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News Digest for the Week of July 23

Hello everyone, Darryl here with this week’s gaming news! Details on the new 2021 Dungeons & Dragons releases, all D&D novels declared non-canon, new Critical Role campaign setting book, and more!

Don’t forget, you can get all the news every week with Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk! This week, Morrus and Peter are joined by James Berry to talk about Cursed Captains of Cthulhu.


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In case you missed it elsewhere on EN World this week:
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The floodgates are open on information about the new Dungeons & Dragons releases for 2021. First we have Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons where those who haven’t read the original Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy of novels but intend to may want to avoid even the product description due to spoilers.

Discover everything there is to know about dragons—the most iconic of D&D monsters—in this quintessential reference guide.

Meet Fizban the Fabulous: doddering archmage, unlikely war hero, divine avatar of a dragon-god—and your guide to the mysteries of dragonkind.

What is the difference between a red dragon and a gold dragon? What is dragonsight? How does a dragon’s magic impact the world around them? This comprehensive guide provides Dungeon Masters with a rich hoard of tools and information for designing dragon-themed encounters, adventures, and campaigns. Dragonslayers and dragon scholars alike will also appreciate its insight into harnessing the power of dragon magic and options for players to create unique, memorable draconic characters.

• Introduces gem dragons to fifth edition!
• Provides Dungeon Masters with tools to craft adventures inspired by dragons, including dragon lair maps and detailed information about 20 different types of dragons
• Adds player character options, including dragon-themed subclasses for monks and rangers, unique draconic ancestries for dragonborn, additional spell options, and a feat
• Presents a complete dragon bestiary and introduces a variety of dragons and dragon-related creatures—including aspects of the dragon gods, dragon minions, and more
• Reveals the story of the First World and the role the dragon gods Bahamut and Tiamat played in its creation and destruction

We’ve also got a preview of the alternate cover, which is only available from hobby stores (though many hobby stores will list the alternate cover on Amazon, eBay, and other mass market outlets as third-party sellers if you don’t have a store near you). It’s possible the book may answer a decades-old question about the identity of Dragonlance’s Paladine and Takhsis and their Forgotten Realms/Greyhawk counterparts Bahamut and Tiamat. And if you’d like more pictures of dragons and a look at the new design for Fizban, there’s a preview of some of the interior art available as well. For those wanting a more in-depth preview, Issue 38 of Dragon+ has a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what to expect from the book.

The hardcover for Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons releases on October 19, 2021, with a retail price of $49.95.

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The second upcoming release (though the one we’re getting first of the three) is Wild Beyond the Witchlight. A more detailed product description came out giving us more details about the game including an interesting cameo.

A wickedly whimsical adventure for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.

Once every eight years, the fantastic Witchlight Carnival touches down on your world, bringing joy to one settlement after the next. Its owners, Mister Witch and Mister Light, know how to put on a good show. But there’s more to this magical extravaganza than meets the eye!

The carnival is a gateway to a fantastic Feywild domain unlike anything found on the Material Plane. Time has not been kind to this realm, however, and dark days lie ahead unless someone can thwart the dastardly schemes of the Hourglass Coven.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight takes adventurers from the Witchlight Carnival to Prismeer, a Feywild domain of delight, and is designed for characters of levels 1–8. This book comes with a poster map that shows the carnival on one side and Prismeer on the other.

• Explore the Plane of Faerie in the first official D&D adventure set primarily in the Feywild
• Easily drop The Witchlight Carnival into any campaign—for passage into the Feywild or just a night of carnival games and wild entertainment
• Introduces two races—play as a fairy or as a harengon, a race of humanoid rabbits
• Adds two backgrounds—the Feylost who grew up in the Feywild, and a Witchlight Hand who works at the carnival
• All encounters can be resolved without resorting to combat, rewarding clever ideas and creative roleplay
• Classic 1980s Dungeons & Dragons characters return, including Warduke, Strongheart, and Kelek

If you’re unsure who Warduke, Strongheart, and Kelek are, you’re likely not alone as they were characters originally introduced through the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Action Figures line by LJN released in 1983 and 1984. Todd Kenrick posted a video summarizing what to expect from Witchlight, including background for The Witchlight Carnival and its status as a “Domain of Delight” in the feywild (in contrast to Ravenloft and the Domains of Dread in the shadowfell). And there has been a lot of art from the book previewed. A lot.

