Tuesday, January 14, 2020

What Do I Know About First Impressions? Unearthed Arcana (Subclasses, 1/14/2020)(D&D 5e)

Remember back in 2019, when Wizards was releasing all of those Unearthed Arcana articles, non-stop, and it seemed like they were never going to end. Everyone was really wondering what they were all leading up to. It’s like it was yesterday. Oh, hey, what’s this? Another Unearthed Arcana article with three more playtest subclasses? Okay, twist my arm, I’ll take a look.

Unearthed Arcana 2020 Subclass Part 1

Barbarian (Path of the Beast)

The flavor for the Path of the Beast barbarian is that somewhere in the barbarian’s past, they have an association with an animal spirit or a shape changer. If you don’t have an idea what that connection is, there is even a handy chart with four broad options on it.

  • At third level, when you rage, you get a bite attack, a claw attack, or a tail attack. Biting lets you regain hit points, claws allow for an extra attack, and the tail is one beefy hit with reach.
  • At sixth level, you have magical appendages for combat purposes, and you can decide on a boost to some form of movement (swim, climb, jump). You can swap that out at short rests.
  • At 10th level, you get the ability to force another creature that you hit with your attacks to either attack another creature, or take psychic damage.
  • At 14th level, you can grant friends of yours within 30 feet some temporary hit points, reckless attack, and advantage against fear effects.

I really like this theme, and I think the abilities stay on point for the whole progression. I’m not used to contemplating what it would look like for a barbarian to mainly rely on natural attacks for most of their career, but I kind of like the notion of it. There is a part of me that almost wishes you could “benevolently infect” a friendly creature at 10th, and then scale up the ability at 14th, but that might be a bit too much versatility.

Monk (Way of Mercy)

The Way of Mercy Monk is a traveling monk that is also a wandering physician. This is actually a pretty well worn martial arts trope, and there are enough D&D religions that support both healing and monastic traditions that this feels like a pretty natural fit.

Like the barbarian, there is a chart of what kind of mask your monk might wear as a mark of their order. I liked of like these potentially randomized bits of character details, although the meta-conceit of the sub-class flavor might clash with established setting based orders. Still, I’d rather have more flavor and not use it than have a drier presentation.

  • At 3rd level, you can spend Ki to heal hit point damage, and you can split off one of your flurry of blows attacks as a healing touch without spending a separate Ki point for it. This is a good time to remember that in 5e you can move between your attacks. You can also spend Ki to cause extra necrotic damage with an attack.
  • At 6th level, the monk gets a noxious aura that gives the monk cover and poisons anyone that fails a save when they are right next to you. I get that on one hand, this is kind of the “monk is spiritually manipulating the essence of life” power put to potentially harmful use, but I would almost rather this ability had been flavored so that the monk just exudes an aura that makes it hard for others to harm them, and that inflicts some other condition on those dazed by their aura of life. Maybe this was a bit more sinister in nature to provide a “balance” for evil healers? I get the broad strokes, but it feels like a bit of a stretch.
  • Healing Technique at 11th level lets the monk heal conditions as well as hit points. This feels like a very late game implementation of healing conditions, for a subclass that is intended to potentially represent a wandering physician. A 1st level paladin is potentially a better physician than a 10th level Way of Mercy monk. Since this feature adds the removal of conditions as a kicker to regular healing, I think it might be worth it to let the monk also remove the same conditions a paladin can with Lay on Hands with a Ki point instead of healing at lower levels as well.
  • Hand of Mercy at 17th level lets you put someone into suspended animation, where they are immune to anything going on around them. I love the feel of this, but it also feels like at 17th level, you are way less likely to be worried about time-critical conditions affecting a party member. 

I like the flavor of this one, and I only kind of had to squint at that 6th level ability to bridge the gap, I just wish they were better healers for things other than hit point damage earlier in progression.

Paladin (Oath of the Watchers)

Oath of the Watcher paladins are guardians against supernatural incursions from other planes of existence, with a side order of keeping an eye on cultists that might traffic with those extra planar influences. I’m a little sad that the subclass didn’t get a short form variable bit of story fluff that the other two subclasses got, but we do get their tenets.

