News Digest: Tabletop is Back and How to Watch, Margaret Weis Retiring from RPGs, Big Personnel Shifts in the Industry, Trapdoor Technologies closes, and more
  • News Digest: Tabletop is Back and How to Watch, Margaret Weis Retiring from RPGs, Big Personnel Shifts in the Industry, Trapdoor Technologies closes, and more


    Hello everyone, Darryl here with this week’s gaming news. Tabletop is back but only free for two weeks, big shake-ups for the Cortex System, several big personnel changes in the industry, GameStop posts a big loss as they transition from video games to tabletop, Trapdoor Technologies closes its doors, and much more!


    Tabletop is back on YouTube! At least for two episodes. The first two episodes will appear on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel, but the rest of the season will air on the premium streaming network Alpha. Alpha is currently still in early access beta as they work out many of the bugs in the new proprietary streaming service, but will be $4.99 per month afterward. This exclusive period will last until January 30, 2017, where the episodes of Tabletop will be released for free for everyone. Producer and host Wil Wheaton seems less than thrilled with the release schedule as his blog states “I can’t really share my personal feelings on this whole thing”. Things were a little more clear before the post was edited, as the first line (still listed on his Tumblr at time of writing) said, “Some damn fine TableDerp”.





    Margaret Weis announced that she is retiring from roleplaying games in order to focus her attentions on novel and film projects. The Cortex Classic and Cortex Plus systems aren’t going away, though, as Cam Banks formed a new company, Magic Vacuum Design Studio, in order to license the system from MWP. Banks has a long history with the Cortex system, having worked as lead designer on Smallville, Leverage, and Marvel Heroic as well as supplements for Serenity and Supernatural. Along with the license announcement is the announcement of a new edition of the Cortex System to be designed and crowdfunded in 2017. Update: I have received confirmation from Cam Banks about the existing licenses for Firefly and Leverage. They are not part of the licensing deal for the Cortex system, which means those games will most likely be going out of print soon unless a new license is negotiated with the rights holders. Original text: It has not been announced what will happen to the current third party licenses held by MWP (Firefly and Leverage) as a request for clarification has not been answered by the time of publication.


    In addition to Weis’s retirement, there were several other big personnel changes in the industry. Leonard Balsera has joined John Wick Presents to work on the 7th Sea line. Balsera is best known for his work with Evil Hat on FATE, Spirit of the Century, and the Dresden Files RPG.

    Greater Than Games, best known for the card game Sentinels of the Multiverse, hired Mara Johnson-Graham as its Sales and Marketing Manager. Johnson-Graham previously worked for Ninja Division Publishing (Super Dungeon Explore) and will take over the marketing, in-store promotions, trade shows, and social media for the company.

    Ultra PRO hired a news Sales Manager, Jeff Smorey. Smorey’s experience is outside the gaming industry, having previously worked in the cinema industry through Technicolor. However, the expansion further indicates that Ultra PRO is looking to expand beyond accessories into larger markets.

    Finally, Barnes & Noble’s fired CEO, Ronald Boire, will receive over $4.8 million in his exit from the company. The settlement, which ICv2 called “Confidential” even as they listed the details, is not a golden parachute but rather a purchase of the more than 650,000 shares of the company Boire acquired during his tenure as CEO. This price is significant discount off the current market value of the shares, which is approximately $6.75 million.


    Trapdoor Technologies is closing its doors. The company was originally licensed to create digital content for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition in 2014, but during beta testing of the app, the license was abruptly cancelled. Trapdoor then attempted a Kickstarter for a similar software for Pathfinder licensed under Paizo under the name Codename: Morningstar, but fell far short of their funding goal by raising only $75,000 of a $425,000 goal. Their current subscription software, Playbook, will continue to work in a reduced capacity. The full announcement including a timeline for the loss of features is available in the link above.


