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AICN Tabletop! Free RPG Day! Origins! Pathfinder Battles! Munchkin Legends! And More!

Hello fellow gamers, Abstruse here with this week’s AICN Tabletop! Origins was this past weekend, which is the big trade show for publishers of roleplaying games, board games, and card games showing their wares to distributors, stores, and fans. It’s kind of the E3 of tabletop gaming, and while putting it that simplistically will probably piss off a lot of people, it’s a good base comparison to know what the convention’s about – It’s a trade show, not a fan con. Surprisingly though, there weren’t a lot of big announcements at this year’s Origins. What was surprising were the winners of the annual Origins Awards.
I’ve talked about how awesome the MARVEL HEROIC ROLEPLAYING GAME from Margaret Weis Productions was previously, but I’m not the only one who agrees. It took top honors from the Origins Awards as Best Roleplaying Game, with its CIVIL WAR campaign book receiving Best Roleplaying Game Supplement. 
In addition to the accolades heaped on Marvel Heroic, there were several other big winners at this year’s Origins Awards. LORDS OF WATERDEEP, the euro-style board game from Wizards of the Coast set in Forgotten Realms, won Best Board Game.  LEGEND OF THE FIVE RINGS: EMBERS OF WAR from AEG got the Best Collectible Card Game honors, DOCTOR WHO THE CARD GAME from Cubicle 7 won Best Traditional Card Game, QUARRIORS! DICE BUILDING GAME from WizKids took Best Family/Party/Children’s Game, and Q Workshop’s Metal Steampunk Dice won Best Gaming Accessory. ENWorld has the complete list of winners for all categories.
During the ceremony, two leaders of the gaming community and two iconic games were inducted into the Origins Hall of Fame. Lisa Stevens, the founder CEO of Paizo and former Wizards of the Coast VP who launched THE DUELIST and served brand manager for the STAR WARS ROLEPLAYING GAME when they had the license, was inducted along with Loren Coleman, novelist for the BATTLETECH fiction line under FASA and owner and CEO of Catalyst Game Labs which currently has the license for both BATTLETECH and SHADOWRUN, amongst other products. Along with those notable persons, the card game MUNCHKIN from Steve Jackson Games and the board game DOMINION from Rio Grande Games were both inducted as well. Congratulations go out to all the winners and inductees as you all deserved it.
With much fanfare, Steve Jackson Games announced that the newest edition of Hall of Fame MUNCHKIN will be called MUNCHKIN LEGENDS, focusing on classic mythological and legendary creatures. Art as always was done brilliantly by John Kovalic, and the game is a stand-alone game that can be incorporated into mega-Munchkin games as you see fit. The kicker on this one? It’s exclusively available at Target, available now on the Target websiteor later this year in-stores.
Further expanding MUNCHKIN into the mainstream market, GameStop is running a test campaign currently in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee carrying MUNCHKIN in their stores with a goal of moving nation-wide carrying the game. This may be a move of self-preservation on the part of GameStop after recent attempts by console manufacturers and video game developers to close down the used game market, as tabletop gaming is getting more mainstream attention every day. My big question with this, are they going to up-sell me a protection plan and walkthrough guide for a card game?
ENWorld produced a series of videos exploring the myths and realities behind sexism in gaming. This is a hot-button issue which I am completely and utterly NOT going to get involved in as my opinions on the matter tend to piss off both sides of the issue, but Morrus and the crew at ENWorld are doing a very good job exploring this issue. The first video, above, ”The Sexist Game”, and the second video, ”The Fake Geek Girl”, are currently online with more to come this month.
I can’t paint minis for shit. I ruin them. Every single time. Thankfully, Paizo’s PATHFINDER BATTLES line has picked up where Wizards of the Coast’s D&D MINIATURES left off in giving us awesome pre-painted miniatures ready for play right out of the box. Their newest line is called the Builder’s Series and is one of the best moves I’ve seen since the start of randomized pre-paints. Instead of 50-60 widely different miniatures to get in a pack, these are focused on one specific type of monster with only a dozen different miniatures in each wave. Most of these are repaints from previous Pathfinder Battles miniatures, but 5-6 are completely new sculpts. The first in the series – WE BE GOBLINS – was launched on Free RPG Day last Saturday and focuses on, well, goblins. The set has ten different goblins, a goblin dog, and a goblin riding a goblin dog. 
The next wave seriously interests me as it’s UNDEAD HORDE UNLEASHED. Skeletons, mummies, zombies, and liches. Just what my evil little DM heart desired! I love undead, and while I’ve always had problems with the color scheme of other Pathfinder Battles miniatures, their undead are far and away the best pre-paint miniatures I’ve seen. The bad news is that I’ll have to wait until September to get my hands on undead minions. The good news is that times perfectly with when I should be getting my Dwarven Forge Kickstarter package! So I hope my players are ready for an autumn full of awesome.
