Jim Ward: SSI, Dungeons & Dragons and the Computer Industry
The time is about 1987. I had played Ultima and thought a computer game license could be great for TSR; besides I wanted to play a D&D computer game. I was surfing the net on a Commodore 64 and that was interesting and that effort gave me a little insight into the computer game industry. I went to upper management and pitched them the idea of searching for a computer game license. They didn't think much of the concept. None of them knew anything about computer games or had interest in such things, but they said I could write and contact companies and see what type of response TSR and AD&D would generate. I sent out letters to lots of companies and every one of them answered back. All of them had heard of D&D and knew it was all the rage among the exact same market as hand held and computer games. They were companies like Electronic Arts, Origin Systems, the Ultima creator, SSI, and Sierra Entertainment. I was able to slim down the choices to Electronic Arts and SSI and TSR invited them to come to the offices and present what they thought their company could do for TSR. At the time Electronic Arts had huge distribution with their sports games. The SSI people really impressed me with their depth of TSR products. I scheduled them for alternate Mondays. I picked up Joe Yabera(sp) at the airport in Milwaukee and drove him to TSR. He was one of Electronic Arts product managers. No, he didn't play D&D. No, he wasn't a fan of fantasy. However, his company was willing to offer TSR an unusually large advance check on the one game a year they would be doing and they wanted a five year license. He talked a good game and all of the upper managers were very impressed when he was done. After Mr. Yabera left, I found myself feeling very sorry for the SSI people. While I wasn't impressed with Mr. Yabera's knowledge of the game, we were all impressed by the check offer. We spent the week talking about EA and the possibilities of a game they could develop. Next Monday came...
When Random House Sued TSR For $9.5M
Benjamin Riggs is continuing to talk about his research into the history of TSR. He recounts here a tale of TSR's accounting practices which contributed to their eventual demise. Check out Ben's Plot Points podcast In April of 1996, Random House sued TSR for lack of payment on an $9.5 million loan. You may ask yourself how TSR came to owe its distributor such a large sum of money. The answer lies in the 1979 distribution agreement between Random House and TSR, in which Random House became TSR's exclusive avenue into the book trade. In that agreement, signed by Gygax himself, Random House agreed to advance TSR 27.3% of the retail value of their product upon receipt. Random House could also return the product to TSR for a refund. All this meant that TSR could produce cash by shipping to Random House instead of waiting for actual customers to purchase their products. The arrangement seems bizarre, but Jim Fallone, a TSR alum familiar with the agreement, said there may be an excellent reason for it. TSR's books were beautiful, and therefore expensive. Also, TSR had a back catalog that sold well. Sometimes, TSR faced a choice between printing new material, and reprinting old material that sold well, but might take time to make a return on printing costs. The Random House agreement was a way around this problem. TSR could print and ship new copies of the Player's Handbook knowing that they would get paid for it soon, and then also afford to print new material. According to Fallone, the math on all this works out fine, so long as no more than 20% of TSR's products are returned. But in the 90's, TSR's many forays into creating new game worlds increased their levels of returns to more like 30%. At the same time, TSR began overprinting products. DragonStrike, for example, was a hit game that was driven into the red by overprinting. The game sold 100,000 copies, and had reorders for 50,000 more. Management, however, decided to print 150,000 copies of the game, which...
Jonathan Tweet: Streamlining Third Edition
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The D&D 3rd Ed project was part big-picture vision and part a collection of individual decisions about rules, terms, and characters. In terms of rules, a lot of what we did amounted to streamlining.
Crowdfunding News – RECLAIMER, Visigoths vs Mall Goths, and more
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This week, I review 18 RPG-related crowdfunding campaigns that run from October 25th through Halloween (the 31st). While the majority are via Kickstarter, one is on GameOnTabletop. With Kickstarter’s union status pending [here, here, and here], there’s interest in alternative platforms such as GameOnTabletop, IndieGoGo, and Gamefound.
Podcast #70 Silly Rules Exploits for D&D and More
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This week, Morrus is joined by Shane Stacks while Peter is on holiday to talk about all the wacky, silly, and over-the-top rules exploits in Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, and other roleplaying games. In the news, Fantasy Ground Usage Report released, Vast Kaviya crowdfunding effort is live, Paizo releases Monster and NPC creation rules ahead of Gamemastery Guide, Chaosium giving...
Spell Effects Minis Coming From Wizkids
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There are two upcoming spell effect miniatures sets coming in February 2020 from Wizkids. The first, for $49.99, is called Mighty Conjurations and includes flaming spheres, arcane eyes, dancing lights, forcecages, and more. The second. for $59.99, is called Halaster’s Tumultuous Templates which are area templated for fireballs, webs, burning hands, and so on.
Here's The Stuff Gale Force 9 Is Releasing For Eberron
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The new Eberron setting book comes out next month, and Gale Force Nine has a bunch of stuff lined up to accompany it - maps, DM screens, and more.
