Tag Archives: industry

Wizards to Reprint 1e AD&D

Interesting!   I logged on to RPG Stack Exchange chat this morning and people were talking about this WotC release indicating that they’ll be reprinting and selling copies of the AD&D 1e books, on sale as of April 17.

That’s cool but surprising. The clarifications coming out of Seattle on the “multiple edition support” of D&D 5e have started to make it clear they won’t really support old versions per se, just let you craft your game to be kinda like them. Is it to judge interest in 1e/old school gaming? That’s hard – I mean, I still have my 1e books, and not to mention all the retroclones are mostly-free.

Now this reminds me of a more inspired idea Zak had which was to reprint all the 1e adventures in big coffee table books, which I would throw money at with no questions. (Adventure content is really more valuable than old rules content – something which WotC needs to wrap its head around; it’s why Paizo is beating them like red-headed stepchildren.)

Also, the money from this sale goes to the Gygax statue? I reckon that’s a good mix of being nice and sucking up to the community… It’s interesting that Hasbro signed off on that. It made me think this was fake until I could find the original on the Wizards site.

Well, let’s see what this means! I am I think understandably skeptical of any step from Wizards that seems beneficial and philanthropic, but I’m happy to be proven wrong.

State of the RPG Union: Green Ronin

Chris Pramas from Green Ronin has posted about their 2012 plans.

He doesn’t really say how they’re doing, but I guess it’s fine as they are forging forward with their licensed properties, doing Set 3 for Dragon Age and a bunch of stuff for A Song Of Ice And Fire, including a revised core rulebook to take advantage of the hype from Book 5 and the HBO series. Then besides two more DC Adventures books, they’ll put out some non-licensed Mutants & Masterminds things. That’s the long and short.

Here’s the real problem with all this…

With all of our licensed material, the thing to remember is that we don’t control the approvals process and this can affect our release dates. We do our best and so do our partners but sometimes patience is required.

My perceptions may be colored because I’m not interested in any of those licenses, but it just seems like being tied down 90% to licensed properties is risky – and somewhat less original, content-wise, than my fond remembrances of Green Ronin from the Freeport/M&M 1e days.

Well, good luck to GR anyway, they seem to be thriving.

State of the RPG Union: Wizards of the Coast

Well, Wizards of the Coast is still plugging along, but it’s not looking good.

They have performed their traditional annual Christmas layoffs, this time tossing super-veterans Rich Baker (read his goodbye on the Wizards forums) and Steve Winter.

Rich had been with TSR/WotC more than 20 years and worked on Alternity, Spelljammer, Birthright, Forgotten Realms, Axis & Allies,and much more.

Steve had been with TSR/WotC for 30 years!!! He worked on Marvel Super Heroes, Star Frontiers (my first RPG), the 1983 World of Greyhawk boxed set (my favorite setting), Pool of Radiance…

Of course long tenure and loyalty mean nothing to Hasbro, they are happy to fire people right before Christmas (it’s good for them financially since it’s their end of fiscal year) even when they’ve been there 20 or 30 years.  Stay classy, guys. Of course older employees make more money, so clear them out for young guys you can get to work for half the amount.

As everyone no doubt knows, they’ve hired Monte Cook and signs point to him and Mike Mearls working on D&D 5e, possibly for a 2013 release. Which I guess could be good since Mearls has been trying to make conciliatory noises at the “alienated by 4e” crowd. However, I see two bad signs.  One, Monte’s columns so far have been – strangely lackluster.  As in “fourth grade reading level” lackluster.  I don’t know why, he’s more talented than that, I wonder if there’s some strange restriction in place, but they really have been drivel.

But from what him and Mearls seem to be saying – instead of one well-designed game, it seems like they want to try to make everyone happy by making a “make your own D&D kit” instead of just making one D&D.  Which worked out so well for FUDGE. I think accommodating DIY and house rulers is great – but just be careful not to require it, guys. D&D has gone from a nice simple streamlined game in early D&D days to a hideous 500 page beast – cut that shit back. Someone should be able to play the game – not some dumbed down “beginner’s” version, but the real game – without a law degree. I like Pathfinder but the diarrhea of the rules there is getting me down too.

Also, they just got done suing Atari to get the rights back for D&D computer games, despite Atari being the best thing that’s happened to them since the Gold Box games.

Has anyone else noticed that when they go to wizards.com, the popdown at the top even says “Brands” now?  Not “Games.”  Not even “Products.”  Just “Brands.” How shit-tastic. That doesn’t bode well.

State of the RPG Union: Mongoose Publishing

Mongoose Publishing has published their annual State of the Mongoose article where they go into depth on last year’s results and next year’s plans.

