This is Audio EXP for the 2nd of November 2019, and the title of this episode is ‘DriveThruRPG’s hacker attack and the slaughterbots’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #16]
We’ve just had Halloween, and the weekend is shaping up to be as busy as the week. It feels like there is no shortage of stories to touch on in this highlights show and recap from Geek Native.
Roll20 have released their lastest games played data. At the end of this podcast, we’ll look at which game seems to have doubled their share of attention and which is surprisingly low.
First, though, I wanted to talk about the hacker attack on DriveThruRPG. DriveThruRPG’s security is intact, and no hacker has broken into their database, but you should probably change your password anyway.
If you’re using the same user name and password combination on DriveThruRPG that you’re using anywhere else, then you should absolutely change your password.
That’s the problem. A hacker used an army of zombie machines to bombard DriveThruRPG’s system with username and password combinations taken from other hacked sites. Using this technique, they managed to find some username and password combinations that worked on publisher and affiliate accounts, they logged in and withdrew money.
Regular customers don’t store money at DriveThruRPG and so would not have been affected by those withdraws.
I think DriveThruRPG are great because they’re paying publishers and affiliates to recoup any money taken in this way.
I don’t think they had to because the accounts were accessed with valid username and passwords. I suspect they’re doing this because they want to do the right thing or perhaps because they want to have security systems that would shut down the sort of brute force attack the hacker used.
The busy team at DriveThruRPG weren’t the only people dealing with cyber nasties this Halloween. The software giant Adobe had a breach too. In this case, Adobe had an insecure server which allowed anyone to look at certain customer details.
7.5 million accounts in Adobe Creative Cloud have been put at risk. If hackers have found this data, they don’t have bank details but could create compelling phishing emails, and so you should be on high alert.
Adobe Creative Cloud is the package many game designers and illustrators use as it contains software like Photoshop, Acrobat and InDesign.
These two stories are one of the reasons why, for Halloween, Geek Native showed the 9-minute long Slaughterbots short film.
You can call Slaughterbots a sci-fi film for now. If we had better batteries for our drones and more accurate face recognition software, then the horror that unfolds in the movie would be possible today.
I won’t spoil the plot, but in Slaughterbots a tech CEO unveils clever little drones that attack enemy soldiers by crashing into their head and detonating shaped charges. Simple but deadly.
I think that story leads onto Escape the Invasion. Not just because Escape the Invasion is a game of survival but because it’s a solo LARP that uses some trust old tech devices. Like paper and cardboard.
Let me explain. A LARP is a live action roleplaying game and if you concede you don’t need a witness for you to take the role of a character, then what do you need for a LARP? Props and a physical presence? Real things. Live things. Stuff you can touch.
That’s what you get in Escape the Invasion. They mail you a box of mysteries every month, they’re all part of a gameworld controlled by a team of writers-cum-gamemasters, and you respond with how your character is reacting to the puzzles and problems you personally solve with those clues. You don’t get to roll for intelligence.
That sounds like it might qualify as a solo LARP to me.
A more traditional roleplay by yourself game that Geek Native looked at this week was To Hell and Back Again. This is a more familiar ‘turn to page x’ style of gamebook when it comes to solo play.
However, To Hell and Back Again uses D&D 5e making it a Dungeons & Dragons game you can play without a DM. It’s also can act as an unofficial prequel to Wizards of the Coast’s Descent Into Avernus storyline.
I got to talk to one of the game’s co-creators, Donathin Fyre, and one of the questions I got to ask was around keeping solo RPGs fun.
The response – and I’m paraphrasing here;
Learn how to put yourself into the mindset of the villains as well as the character. When you’re playing a solo game, you have to be both the hero and bad guys.
One challenge you don’t have in a solo RPG is making sure everyone is on the same page. You’re unlikely to contradict yourself.
That happens in group-based RPGs. Someone might think they’ve described their PC moving to guard the top of the passageway, but perhaps another player took that to mean the hall ahead of the party, not the one they had just cleared.
The more characters involved and the more frantic the scene then, the more likely that sort of confusion is to happen.
Combat is a good example of this as well as being a terrible time for retcons to strike.
Some gaming groups use minis and battle maps to solve that problem. Physical tokens on a mat to show precisely where PCs, NPCs and monsters are.
We’ve had two huge battle maps on Geek Native this week.
