This is Audio EXP for the 11th of January 2020, and the title of this episode is ‘Wizards of the Coat and the dungeon battle’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #26]
I usually try and arrange the topics covered in this highlights show into some logical order. This week, though, I feel some time pressure.
That’s to say there are two time-sensitive stories that I want to cover.
If you’re listening on the day of release, or even a few days after, then you are in time to benefit from Chaosium’s Australian fire-fighting effort.
This is a company that seems to do the right thing as often as it can. This week they made RuneQuest Glorantha Bestiary a pay-what-you-want on DriveThruRPG rather than the usual $20.
So, if you wanted, you can pay $0.
The deal, though, is that you donate some money to Australian fire-fighting effects. It’s an honour system.
The other time-sensitive story that I want to put at the front of this podcast – not that it really matters because you could be listening to this at any time – is the opportunity to join the Fallout RPG beta-test.
Modiphius already has one Fallout RPG of sorts in their growing collection, but that’s more of an RPG expansion to their minis game.
This beta-test is for their 2d20 system full Fallout RPG. It’s a good chance, but it’s worth saying that even if you apply in time, you won’t necessarily get into the program.
You will also have to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Modiphius so you won’t get to tell people about the game in advance.
This week, I’ve not been the only one trying to work out how to do the timing of the news. Wizards of the Coast have been too.
There’s a book in Amazon right now called Dungeons & Dragons March Release Book (Title announced January 9th).
That’s the book’s actual title. I looked up the ISBN in a database, that’s the book’s international serial number and got the same result. Mind you, perhaps ISBN websites just mirror Amazon these days.
Why would Wizards do this? The last few D&D books have, in effect, leaked. Gamers spotted them before Wizards of the Coast told anyone about them.
This will likely annoy Wizards because they lose the chance to highlight and put emphasis on where they might want. They don’t get to launch the story in the way they wanted. Heck, they’re not even the source of the story any more.
And by ‘story’, I mean the media coverage and fan chat online.
So, in many ways, putting a mystery book into Amazon is clever. Even if it’s just a marketing stunt, it’s clever.
However, two other things happened this week.
Gamers noticed an official D&D dice and map set in Amazon called Laeral Silverhand’s Explorer’s Kit.
That kit hadn’t been announced by Wizards of the Coast either. Usually, the dice kits accompany official books. Easy to see why people assumed the mystery March book would be about Laeral Silverlands.
The second thing that happened was that Wizards of the Coast delayed the January the 9th reveal. Now we won’t know until Monday the 13th.
Those $300 sapphire dice were delayed too.
Lots of theories as to what’s going on but they’re all just speculation. Let’s wait and see.
Speaking of speculation, and the importance of knowing what official and what’s being guessed at, let’s bring up the bad news from Fantasy Flight Games.
Rumours began to surface of significant restructuring at Fantasy Flight Games. Restructuring seems to be universally a euphemism for layoffs.
As Geek Native’s one and only, entirely amateur and untrained editor, I took the decision not to blog about the rumours.
The following day a LinkedIn post from the Head of Studio at Fantasy Flight Interactive confirmed that that division was closing. Fantasy Flight Interactive is the company’s digital arm and it was their job to make computer games of Fantasy Flight’s tabletop games.
In the following hours confirmed Fantasy Flight employees also shared the news that all, or virtually all, of Fantasy Flight’s RPG department were also being laid off. Other, more significant, news sites found their own sources and confirmed the news.
That’s when Geek Native covered the story. I still wrestle with that. We still don’t have an official comment from Fantasy Flight Games.
Fantasy Flight Games publish the Star Wars RPGs, one of the top-selling roleplaying games for many years. They have The Legend of the Five Rings and Genesys.
Now, it doesn’t mean these tabletop RPGs are closing. Fantasy Flight still has the license – though any failure to renew Star Wars will hit them hard enough to prompt a restructure like this. It’s possible, likely even, that they’ll keep the titles going with freelancers.
The games may go elsewhere within the giant company that owns them. That giant is Asmodee which was bought by a private equity firm for $1.4 billion a few years ago.
If you want proof that Fantasy Flight are still working on their RPGs then look to their successful card game KeyForge. Also this week, Fantasy Flight announced a KeyForge RPG that would be powered by Genesys.
The harsh truth is that even successful RPG titles are rarely profitable enough to keep big businesses interested. We’ll have to wait and see, limit speculation and listen for some official guidance from the company.
Okay, stories about people losing their jobs always upset me, and they’re hard to follow with any geek interest piece. So I’m going to do a complete 180 and talk about extravagant gold.
An Esty boutique, a shop called Fallacy Dice shared a 14 karat gold d20 they had designed. It has an estimated material value of over $200, but the price for the die will be much higher – if it ever goes on sale – because you need to pay for the time and craftsmanship that turned the gold into a dice.