You can go read the article yourself, but the important bits are:

  • Hard times in the RPG market, but they think it’s bottomed out
  • They predict D&D 5e in 2013
  • Mongoose left Rebellion in mid-2010 and that hurt some
  • Mongoose is still doing well despite tough times, no layoffs
  • Traveller and Legend are their big RPGs they’re getting results from
  • They are doing a lot more minis, and moving to resin from metal for cost
  • A Call To Arms: Star Fleet, A Call To Arms: Noble Armada, Judge Dredd and Victory at Sea are the minis games doing well for them

It’s good they’re chugging along – they’re the success story you hear less about over here (they are bigger in the UK), but them, FFG, and Paizo are really the big RPG houses now it seems like.

Bill Slavicsek Leaves Wizards Amidst Layoffs

Bill Slavicsek, Director of R&D for Dungeons & Dragons Games and Novels at Wizards of the Coast, has left the company. He was with WotC and TSR before them since 1993. He designed Alternity, d20 Modern, revised Dark Sun and Council of Wyrms, Star Wars Revised, and much more.  Outside TSR he worked on Torg and Paranoia.

It’s unclear whether he resigned or was laid off, as at the same time Monte Cook tweeted “I wish the best for those laid off from Wizards of the Coast today. Some were good friends. All, I’m sure, are talented and capable.” So it sounds like a larger purge at work. We wish Bill and the others well in their new endeavors.

Bill has a mixed legacy. I love Alternity, but a lot of the problems with D&D 4e are directly his responsibility.  I’ve been reading Mike Mearls’ “Legends & Lore” articles hopefully; it seems they’re revisiting older versions of D&D and trying to actually understand why they were good and how 4e has left a lot of the core play experience behind, though it’s hard to get one’s hopes up that they’ll really implement that correctly (I agreed with their critiques of 3e, but what they did to fix them was God-awful.) Bill leaving has re-fueled discussion of a “D&D 5e” (or, more likely, a D&D 5e with a more confusing branding).

WotC does layoffs regularly, though it’s usually after a big release or around Christmas to boost end of year numbers, and usually it’s not someone this prominent, so it’s a bit concerning for the industry.  We’ll see what happens…

Steve Jackson, Posthuman, Pelgrane, Green Ronin States of the Union

Steve Jackson Games’ annual report says they’re doing well, and it’s all Munchkin all the time. No new RPGs and GURPS gets a small part of the overall update. Ah well, we still have one GURPS diehard in our gaming group that still gets the stuff.

Posthuman Studios’ annual report says they’re doing real well!  Releasing Eclipse Phase as a Creative Commons product (free on BitTorrent!) has, as usual, proved the “Piracy Kills!” crowd wrong as their sales are brisk. The only fly in the ointment has been fallout from leaving Catalyst Games, whose embezzlement scandal is well documented (I’ve been ignoring it lately, I assume there’s no big news there). Several people in our group are interested in Eclipse Phase but we have a bit of a “where do we start?” problem.

Pelgrane Press was worried about 2010 and is fretting about print but it seems to have worked out well for them, a lot of GUMSHOE out and more on the way including the slick-looking Ashen Stars.  Hint – keep publishing those adventures!  Whenever I buy some weird  high concept game, the thing I want right after it is adventures – that’s why Hard Helix sold 50% of the Mutant City Blues run.  I got it, and I got Little Girl Lost for Esoterrorists. And I see you have adventures coming hard on the heels of Ashen Stars, which is absolutely the right thing to do.

Green Ronin’s Message from the President indicates that they’re doing well, but the subtext is disturbing – they’re not doing much with their own games (True20, Freeport) and are focusing on the licensed properties – DC Adventures, Dragon Age, and Song of Ice and Fire.  But they note that those properties are tough because the licenseholders often dick them around (my translation).  I’m worried about such a large part of their product strategy being tied up with stuff like that; it seems like it would only take one of those deals going real bad to send them into a death spiral. Hopefully they’re sufficiently spread out. M&M Third Edition hopefully will bloom a lot – right now most of what’s for it is DC but that line seems somewhat unsatisfying in that it’ll be “four books then done…” I liked the original Marvel Super Heroes because of the adventure support…

WotC Discontinues D&D Minis

Hm, that’s sad news - the prepainted plastic D&D minis were a great idea and were the only thing I still buy from WotC.  My gaming group has a whole trunk full of them, and we don’t play the actual minis game or 4e, we use them for battlemaps for a lot of games.  I still have old pewter minis from like 15 years ago I’ve never gotten around to painting, and I don’t want to have to.

It’s also strange news – so what will they be doing instead?  In the same article, they proudly announce their latest dungeon tiles product, which it would seem you’d need minis for.  You could do counters, and it sounds like they are putting some out, but there’s no profit in that.  Issuing counters is a “we know you have to have something so here it is the cheapest way we could make them, mostly for free” kind of play.