The first is the Forever Dungeon concept shown off by Tanner Yarro of Yarro Studios. This is an impressive sheet of paper that’s too long to fit into a single room unless it’s wrapped between two rollers. When it is, that means the dungeon corridors can be scrolled along. Players don’t get to see what’s coming up in areas their characters have not yet explored.
The Forever Dungeon is just a proof of concept. Tanner Yarro is right not fulfilling a million-dollar Kickstarter for a book of high-quality battle maps that can lay flat, no matter where they are in the book.
The other giant dungeon featured on Geek Native this week is over 2 million square feet of area for PCs to explore.
And it’s free.
Zatnikotel’s Dungeon Dimensions can be downloaded from the site right now. You’ll get access to a series of graphics optimised for the virtual tabletop, with or without grids, or which can be printed out.
The maps are designed so that they can be lined up and create a mega-dungeon.
It’s incredible work for anyone to do and then to give away for free.
Montreal based Tuque must also have been doing great work. They had been working on a digital Dungeons & Dragons game. Wizards of the Coast must have especially liked something about it; because they’ve bought the whole company.
That’s right, now Wizards of the Coast have their own in-house capability to do more computer games.
This purchase happens about a month after D&D Beyond, which is an important part of Wizards of the Coast’s digital ecosystem but not actually owned by Wizards of the Coast, bought their own roleplaying game system.
Fandom, the company behind all those geeky wikis, including Wikia, bought Cortex. Cortex is the game system used in RPGs like Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville and Supernatural.
We can only speculate if the two are connected. Buying a whole gaming studio in only a month would be an incredibly quick purchase.
However, it does show the importance of digital in previously table-bound games.
The other big D&D story we had for you on Geek Native was an interview with Brad Ellis. He’s the CEO of the Wyvern Gaming, the company that persuaded MGM to give them permission to create a new Stargate RPG based on 5th edition rules.
I noticed that some people thought using D&D to power Stargate, so to speak, was a bad choice, and so I put that question straight to Brad. He had a good answer, and it included the observation that D&D is nicely balanced between easy to pick up and play and crunchy.
He also shed some light as to where and when Stargate will be set. Heard about Stargate Phoenix? That connects into SG-1 when some of the alien races started to bond together to fight the system lords.
The game is also going to introduce a new alien into the Stargate mythos; the Aturen.
Of course, it’s not all D&D in the world of roleplaying games. This week we had a guest post from game designer Michael Addison who created the game The Curse of the House of Rookwood.
Writing for Geek Native, Michael suggested eight other innovative horror RPGs that might tempt you during the Halloween season. It’s a broad choice of games.
There’s the cosmic horror game Lovecraftesque.
There’s One Thousand Year Old Vampire.
There’s Free League’s Tales from The Loop for horror with a Stranger Things vibe.
In a similar vein, there’s Kids on Bikes.
The game Murderous Ghosts was recommended.
As was Dread, the horror game that uses a Jenga tower rather than dice to build tension.
The sci-fi horror RPG Mothership was listed.
As was the existential horror Gentleman Bandit: Dark Highway.
You can read about more of these games, and discover Michael’s bonus choice over on the blog.
It’s worth noting that many of these games are from micro-publishers and cost only a few dollars. They’re the sort of game where someone buying a copy could be the highlight of the author’s weekend. But yet, there are also some blockbusters in the list too.
Speaking of blockbusters, here’s some breaking news and the final story before we finish up with Roll20’s data.
Marvel has announced a sequel to Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse. That’s an animated feature film which seemed to impress pretty much everyone.
We’ve a bit of a wait, though, as it won’t be ready until 2022.
Now, let’s quickly talk about Roll20. The data I’m looking at is the percentage of campaigns played on the Roll20 website this quarter.
D&D 5e dominates with 45% of all games played using that system.
Call of Cthulhu is in second place with over 18%. That’s a big gain for Call of Cthulhu as in the data Roll20 previously released that horror game only had 9%. Chaosium is clearly doing something right, and gamers are willing to give 7th edition a try.
What’s missing? There’s no sign of Savage Worlds in the top 10. That’s a contrast from Fantasy Grounds data which had Savage Worlds games – and there are many – as a persistent feature in the top 5.
I wonder why that is? Different demographics between Fantasy Grounds and Roll20? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section on Audio EXP’s accompanying blog post.
Well, that’s a wrap for now. Thanks for listening and we’ll catch up next week.
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