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  • New Game Round-up: Mechs, Circuses, Fireworks, and Magnetic Planets

    by W. Eric Martin

    Blue Orange Games plans to release Urtis Šulinskas' Planet in North America on April 22, 2019, a.k.a. Earth Day. The game debuted in Europe at SPIEL in October 2018, and you can check out an overview of this world-building game here.

    • That same month Arcane Wonders will release the Necromancer Expansion for Mage Wars Academy so that someone can command the "legions of undeath" and sic plagues on their opponent.

    Village Pillage is a 2-5 player design from Peter C. Hayward, Tom Lang, and Jellybean Games in which players play one card in hand against each of their neighbors at the same time, after which those cards resolve: farmers produce turnips, walls block raiders, raiders steal turnips, and merchants either add new cards to your hand or help you purchase a relic. Cards then return to your hand, and you do it all over again until someone claims their third relic and wins.

    Core Connection: Rise of Atlantis is a deck-building game from Japanime Games in which you pilot and upgrade a giant mecha to "free society from the tyrannical reign of its oppressors". Seems like a worthy goal. Core Connection: Titans Unleashed, due out in June 2019 following the base game in April, adds more cards to the base game.

    Mary Flanagan and Max Seidman's Visitor in Blackwood Grove, which debuted in the U.S. from Resonym as a Target-exclusive title in mid-2018, reaches regular distribution channels in Q2 2019. This game is a two-vs.-all affair in which an alien visitor creates a rule for which items can pass through the forcefield around its ship and the child that's befriended the alien must figure out this rule before secret agents can do so. We recorded an overview of the game at Origins 2018, and it gives a good idea of how the game works.

    • The next title from Flanagan, Seidman, and Resonym — with co-design credit for Emma Hobday — is Mechanica, a 1-4 player game in which you acquire puzzle pieces to upgrade your factory to create more and better Tidybots, which earns you money, with which you will further upgrade the factory to earn even more. Speaking of which, Mechanica is being funded on Kickstarter through March 3, 2019, with an expected delivery date of Nov. 2019.




    • In March 2019, U.S. publisher R&R Games will release Hanabi Deluxe II, which like the original Hanabi Deluxe from 2013 will replace the cards from the original Antoine Bauza co-operative game with Mah Jhong-style tiles, but this edition also includes six unique tiles that comprise the "Master Artisan" expansion.

    Ringmaster: Welcome to the Big Top is a quick-playing card game from Justin Gary and Stone Blade Entertainment in which players lay down circus stars and attractions in front of themselves; sideshows in front of opponents; and events in the discard pile after carrying out their effect. Each player's winning condition is determined by the cards that they play, with opponents likely messing up your acts during play. Read more »
  • Mergers, Splits, and Distribution Deals: Funko Folds in Forrest-Pruzan Creative; Hachette Grabs Gigamic

    by W. Eric Martin

    • On Feb. 15, 2019, Funko, Inc. — the world's largest manufacturer of pop-culture-based bobblehead figures — announced that it had acquired Seattle-based game design studio Forrest-Pruzan Creative. In recent years, FPC has been responsible for pop-culture-driven games such as Villainous, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, and Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger, which makes it seem like an ideal fit within the Funko brand. Here's part of the press release announcing this deal:

    Funko believes that everyone is a fan of something, and this acquisition allows pop culture enthusiasts to display their fandom through multi-player interaction comprised by their favorite characters and introduces Funko to an entirely new demographic, ardent board gamers.

    "We've always been incredibly impressed with FPC's portfolio and have witnessed the company make a name for itself on a global level," said Funko President Andrew Perlmutter. "As we expand our product portfolio, we believe this acquisition is in line with what we are doing with apparel, accessories and Funko Animation Studios. The games category is another avenue to deliver pop culture to our ever-growing fan base. FPC's nearly two decades of experience in developing high quality games will provide us added expertise as we leverage our existing IP and licensor portfolio into this category."

    Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and the Company does not expect the acquisition to have a material impact on its financial performance in 2019.

    Who doesn't love to display their fandom via multi-player interaction?!

