This is Audio EXP for the 8th of April, 2023, and the episode title is “It’s only a draft”.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #192]
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High Level Games is in the Spotlight this month, as voted for by Patreons.
I have got in touch with High Level, but it’s the Easter break for many of us, and I used their contact form. In Geek Native’s experience, those forms can be slightly prone to being eaten by spam gremlins, so I might also reach out via social media.
I don’t do that immediately because it feels a bit aggressive, stalky and high-pressure. Indie publishers don’t need that in their lives?
I’ll talk about a popular CEO stepping down from an RPG and board game publishing studio in just a bit, and I’m linking the idea of avoiding pressure to have more fun in your life here, but first, let me say that there will be no Audio EXP podcast next week.
Why not, you might ask. So, let me tell you – I’ll be at an RPG and games convention, and I’m going to the first in-person Conpulsion here in Edinburgh since the dread virus swept out of… well, we may never know.
I do know that Conpulsion is on, and I will be playing my first Vaesen game, my first Stars Without Number game and a game of Avatar: Legends which I have before and deserves more of my time.
Phil Reed is stepping down as the CEO of Steve Jackson Games. He’s staying with the studio, still doing Creative stuff but isn’t behind the wheel any more. He’s grown the company and done this through troubled times.
He has also attempted to diversify, ensuring that those big title games that must drive so much revenue aren’t driving all the income. Munchkin, I’m looking at you.
Phil has also had a string of amazingly successful Kickstarters, so he’ll spend less time at Steve Jackson Games and more on that.
No one is being promoted from within Steve Jackson Games to replace Phil, and Steve isn’t stepping into the position. The new boss comes from an area I know little about – painting minis.
She is Meredith Placko, the boss of Turbo Dork, and Meredith is staying as the boss there too.
What does this mean for Steve Jackson Games’ future? I don’t know Meredith, but I’m sure she’s fantastic. She plays GURPS. If SJG had appointed an RPG name to the role, then we could predict more RPGs in the studio’s future, or if it had been a tabletop games name, then more of those.
Meredith, I think, is in the middle ground. There is a statement from Meredith, but apparently, she’s so excited rather than speaking, it’s streachy dinosaur sounds. Hey, I make those too.
Leaving draft and also becoming a new thing is Tales of the Valiant.
Tales of the Valiant is what Kobold Press’s Project Black Flag has become. The clue was in the name; Black Flag was a project name. The rule set is Tales of the Valiant, it will come to Kickstarter in just a bit, and you can sign up for alerts now.
There will be two books: The Player’s Guide and The Monster Vault.
Once released, there’s also a license that cannot be meddled with, and that will govern the Core Fantasy Roleplaying rules. Anyone else can use those for their games.
Why isn’t there a GM book? Perhaps that will come later. Perhaps that’s setting-specific and the clever new supplement model for Tales of the Valiant will be settings-cum-engines tweaks worth buying.
There’s a few releases this week. One is the release of Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying: Universal Game Engine for ORC.
ORC has the same origins as Project Black Flag; it is a response to Wizards’ previous attempt to mess with the OGL. ORC is being coordinated but not owned by Paizo, so getting Chaosium on board is significant.
I’m excited as Basic Roleplaying is the guts of games like Call of Cthulhu and the recommended Rivers of London RPG.
However, I wasn’t expecting this so soon. As far as I know, ORC is still in draft. That’s the title of this RPG-heavy news podcast this week.
I guess Chaosium is so confident with how ORC is going that they felt it was okay to release Basic Roleplaying ahead of any final rubber stamps. I may ask contacts, it feels a bit cheeky, I may have misunderstood, but it might become very important later.
There’s another new release out this week, which has my attention, but since we’re talking D&D, let’s stick with that for this week’s drama.
When WotC backed away from the mess the attempt to tinker with the OGL had become, they decided to make the 5e rules Creative Commons.
They also set up a D&D Creator’s summit. I saw people moaning that they weren’t invited, but I thought it was a good idea. Get the community involved, and reestablish that sense of shared ownership.
However, it didn’t go well, and Wizards of the Coast have now issued an apology and lessons learned statement.
Wizards tried to do too much and tried to get people excited about the future. They probably wanted to move on, but people wanted to talk about the past; D&D fans needed to be reassured, not sold too.
Wizards tried to do too much by running an in-person and virtual event with people unfamiliar with the challenge. It was a challenge, and there were technical problems for the virtual attendees.
Reports say that it became a bit of a Wizards roasting.
I saw some important news that came out, and it did so badly.
Firstly, there was confusion around mixed heritage in the next version of D&D. Today, in 2023, you might describe a Labradoodle as being half-Poodle and half-Labrador, but you wouldn’t look at a newborn maybe use the word ‘half’ combined with anything else to express their heritage.
That’s tricky for a game with half-orcs and half-elves. Wizards will keep both, but in a way that feels less like we’re still in the 40s or, you know, the 70s. The 70s were 50 years ago.
The other bit of D&D news is that Wizards is dropping the One D&D brand. The next edition of D&D will simply be D&D 5e, perhaps the 2024 edition.
I think this is clever. It’s not D&D 5.5 or D&D 6, and it’s the same game with a wealth of content and creators already.
This is clever because it makes it hard for any grassroots movement to boycott the next edition. Books will still say “compatible with 5e” or something like and the community still supports Hasbro’s product.
The second reason is the sense of ownership and the maze around it. With the rules now in Creative Commons, that maze could grow and rather than trying to set up a competitor brand with One D&D, Wizards are staying put in the centre of the 5e maze. All roads will point to Wizards’ game.
It may even be much cheaper if it means managing fewer SKUs, leading to easier franchising with other popular titles. Deals like that must be on the radar now, given the movie’s success.
So, that other big release has me pumped? It’s a fantasy, even older than D&D. It’s a fantasy nearly as old as Lord of the Rings.
We’re talking about Jack Vance’s Dying Earth.
Goodman Games has released the official Dying Earth setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics.
As the name suggests, the Dying Earth is set in the far future, where the world is strange and life sometimes hard.
D&D’s magic system is sometimes described as Vancian. It’s the idea that magic users must read and memorize a spell, and then, as it’s used, the knowledge is erased from memory and must be learned again.
Vancian, as in Jack Vance. It was the Dying Earth books that introduced this idea, and they date back to the 50s.
But, as is often the case, Audio EXP’s highlight podcast is dominated by RPG chat, but not exclusively so.
As a movie exclusive this week, Geek Native has a clip from Colonials. That’s an indie sci-fi coming from Epic Pictures Group to the USA and other countries but not the UK. Plot? The Resistance’s attempt to save humankind.
We seem to mixing new and old fantasy and sci-fi this week. It’s Cowboy Bebop’s 25th Anniversary this year, and just to call out that Crunchyroll has a limited special edition with new, never-seen-before bonus material of Blu-rays in their store.
However, the merch story of the week goes to Bronwen, who explores why modern women are embracing retro fashion. It’s been a popular topic on social media. One thing that a group called the Retro Bunnies seem to have found aplenty is that a bright and retro dress often gets happy comments from people.
So, in our outro we have two bundles to highlight.
The first is a horror indie RPG called Shiver. You can get the core rules and supplements at the Bundle of Holding, but it’s a flash deal, and you’ll have to be brave swiftly.
The second is called Mork Borg 2, which is a dramatic title. It’s not a new edition of Mork Borg but even more third-party content for the popular game, which is also at the Bundle of Holding.
So, let’s finish there; buy magical games, and keep safe.
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