlds are the same company that did Odyssey of the Dragonlords. It’s James Ohlen’s group.
I thought there had been some tension there. Perhaps Ohlen was a Wizards of the Coast employee who was also writing 5e material, which had upset some contract lawyer somewhere. I don’t see why it would. My concerns were only sparked by the timing and the vanishing of the charity supplement.
However, Minsc and Boo are back, and if there are any tensions, they’re back behind the scenes now.
So, finally, and almost at the very end of the podcast, do we get the whiffs of Spelljammer.
On Friday, Wizards released a new Unearthed Arcana. Does the timing overlap a little with Minsc and Boo? Yes, it does, but I think it’s a stretch to link the two.
The new UA is called Travellers of the Multiverse and introduces rules for six races;
- Astral Elf: An elf denizen of the Astral Plane who is likely thousands of years old
- Autognome: A mechanical gnome gifted with free will
- Giff: A hippo-headed being of impressive size
- Hadozee: A highly adaptive simian being who uses winglike membranes to glide
- Plasmoid: An amoeba-like being
- Thri-kreen: A six-limbed, telepathic insectoid
These aren’t new races, but old ones being revisited. Some, like the Autognome, Hadozee and Plasmoid, are from Spelljammer.
It’s a whiff; that’s all I promised. But I think it’s a strong whiff. Wizards know precisely how the community will react. It might be a distraction while they figure out whether to call the 50th-anniversary editions of D&D due out in 2024 a 6th edition, 5.5 edition or 5e with new covers, but it’s probably more than that. The creative team are probably seriously thinking about these races, which means their heads have been in the Spelljammer space.
What do you think? Is Spelljammer one of the old-made-new-again D&D settings Wizards are working on?
And with that, we move on to the final section of this podcast. That’s bundles and deals.
On Itch.io, you can find the TTRPG Bundle for Afghan Support. $20 gets you nearly $300 worth of downloads, many from indie publishers. The money supports Afghans who did good before the Taliban swept the West away, took back control, and took to hunting these brave heroes.
In the Bundle of Holding, there’s an excellent chance to pick up The Cthulhu Hack and the still-new The Dee Sanction in the Bonus Collection. Both are highly rated games.
Also in the Bundle of Holding, in various formats, is the Night Shade Best Horror bundle. Not games, stories you can enjoy on your own as the dark draws in closer.
If you are looking for games, then there are a few days left on DriveThru’s Small Press Spotlight Sale.
There are tens of thousands of titles in it, including some from Magpie Games. That’s the company behind the largest-ever Kickstarter for tabletop RPGs. And, yeah, for the third time in this podcast, we’re back at the question of when a publisher is small, indie or boutique.
So, let’s move and do so with a confession. I confess I gave in and bought a Warhammer 40K themed ugly Christmas jumper from Merchoid. I’ll soon have a Warg Orkz sweater, and I plan to wear it all year round.
On that note, let’s wrap there. Keep safe, join the Ork bois, and we’ll see you next week.
What do you think? Sound off in the comment section below.