This is Audio EXP for the 8th of February 2020, and the title of this episode is ‘Demons and love magic’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #30]
This week I want to begin the podcast by talking about summoning demons and love magic. One of those topics has proven to be controversial in the RPG community and that, of course, is love magic.
So, let’s tackle the easy subject first – summoning demons.
On Friday, a 25-year-old Spanish RPG called Aquelarre was finally published on DriveThruRPG. It was the English translation, and that might interest you because the game has sometimes been described as the best RPG not available in English. I guess, though, it’s just lost that title.
It’s amazing that we have Aquelarre at all. It’s a Kickstarter campaign that started five years ago. It was started by White Wolf co-founder Stewart Wieck who, sadly, died three years ago. Since then, his widow, brother and friend Alan Bahr have been working on finishing the 18 Kickstarters he had running.
Aquelarre is nearly 600-pages long. It’s a monster. It’s a dark and adult game, set in medieval Portugal and what will become Spain. It’s a time of religious tensions and dark magic.
The English translation of the name Aquelarre is Coven. This is our demon summoning RPG. The Kickstarter may have been fraught, but it’s rare to find gamers objecting to games that feature dark magic and demons.
Let’s contrast this to the experience Wizards of the Coast had with subclasses part 2 of Unearthed Arcana.
Playtest subclasses for bards, sorcerers and clerics were first published on Tuesday. Weirdly, some people think this didn’t happen.
But it did.
Wizards didn’t announce the content on social media, not that I saw, but perhaps they deleted it. But the RSS feed from the site updated and the material was visible for everyone to see.
The new subclasses were the College of Creation for bards and the Clockwork Soul for sorcerers. It also included the Love Domain for Clerics.
I must admit, I didn’t see a problem with the Love domain. It wasn’t sexual love. It was an all-encompassing love, with the focus on camaraderie and friendships.
However, the love cleric did have the Channel Divinity: Impulsive Infatuation. This would impel affected creatures to attack a target of the cleric’s choice. If there were no valid targets, then, for a turn, the affected creature would have to admire the cleric.
Perhaps it’s the concept of love magic in general, but lots of people objected to it. It’s a matter of consent. To some people, the Love cleric sounded creepy.
Wizards of the Coast deleted the content. We were left to speculate why.
A few days later, the subclasses came back, and Love had been replaced by Unity.
I’ll admit. I don’t see the problem with Wizards first attempt. The Love Domain doesn’t feel any more creepy to me than the Charm Person spell.
However, Wizards of the Coast did the right thing by swapping out the Domain. Some people were upset, and the Unity Domain is just a valid contribution to the playtest as the one it replaces.
Nor do I see this as pandering to the outrage brigade. You have to imagine I’m sarcastically using air quotes around the phrase “outrage brigade”. I don’t think it exists.
Most of the troublesome outrage I encounter comes from people who dislike that someone might have a different point of view to them. Guess what; all sorts of people act like that.
It just shows that working on D&D for Wizards of the Coast might sound like a dream job for some, but I’m sure it can be super stressful as well.
This week wasn’t all stress for the D&D team though. I hope. The Orr Report might have consoled them a bit. Although that comfort comes at the expense of other game designers.
The Orr Group is the company that runs Roll20, and the latest report shows that D&D market share increased in the last quarter of 2019 compared to the quarter before.
In other words; more people using Roll20 are playing D&D than they were halfway through last year.
Call of Cthulhu, if you bundle all the versions together, is in second place with less than a third of the campaigns played than D&D enjoys.
Zweihander Grim and Perilous designer Daniel D. Fox commented on the report too, pointing out that many of the top RPGs also had prominent Twitch streams. He might be right; Chaosium, the Call of Cthulhu publisher, announced two new ones this week.
In fact, Fox, in his new role at Andrews McMeel Publishing, is planning a big actual play push. Roll20’s Adam Koebel is already running a stream, and there was even a chunky Amazon discount code handed out in it.
Fox told me that there was a new stream with Encounter Roleplay coming up, and if you happened to be a Twitch Partner with a good idea for a Zweihander stream, he would listen to your pitch.
That’s a real thing. If you happen to be big on Twitch and are listening to this podcast, then pop over to the Geek Native Contact Us page, and I’ll make introductions.
