This is Audio EXP for the 29th of August 2020, and the title of this episode is ‘You’re running from an assassin’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #59]
Here’s a scenario to imagine. Pretend you have no weapons, no means to defend yourself, and without assistance, you have no way to hide.
That’s bad news because there’s an assassin coming to get you. In a city full of strangers, who do you ask for help?
At the start of the year, Geek Native had a copy of Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide to give away.
Regular listeners know what that means. The Geek Native site ran a poll as an entry mechanism. I maintain that’s much better than forcing people to join mailing lists or spam their friends on social media.
The poll asked; are assassins glamorous or repellent?
Games like Assassin’s Creed and movies like, say, John Wick tend to present assassins as cool characters, with a code of honour, impressive skills and loyal friends.
But are they really like that? Aren’t they just paid killers? Murderers. These are people who fancy topping up their bank account is more important than someone’s life.
Given that the competition prize was an assassin game, it’s perhaps no surprise to know that most readers thought assassins are glamorous. On a ratio of almost 3:1 the idea of assassins being repellent was outvoted.
If we go back to the scenario in which you’re the target, that’s not good news. It is? A stranger may well not instinctively been appalled at the idea of an assassin operating in their city.
Oh, I know. It’s a fanciful and stretched concept but stick with me for just a bit longer.
You see, the Geek Native poll also asked people whether they identified as a man, or as a woman or as neither man nor woman.
Men were more pro-assassin than women. Only 21% of men thought assassins are repellent, but 34.7% of women did.
Just over 120 people entered that competition, and 8 of them identified as neither man nor woman. 50% of people in this segment thought assassins are repellent.
So, there you go. If you’re looking for an ally in a city full of strangers when there’s an assassin coming to get you. Look for someone who does not identify as either male or female, and that is the best chance to find someone who might oppose the killer by helping you.
What have you been up to since we spoke last?
I attended Virtually Expo and enjoyed it. It made better use of its website than Gen Con Online but felt much smaller.
Gen Con Online had a busy Discord and Twitch channels often in the high hundreds or even thousands of viewers. UK Games Expo’s online event only got into the low hundreds.
However, I spent money at Virtually Expo and didn’t even see where I could at Gen Con Online. What Virtually Expo had was a schedule builder and a profile to collect virtual badges. Some badges were unlocked by attending events, others by checking out the virtual stalls of sponsors on the website.
As an industry, we’re on a steep learning curve for online events, but the progress is impressive.
At Virtually Expo, I watched the live draw of the UK Games Expo Award winners. Here are the results;
For Best Role-Playing Game Expansion both the Peoples Award and Judges Award when to Berlin – The Wicked City from Chaosium Inc.
For Best Role-Playing Game Adventure the Peoples Award went to Chariot of the Gods for the ALIEN RPG from Free League Publishing. The Judges Award went to Edition Rough Nights and Hard Days for Warhammer 4e by Cubicle 7.
Not too different from the ENnies with Chaosium and Free League being dominant.
I took a look at a few games this week too. One of which is a Kickstarter disaster story called The Lost Citadel. It’s from Green Ronin Publishing, and I trust them to make it right, but it’s been a slog and the hardback – which I think I’ll like much more than the PDF given the font size – is stuck in lockdown logistics.
The Lost Citadel a dark D&D. Take a 5e setting and sweep it with an undead apocalypse. Magic shatters. This is enough to drive the elves mad.
The living cannot fight off the tide of undead horrors that claw their way out of the earth.
In the end, what survives of the fantasy races retreat to a single still-standing dwarf fortress.
Within a generation, humans have taken over and made the dwarves slaves.
You can see, at times, Green Ronin wrestling to treat subjects like slavery with the respect and caution that they are due but also trying to ramp up the disappear and bleakness of a world in such a pitiful state.
I love the concept. The Lost Citadel doesn’t take away magic from D&D, it makes it scary and less straight forward. It doesn’t actively fight against D&D’s tendency towards high fantasy but, instead, by ramping up the dangers of stepping outside of the fortress, it turns the game into a much lower fantasy.
Of course, with this setting, they limit your choices of races and classes to only what survived the initial onslaught of the undead and what fits the campaign world.
The Lost Citadel isn’t a game for everyone, but it’s one I’m glad I have in my collection.
Another game that caught my eye is Fragnarock.
You’ll probably kick the bucket in Fragnarock too but, if you fight hard and are lucky, you’ll die a glorious Viking death.
In Fragnarock, aliens have crash-landed, and the Vikings have gotten hold of their technology.
The aliens, though, have been messing with the local wildlife, including the magic entities. They’ve unleashed all sorts of mutants. The world is an incredibly dangerous place.
Fragnarock is a $5 game from Itch.io, but if you sign up to the publisher’s mailing list, then it’s free. You can find instructions on Geek Native and a link to the transcript of this podcast, complete with links to Fragnarock, in the show notes.
Sticking with the apocalypse theme, let’s talk about Twilight: 2000.
The original Twilight: 2000 was set in the future year 2000 and after the apocalypse. Thankfully, we made it 2020 without that possibility coming true. Barely.
Free League Publishing and partners are now Kickstarting a fourth edition, there are a few days left to join in, and it’s been hugely successful.
I spoke to Chris Lites, the head writer, about the game. Many interviews from gaming sites about Twilight: 2000 have been focused on the mechanics and how Free League might treat those.
Instead, I wanted to talk to Chris about the lure of the apocalypse.
What’s the attraction of the game, I asked, why is the Kickstarter doing so well?
