This is Audio EXP for the 12th of October 2019, and the title of this episode is #WeAreAllUS: Free adventures and a $1,000 sting.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #13]
Welcome to the Geek Native highlights show. In this podcast, we take a look at interesting and quirky stories from the week we’ve just had. We’re going to start small and finish big.
How big? Fantasy Grounds, the virtual tabletop, published a year worth of game stats. I’ve filled in a spreadsheet, done the maths and worked out who the biggest five publishers on the platform are.
We’ll get to that at the end of the podcast, first, let’s start with Misfit Studios and a fantastic survival story.
Misfit Studios are Geek Native’s RPG Publisher of the month and are staring the spotlight feature. You can find a link to that in the show notes or just by searching for Misfit Studios on Geek Native.
Misfit was founded in 2003 but didn’t publish their first product until 2005. What happened?
Steven Trustrum explains it on the blog, and I’ll paraphrase for you. Misfit Studios invested more than $1,000 in Guardians of Order’s imprint program to produce what would be Misfit’s first product.
Expect, Guardian of Order’s founder, Mark MacKinnon vanished off the radar and took Trustrum and Misfit’s money.
The debt nearly killed the young studio, but due to Steven Trustrum’s commitment and hard work, it is now a respected publisher in its own right. Misfit even helps out other studios with their marketing.
Misfit is known for superhero games like Better Mousetrap 3e and Metahuman Martial Arts 3e for Mutants and Masterminds.
More recently, Trustrum bought the licensing rights for the post-apocalyptic survival of Darwin’s World from RPGObjects.
Misfit Studios has also been working on a project called PD46FX. What that project remains a secret but Trustrum told me it’s a fan-favourite game system that’s been around since the 80s and streamlining it. He says there’s a clue in the project name. Can you figure it out? I’m not confident I can.
The announcement of Misfit Studios winning the October Spotlight poll wasn’t the only events of the week. As a reminder, Patrons can vote in next month’s poll over on Patreon. Two other significant events since we spoke last was the 2019 New York Comic Con coming to a wrap and Chaosium’s #WeAreAllUs launching.
What’s there to say about New York Comic Con? I wish I could go without having to go? It sounds incredible, but it’s a long trek from Scotland, and I believe US customs still kinda like to have access to your social media accounts. As a blogger, I have so many I fear I’d be in the queue for days.
Two headlines that stood out for me from Comic Con was the Star Trek: Picard trailer from Amazon.
There are so many old faces back again. It sounds like it’ll be a short series, one that starts to air in January of next year and I have faith they’ll make it work.
The other is the trailer for season two of Lost in Space. I think I liked the first one. Is that odd? Surely I would know if I liked a show or not. Well, it’s not that simple. There was nothing I disliked, but it didn’t always hold my attention. I adore the sci-fi, I like the modern retelling and casting of some of the roles. Doctor Smith, for example, isn’t automatically an old white guy. However, sometimes it strayed into soap opera in space, and that didn’t appeal so much to me.
While the new trailer is stunning, I think it hints at a similar formula. I hope to give the show a chance, but I’m so far behind on my TV watching I might struggle. I’m still to see Cloak and Dagger, season two of Disenchantment, Swamp Thing or even finish Carnival Row.
The other event is Chaosium’s #WeAreAllUs. This is a hashtag and a series of free adventures to mark the first anniversary of Greg Stafford’s death.
Stafford founded Chaosium in the 70s and published White Bear and Red Moon in 1975. The last time Geek Native wrote about White Bear and Red Moon was in an article discussing whether D&D was the first RPG. The first instance of White Bear and Red Moon is a board game, as most people would define things, though.
Did you know that Stafford was also a shaman? Or that the company name Chaosium is a portmanteau of Coliseum and Chaos.
One of the things Chaosium are doing this year is giving away adventures for their core games. You can find a list of these on Geek Native, pop into Routinely Itemised: RPGs #17, that’s this week’s issue, scroll down to the giant picture of Greg Stafford and you’ll find links to them all there.
There’s the Lightless Beacon for Call of Cthulhu as a freebie.
Chaosium first released in 1981. It was written by Sandy Petersen and used the Basic Role-Playing system. It was Greg Stafford who noticed that in the 90s, many of Call of Cthulhu’s fans had never actually read any of the books and so decided to set up a fiction line.
For King Arthur Pendragon, there’s a free adventure called The Quest for the Red Blade.
Pendragon was written by Greg Stafford in 1985, and also used the Basic Role-Play System. It’s been published by Green Knight, White Wolf and Nocturnal Media before coming back to Chaosium again last year.
The Sword of Kings is Chaosium’s offering to 7th Sea gaming groups. 7th Sea is another popular game line that came from Chaosium, this time back in 1999, and which has returned to the publisher.
Sounds like a lot of free adventures, huh? There’s just a few more to go. There’s The Rattling Wind for RuneQuest.
Greg Stafford was a co-designer of RuneQuest, which was published back in 1978, making it one of the very first traditional RPGs.
The history of RuneQuest and Glorantha is an interesting and complex one. Too long to fit into this little podcast, so I’ll summarise and say that Stafford sold the rights to the rules and the name RuneQuest to publisher Avalon Hill. However, he kept the world of Glorantha in his hands. Guess what; both are now back at Chaosium and reunited. RuneQuest Glorantha was published last year.