    • In late January 2019, Hachette Livre, the largest book publisher in France and the owner of the Hachette Book Group in the U.S. along with many other imprints, has "entered into exclusive negotiations with Jean-Christophe Gires and Stéphane Gires, the founders and directors of Gigamic, with a view to acquiring 100% of their company's share capital", according to a press release on the Hachette website.

    Gigamic was founded in 1991, launching the company with the abstract strategy game Quarto, which I fondly recall demoing and selling at The Game Gallery in San Francisco. It was a different era then! Currently Gigamic publishes about fifteen new titles annually, with sales of more than €15 million. An excerpt from the press release:

    Stéphane Gires, who is 56, will continue to manage the business that he has successfully built up with his brother.

    For Hachette Livre, which already publishes party games (quiz games, etc.), and which added mobile games to its portfolio in 2016, this investment is part of a strategic decision to explore the leisure activity market that sits alongside publishing, in particular all the segments of the consumer gaming market.

    "We are delighted to welcome Gigamic and its great team, whose skills are naturally closely aligned with our content creation activities for the consumer market. Like all the entities that have joined the Group in recent years, Gigamic will be able to pursue its development while retaining its creative autonomy", said Arnaud Nourry, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hachette Livre.

    "Our many discussions have confirmed that our companies share the same DNA in terms of ethics, innovation, management and trust in our existing personnel. Gigamic is becoming part of a major French group and a market leader, which delivers a strong message to our employees, our customers and our suppliers. We feel very confident and motivated for the future", added Stéphane Gires.

    • Stepping back one month further, in mid-December 2018, Greater Than Games acquired Nevermore Games, stating in a press release that "The acquisition of Nevermore Games is the culmination of several months of conversations between Nevermore Games and Greater Than Games. As our companies undergo this transition, Greater Than Games looks forward to supporting the Nevermore Games product lines and fan base."

    • For an industry move in the other direction, we have this statement from Dutch publisher White Goblin Games in January 2019:

    During the previous year, we signed a deal with the Chinese company Yoka Games to produce a new localized edition of our game Bali in China.

    At the time that we signed the deal, we were unaware of the previous and current history of Yoka Games, but it was recently brought to our attention that Yoka Games has been plagiarizing famous games such as BANG! and Lost Cities for many years.

    Yoka Games has proven itself to be disrespectful of intellectual property rights and the work of other companies and designers. We firmly condemn this attitude, and for this reason we have decided to end our partnership with Yoka Games.
    Read more »
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    DriveThruRPG.com Newest Items

  • Battlemap Cave
    Battlemap CavePublisher: Magical RPG Games

    This is a 25 x 25 battlemap optimized for use with roll20.net.  The cave map is set in a natural cave system carved out over centuries from water.  What will the party find in the cave?

    Check out my other maps as well!

    Price: $1.19 Read more »
  • Battlemap Swamp
    Battlemap SwampPublisher: Magical RPG Games

    This is a 40 x 30 battlemap optimized for use with roll20.net.  The swamp map is set in the thick of a swamp, with water dominating the landscape and small islands poking out of the water.  Tall trees grow well in the thick swamp, along with some small bushes and mosses.  What lurks in the swamp?

    Check out my other maps as well!

    Price: $1.09 Read more »
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    Gnome Stew

  • A Letter from a Gamer with Privilege, to Other Gamers with Privilege
    A Letter from a Gamer with Privilege, to Other Gamers with Privilege

    There are moments in time where you declare that you will hold a position no matter what. You will not fall back. You pick your hill to die on. These can be dramatic and important moments. But there are other times when it is just as important to look back and realize how you ended up standing on that hill, and why you need to defend it.

    When someone is comfortable, it is too easy for them to ignore the danger that others find themselves facing. A lot of us in the RPG hobby have been very comfortable for a very long time, and that means that we have allowed others to be subjected to dangers that they should never have faced.