  • At third level, Oath of Watcher paladins get an expanded spell list with lots of watching and warding spells, and also they get access to D&D’s particle beam cannon, Moonbeam, as well as the “on point, but I hope not too many other people in the party have it as well” addition of Counterspell. Channel divinity options include boosting your allies Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saves, and the ability to turn elementals, fey, fiends, or aberrations.
  • At 7th and 18th level, there is a range around the Oath of the Watcher paladin that boosts initiative bonuses (with the range increasing at 18th level).
  • At 15th level, you get the ability to use a reaction to damage a creature within 30 feet of you whenever they make a save. I can just imagine the DM frustration when their enemy spellcaster dodges a magical bullet, and then blows their Constitution save as soon as the paladin pops the follow up damage.
  • At 20th level, the paladin gets the ability to get a minute of truesight, advantage against elementals, fey, fiends, and aberrations, and ability to banish one of those creatures when you hit it with your attack.

I can’t say that I have an issue with any of this, and it all ties pretty nicely back to the idea of a paladin on the watch for extraplanar forces. The only bit of flavor that isn’t quite as fully realized is that there is much more “anti-extraplanar” abilities going on, and not a lot of “anti-cultist” abilities, but I’m good with that.

Warlock (The Noble Genie)

I just watched the live action Aladdin the other night, so I’m in the right mood to read this one. At any rate, you are a warlock that makes a deal with a powerful genie, which makes perfect sense given all of the other powerful entities to which a warlock can hitch their eldritch blast.

  • There are expanded spells that deal quite a bit with elements and illusions. There is another randomized bit of story in this section as well (I like it) that involves the vessel that your patron has given you (including rings, lanterns, and of course, lamps). The vessel allows you to tether yourself to another creature and use them to boost your perception checks and as a spellcasting node.
  • At 6th level you get a choice of some form of resistance to a range of damage types, and your tethered creature gets that resistance as well.
  • At 10th level you can wish to switch places with your tethered creature when either you or the creature is hit by an attack. Hopefully if you switch places when you are taking the damage, you are willing to buy them a nice gift later on.
  • Another 10th level feature allows you to teleport someone to your patron’s court in the elemental planes for up to a minute, although they get round by round saves to return earlier.
  • At 14th level, you can use some of your patron’s power to heal someone and remove a condition from them, inflict disadvantage on an opponent until your next turn, or use legend lore. I really like that this class feature is recharged on a short rest, OR if you bribe your patron with something worth 500 gold pieces.

One of the things I appreciate about this subclass is that not only do the abilities stay on point for the story of a warlock getting power from a genie, but there is a bit more psychology as to what the patron is getting out of the arrangement. It weaves a bit of lore about how much genie nobles like to be able to “tag” things on other planes of existence as being theirs, and how having a warlock running around on other planes facilitates this.

Arcana Wrap Up

So many of these recent Unearthed Arcana articles have had subclasses with really clear stories that are reinforced by the abilities that they grant the classes, and this one is no exception. There have been a lot in the past that were intriguing, but kind of go off the rails somewhere. These don’t feel like they wander off too much at all, but maybe just need some tightening up.

I like all of these, but I haven’t played a barbarian yet in 5e, and this article really makes me want to rectify that situation.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Rise of Selective Shared Continuity

I don’t know if the phenomenon I’m about to talk about has a name or not, but I’m giving it one, and that term is Selective Shared Continuity. What is Selective Shared Continuity? It’s when a body of works assume a certain subset of external media as canon to that work, but only a subset of what might be part of a greater external media source.

Worlds of Examples

What the multiverse does that mean? Well, this is the kind of thing that the Star Wars Expanded Universe made pretty standard, but it has probably existed for as long as someone thought it was fun to share elements of a story, but still wished to retain control over a character in the long run.

Let’s say you have a crossover between Spider-Man and Superman. Their regular comics will never reference what happened in the crossover comic, but the cross-over assumes that the version of Spider-Man and Superman you are seeing have experienced everything from their regular comic book series. After the cross-over, nobody in the individual comics ever references this, but if there is a sequel, it does reference the previous comic storyline, as well as whatever happened to the characters in their individual books.