Lastly, there’s Highwall Inn for HeroQuest Glorantha. HeroQuest dates back to the days of Issaries and Moon Design, and you won’t be surprised to know it’s currently safe at home with Chaosium.
That’s a lot of free adventures. However, if that’s not enough for you, then you might like the competition Geek Native is currently running. If you’re picked at random, then a subscription to The APERTURE Guide could be yours and that would mean four free adventures delivered to your inbox, every month, for a year.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Oh, in case it hadn’t been clear so far. All these free adventures are in PDF form. No one is rich enough to send free softback or hardcovers around.
Think of the environmental damage that would do.
That puts me in mind of the latest Kickstarter from Chad Walker called Reclaimer.
Reclaimer is an RPG in which the world is dying, and a great effort known as the Reclamation is trying to save it. This effort is being hampered by some super-rich who are building space Arks, at high environmental cost, to whisk themselves and their super-rich buddies off into the safety of space.
Saving the planet has become a war. In Reclaimer the PCs are part of this war, part of the armed wing of the response to the climate crisis.
Chad Walker has a habit of making great games and tapping into the zeitgeist. The last RPG I read of his was Sigmata: This Signal Kills Fascits in which players are superheroes and part of the resistance against the fascist government of the United States. The catch? These superheroes can only tap their power when a particular pirate radio frequency is being broadcast.
The Reclaimer Kickstarter still live, is doing very well. Walker wanted $10,000, and as this podcast is being recorded, he’s raised $15,000. There’s still nearly three weeks of funding left to run.
There’s no paper book, and backers are pledging twice or even three times the amount they need to for the PDF just because it’s the right thing to do.
Chad Walker promises a better than average PDF, though. No more awkward scrolling on your phone through a document that was designed to be printed. He’s hired Titan Effect’s Christian Nommay to build an interactive, clickable, PDF that’s more like a little website than a print-run in waiting.
Talk about timing. This same week, DriveThruRPG and some publishing partners have launched a Phone PDF project.
The platform has started to sell versions of RPGs and supplements in PDF that have been specially formatted to work with smartphones. Troll Lord, Andrews McMeel and Onyx Path Publishing are some of the big names involved. Games like Pugmire and Zeihander were free, for a few days, in Phone PDF form to mark the news.
It’s progress. I’ve seen people ask why they didn’t just do epubs? That’s the format many ebooks use. Well, DriveThruRPG already supports epubs. On the left-hand side of the shop, there’s a format option, it’s below Genre and above Languages, and you can limit your browsing and searching to epubs there.
I suppose the question is; can DriveThruRPG persuade publishers to make an effort to produce Phone PDFs? Game publishers don’t seem to do much with epubs.
It’s just a guess, but it could be that PDFs are much easier to make. I can export from Google Docs to a PDF with a click of a button from free software. I think if you look at lots of the free RPGs or pay what you want RPGs, they’ve been made as hobby projects, as labours of love, and not with fancy authoring software.
Case in point; Wizard Squad. That’s a free one-page RPG you can download from Geek Native this week.
In Wizard Squad, you and your fellow PCs are wizards who have to deal with dangerous magics that sometimes awaken or break through barriers left by the previous civilisation. This forerunner civilisation may have had more power, but it seems to have had less sense because it drove itself to destruction.
Let’s talk about Kickstarter before we wrap up. If you’ve been listening to earlier Audio EXP podcasts, you’ll know there’s been some drama at the popular crowdfunding platform. They seem to be anti-union, and that’s causing some publishers concern.
In fact, Chad Walker makes of note of saying in his Reclaimer Kickstarter that he’ll scrap the whole project if the fledgeling union asks him too.
This week on Geek Native we asked whether buyfunding was an alternative. In this model, a publisher starts to sell a bare-bones PDF – perhaps something produced as simply as I’ve just described with Google Docs and an export, or something as bare bones as Wizard Squad. However, once certain sales targets are met, then the publisher promises to add more to the PDF and give that freely, as an upgrade, to all previous buyers.
This is a model that DriveThruRPG does not object too and which its free upgrade system supports. It’s all a question of transparency, though, as a backer/buyer you can’t see whether or not the publisher has actually reached the sales targets it promised extra material for meeting.
Let’s finish by looking at that Fantasy Grounds data. No prizes for guessing that Dungeons & Dragons and therefore Wizards of the Coast dominate. It’s more surprising to see AD&D making the top ten.
I popped all the data into a table, added families of games together and worked out the totals by publisher. Based on last month’s stats then Wizards of the Coast are more than 10 times as popular as the publisher in second place.
It’s Paizo Publishing with Pathfinder 1 and 2, along with Starfinder in second place.
In third place, it’s Pinnacle Entertainment Group. How? I’m giving them credit for all the Savage Worlds games played on Fantasy Grounds, and last month there were nearly three thousand of those.
In fourth place, it’s Chaosium thanks to Call of Cthulhu. There’s a tie for fifth place. It goes to Steve Jackson Games thanks to GURPS and to Troll Lord Publishing thanks to Castles and Crusades.
Are you surprised to see some old school titles make a list? I thought it was kinda nice to see.
Thanks for listening. Until next week.
Let us know what you think in the comment section below.