This is Audio EXP for the 21st of March 2020, and the title of this episode is ‘So many freebies as the RPG community takes on Covid-19’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #36]
Hello there. Today’s Audio EXP is recorded in precisely the same way as every previous episode has been. There’s one significant difference. I live by a busy dock, and it usually noisy outside. Sometimes I have to pause recording as a ship sounds a horn, a lorry trundles by, or someone starts to shout. Not today. Today it’s been deadly quiet all morning.
I’m cautious about talking about Covid-19, the coronavirus rampaging through China, Europe and America too often as I know some listeners and some Geek Native readers will be turning to gaming to escape from the crisis. I have to acknowledge it a little, though, this pandemic has already affected geek culture – modern culture – more than anything else in a generation.
I’m not going to run through the list of conventions and expos cancelled. It’s easier to assume that anything scheduled for the next few months has been cancelled. You can find some of the more prominent names mentioned at Routinely Itemised: RPGs #40 which is Geek Native’s weekly bullet point summary of RPG news.
Noteworthy is the vast UK Gaming Expo’s attempt to push back a few months, to August, and reschedule. I need to see about rescheduling my hotel rooms and travel. I will, but right now, it is hard to confident the event will go ahead.
In terms of news, there are lots of freebies out there as gaming companies step forward to offer things to do for people either stuck in self-isolation or taking the responsible decision to engage in social distancing.
Geek Native has a giveaway too, but it started before Covid-19 crossed the pandemic line and it is part of the Patreon gift offer. Simply put, if you’re a backer of the podcast and the blog, or are before the 25th, then I’ll pop an anime-style pin badge in the post for you. Post offices are still open.
Also part of Geek Native’s Patreon offer is the RPG Publisher Spotlight. Last week you may recall that 2 Head Turtle had won, but remained anonymous and only had one product out. Now they have three.
I’ve had time to look at Two Geese in Love. This is a GM-less RPG for two people, and in one mode you can only honk and make goose sounds as part of your gameplay. Hey, if governments roll out compulsory lockdowns that last for months then perhaps we will all be doing this.
Okay, okay, we’re back to Covid-19 already. Let’s just tackle that head-on. Other than social distancing, looking after your neighbours and washing your hands, there are other ways you can help. You can, for example, donate the idle time of your PC to the [email protected] project. Install the software, and it’s backed by Nvidia if you’re looking for a trusted source, and when you’re not using your machine, it can be part of a project to teardown the genetic makeup of the virus so scientists can understand it better.
If you want to take a more proactive approach, there’s also the Coronavirus Tech Handbook as a collaborative project headed by Newspeak House’s Edward Saperia. Use it to find ways to help or share resources that could help with the geeky community.
You’ll find links for both in the podcast’s transcript on Geek Native. Search for Audio EXP #36.
My heart goes out to the Red Thread of Fate team at Chaosium. The concept is lovely; a card game about helping two people find love. The truth is being harsher than that, and the project keeps on being delayed. The Kickstarter actually launched on the 14th of March but was then promptly cancelled.
It’s hard to persuade people to spend money on card games about love when people are worried about their jobs or even if they can find another roll of toilet paper.
In fact, as we discussed last week, it’s hard to market any games during Covid-19. It might be tempting to use the crisis as a talking point, but do you want to be making money off a thing that’s killing people?
There’s a download on the DM’s Guild called Toilet Paper that’s taking that risk.
I think it’s on relatively safe ground as it’s poking fun at those people who have been hoarding supplies. And it presents entirely without political commentary and opts, instead, for a deadpan delivery of toilet paper or sewage golems or the Great Clean One as an alternative Warlock Patron.
Chaosium has another safe and helpful offering for the crisis. They’ve simply made the Call of Cthulhu: The Coloring Book entirely free to download for now. If you’re going out of your mind with boredom then why not go out of your mind with crayons instead. Colour those shapeless beings and see how they look.
Slightly more controversial is R. Talsorian Games’ free offering of the 1980s anime classic Teenagers from Outerspace. It’s only controversial because it’s an anime-inspired game from the 80s and very much a product of its time. Cute bunny girls in leather skirts are in. Mind you, it treats hunks and babes pretty much equally and so pretty much gets away with it.
Oh, and if you look closely, there seems to be a sentient banana on the cover.
Another interesting freebie is Beowulf: The Hermit’s Sanctuary.