    For those looking forward to Volo’s Guide to Monsters, several images have leaked onto the internet of the finished book and EN World has combined them all for easy viewing pleasure. Volo’s Guide to Monsters will be out tomorrow at Wizard Play Network retail stores (with a variant cover available exclusively at stores) and November 15 in other retail locations and online stores such as Amazon. The book retails for $49.95 and is 224 pages of expanded information for monsters as well as new monster stats.


    GameStop released a warning for shareholders that their Q3 numbers are dropping with sales slipping between 6-7% for the quarter. This comes as the company attempts to change its model from video games into a more rounded geek-centric retailer. Testing has started in many markets of a “store within a store” model selling toys, tabletop games, and CCGs, and the company recently purchased renowned retailers of all things nerdy, ThinkGeek. This may be too little too late for the company, as share prices fell 11% on the announcement.


    Award winning board game Firefly: The Game from Gale Force Nine is getting two new expansions. Crime and Punishment adds forty new cards to the Misbehave deck, ten new Alert cards, and new Setup and Story cards. Big Money is just what it says, 100 new Alliance bank notes to add to $120,000 to the game in “prop size”, meaning they’ll be useful for cosplayers as well. Crime and Punishment will retail for $14.99 and Big Money for $19.99, both coming out in February 2017.


    Perenial favorite Agricola is getting six new expansions courtesy of a partnership deal between Lookout Games and WizKids. While there will be new cards designed by the original game designer Uwe Rosenberg, but the big attraction is the upgrade to miniatures. Each expansion will include pre-painted plastic miniatures to replace the cardboard disks from the original game, one for each family in the game. No price is listed, but the new upgrade kits will be available in early 2017.


    Operation Unfathomable is an adventure path with several random elements designed for the OSR system Swords and Wizardry but easily adaptable to other systems. Describing a nearly neverending underground ecology, this adventure claims to pull no punches in presenting an unforgiving challenge. Players will have to be smart and use every advantage they can to find out what happened to the lost party of Prince Eryaen as they delved into the Underworld. The standard PDF is available for a $9 pledge and an additional coupon for an at-cost physical copy at $16. However, stretch goals are only included for $25 for PDF and $40 for physical. This campaign is fully funded and runs until Thursday, November 10.

    Shadows of Esteren is a dark fantasy game originally published in France described as cross between “Ravenloft, Game of Thrones, and Call of Cthulhu” in the tagline, and lists the influences “Braveheart, Sleepy Hollow, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, and Berzerk”. Task resolution is accomplished by rolling a d10 and adding the relevant rank to the result to beat a difficulty threshold, with a strong emphasis on narrative playstyle in the free quickstart available in the Kickstarter description. A digital copy of the game and its soundtrack are available for a $25 pledge, while a hardcover is available for a $50 pledge. This Kickstarter is already at six times its original goal and runs until Friday, November 18.

    Leaders of Euphoria: Choose a Better Oppressor is a very unique deduction game for 4-8 players. Set in the dystopic world of Euphoria (the worker placement game from Stonemaier Games) and based on the mechanics of Good Cop Bad Cop, the goal is to root out your allies and eliminate your enemy’s leader before they can do the same to you. And the deluxe edition comes with giant raygun minis!! The standard edition is available for a $20 pledge which comes with cardboard tokens, but the deluxe edition is available for $29 and comes with the three inch tall raygun minis along with chipboard playmats to make playing the game easier. This project is fully funded and runs until Saturday, November 19.

    That’s all for this week. Find more gaming news at the EN World News Network website, and don’t forget to support our Patreon to bring you even more gaming news content. If you have any news to submit, email us at news@enworldnews.com. You can follow me on Twitter @Abstruse where I grumble about the weather (it’s November and still 80 degrees out?!) and my inability to get mods working correctly in Skyrim despite having an extensive IT background, or you can listen to the archives of the Gamer’s Tavern podcast. Until next time, may all your hits be crits! Note: Links to Amazon and DriveThru may be affiliate links with a portion of the sales proceeds going to the column’s author.
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. Zhern's Avatar
      Zhern -
      Hey Darryl, I think spellcheck might have changed the intended perennial to perineal in the blurb about Agricola. Pretty sure you didn't intend it to be described that way but it did bring a laugh.
    1. delericho's Avatar
      delericho -
      Busy week this week!