Chris concedes that nostalgia for the previous editions is a factor. When it comes to the apocalypse that never was, though, Chris points out that the genre is evergreen. It’s a thing that we, as a species, obsess about.
And I think he’s right.
At the end of the interview, we talk about whether to include politics in games or as a company. Chris highlights that in Twilight: 2000 he gets to talk about politics that were since the game is now set in an alt-history past, but that we tend to be our own worst enemies.
And I think he’s right about that, too.
Now, this next story denies any association with politics and apocalyptic consequences but Eric M Lang has stepped down from his position at CMON.
Why? He wants to concentrate on freelance game design and activism.
Straight up, I’m sure his first client as a freelancer will be CMON, and I think games like Blood Rage and the Cyberpunk 2077 board game will barely be affected. We’ll still see them.
In a Tweet, Lang says CMON PR is too modest and highlights how supportive they have been of his activism.
It’s an inspiring story. Here is a person of colour in a prominent position in a well-known gaming company and he feels as if he can’t stay. He wants to get back to his roots. He wants to help causes important to him.
So, his departure will not be apocalyptic for CMON as he’s still around and it wasn’t internal politics that forced him out. His own principles encouraged him to make the change so he can address real-life politics.
The gaming industry is making changes.
Speaking of which, Wizards of the Coast’s next D&D book is Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and while I’ve not seen any statement confirming this, I am sure it is the book described in company’s diversty statement.
That is to say, there’s a lot packed into this Cauldron, everything from psionics to group patrons, but the headline news is that Tasha offers up alternative ways to handle racial modifiers.
In other words, tribal cultures aren’t always stupid.
The thing to stress is that these rules – whatever they turn out to be – are optional.
No one is going to break into your apartment and rip up your old campaign world. No one is saying that you’re a racist if you play a version of D&D that uses rules that pre-dates Tasha’s.
The book is due out in November, and I have a second post about it on the blog wherein I scooped up every image officially released from Wizards of the Coast for it, shared the file name for each and put them all in one place.
Now, with Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything announced it means Wizards of the Coast have two big books due and the publisher was almost invisible at both Gen Con Online and Virtually Expo.
They’re doing their own thing, of course, and have announced an online weekend event called D&D Celebration 2020.
In fact, Wizards are going for the world’s largest virtual tabletop session. There’s some 600 virtual tabletop events planned. I went through the first 200 and paid attention to what virtual tabletop solution Wizards was going to use.
Okay, I admit it, I looked in case there were clues that they were going to launch their own or work with Fandom Tabletop and D&D Beyond. I saw no such clue.
I did see that WotC are taking a multi-platform approach, but it’s dominated by Roll20.
- 66% of the events on Friday use Roll20.
- 18% use Discord.
- 9.5% use Zoom.
- Only 4% use Fantasy Grounds.
- 1.5% just use Google Meet.
There are other virtual tabletops like Astral, D20 Pro, TaleSpire and Foundry.
There are even some brand new players that look impressive too.
One of those is BattleMapp which has a focus on an individual scene, has a 3d approach and a free tier.
BattleMapp is now public at BattleMapp, two Ps, dot io. There’s a video demo on Geek Native and in the transcript.
Another is Tarrasque.
Tarrasque is in closed beta at the minute, so you need to become a Patreon backer to get hands-on with it, but there’s a video demo on Geek Native.
This new virtual tabletop is working hard to be moble-first and touch-friendly. In other words, you should be able to run an encounter without a mouse and keyboard. That’s a good idea.
It’s not quite a virtual tabletop, but World Anvil is a site for world-building. You might be an author, designing a comic book or running a game. This week, World Anvil introduced Diplomacy Webs to their system.
Define your factions, groups, cults, churches, empires and that sort of thing and then describe the relationship between them. The Diplomacy Web visualises that for you and, yeah, it looks like a web.
Four more stories to headline for you this week and these are all off the tabletop.
The first is Burn the Witch. It looks good, and it’s from the creator of Bleach.
In Burn the Witch dragons are responsible for most deaths in London. It’s just that people can’t see the dragons.
If you’re a resident of Reverse London, then you can.
The anime follows two young witches part of a group with responsibility to conserve and manage dragons.
Crunchyroll won the bidding war, and the anime will be out in October.
A second anime story and, what is it, our fourth apocalypse story of the podcast is Akira. The 4K remastered version of Akira is coming to 300 IMAX screens in the UK and Ireland.
This cinematic version of the classic has never left Japan before. There’s a sign-up website to use if you want to try and get a ticket.
The next story deals with a 30-year-old mystery, which makes it ten years younger than the 40-year-old Akira.
One of my favourite cheese metal songs of all time, complete with its crazy rhymes, is a song called Holy Diver by a band called Dio. I mean, any track that begins with wind and howling wolves has to accept a little cheese.
The album Holy Diver is named after this track. And the cover of this 30-year-old masterpiece shows a priest in chains and in the water, apparently far out at sea. Meanwhile, some towering colossus raises up from behind the mountains in the background.
Just what is going on?
Well, we’ll find out soon enough as Z2 has official permission to explore the scene in a 120-paged graphic novel from Steve Niles. Steve’s the horror writer behind October Faction and 30 Days of Night.
My last headline is a tip-off. If you use or have no objections to the Epic Games Launcher, then you can go grab yourself a bundle of Shadowrun computer games for free. You’ve about a week.
And on that note, let’s call it a wrap. Keep safe, stay out of melee range and see you next week.
What are your thoughts? Strike up a discussion and leave a comment below.