Beowulf is one of the oldest recorded stories from Europe. It’s a tale of a hero who kills a monster, an act which angers the monster’s mum. That seems fair enough.
It’s not what you expect to happen in a game of D&D, though, is it? The PCs just about manage to take down the red dragon and are making their way out of the lair… only to find a twice as powerful and especially angry greater red dragon waiting for them as try and escape. You’d be calling your DM mean, wouldn’t you?
Beowulf is a 5e setting being worked on by Handiwork Games, and it is noteworthy because it’s being designed for duet play.
Duet play is where you have one DM and one player.
I can see duet play being especially popular during a period of extended lockdown but that, clearly, isn’t Handiwork Games’ plan and I don’t think the full game will be ready in time. You can check out the free adventure preview with The Hermit’s Sanctuary to see if you like the concept, but I expect the next step to be a Kickstarter for the main game.
If 5e isn’t your thing, then there’s Green Ronin’s Fantasy AGE system. The core rules for that are currently free and will be until late April.
This is the system that’s used in games like Titansgrave, Dragon Age and Blue Rose. It can also be used in settings like Midgard.
The next two games aren’t free but are marked as Pay What You Want, so that means you could pay nothing, it would be nice if you could find something.
The first is Angry Hamster Publishing’s Familiars of Terra. This is a fantasy setting in which everyone has an intelligent animal familiar. It’s inspired by young adult fiction like The Golden Compass, but I suppose you could include hits like Digimon in there too.
The second is Purgatory House. Does this sound timely to you? Purgatory House is all about surviving being trapped in a house. It’s a classic haunted house setting, but it uses packs of playing cards and tokens rather than dice. If you’re living with someone who doesn’t like RPGs perhaps you can slide this under their radar by not bringing out the dice.
The last traditional tabletop RPG freebie I want to mention is another pair. This time the generous benefactor is Pinnacle Entertainment Group, and they’re giving away the two main Deadlands Reloaded books in PDF form.
You will need a copy of Savage Worlds to play in the setting, but with the Player’s Guide and Marshal’s Handbook for free you now have a great way to experience the weird west.
If all forms of traditional roleplaying games are out then, there’s good news from Standing Stone Games. They run Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online games. It’s now possible to play for free and get the DLC for free. There’s a whole bunch of special events going on for both games too.
Okay, wow. It feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface, but that’s already a long list of geeks and RPG companies doing what they can to help during the Covid-19 crisis.
Let’s look at some other stories.
RPG Superstar! is back. In previous years, RPG Superstar was a big competition run by Paizo to find an author for an official Pathfinder adventure. There were cash prizes and then a publishing deal.
It must have been a headache to run. Now, the actual play company Roll for Combat has bought the rights. There’s no publishing deal, but there are cash prizes. So, if you fancy seeing whether your Pathfinder or Starfinder design skills make the cut or could do with a few extra hundred dollars, then this might be for you.
Just note, though, that whatever you submit to the competition becomes the property of Roll for Combat. I don’t know, but I imagine they want to try and recoup those prizes by turning submissions into material they can publish and sell.
Last week we finished the podcast by finding two bits of non RPG news covered by Geek Native. I can do that again this week, it seemed to work.
Did you know Marvel is introducing superheroes called Snowflake and Safespace? It may be a bit of a marketing gimmick, but it’s not a hoax.
My first reaction was cynical. I thought the new heroes were nothing more than clickbait.
On reflection, though, I get what the author Daniel Kibblesmith is trying to do – they’re taking labels that are sometimes used negatively and trying to reclaim them.
There’s a video from Marvel which takes you through all this logic and you can find it in the transcript for the podcast. Search for Audio EXP #36 to find it.
Lastly, there’s a new series that, on paper, dwarves most Marvel properties. It’s called Tower of God and it’s an anime from Korea.
Okay, I just said it dwarves most Marvel properties so how big is it? The owners, Webtoon, have recorded 4.5 billion views. That’s a 4, a 5 and then 11 zeroes.
It’s a vast number.
Anime streaming giant Crunchyroll has struck a deal with Webtoon to bring the show to the west. It’ll be out soon. I’m absolutely going to give it a watch.
Oh, before I go, I have a Crunchyroll gift pass to give out, and my paid-for account generates one a month, so if 48 hours of premium content would help you out right now, get in touch.
On that note, let’s call it a wrap. Keep safe and see you next week.
Join the discussion and leave a comment below.