PF2 The Pathfinder Society in 2E
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Paizo has previewed the Pathfinder Society - a "globe-trotting organization whose agents are dedicated to exploring the world" - from its upcoming Lost Omens (née Golarion) World Guide. It's a group which is familiar to fans of 1E.
Dragon Reflections #26
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TSR Periodicals published The Dragon Issue 26 in June 1979. It is 52 pages long, with a cover price of $2.00. In this issue, we have Giants in the Earth, D&D vs. AD&D, and the Bazaar of the Bizarre!
5E EN5ider #296 - Technomancy Gremlins
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Today's EN5ider article offers 13 unique items that aren't quite enchanted trinkets or proper magic items—they're in between the two and have their own dramatic flair. Whether you're in need of a reliable barber on the go, a way to perfectly memorialize a moment, or just to find your way there are now some very flavorful options in store thanks to these Technomancy Gremlins!
5E Epic Monsters: Mothman
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Epic Monsters is off to the valleys of West Virginia today, chasing after a furry flying cryptid known in the region as the Mothman!
The EN Publishing Store Is Open For Business!
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Our brand new store has now been synced with our warehouse, which means that you can now buy EN Publishing products in print directly from us. This includes The Masterclass Codex (for 5E), as well as the Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD range. You can even pre-order the softcover of Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth, which is slated for a December release! Buy any print product, you get the...
Yes, You Can Turn Your Campaign Into a Novel
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Anyone who has ever attended a panel on writing novels has likely heard a frequently asked question: Can I turn my role-playing game into a novel? In the past, Dragonlance was frequently cited as an example of how this was possible, but now we have so many examples that fans frequently don't realize their favorite novel's origin began with a tabletop RPG.
5E One Page Adventure: Desert on the Road
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It's time for another ONE PAGE ADVENTURE - my 12th! This month's ONE PAGE ADVENTURE features elementals... fire elementals! Mephits, magmins, salamanders and more pour through a portal at the center of a new, scorched desert. Can the PCs help close the portal before it's too late? Based on an adventure by Cole Grandel.
Worlds of Design: "Your Character Wouldn't Do That"
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The Mighty Jingles (on YouTube) described what he really disliked about Far Cry 5 New Dawn (video game). The game took away player control at vital junctures. I wonder how often this happens in RPGs, and offer some reasons why it does. With a poll!
News Digest for the Week of October 11
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Hello everyone, Darryl here with this week’s gaming news! More previews from Pathfinder 2nd Edition, interviews with Owen KC Stephens and Shane Ivey, several free RPG products available, Fantasy Grounds quarterly usage statistics released, and more!
PF2 Lumen: An Undead Pathfinder 2E Ancestry
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It's a new edition for Pathfinder—and our 14th article in this new run of TRAILseeker, the weekly e-zine where we publish Pathfinder-compatible material thanks to the support of our lovely Patreons! As we move towards the creepiest night of the year, what better than to celebrate with an undead ancestry? If you want to play a character that's not quite alive, Jeff Gomez' Lumen ancestry may be...
Getting A Realms Campaign Up And Running
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One-shot adventures, like binge-watching a great mini-series, can be fun, but sooner or later any FRP gamer will want to try a campaign, a sequence of interconnected adventures where the stakes—and hopefully achievements—can be higher.
Pathfinder 2E Monster Building Rules
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Paizo has posted the Building Creatures and Building Hazards sections from chapter 2 of the upcoming Gamemastery Guide for free download. "As we’ve noted on some of our livestreams, the system for creating your own monsters and NPCs uses a top down system with benchmarks, allowing you to build a creature to match your top-level vision of that creature instead of requiring you to build them...
Tales from the Loop Is Free For One Day Only
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The Swedish sci-fi RPG of 1980s suburbia, Tales from the Loop, is currently free in PDF format on DTRPG - but only for today, so be quick! "To celebrate the release of the OUT OF TIME campaign module, the digital version of our multiple award-winning TALES FROM THE LOOP core game is now completely FREE for ONE DAY at DrivethruRPG"
Download Greg Stafford's 'The Quest of the Red Blade'
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Chaosium is commemorating the first anniversary of the passing of Chaosium founder Greg Stafford with the release of new free adventures for all our major game systems. To honor Greg's legacy they are encouraging Chaosium fans and gamers in general to play a tabletop game from October 10 to October 31 in his remembrance. For King Arthur Pendragon, here is The Quest of the Red Blade, by Greg...
Interviewing Owen KC Stephens Green Ronin’s Fantasy AGE
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Owen KC Stephens is one of the living legends of tabletop RPG. With two decades of creations for Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Green Ronin Publishing, and many more, his work is synonymous with D&D, Star Wars, Pathfinder, and Starfinder, so when Green Ronin announced his new position as Line Developer for the Fantasy AGE, it opens a new and interesting path for a creator of Owen’s pedigree.


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