This is Audio EXP for the 19th of February 2022, and the title of this episode is “Dragons of Stormwreck Isle is surprise D&D”
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #136]
Shawn Merwin is in the spotlight this month, as voted for by Patreons.
Good news. Shawn and I are chatting. There’s a real chance I’ll have a host of interesting things to blend into an RPG Spotlight article this weekend.
Speaking of this weekend, let me reveal a secret. I usually record this on Saturday and release it on Saturday. That’s life as an RPG and geek culture podcaster, huh?
It’s Friday night right now, a stormy and dark night on the Scottish coast. I’m recording this around midnight. Hours early. Why? Unless the storms cancel things, I’m off to a gin tasting night on Saturday. You don’t need perception magic to know I’ll be in no fit state to podcast then, and this is my solution.
But before we leave this Patreon intro and get into Geek Native’s weekly summary, let me offer a thank you. Thank you to all Patreons and to listeners. If you’re a Patreon or become one soon, there’s a digital copy of the RPG of cosmic horror and red tape coming your way as a thank you. It’s the game Party First.
I did try not to have two D&D / Wizards of the Coast podcast headlines in a row, but so much as happened this week, it’s impossible to avoid.
Firstly, an activist investor – and that’s any group with opinions, ideas and the willingness to be a pain about getting listened to – has Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast in their sights.
They’re demanding that Hasbro spins off Wizards of the Coast into a separate company. Why? More shareholder value.
Wizards will command a better purchase rate if sold separately or allowed to develop individually, claims Alta Fox Capital.
Alta Fox Capital has only a few per cent of Hasbro, but that’s millions of dollars and enough to nominate people for the board of directors. And they’re playing that card.
All this happens as the old Wizards of the Coast boss becomes the new Hasbro boss. He’s gonna be busy.
Also, this week, pretty much the same day, Hasbro released a marketing video in which people spotted a previously un-announced D&D book. It’s a Starter Set and an adventure called Dragons of Stormwreck Isle.
I don’t think it’s an oversight in any traditional sense because Hasbro also released a press statement in which the book was mentioned and its $49.99 price point. It’s due out this year.
It’s just slightly unusual for the news to come in this way. Usually, Wizards of the Coast try and steer the messaging.
So, let’s put the buzz of a new D&D Starter Set aside. No? Okay, I’m a marketing geek so stick with me. All I wonder here is whether this is a symptom of a change of process within Hasbro?
Perhaps there’s been an, um, streamlining of marcoms teams within the company. Isn’t this the very sort of thing that Alta Fox Capital might cite as an example of why Wizards of the Coast need more independence, not less?
I’m not going to claim things were more straightforward in the TSR days, and it’s well known that it was frantic, especially with legal action back then.
There have been many TSR re-releases through the OneBookShelf and WotC digital scanning program this week. The most recent of which that I’ve written up is the return of the 1994 box set The Classic Dungeons & Dragons.
The PDF clearly isn’t an actual box, but it’s a way to get the contents. I did spot copies of the actual box set on Noble Knight, though, and for nearly $200. That’s the attraction of the PDF, right. Do you need the original cardboard?
Sticking with the evolution of D&D for just a bit longer, the Afropunk 5e setting The Wagadu Chronicles has been out in PDF and free for a while.
That’s just the side-gig, though. Publisher Twin Drums’ main project is a 5e-powered MMO, and that’s making progress. The publisher is looking for early-stage testers, and there’s a sign-up form if you’re good at keeping secrets and interested.
You’ll find the link in the podcast transcript, and you’ll find that via the show notes.
There are lots of alternatives to D&D and 5e, though. It feels like this week saw an especially large number of them announced as well.
For example, the games studio owned by Bloomsbury, Osprey announced two more RPGs.
One is Crescendo of Violence by Alan Bahr.
That’s a world of jazz and cybernetics, of gangsters, corruption, clones and redemption.
Another is Hard City a noir also published by Osprey. Hard City is due out this year and is written by Nathan Russell.
It’s a sandbox for gumshoes.
I also looked at a relatively new RPG this week. Well, I wrote up the review this week. I’ve been looking at the game and running a few Discord adventures with it for a bit longer.
I’ve been playing Red Giant a horror anime from Rookie Jet.
It’s horror in the sense that Vampire Hunter D and Berserk are horrors. They’re in your face brutal, bleak, bloody and adult.
Red Giant begins with a stern warning about being only suitable for 18+.
Twist. It’s not really much of horror in its text, and instead, it’s a hex-crawl of a framework that nudges towards it, and, of course, the idea is you fill in the gory details yourself.
I had some problems with but just small stuff. For example, having rules to wear people down when they have to keep watch but having no concept of split-shifts. What sort of party of four or more people assigns the whole night to just one person?
I’ve not played and couldn’t possibly have played the newly announced Sherlock board game.
Case Connection is the first from a new multi-game deal between the BBC and Lucky Duck.
Five years after the last of the Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch TV series, Case Connection returns to their world.
One of the many things I liked about the show was how gracefully modern technology was part of it. RT Davis had texts appear on the screen, which feels simple now, but I’m sure it was the first time many people had seen it. The use of hashtags, too, to join stories together in joining social media worked well.
Technology brings us to the last bit of the Audio EXP highlights show before the competitions and bundles.
Kickstarter has finally said something else about their Blockchain plans.
I don’t know how to describe their two months of silence. I really don’t. Brave? Perhaps. Wise? Maybe. Foolish? The same argument applies. Uncoordinated? It’s just hard to say.
They’ve said that they won’t do Blockchain without testing and approval from a new advisory group. THey’re also doubling down on the green creds and making sure the new spin-off is a Public Benefit Corporation.
It’s worth reminding yourself that Blockchains can be run well or poorly when it comes to environmental impact and that Blockchains are related to but not the same as crypto and NFT.
NFTs are blocked on Kickstarter, and the platform says they’ve no immediate plans to change that. There will be much debate about whether that’s a robust enough position.
The crowdfunding group is more explicit on cryptos, saying that you’ll never have to use cryptos to start or back a project. I guess that’s just another way of saying that your cash will always be good.
Last week we spoke about the retailers in the RPG space saying no to NFTs. This week a publisher who had said “Yes,” has backed out.
That’s to say Chaosium has suspended their program.
If you’ve bought stuff from the Veve deal, then you’ve still bought whatever you’ve bought, a token that says a thing.
That said, Chaosium acknowledged many fans hated it, reminded us that they were early movers after due diligence, and are now reacting by scrapping any plans to do any more.
The first bundle comes from British book and games publisher Rebellion. We’ll speak about them again in just a bit. For this bundle, though, we have got a curated collection from the Treasury of British comics, Judge Dredd and related titles.
The deal is called Masters of British Comics and the top tier has hundreds of dollars worth of value.
Next, we slide over to the Bundle of Holding for two Hellfrost offers from Triple Ace Games.
As the name implies, Hellfrost is a frozen fantasy setting. It uses the Savage Worlds and is one of the early hits for the system.
Now, back to Rebellion. We don’t have the backstory, but we know that EN Publishing won’t be making or even selling any more of the Judge Dredd and the Worlds of 2000 AD RPG. Rebellion had given them the license.
The Worlds of 2000 AD bundle therefore might well be your last chance to get the games.
Lastly, a competition from Geek Native for anyone in the UK. A chance to win some drink coasters with the artwork from the SelfPromoteSaturday tweets.
And on that note, let’s wrap there, enjoy your own gin and see you next week.
Let us know what you think in the discussion area below.