      Congrats to Margaret Weis on her retirement from RPGs, and to Cam Banks on his new venture also. The Firefly RPG is really good fun, so to see Cortex+ live on is definitely good news. (Now, if we can just have some news about Firefly itself... )
    1. Abstruse's Avatar
      Abstruse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zhern View Post
      Hey Darryl, I think spellcheck might have changed the intended perennial to perineal in the blurb about Agricola. Pretty sure you didn't intend it to be described that way but it did bring a laugh.
      I don't know what you're talking about, the article clearly uses the correct word! ^_^;;

      Yeah, spellcheck got me on that one. Thanks for the head's up.
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      Congrats to her "retirement" into novel and film storytelling. Proving the best way to make a living off fiction is to live off something else as you write and cross your fingers.

      It sounds like a lot of paperwork to just give her a regular "consulting" paycheck from what's probably the same company and same staff, other than she now has 0 liability as well?
    1. chibi graz'zt's Avatar
      chibi graz'zt -
      Bah, no one ever retires from anything
    1. Abstruse's Avatar
      Abstruse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Von Ether View Post
      Congrats to her "retirement" into novel and film storytelling. Proving the best way to make a living off fiction is to live off something else as you write and cross your fingers.

      It sounds like a lot of paperwork to just give her a regular "consulting" paycheck from what's probably the same company and same staff, other than she now has 0 liability as well?
      First off, wow, you're absolutely correct. Margaret Weis has never contributed anything to gaming and has never accomplished anything in fiction writing whatsoever. Aside from multiple award winning New York Times bestsellers over the past three decades or so...

      Second, there are several people who are currently out of work because of the closure of Margaret Weis Productions who now have to find another full time job or return to the chaotic world freelancing in order to pay their bills. What you just said calling this "paperwork" is basically mocking them and their situation.
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      Quote Originally Posted by Abstruse View Post
      First off, wow, you're absolutely correct. Margaret Weis has never contributed anything to gaming and has never accomplished anything in fiction writing whatsoever. Aside from multiple award winning New York Times bestsellers over the past three decades or so...

      Second, there are several people who are currently out of work because of the closure of Margaret Weis Productions who now have to find another full time job or return to the chaotic world freelancing in order to pay their bills. What you just said calling this "paperwork" is basically mocking them and their situation.
      I must of have failed my "writing a post" check, my apologies.

      1. I put retirement in quotes, because writing full time is a full-time job. She's not retired, just putting her full energy back into one of her old careers.

      2. Making a living in said writing career is tough, so if you can have another income to help, that's even better, which probably bitter experience has taught her and why she set up some cash flow from the licence. ... and it's sad that the MW has to set up such a safety net after all the great work she's done.

      3. "... from what's probably the same company and same staff, ..." As you can see, I didn't know about the layoffs, it's sad -- and no mocking intended. I was sincerely curious why things were done the way they were done and asking.

      I thought this licencing agreement was being done before things got to such a point. (Like how most of the Catalyst Game Lab guys are ex-FASA employees who formed up their own company to keep the BT and Shadowrun licences going.) But now I know why things were done the way they were done.
    1. darjr's Avatar
      darjr -
      GameStop doing table top? Does anybody know if they'll have any tables for in store gaming?
    1. Cam Banks's Avatar
      Cam Banks -
      Folks, nobody has been laid off. Please don't speculate about that part of it.

      Magic Vacuum is my new design studio and I'm licensing all rights to Cortex from Margaret, not taking over a company or reinventing any wheels. I'll crowdfund some cool stuff next year and folks will continue to be able to make third-party Cortex products through the community content portal at DriveThruRPG.

      Cheers,
      Cam
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