This is Audio EXP for 25th February, 2023, and the episode title is “Aggression versus Apologies”.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #186]
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Random Rambling Press is in the Spotlight this month, as voted for by Patreons.
I managed to speak to Jorgen and talk about running a small publishing studio in Sweden. As you might expect, I’m told the scene there is healthy but not very open.
It was the process of setting up the interview which I felt the most, though. It was hard to convince Random Rambling Press that this was a no-strings-attached offer. Imagine your inbox flooded with Kickstarter support offers, shady marketing agencies and the like. I can see why it’s hard to tell the noise from the signal, what’s safe from what is not.
Thanks, though, to Geek Native Patrons for making this interview series possible with your votes. I had plenty of examples of other Spotlight interviews to show Jorgen this was all legit.
Speaking of which, the end of the month is coming, and here’s a quick reminder of the five candidates for March. They are;
- Of Gods and Gamemasters
- Explorer’s Guild Publishing
- Haphazard Projects
- Grim Press
- Peter Drury-Mulholland
In the RPG scene, it’s been a bleak and busy week. Sadly, Jonathan M. Thompson, a game designer and the owner of Battlefield Press International, passed away.
Dan Davenport has put out an SOS on behalf of the family; they really need financial support to pay bills. A PayPal address, which you can find linked, is being circulated.
Eating lots of bandwidth this week has been a terrible storm around Wyrmwood. Warning, this is an uncomfortable topic.
I first learned there was a problem when in a non-RPG Facebook group, I was alerted to an example of a terrible response to claims of sexual assault. I was shocked to see it was woodcrafting tabletop games accessories company Wyrmwood.
I watched the video and understood the concern. It’s a high-impact reaction video, with bros around a table, lots of energy, reassuring themselves they did all the right things. It was a situation they would rather not have, disliked having to deal with, but definitely weren’t at fault while suggesting all sorts of uncertainty on the allegations.
If Wyrmwood made money by selling video impressions, I see the tactics, but it was perhaps not a sensitive, thoughtful and sombre reflection of a dire situation.
The outcry grew and grew, further doubts were raised, and Wyrmwood’s partners, including a charity they have been supporting, cancelled on them. The video was pulled, and a new apology was offered. I’ve not seen anyone who likes the further apology much more, either.
However, Wyrmwood is also in the middle of its most successful Kickstarter yet. The modular gaming table will be worth a million to them.
There was barely a blip in progress according to the tracking site Kicktraq. 24th of February saw the campaign drop in backers, but that drop was almost compensated for by the 25th. Kicktraq suggests the Kickstarter will finish around the $2m mark.
I spent a lot of time tracking Kickstarter and that’s one of the reasons my Friday nights are now sacrificed to the RPG newsletter but it does give Geek Native some excellent insight.
I’ve been following tabletop RPG and supporting projects for two years and have a formula to convert the number of weekly launches combined with how big the campaign targets are into a metric called Heat. Heat is an attempt to define how competitive the crowdfunding weekend has been.
High Heat means the market was competitive, and last week was the most fierce, the highest Heat since records began.
Wyrmwood’s table was a big driver, but so was Dwarven Forge’s Cities Untold, Arefact Games’ Dice Tomes and Acheron Book’s Apocalisee. Zine Quest, of course, is responsible for the sheer volume of campaigns running.
It’s not all about Kickstarter and projects coming, though. This week saw the retail release of Mongoose and Alison Cybe’s Viking-cyberpunk RPG series Shield Maidens.
The art looks fantastic, the mash-up clever, and the world bleak yet awesome. You are a Daughter of Freya fighting to save the realm while the gods’ war and darkness attacks.
There’s a bunch of accessories already, and the core rules come in the book Shield Maidens Training Guide, available in physical form from Mongoose and a 192-page PDF from DriveThruRPG.
There’s the Shield Maidens Gamemasters Guide also from MongoosePublishing.com and DriveThruRPG. Nicely, and I’d love to know the creative and business logic there, there’s even a soundtrack with a CD option available from Mongoose with a digital-only DTRPG.
There’s some D&D to talk about too this week and not just because Keys from the Golden Vault, D&D’s latest book is getting a lot of coverage and not all positive.
We now know that Ardlings won’t be in One D&D for launch. Why? They just didn’t fit.
There’s also hints that One D&D might change the rules for druids. Remember the pointless drama from the Honour Among Thieves trailer when the druid turned into an owl bear – which, technically, the rules don’t allow unless it’s cool. There are whiffs of that changing too.
The main reason I put some D&D chat into this week’s Geek Native podcast is because I’ve some stats from Roll20. The most important thing to say, though, is that Roll20 is going from being generous with its market share analysis of RPG systems and games to not doing it at all.
I’ve already seen people suggesting Hasbro bribed them to stop doing this. I doubt it.
I asked for the stats to see what happened to 5e’s figures during the OGL. As you can tell, I didn’t get them, but I did get the top three character sheet installs.
The takeaway is that the top three didn’t change during the drama. They are and remain;
- D&D 5e
- Pathfinder 2e
- Call of Cthulhu
However, there was a big climber outside the top three and a game which grew by 300%. That game was Cyberpunk RED. I suspect, though, this is due to the hit anime Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.
To recap, there are lots of understandable protests at Wyrmwood and Hasbro, but we don’t have compelling evidence to say many people withdrew their pledges on Kickstarter or stopped playing 5e. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, I’m saying it’s hard to get to the truth at times, especially when the anger versus action ratios aren’t immediately clear.
Before we look at the bundle deal I found this week let’s talk about the UK’s Tabletop Gaming Magazine. It’ll get a new editor and a relaunch soon.
The new focus? New gamers. I mean, that’s what I wanted for Geek Native way back before RPGs were cool so I won’t criticise it. If there was a great magazine, website and YouTube channel for onboarding new board gamers or roleplayers at the start of the lockdown, then I see why that would have been awesome for a business.
But why new gamers and now? This could be Tabletop Gaming Magazine looking for its niche. Perhaps established gamers don’t bother with magazines or sites attached to them. Perhaps people who are researching find traditional publishers first; even if they’re browsing shelves in a store, if people still do that, if there are still stores, that might be the path Warners Group is taking the publication.
Lastly, that bundle is for the 5e version of Numenera from Monte Cook Games and its up at the Bundle of Holding. It’s called the Arcana of the Ancients.
It’s not new, but the Pathfinder Humble deal has sold more than 100,000 copies and has been extended for a few more days so you can still get it.
So, let’s finish there; know when to come out fighting, when to be thoughtful and keep safe.
What are your thoughts? Strike up a discussion and leave a comment below.