If Fox is successful, then perhaps will D&D market share edge down a little.
Another game that’s about to try and claw out some market share of its own is Altered Carbon.
Season two is about to launch on Netflix. Hunters Entertainment launched the Kickstarter this week to chase down $20,000 in funding. At the time I’m writing this script, they’ve nearly $180,000 in pledges.
Safe to say that’s going well, but there have been two bumps in the road.
The first is international shipping. It’s frightfully expensive sending anything out of America these days. Hunters are not the only one in this situation, but I’ve seen plenty of cancelled European orders for this project.
The second is the Altered Carbon author Richard K Morgan. At the end of last year, on Twitter, he seemed to weigh in on the side of a row against transexual rights.
I stress; seemed to. It’s not clear, but many people were concerned.
It would be odd that a sci-fi writer whose work is all about people changing bodies would refuse to believe that people can change sex. I mean, it happens naturally to some animal species. Today we have sex reassignment surgery and the ability to change hormone status.
Some backers wanted to know whether Morgan would be getting any of their money. Hunters Entertainment have not answered those questions, but the F.A.Q. of the Kickstarter was updated to point out that Morgan is not involved. I know that’s not the same thing as not getting any money, but it might be enough to reassure some of the concerns.
An RPG publisher who tends to be very considerate of such concerns is Evil Hat Productions. This week they released a new version of Fate Core. Kinda. Call it Fate 4.5, they say, but the official name is Fate Condensed.
This is a cut-down and tweaked version of Fate. It’s cut down for two reasons; to make it cheap enough to be a pay-what-you download and so game designers can afford to incorporate its text into their games.
Evil Hat has released the game under an OGL, but you still have to pay printers for words and so smaller rule sets are cheaper.
There are a few less prominent games that are worth taking a peek at this week. One if the Afropunk RPG called The Wagadu Chronicles.
This is a game inspired by African mythology, and it looks stunning. The developer, Twin Drums, has released loads of high-quality art.
I’ve not heard of Twin Drums before, and they don’t have a big social media following. However, Twin Drums say they are working on The Wagadu Chronicles as a tabletop RPG and an MMO. That will take a bucket of resources and ambition.
Are Twin Drum really that big? If so; The Wagadu Chronicles are absolutely something we’re going to hear more about this year.
Another game on the radar this week was the art really pops is The Elephant & Macaw Banner RPG.
This game is being kickstarted from Hong Kong, but it is inspired by Brazilian myths and legends. Geek Native has some exclusive art from the project.
You can find that by searching for Geek Native Elephant & Macaw, Audio EXP 30 or by following the links in the show notes.
We should also talk about a big RPG that’s on the way out. You’ll remember that Cubicle 7 are walking away from their Lord of the Rings license this year.
The D&D 5e powered Adventures in Middle-earth are on Humble Bundle right now. It’s called the final encore, and so I think that’s pretty clear. This is probably your last chance to easily get hold of the material.
Speaking of ways to get hold of material, let’s talk about this homebrew tactic. At the start of last month, Geek Native hosted a blog carnival on random encounter tables. That’s just an excuse for RPG bloggers to share their thoughts on the same topic.
As it’s a new month, I wrote up all the contributions into a single summary, and you can use it as a launchpad to find many different observations, ideas and random encounter tables.
Ironically, it was a bit of a challenge to format that post. A summary of a blog carnival isn’t something I have had to do before.
Why was that ironic? Pretty much the next post, just a day later, came from guest author Charles Dunwoody on the importance of layout in RPGs.
Charles compares and contrasts Basic D&D to the Forbidden Lands. If you’re into publishing or thinking about it, or perhaps even just a DM who wants to write better notes, then the article might be of interest.
If you’re interested in actual play podcasting – and remember we’ve already talked about Andrews McMeel with cash to spend on Twitter Partners – then there’s another guest post on the site this week that might interest you.
Lastly, we have Valentine’s Day sneaking up on us again. On the blog, there’s some geeky Valentine’s Day cards you can print, email or share on Discord. Finding nerdy e-cards has become a bit of a Geek Native tradition, and so I’m pleased some were good enough to share this week.
On the note, that’s a wrap for this week. Good luck with the demon summoning and we’ll catch up later.
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