This is Audio EXP for the 3rd of December 2022, and the title of this episode is “Could we get indie RPGs on the NHS?”.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #173]
Handiwork Games are in the spotlight this month, as voted for by Patreons.
I don’t think Jon is at Dragonmeet, so if I get my act together, I’ll reach out to him and try and arrange a Q&A.
The fact that I’m at the start of the cycle again, reaching out to a tabletop publisher for an interview, reveals that it’s the start of the month, and Geek Native Patrons have five new options to vote for. The winner will be the first Spotlight of 2023.
The five candidates are:
If you’re a site or podcast backer, then pop over to Patron or go via the spotlight page for the vote link. You’ll find those in the podcast transcript.
As we’re approaching the new year, it’s a good time to reflect on the RPG Publisher Spotlight. Are there any easy tweaks you can see that would make it better? I can’t promise to make all the changes, but I can certainly listen.
Listening is an excellent thing to do, and it’s a mental health skill.
Speaking of which, tabletop games are also a mental health skill. How do we know for sure? There’s been a 10-month study from The Bodhana Group, a charity that investigates such things. They looked at roleplaying games and found that playing can improve social skills and reduce social and general anxiety.
I thought as much, but it’s good to know. I wonder how the gaming landscape might change if health services recognised the hobby as a healthy activity. Could we get indie RPGs on the NHS?
That’s a question that becomes a rabbit hole, doesn’t it? Would D&D be a better game for the NHS to buy for those potential gamers identified as potentially benefiting? It’s not as if a commercial deal with the multi-national Hasbro is out of the question, as the NHS buys medicine from big pharma all the time. It might even be more manageable.
But it feels nicer to imagine the NHS supporting people’s mental health and indie gamers.
Perhaps access to games isn’t the problem; it’s access to GMs, storytellers and friendly gaming groups. How do you even begin to cross that bridge if you suffer from social anxiety?
I don’t know about that, and it feels like a big, significant, scary question.
Thankfully, RPGs themselves are increasingly easy to get into and less intimidating.
You might see where I’m heading with this as the big news from the world of D&D this month isn’t just the latest Unearthed Arcana playtest for One D&D. It’s the news that Dungeons & Dragons will stop talking about races.
Wizards of the Coast talked to consultants and settled on the term “Species” instead.
I imagine some people will see this change as “political correctness gone mad”. They’ll feel threatened by the change, that their hobby is being taken away from them, and will battle through all sorts of aggressive insecurities.
I say “imagine” because I’ve not seen such comments on social media. I’ve not looked, but usually, when there’s a backlash, it’s hard to miss. The pruning of my own social channels must be going well.
However, I have seen comments to say that Wizards of the Coast haven’t gone far enough.
The argument here is that Species is pretty much the same as Race. The concern here is that intelligence, culture and behaviour characteristics all get squished together in a racist take of the world.
Wizards of the Coast have said they talked to consultants but the counter-arguments are that the consultants simply seem to be being used as shields, we don’t know exactly what the consultants were asked to consult on and that they can still be wrong anyway.
I will stick my neck out and suggest that the word Species does not seem to have so much baggage as the word Race does.
One D&D could have used alternatives are heritage, lineage, culture or terms that suggest environmental factors.
I don’t think it is easy, and it depends on the game world. Warforged are constructs of magic and material, and I concede that does seem to make them a different species to a dwarf, elf or orc. It’s worth remembering, too, that gaming is just gaming; it’s not more important than real life. The argument “but it’s like this in the game world” is as weak as defending bad playing with a “but it’s what my character would do” defence.
I suspect the proof will be in the pudding. We’ll have to see how skillfully One D&D handles this legacy problem and whether it does any better than Spelljammer and the racist howlers it made.
There’s more D&D news this week, just bits and pieces, but worthy of some speculation.
The first D&D book of 2023 is open for pre-order, at least on Amazon. That’s Keys from the Golden Vault, and Amazon UK are currently asking £41.79 for it, with a February 21 shipping date.
I noticed that indie book shops have the alternative hardcover of Dragonlance Shadow of the Dragon Queen with a shipping date ahead of Amazon’s regular copy.
It’s barely news, but I found my brain down a rabbit hole of whether they would get the book before Amazon and whether the idea was that people had to go to the physical shop. Amazon would surely be swifter on the parcel despatch given their logistics might.
But some of the indie bookshops are eCommerce only. Perhaps Amazon just knows to manage expectations better, adding time for delivery.
I also noticed two more D&D licenses in Amazon with the Quest Chronicles and Yearbook. One is due in 2024, the other in 2023 and both are from a publisher called Expanse.
After some frustrated Googling the only Expanse publisher I could find was some Christian collective that promise clean books. Really? I know many committed Christians play D&D, but I have to wonder what a clean specialist would make of D&D. In this case, clean means something like ‘sanitised and approved according to this particular religious lens’.
Sticking with 5e, and I guess still with Christian vibes; there’s Hellboy.
The official Hellboy tabletop RPG was previously a partnership between Red Scar and Mantic. Now it’s a partnership between Nightfall Games and Mantic.
If you want to buy the PDF from DriveThruRPG, you’ll have to get it from Nightfall. It’s a good time to do so as Nightfall have put a bundle together.
Nightfall say they’ll work with Mantic on fresh content for the game line.
Another deal worth highlighting is the one between Noble Knight Games and the retailer’s workers. Noble Knight Games has voluntarily recognised the workers union.
I saw lots of pressure on them to do the right thing, but that doesn’t mean they would have found it easy; I know unions are especially scary to American companies. This makes me like Noble Knight even more and I hope they don’t feel as if they were forced into some sort of cultural sacrifice.
Sacrifice is the theme of DIE.
Creators Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans worked on the tabletop RPG for their comic book themselves. Rowan, Rook and Decard, a high-profile indie publisher, helped.
The story is about gamers who, as I understand it, get to a fantasy world and then try and stay there. It’s not about getting home. It’s about sacrificing stuff to stay away.
There’s new free stuff too.
Magpie Games have released another Root quickstart, and this one is Talon Hill. There are enough quickstarts to form a bundle now.
I don’t see a downside. If Magpie has the resources, this keeps Root in mind, makes it easier to get into, and looks after people who might prefer pre-written content but struggle to afford it.
Paizo has released a freebie for the Drift Crisis in Starfinder. You can grab the Drift Hackers Players Guide now.
I think this is a great approach. It’s a document to give to your players or a potential player to download and encourage them to persuade their gaming buddies to try Starfinder.
The Players Guide helps coordinate group and character creation. It saves you time, gives people a thing to do and builds buzz for the coming adventure.
In fact, it’s been a very busy week of new releases all round.
On the bundle side of things, our usual outro, I’ll highlight the Shadowrun mega-bundle on the Bundle of Holding. That’s Shadowrun 1e and 2e deals for 20-year old classic fantasy cyberpunk gaming.
If you’re quick, as it ends on the 7th, there’s also a collection of ebooks with Dungeon Crawl Classics stats from Goodman in the Tales From the Magician’s Skull offer.
Lastly, at Itch, there’s an indie publisher supporting Solstice Fantasy bundle.
Gosh, it is dark outside as I record this and its only a few hours after lunch. I’m about to head off to Edinburgh indie gamer’s Christmas social, and I wonder if I’ll need to bring a flashlight!
So, let’s finish up there; don’t fear the dark, and I’ll see you next week.
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