    Many of us have heard about people in the industry that are a problem. They are abusive and destructive. They treat those that they dislike terribly and make them fear for their safety using online terrorism. They make the RPG hobby a place that holds nothing for the victims of this abuse but regret. When these same abusers have any kind of gravitas in the RPG hobby, this also includes ruining careers and smashing dreams. Those abusers pull strings to make sure the industry regards these people as “unstable” or more “troublesome.”

    The Cycle

    The abusers are terrible. But many of us in the RPG hobby have seen these tactics used. Many of us know the people involved. But when it doesn’t involve us, the problem goes away. If we never had the sights set upon us, we can go back to whatever corner we call our own and live our lives. Others dread any interaction online. They worry about when the next shoe will drop. Will someone get them fired from a project? Will hundreds of people send threats of physical violence or death? Is that strange person across the street someone that found out their address — someone that has decided that online persecution isn’t enough?

    The damage that is done by abusers often isn’t defined as a single terrible incident. Often, it is a long term pattern that does not abate. It’s harm that is revisited every time that person looks at the things they used to love. Beyond the fear of violence and death, it is the theft of part of who they are, something they cannot revisit on their own terms any longer.

    For those of us that have always been comfortable, it is very easy to point at the abusers when they come to our notice and say, “isn’t that awful,” and go about our business. It is much harder for us to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “I let this happen.” When the evidence of the abuser’s actions is not in front of us, we forget the abused and their daily contention with the effects of that abuse. We can turn away when they cannot. We are complicit.

    It sounds heroic to pick a hill to die on. It’s a grand gesture. It’s the heroic finale. But one hero dying on a hill doesn’t create change. Building a safe community that doesn’t let someone stand on that hill alone is what we need. Having a community that looks out for their own, so that no pack of predators can come for our own is what is needed. We need communities where we don’t need martyrs to remind us of the dangers that exist.

    Staring Down the Mirror

    We need to make sure that the companies that we support are hiring diverse employees that are in positions of authority, so that they can understand the perspective of the marginalized. We need to listen to marginalized voices and believe them. We need to stop reflexively assuming that everything is fine unless presented with overwhelming evidence. When we are the ones in the comfortable position, we need to stop thinking that we, the comfortable, get to determine what constitutes real danger for the people in harm’s way.

    Privilege is watching a fight from a distance and deciding if you want to participate. Privilege is showing up for the fight and assuming you will take the lead. Progress is knowing they are all your fights, and your job is to support others when they want to lead.

    Too often, those of us that are comfortable descend from on high, get involved in one specific issue, then spend months patting ourselves on the back, while just behind it, more people are being abused and marginalized. This must end. No one deserves praise for doing what they should be doing. They just deserve to be chastised when they abdicate their responsibilities.

     This is a microcosm of the world we live in. It is far too easy to ignore the plight of the marginalized because it doesn’t directly affect the privileged. We can’t run to games to hide from the rest of the world. 
    This is a microcosm of the world we live in. It is far too easy to ignore the plight of the marginalized because it doesn’t directly affect the privileged. We can’t run to games to hide from the rest of the world. The world and its patterns of abuse and systemic problems come with us. The patterns of abuse are part of us. Games can help us cope. Games can help us relieve stress. Games are not, however, separate from the worlds that gave birth to them, and they carry with them the same seeds that every other item born from a society bears.

    I have long believed that one of the greatest aspects of roleplaying games is the ability of these games to teach us empathy. We continually put ourselves in the place of people that are not who we are, in places we are not. If we cannot engage that fundamental skill to make the spaces where we play more inclusive and safer, we lose one of the most precious gifts that this hobby can give us.

    Read more »
  • Romance Is In The Dice

    I love relationships in games. I’ve always been of the opinion that having relationships in your games adds depth, motivation, and to me, fun. I love playing family, friends, parents, children — and definitely romantic and ex-romantic partners. Adding romantic relationships to games gives them the same dimensionality, and also gives us a whole slew of tropes to play with. They’re an easy way to get investment and commitment from your players, and they can work as a great counterpoint to your main plot. In honor of Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I want to talk about my favorite ones, why they are entertaining to play, and tips for incorporating them in to your game!