When I say that this happened in the Expanded Universe for Star Wars, I think it’s important to note that while this was eventually clarified by Lucasfilm, a lot of fans, especially of EU material, never quite understood the Selective Shared Continuity of the EU. There were multiple levels of primacy in Star Wars canon that had to be followed by the items further down the list. For example, everything that happened in the movies, had to happen in comics, novels, and video games. But novels and comics were a lower level of canon than the movies, so that treatment of canon didn’t flow “upstream.” Something that happened in a novel or a comic didn’t have to be reflected or acknowledged in a movie.

Some of the most ambitious Selective Shared Continuity may have come from the Avengers/JLA crossover. While the individual DC or Marvel comics didn’t reference characters from the other company, some of the cosmic events that happened were referenced as established history at the individual companies. Before the Avengers/JLA crossover, the 90s DC Versus Marvel crossover also created several unique characters jointly owned by both companies that were only used when both companies were publishing a shared crossover story.

It’s also probably worth noting that this also happened a lot as gimmicks for television series. Many network television series would crossover various series, but without ongoing elements from the individual series making a long-term impact. I’m not going to go into the full ramifications of this, but without applying the logic of Selective Shared Continuity, you end up with the Tommy Westphall shared universe.

One of the more recent examples of this, without being literally stated, were the Marvel televisions projects both on Netflix and the ABC series Agents of SHIELD. “The Event,” and some of the Avengers were mentioned in the Netflix series, but beyond the Invasion of New York, other Marvel Cinematic Universe historical elements never had an impact on these series. The Sokovia Accords, for example, never impact our super powered street level heroes.

Agents of SHIELD seemed to operate in an even more Star Wars EU like model, especially for its earlier seasons. References were made to the Avengers or Thor: The Dark World, and a backstory for Nick Fury’s contribution to Age of Ultron were all referenced, but not only was Coulson not referenced in Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon went on record as saying that, for the purposes of the movies, Coulson was dead.

Attempted Definition

So, what are the standards of Selective Shared Continuity? This can vary, but essentially it means that there is an alternate universe that exists where the Venn diagram of the crossover media can exist, but that the crossover only assumes that the elements in evidence exist in the alternate universe that allows for the crossover. For Star Wars, it means there was essentially a parallel universe where only the events of the movies happened, and another universe where the events of the movies AND the events of the novels and comics happened, but events that happen in that shared “novels, comics, and movies” universe don’t have any impact on the alternate universe where only the movies exist.

Essentially Selective Shared Continuity might be set up to that there is a floodgate that flows one direction, or it may be set up so that two sources empty into the same reservoir, but the assumption is not that because the two bodies of water touch, that they are now one body of water.

Why is all this interesting to me today? Because the Sony Extended Spider-verse is potentially confusing to a lot of fans. Sony is about to start using Spider-Man characters for their own movies, who can reference the events of the shared Marvel/Sony Spider-Man movies but are not a part of the MCU. That means the events referenced in the Spider-Man movies, only to the extent that details exist in the Spider-Man movies, can be referenced in the expanded Spidey-verse movies.

As an example, in the MCU, the events of End Game make it clear that Earth was almost in a post-apocalyptic state, with the Avengers helping to rebuild, and the Earth slowly recovering after five years. This is covered . . . differently in Spider-Man Far From Home, where it’s referred to as “the blip,” where some people disappeared for five years and then came back to a world that looked pretty much like it looked when they disappeared, without a lot of details.  Nobody is going to mention Thanos’ assault fleet or the trauma and horror of those five years in a Spider-Man extended universe film, but someone may make a joke about Peter looking five years younger than he should.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Morbius?

What are the potential issues with Selective Shared Continuity? First and foremost, it’s a bit confusing for fans. Part of why it is confusing for fans is that it is a purposeful internal construct to make both worlds feel as if they are connected, but only for the amount of time that the media is “connected.” Spending too much time explaining to the audience that the Spider-Man being referenced in a movie is actually a different Spider-Man than the one in the MCU, that is played by the same actor and has had very similar things happen to him, defeats the feeling that is desired, that this is, indeed, the same Spider-Man that was smitten with Captain Marvel while fighting Thanos.