Fallacy Dice do sell fancy brass dice from their store so, you never know, maybe the shiny gold kobold-slayer will be yours one day.
This week, I also did something stupid with gold. I looked at the price of trade goods in D&D 5e and noticed that silk is very expensive.
This led me to researching silk, the best I could, and I discovered that in our real world, the quality of silk is measured in Mommes. That’s m.o.m.m.e.
Then, with some help from people who know more about fabric measurement that I do on Reddit, I was able to calculate the gold value of a bolt of silk. As it turns out, a yard of silk doesn’t have to be a yard. Fabric people only care about length, not the width.
In the SRD, a square yard of silk will set you back 10 gold pieces.
The next thing I did was research the capacity of iconic merchant wagons. You know; precisely the sort of thing your D&D party might be hired to protect.
They can get pretty big. Your common Prairie schooner is kept pretty light and can easily carry 2,000 pounds of cargo. A proper frontier crossing Conestoga wagon, though, can carry an amazing 12,000 pounds of cargo if you have enough horses to pull it.
So, what would 12,000 pounds of silk cost in D&D?
Have you ever had to guard a caravan carrying a load of silk in a game of D&D? It’s a common scenario.
According to the calculations that the helpers and I on Reddit came up with it, a Conestoga wagon of silk would cost 1,500,000 gold pieces.
So you might think 20 gold pieces to guard a wagon of silk is easy money, but, wow. The merchant is making a profit!
Of course, this is just hypothetical. Could you fit 12,000 pounds of rolled up silk into a Conestoga? Probably, but I’m yet to confirm. Are there even 12,000 pounds of silk in your gaming world? Would such a trade flood the market and reduce the value of silk? These questions are all up to your DM.
Hopefully, though, this research will help some DMs release just how valuable some merchant wagons are.
Links to that piece, and everything else mentioned in this podcast, can be found in the show notes or just by searching for Audio EXP 26.
Another article that did well on the blog this week is also about helping Game Masters and DMs with merchants and game trade. In this case, specifically with potions.
Geek Native now has a random potion generator. Hit a button, and you’ll get a fancy name for a potion.
Here are some quickly generated examples;
- Decanter of Crescent Elk’s Teeth
- Balm of Yeti’s Wash
- Satyr’s Constitution Cream
The generator also randomly suggests some actual D&D 5e potions for you if that’s more helpful.
This system comes from a game in which the big secret was that so-called monster races suffered horribly to keep the peace. The names of some of the alchemical potions were an early and obscure clue to that.
These corrupt potions also have adverse cosmetic side effects, and so the random potion generator also suggests one of those for each potion.
You never know with these things, but I hope a few GMs find it useful.
I’m more confident that GMs will find Ben’s latest Genre Police useful. The most recent article, titled Out of the Box Thinking, is all about board game mechanics that might freshen up tabletop roleplaying games.
For example, inspired by board games like Mysterium and Dixit, why not have a scene when characters can only manage to say a couple of words to each other and despite that limitation have to communicate successfully to break the curse, spell or defeat the computer virus.
Finally, potentially the biggest news of the week was written up on Friday. Wizards of the Coast have won extra trademark protection around the word “Dungeon”.
No, Wizards of the Coast did not try to trademark the word “Dungeon”. Someone else did; a company called Kalypso Media who, for years, have been making a computer game series called Dungeon.
Kalypso Media filed for a trademark for the European Union Intellectual Property Office. Wizards of the Coast objected.
I’ve read through a legal blog to try and work out what happened next. In summary, the authorities agreed with Wizards of the Coast and, unexpectedly, strengthed their hand.
Now applicants may have to prove that their trademark will not be confused by the general public for a D&D title.
The trademark authorities first decided that games are now mainstream. That’s important because it means companies can no longer argue that only savvy gamers, who know what they’re doing, are likely to be buying games. The ruling uses the word ‘average’ a lot, you know, in a … er, polite way. They’ve decided that average people, with average concentration, might be trying to buy a game for themselves.
The fact that lots of computer games have the word ‘dragon’ or ‘dungeon’ in their name doesn’t matter because they didn’t try and claim a trademark.
The law blog that I read was worried about this and described it as a hammer blow to smaller players – meaning small indie publishers.
It’s possible if Wizards of the Coast decided to press this, that game makers will have to stay completely clear of anything remotely similar to D&D if they want to get legal protections in place on their intellectual property and franchise.
Will they? Ah, we’re back to speculation again. I’m sure we’ll find out in time but, in the meanwhile, we can expect a second attempt at a new book announcement on Monday.
That’s a wrap for this week. Take care.
What do you think? Sound off in the comment section below.