The hardcover for The Wild Beyond the Witchlight releases on September 21, 2021, with a retail price of $49.95 and two different deluxe versions are available for pre-order from Beadle & Grimm.

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The third release for 2021 will be the Magic: The Gathering tie-in setting Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. We’ve now got a full product description and cover art along with the alternate cover art for the setting inspired by magical universities and schools from across the history of the fantasy genre:

THE SCHOOL OF MAGIC IS IN SESSION

The greatest minds in the multiverse meet at Strixhaven University. Professors convey fantastic secrets to eager students, and life on campus is frenetic. But danger lurks even here. Campus hijinks mix with mishaps and sinister plots, and it’s up to you to save the day.

Strixhaven™: A Curriculum of Chaos introduces the fantastical setting of Strixhaven University, drawn from the multiverse of MAGIC: THE GATHERING, and provides rules for creating characters who are students in one of its five colleges. Characters can explore the setting over the course of four adventures, which can be played together or on their own. Each adventure describes an academic year filled with scholarly pursuits, campus shenanigans, exciting friendships, hidden dangers, and perhaps even romance. This book includes a poster map that shows Strixhaven’s campuses on one side and location maps on the other.
  • New player character options including feats and a new background in the Character Builder
  • Includes new spells and magical items to use in your campaigns
  • Play through the book’s multiyear campaign, beginning as first-year students who study, socialize, and adventure their way to graduation.
  • Includes four adventures that can be played as stand-alones or woven together to create one campaign taking players from level 1 to level 10.
  • Encounter over forty magical, mysterious creatures and NPCs in the bestiary to battle in the Encounter builder and Combat tracker
  • Create new characters with the new player race, the owlin, one of the owlfolk who study at the university in the character builder
  • Experience Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering in new ways through the academic challenges, extracurricular activities and jobs, and relationships explored on campus.
  • Strixhaven can easily be dropped into any D&D world or campaign with the provided rules for adventuring as a student of magic.
The hardcover for Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos will be available on November 16, 2021, with a retail price of $49.95.

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Jeremy Crawford stated in a media briefing that tie-in fiction, novels, comic books, video games, movies, etc. are not considered “canonical” for the D&D RPG.

“For many years, we in the Dungeons & Dragons RPG studio have considered things like D&D novels, D&D video games, D&D comic books, as wonderful expressions of D&D storytelling and D&D lore, but they are not canonical for the D&D roleplaying game. If you’re looking for what’s official in the D&D roleplaying game, it’s what appears in the products for the roleplaying game. Basically, our stance is that if it has not appeared in a book since 2014, we don’t consider it canonical for the games.”

This mirrors the approach to canon that many other media franchises have taken, from Star Trek to Star Wars to the DC and Marvel comic book universes – they may draw on tie-in material, but anything but the core product (be it television, movies, or comics) are not canon until they’re made canon. Crawford stated the specific reason for this choice was to alleviate the pressure some DMs feel running games in published settings who feel the need to read all tie-in material in order to play the game.

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In other D&D novel news, R. A. Salvatore stated his desire to correct the racist tropes surrounding Drizzt and the Drow. In an interview with Polygon, Salvatore said:

“I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve gotten over the years, from people who have said, ‘Thank you for Drizzt. I finally have someone who looks like me.’ On the one hand, you have that. But on the other hand, if the drow are being portrayed as evil, that’s a trope that has to go away, be buried under the deepest pit, and never brought out again. I was unaware of that. I admit it. I was oblivious.”

The Drow were first presented as always-evil worshipers of the evil spider goddess Lolth in the adventure series G1-3 Against the Giants, D1-3 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, and Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits set in the Greyhawk setting. Salvatore further popularized the Drow and their culture in the Forgotten Realms starting with his breakout character Drizzt Do’Urden and further expanded on the culture of with his origin story in the Dark Elf Trilogy, establishing the society of Menzoberranzan. Wizards of the Coast announced they would be changing how the Drow are presented in Forgotten Realms by introducing two additional Drow cultures – the Aevendrow and the Lorendrow to contrast with Menzoberranzan’s Udadrow. These new cultures will be detailed in the first of the Way of the Drow novel trilogy by R. A. Salvatore, Starlight Enclave, coming on August 3, 2021.