Do they think they’re going to get their virtual table working and declare “all gaming is virtual now, death to the tabletop?”  No – not just because they’ll never get the virtual tabletop working, but because they’re still selling cards and whatnot too, and pushing Encounters, which all are tied to tabletop.

Are they going to partner with someone else to do them?  If so, this is a ham-handed way of announcing it; also, WotC’s model has been “pull it all in house” since the development of 4e, moving it back out would be an unprecedented shift in strategy.

Are they getting more expensive to produce as fewer 10 year olds are willing to be exposed to toxic fumes even in China or wherever?  Seems like they’d just up the price or put fewer in a box if that were the case.

Are they planning to change the sales model (sell non-randomized or singles)?  Again, this is a very bad way of announcing that – you don’t say “product terminated” if you’re just changing the model.

Are they just not selling well, so they don’t really give a shit how it fits into the product strategy or game experience?  Maybe.  They seem to be understaffed and floundering. I suspect this is the only reason that makes sense – the margin is down and so they’re canceling them, and they don’t have the time or people or energy to bother about product strategy.Sure, they’re adding the cards, but that can be done with excess staff etc. from WotC’s card game lines.

Even with the rumors going around that what we’re seeing is rampup to a 5e – and it makes sense, the cycle’s been like 3e – put out 3e, fairly quickly put out 3.5e, fire most of your staff, trickle out products and begin on a new edition.  They put out 4e, put out Essentials (4.5e) fairly quickly and fired most of their staff… But even if that were true, why would discontinuing minis fit into that plan?

[Edit: I have seen Reaper's prepainted plastic minis line but they don't have many of them.  And apparently to be more 'retail friendly' they just changed their name to "Hobby-Q".]

Mongoose State of the Union

As usual, each year Mongoose Publishing has put out their “State of the Mongoose” address where they go really in depth with what happened the previous year and what’s coming up the next year.

It’s interesting, and pretty upbeat given that their advice to others is that this might not be the year to start your own RPG company because of the slump in sales.

Mongoose went through some difficulties but are still doing well, which is good to see…  At 10 full time staff, they’re one of the biggest RPG companies!  Kudos to them for being transparent and posting detailed reports like this, it gives us all a look inside the state of the industry beyond just them.

They are also looking into branching out from RPGs into other stuff (minis, board games). That worries me, because many of the other companies that have done that, including industry stalwarts like Steve Jackson Games and Atlas Games, have sharply, sharply curtailed their RPG lines in favor of the tasty board and card game money.  SJG puts out occasional GURPS e-releases and Atlas publishes an Ars Magica book once in a while but besides that, they’re not bothering to innovate in the RPG space.

Gaming Industry Terrorist Watch

A quick roundup of what the usual malefactors are up to.

First as usual is Wizards of the Coast.  They’ve sent a cease and desist letter to Masterplan, a tool being developed for D&D 4e adventure/campaign planning.  They had coded a hook to connect, using your own D&D Insider subscription, to pull in monsters and whatnot.  Naturally WotC’s reaction is “Shut down or we’ll sue you!”

This one is even sketchier than usual though, legally.  It is pulling information using YOUR Insider account via their publicly available interface.  That’s a lot more like the RIAA saying you can’t burn an mp3 you bought to a CD so you can listen to it in your car.

Why anyone would even try to do anything for 4e, I don’t know.  It’s obvious that Wizards of the Coast will just come shit on you, sooner or later.  Forget them, they’ve killed official D&D, move on.

Second is Catalyst Games.  They’ve defeated an immediate ruling on the Chapter 7 request to declare them insolvent and take their stuff to pay all the peple they’re stiffing, but it goes to court on June 18.  Looks like they’re just happily moving forward with their six-figure thief as CEO and conducting business as usual, yay.  Time will tell if Topps will pull the license, or if subcontracting to a criminal enterprise is OK with them.

Jim Shipman of Outlaw Press surfaces every once in a while to re-open a Lulu or EBay or similar storefront to hawk his illegal Tunnels & Trolls wares before people report him to the provider and have him shut down.  He is apparently still able to find suckers, though!

Things have been ongoing but with no new specific major incidents; I declare the RPG Sector Terror Alert to be at Yellow.

EDIT:  I forgot one – Palladium Games is suing a computer game outfit called Trion for daring to make a computer game called “Rift: Planes of Telara.”  Their request for a restraining order to stop them from showing their game at E3 failed but of course there’s more to come.  Story courtesy Living Dice.

