This is Audio EXP for the 30th of October 2021, and the title of this episode is “Kickstarter bans and the digital transformation of the tabletop”
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #120]
Grim & Perilous Studios is in the spotlight this month, as voted for by Patreons.
The interview with Adam Rose of G&P is up. Adam is the owner of the studio, taking over after Daniel Fox moved to Andrews McMeel.
In the piece, we talk about how the two companies work together and what plans exist for the future. I’ve seen some retweets and mutters from illustrators that make me think something other than an RPG may be in the works. Adam hints at things but doesn’t confirm.
I also have research sent to me that’s worth sharing, so at the end of the podcast, I’ll tell you the professional valuation of the most expensive classic movie poster. I’ll compare that to what the seller says is a historical poster that I found on Etsy. Which do you think will be higher?
There’s a should-have-seen-it-coming surprise on the digital front. Following Pathfinder Infinite, there’s now Pathfinder Nexus.
Pathfinder Infinite is the community content problem run between Paizo and OneBookShelf like the DMs Guild.
Pathfinder Nexus is the D&D Beyond alternative. Who’s the partner in that? Demiplane. Geek Native has been tracking Demiplane and introduced as a looking-for-group site has been expanding its functionality, including a partnership with the virtual tabletop TaleSpire.
Adam Bradford, a D&D Beyond founder, moved to Demiplane.
In Pathfinder Nexus, you’ll get access to digital content with a digital reader, like D&D Beyond.
You’ll get a character generator with interactive character sheets, and you’ll get video chat, a bit like Discord or Google Meet.
No doubt this announcement has been a long time coming, perhaps too long as Paizo must not be finding it easy competing against Wizards of the Coast and the giant that D&D has become.
What Pathfinder Nexus allows is more accessible digital play. We’re back to virtual tabletops and marketplace chats again.
Regular listeners will know that given half the chance, I go off on speculation as to how this might all unfold. We’re expecting D&D to do something in this space.
Now, Fandom will have to consider Demiplane as a potential with experience and clout in any pitch to keep the Wizards of the Coast contract when it comes up for renewal. Along with G4, perhaps.
Wizards of the Coast have said they’re working on physical formats we’ve never seen before. One of my speculations was on augmented reality, which means taking a smartphone and camera over a physical book to see a digital transformation.
That’s a big part of Laura and Tracy Hickman’s Skyraiders of Abarax Kickstarter.
The pair, known for bringing Ravenloft and Dragonlance to life, are now funding a new D&D 5e setting.
The AR system, known as the Living Tome, isn’t just about revealing information. The Kickstarter says that scanning maps give different information to different players, depending on what their character might know.
The AR/Living Tome might also trigger in-game events.
“Digital Transformation” is in the title of this podcast. Usually, it’s marketing buzz and jargon for businesses getting their act together to use technology as ably as their customers do.
In this case, that also applies, publishers, catching up with digital ways of playing games. It also applies to the content itself.
It feels like a no-brainer, right? Do this or cease to be.
Here’s an example that brought it home to me. The Discworld RPG has been out for ages. Terry Pratchett himself worked on it. You’ve been able to download it from Steve Jackson Games’ Warehouse 23 for years.
Have you ever bought a PDF from Warehouse23?
This week, for the first time, the Discworld RPG is now available at DriveThruRPG.
It’s a complete game. It’s a GURPs-powered, no additional purchase needed, RPG. It’s undoubtedly going to sell some copies and put some much-needed pennies into Steve Jacksons’ coffers to pay for staff.
I know all publishers are stretched and super busy, but isn’t it odd this didn’t happen earlier?
Other tabletop RPGs are more surprising. Here’s one. The computer games publisher Square Enix is going to publish Lara Croft’s Tomb Raiders. It’s a tabletop RPG.
In Lara Croft’s Tomb Raiders, you play people who work for Lara and get sent out to investigate clues and missions, stuff she’s too busy for.
That works for me.
The game has been worked on for years, but only as a fan project. It just so happens that the fan, Matthew Gaston, is also a technical designer at Square Enix, and I imagine that gave him access to pitch the idea.
Boldy, Square Enix say the tabletop RPG will be out this year.