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Cubicle 7 announced a new edition of Victoriana, the steampunk fantasy roleplaying game originally published by Heresy Games in 2003. Described by Shannon Appelcline as “Victorian Shadowun”, the game is set in an alternate 1887 where magic and tradition are losing ground to science and industry. The setting draws heavily from 19th and early 20th century pulp novels so much so that adventures for the game are called “penny dreadfuls”. This new fourth edition of the game will be based on the OGL 5e rules system. There’s no release date yet for the new edition, but the cover has been revealed along with some details about what to expect from its eventual release.

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Critical Role’s publishing arm Darrington Press announced a reboot of the Tal’Dorei campaign setting, Tal’Dorei Reborn. Originally published by Green Ronin in 2017 and the basis for the first season of Critical Role, the updated Tal’Dorei campaign setting book will double the size of the book to 280 pages and advances the timeline of the setting by twenty years. The book will feature details on each major region of the setting, nine new subclasses, five new backgrounds, new magic items, new creatures, and updated character sheets for the members of Vox Machina. The site states that there will not be a stand-alone PDF version available at launch with a digital version only available with a purchase of a hardcover edition. The release date is listed as “late 2021/early 2022”.

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ICv2 released their quarterly sales statistics for the hobby game industry for Q2 2021. These sales numbers are tracked via surveys of hobby game stores, sales information from participating distributors, and tracking crowdfunding projects and only tracks physical product sales, not PDFs or other digital sales. Number one, as expected, is Dungeons & Dragons. However, the number two spot is a bit surprising with Cyberpunk pushing Pathfinder down to third place. Alien maintains its spot at number four, with the nebulous “5e Compatible” catch-all category taking the fifth spot. For those curious about the history of sales across the years, EN World maintains an archive of sales charts going back to Q3 2004.

This comes along with the 2020 sales estimations for the game industry, which indicates yet another year of growth for tabletop roleplaying games. Tabletop RPGs grew more than thirty percent from $80 million in gross sales in 2019 to $105 million in 2020. Again, this comes from ICv2’s estimates which include sales surveys from hobby games stores for physical product sales, information from select distributors, crowdfunding tracking, and other sources but does not include digital sales via PDF or virtual tabletop bundles. The market for roleplaying games has grown year-on-year every year since ICv2 began tracking in 2013, when the market was only $15 million in gross annual sales. This jump marks the largest percentage gain for the market since 2015 and the launch of Dungeons & Dragons 5e late in the previous year.

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Nightfall Games announced the purchase of the rights to the StokerVerse roleplaying game. The “StokerVerse” was created by Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of author Bram Stoker, and creates a shared universe across multiple media platforms including novels, comics, board games, and audio dramas centered on not just Dracula but other works of Bram Stoker. From the announcement:

The StokerVerse intertwines several rich narratives in a multitude of genres. Within its classic gothic, sci-fi, steampunk and cyberpunk worlds authentic and detailed characters with deep interpersonal narratives provide our products with protagonists, connectability and villainy. The interactive nature of the products that we wish to present through Stoker & McAuley Interactive Entertainments will transport a huge global audience into Bram’s chilling worlds.

The game will use the S5S System also used in Nightfall’s version of SLA Industries and their licensed Terminator roleplaying game. The core rulebook is planned to be 240 pages long and a Kickstarter project is planned for 2022.

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Humble Bundle and Pelgrane Press released the 13th Age Treasure! Maps! Adventures! Bundle this week featuring a full library for the 13th Age fantasy roleplaying game. At the lowest $1 level, you get the Quick Start and System Reference Document plus a 1st level adventure, two sourcebooks, and a map. The $20 level upgrades that with eleven more books with more maps, adventures, treasure, and more, the “beat the average” (currently at $23.67) gets you the 13th Age Bestiary, GM Screen and Resource Guide, plus four more books, and the top $25 level gets you all of that plus the 13th Age Core Rulebook and more for a total of 34 books and map packs. This bundle benefits Oceana – Protecting the World’s Oceans and runs until Thursday, August 19.


That’s all from me for this week! Don’t forget to support our Patreon to bring you more gaming news content. If you have any news to submit, email us at news@enpublishingrpg.com, and you can get more discussion of the week’s news on Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk every week. You can follow me on Twitch to get notifications when I go live, subscribe to Gamer’s Tavern on YouTube for videos on gaming history, RPG reviews, and gaming Let’s Plays, 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, Humble Store, Humble Bundle, and/or DriveThru may contain affiliate links with the proceeds going to the author of this column.
 
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Darryl Mott

Darryl Mott




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