     Never embark on a love relationship with another character without their player’s consent, even if you intend it to be one-sided. 
    Please note that using romance in games requires good communication and expectation setting with your fellow players. Never embark on a love relationship with another character without their player’s consent, even if you intend it to be one-sided. As the recipient of any sort of romantic interest, that player gets to decide what they are comfortable with and what will be fun for them in the game. If they aren’t interested, respect that. The tropes listed here can help you create shared story goals for playing through a relationship, both so that you are on the same page, and so that you can get informed consent. Got another idea? Go for it, of course! But talk it out.

    My other note is that because these relationships have the potential to be very emotional, I believe that safety tools are important for any game that contains them. Use whichever tool you like, but please make sure you have a way to revoke consent or call a pause at any point in your game. Here is a list of some of the most commonly used tools, and I can also recommend the OK Check in as adjusted for Turning Point.

    Hate Kissing

    Hate kissing is the age old “we hate each other we hate each other we hate each other and we can’t keep our hands off each other” trope. It can work well for games where characters hold different belief sets — they’re always fighting, until that moment when passion takes over and suddenly they’re kissing instead. Don’t see how this works? It actually happened to me in college. A guy that found me very annoying at first (his own words) fell head over heels for me later. Strong feelings are strong feelings and the lines are closer than we like to think. Examples that work in play: characters who are at cross-purposes, like a notorious space pirate queen and bounty hunter etc. Characters on the same team with very different cultural values, like a paladin and the rogue. Cue emotional turmoil as your romantic leads (and the people around them) are faced with the conundrum of their budding relationship.

    One-Sided

    The object of your affections does not return your interest. You may pine, moon, make sad eyes at them, or pass them love poems at the table. Please note that stalking is really not cool unless that’s specifically the direction you both discuss — clear lines and boundaries about what is or is not acceptable are important with this one.

    Will They Or Won’t They

    The age old classic — they’re in love, probably! But so much dramatic tension! As the writers of this story, we know they’re probably going to get together, but this is the story of how they resisted it for as long as possible. To play this effectively at the table, you’ll need a strong reason they can’t get together, whether that’s some kind of personality trait, a strong belief, or outside circumstances. The key with this trope is that once they get together, there’s not tension left, really, so it should happen right near the end of the game in best dramatic conclusion, or at least in full Romeo and Juliet fashion where they can die in each other’s arms (also a very satisfying conclusion).

    Old Flames

    They had a thing, long ago, and for some reason it didn’t work out. Duty called them apart or they lost each other in a storm at sea. Whatever it was, it wasn’t their choice, but they both moved on. Now, in this new phase of their lives, with new responsibilities and possibly other relationships, they’ve re-discovered each other, and the chemistry is still here. The question is, what will they do about it? Will they make space in their lives for this relationship again, or will it remain a sad and distant ghost?

    Exes

    My last favorite relationship trope is exes. This is when we have tension in a different way — these two characters used to be in a relationship, but now they’re not. It might have been contentious. It might have been one-sided. There were probably hurt feelings. Now they have to work together again, and they’re probably not happy about it. They may have happy memories recalled with a twinge of sadness as well as fights that they fall into comfortably from long history.

    I also have to call out some of my favorite games that create romantic relationships, many of these varieties, as the purpose of play. Star Crossed is a beautiful game of forbidden love from Alex Roberts. The Sky Is Gray and You Are Depressed is a story about a committed couple working through a difficult discussion and a secret from Josh Jordan. Yes is a forthcoming game from Wendelyn Reischl in which a nontraditional relationship succeeds. Shooting the Moon is a game of warring suitors and a beloved from Emily Care Boss in the Romance Trilogy. It Was A Mutual Decision is a game about the end of a relationship (and possibly were-rats) from Ron Edwards.

    What is your favorite type of romantic relationship to play at the table? What are your best tips for playing characters in love? Have you had a famous love story at your table? What’s your favorite romantic game?