It’s kinda another example of the digital transformation of the tabletop. We’ve seen it with titles like Blade Runner, Aliens and Cowboy Bebop; big franchises want into the tabletop gaming hobby, and digital transformation makes it easier to do that.
That said, the opening half of the podcast title is about Kickstarter bans. Today, just as I should have been recording this podcast, I noticed a rules update at Kickstarter.com. It was only a few hours old.
The update makes it clear; publishers cannot overlap Kickstarters.
In other words, if one Kickstarter is not entirely fulfilled, then the publisher cannot fund another. I can think of many RPG and games publishers that routinely have several overlapping Kickstarters. I can think of one that must have dozens.
There is an exception. Creators in good standing can have a few fulfilling while others run. How many depends on whether Kickstarter classifies the project as a book or a game. However, there’s no process for being in good standing, just follow the rules and hope Kickstarter’s internal team gives you the pass when you submit the project.
Sounds like a nightmare of a project management gamble to me.
Unless this is another of my “I thought it was big news, but no one else does” stories, which do happen, I imagine we’ll see some publishers speak up about this.
Not that the physical side of publishing is getting any easier. It’s not all about Kickstarter making project management challenges. This week, the comic book publisher Image says they’re going to cease second runs of printing because there’s a paper shortage.
Great. So there’s Brexit, a shipping crisis and now a lack of paper to print games on.
Now, Image has tried to push back against second print-runs before, so it’s not out of character for them, but it feels as if there could ever be a paper shortage that it would be now.
There’s also the thorny challenge of what to put in your games. We’re back to Paizo with this one. In the adventure path Strength of Thousands, book 5, Doorway to the Red Star, the preface notes the publisher is going to stop using the word Phylactery.
I didn’t know, but it’s apparently not a word from myth or make-believe, but of contemporary religion and culture. It’s a word from the Jewish community and is the name for the little black prayer boxes worn on the head.
I don’t think the game is reduced by even one atom. Instead, Pathfinder will use Soul Cages to describe lichcraft. However, on the Geek Native blog, there’s already a comment about the game being ruined.
There’s a few bundles and freebies to mention on the way out, but I wanted to share one non-RPG story before we do. I’ve been reviewing a whole bunch of anime I caught at the Scotland Loves Anime festival.
One to call out is The Deer King as it touches on the digital transformation angle. Covid and the lockdown happened while this anime was being produced, so remote teams working from home finished it off.
It’s the story of cultural change, one nation being consumed by another after losing the war. Does one set of people lose their culture, or does it just change?
There’s more to it than that, though. The conquerors can’t just sweep in because a plague breaks out, and the Black Wolf Fever is deadly. It affects the soldiers of one nation, not the other.
This, by the way, was written before COVID. The anime predicts anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and a whole host of human reactions to a scary plague.
It wasn’t my favourite anime of the festival, probably gets into my top five, but it is both clever and simply stunning. I’ve a trailer of it to watch in the review worth a few minutes of your time if you appreciate animation as art.
Now, those freebies and bundles I mentioned.
There’s a Kickstarter to turn Matt Forbeck’s Shotguns and Sorcery RPG, which is great, into a 5e version on Kickstarter right now. Timed with that is a Bundle of Holding deal to get the full Cypher System line. I think it’s a great game; this is also worth your time.
For Halloween, there’s also Tentacles 6 which, as you might expect, is a collection of Cthulhu mythos inspired offers such as Apocathulhu and Tiny Cthulhu.
On Humble Bundle, there’s StrataGems which will get you some computer games on the cheap. Specifically, strategy computer games from Paradox Interactive.
On the freebie front, there’s Talisman Adventures quickstart for free, and it comes with the adventure Curse of the Rat Queen. This is the RPG based, somewhat, on the board game.
There’s also a quickstart of the Chew RPG. Enough to play an adventure in the Forged in the Dark game about life after the chicken apocalypse.
Now, to finish by closing off that movie poster teaser. The most expensive movie poster is the 1927 Metropolis print. It sold for $690,000, and it’s rumoured that Leonardo DiCaprio bought it.
The one I found on Etsy? A 1968 USSR propaganda poster and it’ll set you back a cool $30,000.
On that note, let’s wrap there. Keep safe, spend your money wisely, and I’ll see you next week.
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