If this is so confusing, and it’s something that is “sort of” acknowledged, but otherwise intentionally ignored, why use it? Essentially it allows for greater flexibility with a property, without ceding control of the material in question. Disney doesn’t want to have to acknowledge that Venom or Morbius exist, but it’s okay for “A” Tom Holland Spider-Man to interact with those characters on some level. George Lucas wanted people continuing to tell Star Wars stories when he was between projects, but he didn’t want anyone to have the expectation that he was going to alter his ideas to fit a series of novels or comics whenever he decided to return to the franchise.

It is essentially a super-position for a creative work, where it is having material produced for that work, while reserving the right for some aspect of that work to not “count” towards the official canon of that body of work.

Crossovers of Future Past

It is also a storytelling constraint that is uniquely born of intellectual property laws. When Robin Hood appears in The Once and Future King, or in Ivanhoe, there isn’t a feeling that there needs to be a disclaimer saying that this is or isn’t part of the “canon” of Robin Hood’s solo adventures. He’s a story element that gets co-opted for those stories, where he is important only so far as he participates in those stories. In addition to intellectual property laws, Selective Shared Continuity assumes an ongoing narrative. There isn’t much purpose in being concerned about how much of an external character’s world is true in the world that they are now appearing in, if where they are appearing is a singular work. For the purposes of Ivanhoe, it doesn’t really matter if the archery contest that the Sheriff staged to flush out Robin Hood did or did not happen, because it is a singular book that uses the character for one section and is then over.

There are tons of myths and legends that have adapted over time as one group of people encountered another and started sharing gods and heroes in their storytelling. To some extent, this has even happened in the early life cycle of what would be Selective Shared Continuity, but it is usually accompanied by legal ownership changing hands. For example, DC Comics acquisition of characters like Captain Marvel, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and the Question.

Selective Shared Continuity is, in a way, a form of special effect. When we watch dragons, aliens, and flashy magical spells, we know that what we are seeing isn’t real, but in the context of what we are watching, under the right circumstances, we will away our mundane perceptions to live in that moment. The difference is that Selective Shared Continuity isn’t asking our minds to forget the laws of the reality we live in, but instead, the reality of the laws that govern ideas and imagination.

Friday, January 10, 2020

What Do I Know About Reviews? Into the Dark (Forged in the Dark)

After the publication of Blades in the Dark, a number of games have been released under the banner of “Forged in the Dark,” the banner that denotes the use of the core game engine of Forged in the Dark. In addition to Blades in the Dark, I personally have read and reviewed Scum and Villainy, a space opera implementation of the formula, and Band of Blades, a dark, gritty fantasy mercenary variation. While both games remain mission-based, Scum and Villain and Band of Blades introduce the concept of an endgame to the campaign, but both remain as procedural in format as Blades in the Dark.

Today I’m looking at Into the Dark, a decidedly slimmer implementation of the Forged in the Dark concept. While still mission-based, at only 50 pages, this game definitely takes the concepts introduced in Blades in the Dark in a different direction than some of the earlier iterations of Forged in the Dark games.

What Kind of Load is This?

This review is based on the PDF of Into the Dark. As mentioned above, this comes in at fifty pages. The book does not contain an index, but given its size, that probably isn’t the impediment it might be to a larger game.

The book, from cover to cover and the pages in between, maintains a red and black color scheme. Bold red headers introduce sections of the book, and various black and white illustrations are highlighted with elements of the image called out in red. There also several well-formatted tables throughout the book.

The Basics

The setting of Into the Dark is a fantasy post-apocalyptic setting. The Murk, a general darkness, has fallen over the world. While the pre-Murk world was more advanced, the level of advanced, the pre-Murk world is largely undefined outside of the ability to add various modern or futuristic elements to ruins. The current world is largely medieval in technology and outlook.

Nightwells open up in the world, and spew out Murk and vile creatures associated with it, and in various temples on the surface, the Silver Flame is maintained to keep the Murk at bay. Murkdelvers, the adventurers of the setting, are tasked with taking a silver flame into a Murk invested region and dropping it into the Nightwells to shut them down. Along the way, they can scavenge for items that they can resell so that they can better outfit themselves for their tasks.

This section doesn’t waste much time before jumping right into an explanation of the setting and what player characters are expected to do in the setting, which I can appreciate. In addition to introducing the world, we’re introduced to the modified means of rolling to resolve challenges, which consists of rolling a number of dice equal to a relevant trait, and comparing the highest d6 to a failure/partial success/success paradigm.