     

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    RPGWatch Newsfeed

  • Heretic Operative - Interview @ RPGamer
    RPGamer interviewed the devs of the upcoming strategy RPG Heretic Operative: Heretic Operative Interview C Prompt Games is a new studio founded by industry veterans Ian Fischer and Robert Fermier, who previous worked together at Ensemble Studios and Robot Entertainment.... Read more »
  • Eastshade - Released
    The traveling artist adventure Eastshade has been released: Eastshade You are a traveling painter, exploring the island of Eastshade. Capture the world on canvas using your artist’s easel. Talk to the inhabitants to learn about their lives. Make friends and help those in need.... Read more »
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    Sly Flourish

  • Always Be Learning

    Great DMs are always refining their craft. We are not static beings. We learn. We adapt. We don't throw away our decades of past experiences when a new idea comes along. We use those experiences as our baseline understanding about what makes this game fun for ourselves and our players. We then gather new experiences and modify our baseline based on what we see and learn.

    Putting Opinions to the Side

    The more we play D&D and run D&D games, the more we know and the more we think we know. This can actually get in the way. While our experiences are not to be discounted, they are also not walls to block us from new ideas. We might hear some crazy new idea that another DM is trying. It might sound like madness to us. It might even be madness. But it's still worth considering and evaluating with our previous experiences. It might even be worth trying at our table—and that's where we're most likely to really understand the idea. Experimenting at the table tells us much more than just pondering what might happen.

    Often, however, we're too quick to judge. We have ways that work for us and we're more likely to hang on to those ways unless something really shocks us out of our groove. It takes a LOT of evidence to push us out of our previous opinions—more than it should.

    So, as we see ideas and feel our instinct to dismiss them, give them another look. Spend some time understanding them, visualizing them, and maybe even trying them out before throwing them away.

    We don't have to completely throw away everything we've learned every time something new comes along but we're more likely to discount good ideas than to grab on to bad ones so give new ideas more weight than you might normally apply.

    Side Note: Impostor Syndrome and the Dunning Kruger Effect

    The results of the evolution of our brains has implanted many weird cognitive biases and quite a few of these can come up in our growth as dungeon masters. Two in particular pull us in different directions which can hurt our ability to grow as DMs.

    Impostor syndrome occurs when we assume that we're terrible DMs when matched up against the rest. We feel like we have no real skill or background to justify us sitting in the DMs seat. We find ourselves in this position if we compare ourselves to other DMs that we might meet or see or even if we base our assumptions on our skill around some perceived master dungeon master that our players expect us to be.

    Fear of being found out as an impostor can push us away from the DM's seat or make us overly nervous when we find ourselves in it.

    One easy way to avoid the paralysis of impostor syndrome is to remember that almost everyone feels this way. We're all just pretending to be good at what we do all the time and, most of the time, that's all we need. It's also nice to remember that, given no other evidence to the contrary, we're statistically likely to be in the middle of the pack if ranked with other DMs.

    The Dunning Kruger effect is almost the opposite of impostor syndrome. The Dunning Kruger effect occurs when we're just starting out at a particular skill and believe that we're way better at that skill than we actually are. It only comes to us later, as we get more experienced, that we realize how little we actually know. The Dunning Kruger effect is, simply, false confidence based on inexperience. We don't know enough to realize how little we really know.

    When we consider both of these, there's a nice summary we can keep in our minds as we evaluate our skills as DMs:

    We are neither as good nor as bad as we think we are.

    Running Small Experiments

    Once we've figured out what ideas we might want to actually try, we can run small experiments to see how they work at our table. The key is to try it out in an environment where we can see how something works but not leap into a big commitment if we end up not liking it.

    For example, Mike Mearls put out a playtest for a new type of initiative he calls "Greyhawk Initiative". It got a lot of reactions when it came out but many of these reactions didn't come from people who actually tried it out. Trying out a new type of initiative has a very small impact. We simply describe how it works and use it for one or two combat encounters to see what it feels like. With something like Greyhawk initiative we probably want to try it more than once to see how it works instead of just doing it for a single combat. Our first time is likely to focus on learning the system instead of actually using the system.