Hey, guess what? I have SHADOWRUN news! Only, it’s actual news this time and not just me making an excuse to talk about Shadowrun on here. Catalyst Game Labs announced that SHADOWRUN 5th Edition will go on sale in PDF form on July 11th, while print copies will be available in stores and online in August. They have also released the fifth preview of the new edition available for free, this time detailing the magic system. There’s a lot of teasing and confusion in here because we haven’t seen all the rules yet (aside from those who managed to get to Free RPG Day and pick up the SR5 Quickstart), but the rules themselves don’t seem to have changed much from 4th Edition for magic except for some very interesting changes (Reckless Spellcasting being one I don’t recall from 4th Ed). But we’ll have to wait until July 11th to know for sure. 
Speaking of Free RPG Day, if you missed out on it because you didn’t have a store participating near you (or you didn’t know about it because a certain columnist thought it was THIS weekend rather than LAST weekend), or if you missed out on something you wanted due to the one-per-customer rule, many of the companies that participating have put their Free RPG Day offerings online (most of them for free but a couple are not).
Catalyst Game Labs: BATTLETECH: A TIME OF WAR QUICKSTART, the Battletech roleplaying game (called Mechwarrior in previous editions which gave the video game series its name). The copy available at FRD included the Shadowrun 5th Edition quickstart in the same book, but has not been made available yet (though it will be “soon” according to Randall Bills).
White Wolf: REAP THE WHIRLWIND is a Quickstart and adventure for VAMPIRE: THE REQUIEM. 
Paizo: We Be Goblins Too for PATHFINDER will be available for free on July 1st.
Frog God Games: Hall of Bones for SWORDS & WIZARDRY will be available on July 1st for $4.99 in PDF format and $8.99 plus shipping for a print/PDF combo.
Some big news from Wizards of the Coast for D&D, and not all of it good. First, we’ll start with something awesome. The reprint for the A-Series, AGAINST THE SLAVE LORDS, is now available! This is one of the classic module series for 1st Edition AD&D, and includes an all-new A0 “Danger at Darkshelf Quarry” adventure that puts the party on the trail leading into A1 “Slave Pits of the Undercity”.
The bad news is about the organized play D&D ENCOUNTERS. According to the product description for the Autumn adventure path MURDER IN BALDUR’S GATE, the adventure has a cost of $34.99. In the thirteen previous seasons of D&D Encounters, the adventures were provided to DMs for free in order to help promote the game in local game stores, giving owners the tools to showcase D&D in their stores. This has made many people upset as they feel it is a “slap in the face” to the DMs who work hard to promote the company’s product, putting in free time at no charge to act as marketing for the company.
There is good news in this announcement, though. This is the first adventure in a path called “The Sundering”, which is a large Forgotten Realms tie-in that includes a novel series and will most likely shake up the Realms similar to the Time of Troubles and Spellplague to set the table for the new edition. 
Well, sort of at least, since the Sundering adventures will have rules built-in for both 4th Edition, D&D Next, and – this is shocking – D&D 3.5. This means that the adventure will be (at least mostly) compatible with D&D competitor PATHFINDER. Again, Wizards of the Coast has taken their biggest promotion campaign – the in-store play for their games – and made it compatible for a previous edition of their game which is currently sole mostly by their biggest competitor, Paizo and Pathfinder.
Days of Wonder, the makers of SMALL WORLD and TICKET TO RIDE, announced their newest game, RELIC RUNNERS. The board game for 2-5 players focuses on resource management as you race to recover artifacts in the jungle, making sure to keep your trail clear and enough rations in your pack. The game will be released in September and retail for $60. There hasn’t been a single Days of Wonder game I’ve played that hasn’t been incredibly fun, so I’m really looking forward to this.
Kickstarter is a great tool, but it can be a double-edged sword. With so many established large companies like White Wolf, Reaper, and Green Ronin all using Kickstarter to fund production of their products through effectively pre-orders, we can sometimes forget that Kickstarters are an investment in a POTENTIAL PRODUCT, and not just a way to secure your favorite goodies at a discount price well in advance of release. There is a risk involved in backing any Kickstarter, and the risk gets greater when you’re an independent publisher. Last week, I interviewed one of the biggest independent success stories, Jamey Stegmaier. Now I’m going to tell you about one of the biggest failures.