Gear has a rental price and a purchasing price. Unlike other Forged in the Dark games, the assumption is that players will outfit themselves intentionally before they head into the Murk, and until they can scavenge some items, they will likely be doing it with equipment they have to return.

It is possible to have a 0 in a relevant stat, meaning you have no dice to attempt the task. Unlike other Forged in the Dark games, granting bonus or penalty dice for advantages or disadvantages is much more common, so it usually only takes a little narrative work to explain how something impossible can have at least a minimal chance at success.

Most of the equipment also exists primarily as narrative permission, rather than have proscriptive statistics. A compass that functions in the murk just helps you navigate, but if you have to make a check where knowing what direction you are going is important, it’s a built-in bonus die as long as you describe what you are doing with it.

For anyone familiar with other Forged in the Dark games, there is no position and effect component to the game.

The Archetypes

The game has four different archetypes for player characters:

  • Murkhunters
  • Lightbearers
  • Shadowbinders
  • Explorers

Murkhunters can carry more load, are better with armor, and do more damage with heavy weapons. Lightbearers have seals they can sacrifice to ward off malevolent magical effects, gain bonuses to using healing kits, and can do special tricks when attuning to the silver flame that the party caries. Shadowbinders can touch and manipulate the Murk without (for the most part) becoming corrupted, they can conjure creatures from the Murk to help them with tasks, and they know where to sell sketchy material found in the Murk while on a mission. Explorers do extra damage when they ambush, they get some tricks to make alchemical items more effective, and they are better able to manipulate traps and fix gadgets.

The mechanics for many of these effects are extra dice when attempting certain tasks, or extra dice when rolling for damage or to heal others. Each of the archetypes also has a unique set of gear tied to their profession that they can choose from in addition to the general list in the previous chapter. Each of the archetypes also has six or so unique XP triggers that reward players for performing the role that the archetype usually fills in a group of Murkdelvers.

Playing the Game

The gameplay is very similar to other Forged in the Dark games, but is much more focused on the actual mission elements, and is much less procedure-oriented. Instead of harm, characters have a number of health points, as well as a stress track. When characters suffer negative effects, they can attempt to resist the effect by marking off stress, often ignoring or halving the numerical value of the effect on themselves.

Characters that reach 0 health are dead, meaning it’s always good to have some stress to spend for resisting damage. Characters to go past a certain corruption threshold become NPC monsters, mutated by the Murk.

During a mission, the characters must carry the Silver Flame to the Nightwell and cast it in, and the Silver Flame is given a clock to keep track of how strongly it is burning. Sometimes monsters might try to snuff it out, or the characters might rest to recover from injuries, and at these times, the clock ticks down. If the Silver Flame goes out, the Nightwell can’t be closed, and settlements nearby are likely to be lost to the Murk.

Load is an interesting game mechanic in the game. In other Forged in the Dark games, having a heavy load makes you more noticeable, which can cause complications, but Into the Dark mentions that Murkdelvers with a heavy load will always go last in combat situations. This is an interesting means of adjudicating a rule in a game without a rigid initiative system.

The rules are only lightly explained when they are introduced, with most of the explanation being delivered in the various examples given in the examples of play section. This section specifically introduces all of the characters in the scene, and carefully lays out what is happening, but it doesn’t the same “what would you do” questions at the end of each scenario, like some of the Forged in the Dark games that have come before.

Sample Adventures

There are several sample adventures in the book, but adventures in this instance include the primary opposition, locations, and obstacles between the Murkdelvers and their goal, as well as what kind of items they might be able to scavenge from the location.

There isn’t a dedicated bestiary in the book, but there are a wide variety of creatures provided across the different adventures, allowing for a good range of tools to either mix and match, or to tweak for slightly more customized creatures.

I’ve said before that I like an RPG to have sample adventures to see how the designers expect the game to be run. In this case, I appreciate that the expected “prep” is essentially to have an outline of a few items that might get in the character’s way, with all of the details being filled in by complications on various rolls and the decisions made by the players.


