This is Audio EXP for the 28th of December 2019, and the title of this episode is ‘Controversial Opinions and the Weird Week’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #24]
Audio EXP is Geek Native’s highlight show. This means we discuss RPG news and geek culture. Last week was busy, with lots of publishers and studios rushing to get things done before Christmas.
This is the weird week. It’s that time between Christmas and New Year when many offices are closed. As a result, less news than usual but plenty of homebrew blog content from the community.
We’re also continuing our look at the best selling RPG of the year. By the time this podcast is over, you’ll know the best selling modern genre RPGs, pulp RPGs, superhero RPGs and western-themed RPGs.
We had the 50th Genre Police published on Geek Native this week. That’s an impressive run from Ben, the smart author behind the series.
The Genre Police began as a way to intelligently examine genres, look at the tropes, the history and the lessons from each one so as GMs we might run better games.
The 50th article is called Remembering the G. It reminds us that the G in RPG is Game. It’s okay to get all academic about the defining traits of gothic horror, for example, but we must not forget the gameplay.
So, Genre Police this week looks at board games and the surprising number of RPG lessons we might take from them. As always, it’s one of my favourite articles of the week and worth checking out.
You’ll find the link in the show notes.
In terms of RPG news, there are three headlines I picked up this week.
Let’s start with a Christmas story. Dream Realm Storytellers, who might know for either their brutal Viking 5e setting or their sourcebook about evil, published a free one-shot called Saving Christmas.
If you have to run a 5e game at short notice this holidays, it might be worth checking out. Expect evil gingerbread men and trees that eat toys.
Modiphius has published a Deluxe Edition of Rangers of Shadow Deep. Rangers of Shadow Deep is a skirmish game, with RPG elements, by Joseph A McCullogh. That’s the same designer who does Frostgrave; another skirmish game.
Frostgrave is published by Osprey.
Rangers of Shadow Deep had, until now, been published by McCullogh himself.
So, we’ve news that the Deluxe Edition exists and brings together a batch of rules, with new art, under one book. It’s also news that the ever-hungry Modiphius is involved now.
Free League Publishing, who initially published Mutant: Year Zero with Modiphius, but who seem to be doing more and more on their own, gave us an update for their Alien RPG.
This is the official Alien RPG. It’s been out for less than a month and has sold out. You might still find copies in local retailers.
A new print run is incoming, and Free League expect their warehouse in the UK to be restocked by the end of next month.
Also, for next year, we can expect a new Cinematic adventure from then called Destroyer of Worlds and a sourcebook all about the Colonial Marines.
I didn’t classify it as a headline, but it’s also worth pointing out that Humble Bundle has a deal on Adventures in Middle-Earth right now.
That’s the official 5e powered Lord of the Rings RPG. The publishers, Cubicle 7, are giving up the license. There won’t be any more of the game, and so this bundle might be your last chance to finish – or start – your collection.
The title of this week’s show talks about controversial opinions. There’s a few I want to headline here.
Perhaps it was foolish, but this week I tackled the question Can the Dungeon Master have a player character.
I’ve a firm view on this, but I recognise not everyone agrees.
I argue; a DM cannot have a PC.
It’s clear cut for me. A DM knows the plot. A DM controls the monsters, the NPCs, knows the maps to the dungeon, the treasure in the chests and creates the game.
A DM is not a player. They are a participant, yes, but not a player. They create the world for others to play in.
Therefore, a character the DM controls is always a non-player character. By definition.
Some DMs might have a reoccurring character that essentially acts as their avatar, or favourite NPC, or proxy or wanna-be PC but it’s not the same thing.
It’s a whole other debate as to whether or not a DM should have a personal NPC that tags along with the group. I admit there are probably a few scenarios in which this makes sense, but otherwise, it feels like a natural and tempting trap to fall into.
If you disagree, let me know over on the blog and in a relevant comment section.
I thought Neal Litherland of Taking10 made a good point that might encourage disagreement this week too.
Neal wrote to urge players not to bring antagonism to the table.
In summary, Neal suggests that if you wouldn’t do it at work, don’t do it in-game.
The argument is that if your character is a git and not worth the trouble, you’ll end up eventually being left behind at the inn.
Up until that point, it won’t be fun either.
This is part of a series. The opening gambit, and the most essential part of the debate, is that as a player, you have a responsibility to create a character that actually wants to be in the adventure.
Resist the urge to create a broody loner with no ties to the group or action. It’s a design skill you should develop.
I agree with Neal. Players have a responsibility in the game, it’s not all on the DM. Good players improve the game for other players. Bad players create obstacles.
I think this is a controversial opinion because I’m sure there will be players who’ll defend their rights to create anti-social jerks for characters.
The thing is, you can still have an antihero as a PC provided they’ve a reason to be there in the heart of the drama. That’s why I think Neal is right.
Every Friday, Geek Native publishes an RPG News round-up called Routinely Itemised. That blog post about creating characters that fit into the group from Neal and Taking 10 was included in the discoveries section of Routinely Itemised: RPGs #28.
So, if you like keeping a tab on some of the debates from the RPG and geeky blogger community that perhaps aren’t big enough to be picked up by the powerhouses with professional writers and media monitoring teams, then hopefully Routinely Itemised is worth keeping an eye on.
Also from Routinely Itemised: RPGs #28 was a link to a discovery Flying Buffalo has made. They’ve found some copies of the lost Corgi edition of Tunnels and Trolls. They’re selling these, and I imagine they’ll go quickly. If you’re a collector, you’ll almost certainly be interested.
Another bit of news from Routinely Itemised is that the 2019 BAMFSIES are open. Is this a public poll to find the Best Superhero RPG Product of 2019. Go and vote.
Right, speaking of charts and 2019 successes let’s finish with the four genres of RPGs we published bestseller data for this week.
The top three best-selling modern genre RPGs published in 2019 are; Shadowrun, Sixth World core rulebook, Changeling: The Lost second edition and Scion second edition.
That means the top two fantasy and modern genre RPGs published this year are the same RPGs. How did this happen? Well, firstly, Catalyst Game Labs and Onyx Path Publishing can tag their games however they want. Shadowrun is a game set in the near future while also rich in fantasy elements and Changeling is a straight-up urban fantasy.
Will the top three for pulp RPGs be similar? No, not at all except we have another Onyx Path Publishing success.
In position one there’s Dragon-Blooded: What Fire Has Wrought, in position two there’s Carbon 2185 the cyberpunk RPG, and in position, there’s Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells by Gallant Knight Games.
Moving on to superhero RPGs we see Gallant Knight Games again. The top three bestselling superhero games published this year are Tiny Supers by Gallant Knight Games, City of Mist core bundle and Ready… Fight! An Unarmed combat supplement for Genesys.
And to round-up this podcast, let’s look at the top three selling western RPGs published this year. They are; Strange Adventures by Hunters Entertainment, The Masterclass Codex: Sixteen New Character Classes for your Fifth Edtion Campaign by EN Publishing and Icarus: How Great Civilizations Fall by Hunters Entertainment.
These genres all feel nicely competitive, but we’ve not finished the 2019 analysis yet so tune in next week for some interesting discoveries.
Until then, take care.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.