This is Audio EXP for the 12th of March 2022, and the title of this episode is “Wizard Lawyers make it personal”
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #139]
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Wider Path Games is in the spotlight this month, as voted for by Patreons.
And, even though we’re not yet halfway through the month, the Spotlight feature with Wider Path is live on the site. The timing has worked well. The indie publisher this month launched a Kickstarter for Spark Sun.
Spark Sun is a 5e-powered game and a setting where technology and biology are blurred. Here your creator wants to destroy you
However, it’s Starport that Wider Path might be best known for, they think so, and that’s a setting designed with young players in mind.
Good luck to Wider Path for their Kickstarter. It’s not a Kickstarter story up next; it’s the lack of a Kickstarter.
Just briefly, I want to touch on The Lost and the Jammed. This is a gonzo gunpowder game. Fantasy with gunslingers.
It’s by SoulMuppet; they’re the publishers behind Best Left Buried and Orbital Blues, two games that have done well. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t call SoulMuppet a titan of publishing. They’re indie, and I’d argue you need to be reasonably close to the TTRPG scene to know the name.
Despite what I think, The Lost of the Jammed crowdfunded without crowdfunding. The indie publisher just said that if they could get £1,000 in pre-orders, they’d make the game, and in very little time at all, they did just that.
I didn’t see the start, though. I didn’t see how the publisher handled the possibility of taking pre-orders without hitting the target. I wonder about the legal consequences of having money but no product or starting with only the promise of money.
Speaking of legal lessons, I learnt a little bit more about American trademark law from MCDM’s Strongholds & Followers loss. It’s not dramatic news, just that Matt Coville’s company won’t be able to trademark the name Strongholds & Followers. That was a huge Kickstarter success and a successful 5e book.
The problem was that it was only a book, and you can’t trademark a single work, and you could if it was a series. MCDM has talked about Strongholds & Followers being a book on their Kickstarter, in their store and elsewhere.
I can’t offer legal advice, but now I wonder if you make all your add-ons and stretch goals in a Kickstarter part of a series, or you do previews, quickstarts and jumpstarts as a series just so you can have a series, and with that, the potential to trademark it.
Of course, the main legal story of the week and the title of this podcast comes from Wizards of the Coast. The D&D publisher’s lawyers have added more detail to their counter-suit against TSR in the trademark battle there.
They’ve named Justin LaNasa and the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum. Doing so strips away the ability to hide behind the TSR 4 front and gets those legal entities involved.
It also looks pretty slam dunk, with screengrabs showing us what we knew all along – that Wizards was still using the TSR logo. That’s probably why Wizards’ lawyers are asking for a trial by Jury. They want the courtroom encounters straightforward and untechnical and think they can win that way.
Since we’re onto D&D, let’s look at all the ways they’re going to remain the dominant force in the hobby for now.
There’s Dragonlance, the popular fantasy series and the old D&D setting. It’s not yet seen anything official for 5e, but that begins to change this week. Wizards of the Coast are officially playtesting the Heroes of Krynn in an Unearthed Arcana release.
That means Dragonlance content is being tested, which often means Wizards are working on a related project. After all, they’re not going to release a Dragonlance playtest just to wind us up. However, it doesn’t mean anything is certain.
There’s also Spelljammer, the science-fantasy setting of sailing ships soaring through space.
Jason Tondro, WotC’s latest senior designer, says he’d be a great guy to help the D&D publisher make that setting. Why? Well, he worked on Pathfinder and Starfinder. He also says he doesn’t know which project Wizards of the Coast hired him for.
Frankly, it’s an odd thing to say.
Then there’s Dark Sun, the controversially edgy setting. That’s definitely coming back, but in the form of old computer games, via a publisher with connections to GOG and to Steam.
A host of Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Dark Sun, Ravenloft and even Al-Qadim classic games are being remastered and released by SNEG.
We don’t need to be reminded that D&D tops the sales charts, it’s redundant information. But who’s second and third?
ICv2’s Q4 2021 data is out. These are retailer surveys from North America.
Here’s the top five and in reverse order;
5th – Call of Cthulthu
4th – Fallout by Modiphius
3rd – Goodman Games’ 5e games
2nd – Pathfinder
And, yeah, D&D is first.
A system that we might hear more of but get confused about is Essence.
This week Brittannia Games made their 20-year old Essence Core a free download at DriveThruRPG. It’s a multi-genre system.
It’s not the same Essence that Renegade uses for Power Rangers and others. That’s Essence 20.
You might remember that Renegade promised a follow-up interview with Geek Native after I highlighted that with Essence, Hasbro had signed off on an alternative to 5e.
Renegade did not like me for that.
They’ve also reneged on their promise of an interview. I’ve contacted them multiple times about following up on that deal and have been met with silence. It’s a shame.
Oh well, I can push on with coverage without their support. Some things you can solo.
Speaking of which, Modiphius is now taking pre-orders on Geek Gamers’ Solo Game Master’s Guide.
The book covers different RPG systems and provides suggestions and tips on how to run a game for yourself. Traditionally, most GMs are solo. You only hear about adventures with two GMs as occasional stories. That’s not what is going on here, and I think the alternative title could just have been “Solo RPG Guide”.
That said, sometimes publishers and writers do collaborate on shared universes. A case in point is the news this week that Titan Books and Free League Publishing will coordinate on a shared Alien universe.
That means the next three official Titan Alien novels will have Andrew Gaska penned Alien scenarios in them.
This next bit of news is also a shared universe but it’s really a “better late than never” story. James Gunn’s Peacemaker series is coming to TV.
Oh, you thought that had been and gone? Well, not in the UK. It’s finally coming, and Sky has bought the rights. That means you can also catch it on the streaming service Now TV.
Let’s start the finish and move on to bundles. We can stay with TV shows for a bit longer, though, as Eden Studio’s official Buffy and Angel RPGs are available for a few weeks in the Bundle of Holding.
I was surprised to see them, confident that the commercial rights had expired, but I guess not. The timing works as it’s Buffy’s 25th anniversary.
Also, in the Bundle of Holding, and ahead of Avatar: Legends getting a widespread launch, Magpie Games have their teen superhero game Masks – A New Generation on offer.
In Humble, and I presume for International Women’s Day, there’s a big comic book bundle called Leading Ladies.
Lastly, most importantly, there are thousands of dollars of computer and tabletop games in Itch’s Bundle for Ukraine. Not only is it worth your money, but it’s also a vital cause.
And on that note, let’s wrap there, keep fighting and see you next week.
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