The Hammer Comes Down On West End Games

Boy, that’s two chronic deadbeat game companies going down in one week.  West End Games, which has been under painful mismanagement by a guy named Eric Gibson for a loooong time now, is finally coming apart and he’s selling off the properties – Septimus goes back to the originator, d6 goes fully open, and Torg is being sold and then he plans to close the doors.

The one good thing he’s doing is making d6 open and community-owned.  This guy isn’t a criminal embezzler like the Catalyst Games guys, but he’s a sad sack mis-manager who’s been squeezing WEG through one trauma after another – took pre-orders for Septimus then cancelled it and couldn’t repay customers, freaked out on forums, generally always had a long list of whiny “too much information” personal life excuses about everything going wrong…  In over his head, which wasn’t his fault, but refusing to make the situation better by getting out, which was.  He finally paid everyone off after a long time but hasn’t really done much since.  So he’s not as bad as these other guys, but he’s on the “never do business with” list the RPG industry has generated, along with the Catalyst guys and many others.

This may or may not be the last word, though – he gave up and announced WEG was done before, but then reneged (see the WEG wikipedia entry for more).  But, westendgames.com is down and has been for months now and he’s been MIA for as long.  So whether he really sells bits or not – it’s dead.

So who will complete the trifecta?  I’m hoping Outlaw Games.  That guy’s (James Shipman) an  honest-to-God criminal.

The Hammer Comes Down On Catalyst Games

Catalyst Games (Shadowrun, Battletech), which has been dealing poorly with its big internal embezzlement scandal, just got served!  Not in the urban dance contest sense, but in the legal sense.

WildFire, the people who write CthulhuTech and were trying to use Catalyst as a publisher/distributor, and some other folks (two freelancers, we think), have apparently gotten sick of getting stiffed and have filed a Chapter 7 request with the US Bankruptcy Court against InMediaRes (aka Catalyst aka Holostreets aka BattleCorps).  This is a new one on me – it’s basically filing bankruptcy on someone else’s behalf and saying “give me my damn money, or you’ll get declared bankrupt and your organs will be sold to pay me!”

See the filing docs – DOC 1 DOC 2

Various lawyery speculation says that as Chapter 7 requests are pretty easily defeated by anyone with a pulse, it’s unusual to do this unless you have a real strong case and/or you think they’re going down the drain and you want to get in line first to get your money before they shuffle it off to random personal slush funds.

Catalyst has responded with the predictable “What!  Baseless!  All will be well!

Standard posturing.  The sad thing is that when it all is settled, probably despite Catalyst collapsing, the primary culprit will still be living large in the big ol’ house paid for with his ill-gotten gains.  Hooray, deregulation!

Catalyst Games, Defiant Criminals

Well, since their well-spun tale of “someone stole some of our money but it’s all OK now, we’re all OK here now, how are you?”  Catalyst Game Labs (CGL), the company putting out Shadowrun and Battletech, appears to be sliding into a morass of slime and (semi-?)criminal activity.

Besides the owners stealing an assload of money (check the detailed data/graphs on the RPGSite!, originally from RPG.net, and originating with a Catalyst co-owner named Phil DeLuca) They asked freelancers to lie about financials (see them give details at Dumpshock), aren’t paying freelancers despite selling their wares (and more at Fear the Boot)…  And haven’t been paying royalties, this has resulted in Cthulhutech (WildFire) and Eclipse Phase (Posthuman) being yanked from them (CGL was publishing those games too).  A number of people (writers mostly) have quit Catalyst due to the organization’s behavior.

Summary: Loren Coleman and his wife appear to have stolen about a million dollars, Randall Bills was trying to cover it up, and loads of folks were and appear to still be involved in all sorts of probably-illegal shenanigans.  However, of course Coleman hasn’t even been fired let alone had the cops sicced on him.  Note their names down and add them to the list of other scumbags that freely prey upon people in the RPG industry – it’s a long list, sadly.

As usual there’s folks still involved with the company (including Jason Hardy, Shadowrun Line Developer) making excuses and saying “If you were all to just continue to buy our stuff, then surely one day we’d pay these freelancers and whatnot…”  And fans saying “Well but why shouldn’t I keep buying stuff from them…  Coleman shouldn’t go to jail, why that would cause people to lose their jobs!”  And the most deluded, some freelancers saying “Well they just hired me and I’m sure they’ll pay *me* for my work…”  Oh and of course the standard smear campaign against the freelancers and others who are coming forward with all these details (same thing the sleazebag who inspires us all, Jim Shipman of Outlaw Press, did during his own scandal – they must be reading his playbook).  Apparently very few people have meaningful ethics any more, sadly.

More info as it develops – the best source used to be Dumpshock but they banned Frank Trollman, who has the best info, so probably now it’s theRPGSite – proud to be the place where all the people banned from the snooty forums go to die!