The final section of the book contains some extra tables for generating details for the moving pieces of an adventure. Previous tables introduced in the book aren’t reprinted, which keeps the overall product a bit more streamlined, but like many Forged in the Dark games, these tables can go a long way to generating a mission with a very short amount of prep time.

Channeling the Flame

I like how quickly the game jumps into its narrative, and how easily it flows from the overview of the setting and the expected modes of play into the general mechanics of the game. One thing I was struck with when reading the original Blades in the Dark is that I wish there was a “basic game,” something that layered on the new concepts one at a time, without immediately introducing all of the interlocking procedural elements, and that is very much what this game is providing. The setting is a strong concept that is presented concisely, which is good, because a setting this evocative could easily get bogged down in details that don’t contribute to the core experience.

The adventure outlines have a summary at the beginning that I appreciate and wish more games/adventures would formalize in a similar format.

Shaping the Murk

This happens a lot, but one of the things I like the most about the game is also potentially one of its issues. While I like how quickly it jumps from setup to story to rules, it may do that a little too quickly, and a few more pages of summaries at a slower pace might have been nice. As much as I like the slimmed-down mechanics, especially as a means to introduce the concepts of Blades in the Dark to new players, some of my favorite aspects, such as flashbacks and flexible gear, get excised from this implementation. Because of the pace at which elements are introduced, I wonder how well someone that has never encountered either a Powered by the Apocalypse or a Forged in the Dark game would pick up on the flow of the game just from reading this book.

While I appreciate the summaries of the adventures, which include what is effectively a content warning system, there isn’t much room in these 50 pages for safety discussions, and some of the horror elements of the setting might warrant some careful consideration.

Recommended--If the product fits in your broad area of gaming interests, you are likely to be happy with this purchase.

I really enjoy how fast-paced and concise this game is, and it feels very evocative without being too dense. This feels like the kind of game you could pitch and have at the table, ready to go, very quickly. Any confusion that I’m concerned about doesn’t come from poor descriptions or stilted language, so much as the pace at which concepts are introduced.

If you want a more narrative leaning game about post-apocalyptic dungeon delving, and some weird fantasy adventuring with light gear management appeals to you, this should be a satisfying purchase. Alternatively, if you just want to see what a “basic game” version of Blades in the Dark might be, especially considering how much design space Forged in the Dark games have grown to encompass, this will be a good primer for your curiosity.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A Statement About My Personal Policy Regarding Kobold Press (Updated, 1-8-2020)

Going back to the origins of the company, I’ve been a fan of Kobold Press, when it was still known as Open Design. Reading Kobold Quarterly, I was enamored of the larval descriptions of what would eventually become the Midgard setting. I have a great deal of respect for the game designers that have worked on the setting and made it compelling, and have created a great deal of quality content. Not only has Kobold Press provided content for multiple game systems, they have often innovated in the way that material has been presented and used.

A Glaring Issue

There has been one ongoing issue with the company that has been long running. Not only have the Kariv people often been attributed with negative ethic stereotypes in various products, but the slur “g*psy” has often been used to describe their culture. Even as it has become more widely known that many Roma people consider this a slur, this has continued.

I have cited this issue in several reviews that I have done for Kobold Press products. One of the biggest negative aspects of the Tales of the Old Margreve adventure anthology is both the use of the slur and the portrayal of very stereotypical ethnic stereotypes in one adventure in particular.

I have been running Tales of the Old Margreve and summarizing the experience on this blog. Part of my hope was to point out where I needed to modify adventures. I am by no means an expert, and I am likely to make mistakes myself. I intentionally created Kariv NPCs for my players to interact with that aren’t thieves or con artists, and I have mentioned to my group that I don’t want to use the term g*psy in game for the Kariv.

Unaddressed Problems

Unfortunately, the term is still in use at Kobold Press. I have never seen this issue directly addressed, and it pains me to see this as a continual issue. I have come to see my continued policy of saying “I love everything about this setting except the racial slurs” as a huge shortcoming on my part. While I had mentioned the issue, I had not prioritized it as a point of contention, which is something someone with privilege can do.

I respect and admire many of the people that work for Kobold Press, and who have done extensive freelance work there. I don’t wish to paint anyone associated with the company as villains. I do want to highlight the fact that this is an ongoing issue that has not been addressed, and every time the term g*psy is used, the company is effectively saying that they can determine what is and isn’t offensive to a group of marginalized people.