    We can run the same sorts of experiments for all sorts of things like adding a 13th Age style escalation die to a combat encounter, trying a new approach for skill-based exploration, or running a battle with hundreds of enemies.

    Just as we must push back our instinct to reject ideas we're not already using, we must remember that trying out an idea isn't the same as fully adopting an idea. Trying things out is cheap and can let us really see how something works instead of just basing our opinion on theory.

    The next time you see a new approach towards something in D&D, don't judge it until you've tried it.

    "Head clear. Mouth shut. See much. Say little."

    - Roland Deschain, Wolves of the Calla

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  • Throwing Away Secrets

    I often receive questions both from readers of Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master and those watching my Lazy DM Prep videos regarding throwing away secrets from session to session. For many people, this doesn't make much sense. If we write down ten secrets and reveal only five, what do we do with the other five? If you're asking me? We throw them away. Today I'll explain why.

    Revealing Secrets

    One of the interesting side benefits of recording my game prep sessions is that I'm able to see what secrets I wrote down and then analyze what secrets came to pass in the game itself. I've generally found that, of the ten secrets I prepare for a game, about half get revealed in a session. That's perfectly acceptable to me. The whole point of having ten secrets is to make sure I have interesting bits of information to drop in when I need them. I certainly don't have to use all ten.

    So what do we do with the five that don't get used?

    Throw Them Away

    We DMs probably love our work a little too much. A few years back I posted a tweet in which I recommended that we need not write down every good idea. If it's good, a good idea will come back. Originally I stole this idea from Stephen King.

    "I never write ideas down. Because all you do when you write ideas down is kind of immortalize something that should go away. If they're bad ideas, they go away on their own."

    I got a lot of flack for that particular tip but I still stand by it.

    We don't want some big database or Excel spreadsheet of lost secrets. First, it's a pain in the ass to manage such things and, remember, we're lazy. We want to put our minds on the world and the situation, not worrying about whether some trite bit of trivia got revealed or not.

    We lazy DMs want to keep our whole system loose. This means not having a giant book worth of stuff behind us to remember. We focus on the next game. We focus on how that game is going to start. The stuff we should probably write down and remember are interesting things that go on with the characters because our players remember that stuff. The rest of the world? No one really cares. If we have to keep track of it in a big pile of secrets, its probably not that important to us either.

    So, instead of keeping track of secrets, let them go and see which ones come flying back on their own.

    Good Ideas Come Back

    The reality is that good secrets come back. You'll remember them. Each secret isn't a beautiful butterfly that flitters away on the winds while you chase it down with a net. Your good ideas will come back to you. The important secrets will stay on your lists week after week until it gets revealed. I loved the idea that Acererak's Tomb of the Nine Gods was powered by a chain from Mechanus, thus giving it the full weight of an entire realm to power his dungeon. That image is awesome to me so it stayed on my list of secrets for months until it got revealed one day.

    Your important secrets will end up back on your list and those that do not will disappear into the ether.

    It Isn't True Until It's Revealed

    Our worlds are ethereal until the character's eyes fall upon it. Our stories don't come true until they're lived through. The secrets we write down aren't facts until they get revealed during the game. One good reason to let them go is that they're simply not true yet. The world can change. You might have better ideas later. Events might shift and things go in a new direction you didn't expect. If we keep our secrets they become links in a chain that anchor us down to a world that need not be.

    The big advantage of being a lazy dungeon master is that we aren't anchored by anything. We have the tools we need to run our next game and we've loaded our heads with outstanding fiction and RPG materials so that we can build the world in front of us as it happens.

    If we keep our old secrets, we're chaining ourselves down to something that isn't yet true.

    A Powerful Source of Creativity That Need Not Stay Recorded

    Secrets are seriously powerful magic. We create single lines of fantastic fiction that can fuel entire worlds. The power of secrets is the whole reason I wrote a new lazy dungeon master book. Secrets are small, they're packed with interesting things, and they do not burden us. If we were to worry about keeping our old secrets and managing them, their simplicity and flexibility becomes lost.

    Throw away old secrets. Good ones will come back.

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