Ed Carter, owner of Cambridge Games Factory, has lost his house due to financial issues regarding his highly successful Kickstarter for GLORY TO ROME. In 2011, Carter (who ran his business out of his home as a side-hobby) raised over $70,000 for his Kickstarter with over 1600 backers. One small mistake compounded into another, which ended up costing Carter over $100,000 and eating up so much of his time, he was laid off from his day job. Carter’s story isn’t over yet, as GLORY OF ROME has shipped and the house he lost was not the one he was currently living in, but this is a cautionary tale for anyone who sees Kickstarter as a get-rich-quick scheme and a short-cut around the work you’ll need to put in. It’s also a reminder to all of us that not every Kickstarter is going to end well and that there is a chance we may invest in a product that does not materialize in a timely manner (GLORY OF ROME took well over a year to ship).
I wouldn’t say to jump ship away from Kickstarter. It’s an amazing platform for independent and smaller companies to get seed investments for their products. A perfect example is Andy Hopp’s LOW LIFE: THE RISE OF THE LOWLY Core Rulebook. I mentioned this Kickstarter a couple of weeks ago and promised the creator an interview before it ended, but time constraints kind of hamstrung me in getting us together in time. So I wanted to at least show it to you again before the Kickstarter ends on Monday. The game is brilliant surrealism in a post-post-post-apocalyptic world of sentient Twinkies and cockroaches, with amazing art and a great tone to the book. The Kickstarter is fully funded and has a few more cool stretch goals to knock out before it ends, so take a look.
This is the first product of its type I can think of off the top of my head, but I expect to see a lot more like it in the future. WHISPER & VENOM is a system-independent boxed set for fantasy roleplaying games. It has a sourcebook and player’s guide for the setting, maps, a set of dice, and an adventure as well as custom miniatures for use with the setting. Again, this is system-independent, which means you can use this boxed set with D&D, Pathfinder, OSR systems, Savage Worlds, FATE, or whatever system you prefer for fantasy roleplaying. This is a great way for a company to get in on the fantasy gaming market without closing itself out to edition warriors, and I really hope this sort of system-generic product becomes more popular as we reach an age where every edition of D&D is currently available for sale (either in hardcopy or PDF) and dozens of other companies have their own versions of the rules. This Kickstarter is funded and has met all of its currently-released stretch goals with two weeks left to go. The boxed set is available at the $50 pledge level, but there are numerous add-ons at higher levels and you can purchase many of the components independently at lower ones.
The card game SOMETHING DIFFERENT is really misnamed in my opinion, but something tells me they wouldn’t be able to get the license to CALVINBALL: THE CARD GAME. This game takes the premise of games like FLUXX where the rules constantly change and turn it up to 11. The game doesn’t just change the rules of cards drawn or hand size, but changes how the game itself is played. The mechanic is like UNO, you want to be the first to drop your entire hand. But as you play cards, the rules change. Like the requirement to talk like a pirate, or that you can’t play cards with your hand (forcing you to drop cards on the table with your mouth or laying them on your forearm). Break the rules, you draw more cards. The only pledge level is the $15 version which gets you a copy of the game, but I really think they should’ve included a level to include the case of beer and fifth of rum that would make this game so much more fun to play.
Mark Rein*Hagan (original creator of the WORLD OF DARKNESS) has finally returned to the roleplaying game industry with I AM ZOMBIE, a roleplaying game about undead infected with a curse that gives them power but at the same time steals their humanity. Okay, wait, let me try a different description. There’s a secret world that most people don’t know about where undead monsters...okay, let me start again. You may think of them as Zombies, but these creatures are actually known as Toxics and find the vulgar term...Okay, you know what? I fucking give up. It’s VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE but zombies.
All jokes aside, I AM ZOMBIE looks very interesting. The play is based entirely on cards, from generating your character to action resolution. The system also uses d6s with 1 being failure and 5-6 being successes, and various “bump chips” you can use to modify actions for extra bonuses. The Kickstarter itself is entertaining to read, as it’s written in an in-universe tone in many places, including in-world commercials for products and the explanation that this is actually a revised version of the “1962 first edition” of the game that Rein*Hagan found in a used bookstore only to learn it was published by Toxics. The tone is much lighter and more fun than anything outside Malkavians in V:TM, but it still has the dark edge that gave White Wolf its place in the game industry (Note: This game is NOT produced by White Wolf, but Mark Rein*Hagan’s new company, Make-Believe Games)
That’s all for this week. As always, follow me on Twitter at @Abstruse where you can get up-to-date news and me gushing to John Rogers about how awesome the LEVERAGE finale was (I also got him to admit the ending was totally a set-up to justify the LEVERAGE RPG world!!), and you can email me any news at Also, I’m going to be at the RoosterTeeth Expo (aka RTX) in Austin July 5-7, and at Space City Con in Houston August 2-4. Track me down at either if you want to play games!
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