Going Forward

Unless this is addressed, I’m no longer going to cover Kobold Press products on my blog. I won’t be doing reviews, and I won’t be continuing my campaign journal. I love the setting, and I appreciate the work that has gone into creating the products, but I cannot continue to tacitly support an ongoing issue.

I still have two more Kickstarters coming from Kobold Press, but I won’t be picking up products in the future unless this is addressed. It isn’t likely that my actions will provoke a response, but I also can’t continue to ignore an ongoing issue by pointing out a problem and then waiting for another product to be published or another article to be presented with the exact same issues present.

I am sorry that I need to take this step.

Update: 1-8-2020

I checked on the article page tonight when I came home from work, and found the following amendment to an article recently posted to the Kobold Press site:

Editor’s Note: Kobold Press would like to apologize for the use of the term “gypsy.” We recognize it as a racial slur and understand its impact on the Romani people. This is important to us, and we will continue our efforts to ensure that respect is shown for all peoples and that such terms do not appear in our works. We hear and appreciate your feedback.

I greatly appreciate this statement from the company. It makes me feel much better about past support, and the ability to move forward.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Fantasy Flight Games RPG Products Still in the Pipeline

If you haven't heard yet, apparently Fantasy Flight Games has laid off most if not all of their roleplaying game employees, as well as their digital applications team. There has not been an official statement about any of this, or any words to the effect that FFG is getting out of the RPG business, but it doesn't look especially hopeful at this point in time.

FFG is owned by Asmodee, and Asmodee was looking to sell. Asmodee was purchased by the private equity firm PAI Partners. I can't find any public statement on this entire situation, but private equity firms generally buy businesses to restructure them and sell them again.

Given that sequence of events, it's probably not a shock that anything that doesn't turn maximum profits is going to be shut down, because to make a company attractive to potential buyers, buyers usually want the company to be very lean with high margins of profit on everything they do.

One interesting thing of note when I checked on Fantasy Flight's "Upcoming" page is that there are now three categories of upcoming products, "In Stores Now," "Shipping," and "In Production." In the past, there was also a category for "In Development." I'm not especially shocked that longer-term projects are no longer being advertised well before there is a target date for them.

FFG had a history of keeping even some "complete" lines in print. Often product lines that didn't have new products coming out, but sold through distribution, might be put back into the queue way at the bottom of the list, and it wasn't took hard to find it on the "Upcoming" page. Years after there was an original release, and while FFG was producing Dark Heresy 2nd Edition, they still had a reprint of the Deathwatch core book put into queue, for example, before the Games Workshop deal ended.

The following products are still on the "Upcoming" schedule on the web page:


Secrets of the Crucible (Keyforge Setting Book)  (April 2020)

Legend of the Five Rings

Path of Waves (Sourcebook) (January 2020)

Sins of Regret (Adventure) (January 2020)

Legend of the Five Rings RPG Gamemat (Accessory) (January 2020)

Star Wars

Starships and Speeders (Accessory) (February 2020)

My hope is that most if not all of these products make it to market. While I'm not particularly interested in the Keyforge campaign sourcebook, I know Genesys has been popular, and there is a demand for more products.

I will fully admit, I was almost certain that the "cross-line" Star Wars RPG products seemed as if they were capstone products, but I thought that meant that a new 2nd edition would be coming soon, especially with the end of the sequel trilogy, and an opportunity to publish new RPG material that did straddle the line between Legends and current continuity (this wasn't a big sticking point for me, but I thought it may have been a directive coming from Lucasfilm, especially as the Legends material in more recent FFG Star Wars material has been significantly reduced.

I've got no idea what the future holds for FFG. I know that American private equity firms generally cannibalize the companies that they buy for maximum profits, but I don't know if that means that Asmodee and FFG are destined to go the way of Toys R' Us. Most private equity firms aren't in the business of picking up new businesses to diversify their holdings.

All of the above products are listed as accepting pre-orders, but since we've seen the rug get pulled out from under other companies not long before something was due to come out, and well after pre-orders were taken (I'm still kind of mourning The One Ring 2nd Edition), the pre-order status may not mean a lot as far as predicting the likelihood of these products making it to market.