Gen Con was back this year in force with 50,000 vaccinated, mask-wearing attendees making their way around downtown Indianapolis. While boardgaming tends to outshine the role-playing part of things, Gen Con’s roots as a RPG mecca remains strong. It seemed that RPG players are not yet back in pre-pandemic large numbers but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. Here’s a few of the RPG tidbits I stumbled across in my very brief journey through the exhibit hall.
Greater than Games
Sentinel Comics: The Roleplaying Game has been out over a year, and now we have the first supplement in the form of The Guise Book. This RPG is based around the rather deep backstory found in the excellent cooperative Sentinels of the Multiverse card game. It has a balance between story and rules, leaning a bit more onto the story side of things, as one might expect from a superhero RPG. The Guise Book is the first sourcebook for the game. Guise is a sort of goofy-character in the setting (who occasionally breaks the 4th wall.) This book tries to lean into that style. It has advice for putting in more humor to your gaming, a couple of campy/crazy adventures, and a bunch of NPCs (heroes, villains, minions, lieutenants, etc…) It is out in stores now, so pick up a copy… you know Guise would pick up two and put one in a plastic baggie as a collectible.
One of the big lines for Hitpoint Press is the Humblewood setting. This is a 5E compatible setting full of humanoid forest creatures. The 200 page main sourcebook includes 10 new races (5 mammals, 5 birds), a bestiary, and new player options including a handful of new subclasses. It is capped off with a full adventure for levels 1 to 5.
Players looking for a “premium” experience can check out the Humblewood Box Set. It includes the book but also has world and city maps, battle maps, standees for monsters and NPCs, and a deck of reference cards for spells, NPCs, items, and monsters.
There’s actually a Kickstarter that is ending today (August 11th) for an additional Humblewood book. Humblewood Tales collects all the “bonus” content produced for the setting (online stuff, free RPG day stuff, etc..) along with some completely new things.
Hitpoint Press has a fun line of RPG card accessories for 5th edition called The Deck of Many. This includes a set of lenticular cards with images and stats for spells in 5th Edition D&D. While they only cover the open source spells, there are also cards with blank backs that you can use to fill in your own spells.
Finally, Hitpoint Press has collaborated with a Filipino team to produce the Island of Sina Una setting. The main book has information on how to play a 5E game in pre colonial Philippines. The companion book, Tales from Sina Una, has a set of 10 adventures in the setting.
My favorite third-party 5E D&D publishing house, Kobold Press was showing off the Tome of Heroes. Focused on player options, it is chock full of races, classes, and other options. Things of note include several entirely new styles of magic, a soulspy rogue, and several new monk paths.
For the DM, they had Warlock Lairs:Into the Wilds on offer. It is a collection of 18 wilderness-themed adventures ranging from 1st to 10th level. Their Warlock line is associated with an ongoing Patreon page. This book has 14 past adventures collected here with 4 entirely new ones.
I spent too much time in the Modiphius booth looking at boardgames that I didn’t get much info on the RPG side of things. They have an excellent line of Star Trek Adventures that continues to expand along with their Cthulhu-WW2 themed Actung! Cthulhu. More recent RPG releases include Fallout (now with a Starter Set), the Elder Scrolls, and the mature-folks-only KULT setting.
Monte Cook Games
One of Monte Cook Games’ newest releases, Claim the Sky is a superhero setting for the Cypher System (more story-based than the more high-visibility RPGs.) Everything you would expect in a sourcebook is contained here: new options, foci, abilities, new “power shift” and “power stunt” rules. Advice is given for how to create many of the popular superhero tropes like speedsters, gadgeteers, elastic heroes, shrink/grow heroes, powered armor, etc… There are 50 different hero and villain NPCs, along with advice on how to put together new ones from popular media. The book also includes three adventures that can be used separately or used to introduce the Boundless superhero setting.
Path of the Planebreaker describes a cursed moon as it hurtles through the multiverse, crashing from one plane to another, fleeing some great catastrophe. Based on the moon is the city of Timeborne, full of refugees and other travelers. The Planebreaker is a great way for a GM to introduce a wide range of exotic planes (like the Grove of Crows or the Tomb of Tomorrow.) New creatures are presented along with new items, spells, species, and subclasses. Two adventures are included to introduce the whole plane-hopping concept. Currently available for 5E, the Cypher System version of the book will be out in 2023.
Osprey is a bit of a strange bird. They have a strong wargaming background and publish a wide range of war-related/military history non-fiction. However, they also have a collection of RPGs and more recently, boardgames. We’ll talk about boardgames later, but a couple RPG items caught my eye. Gran Meccanismo is a “clock-punk” RPG setting in Da Vinci’s Florence. Players are spies, mercenaries, nobels, etc… adventuring against a background of all the fantastical Da Vinci inventions come to fruition. Spring-powered tanks and water-clock computers branch off into an even older-school steampunk.
Crescendo of Violence is a neon-noir RPG. Yes, Neon, not Neo… It’s 2093 New York and synth-jazz and cybernetics serve to lift up your spirit or grind you (and your vat-grown clone) down. The rules system emphasizes the sort of cinematic showdowns of the genre with sort of go-big-or-go-home style play.
Paizo’s always got something new at the convention, whether its something from it’s 2nd edition Pathfinder system or its sci-fi twin, Starfinder. Starfinder is kicking off its Drift Crisis event where faster-than-light travel has mysteriously ended and everyone has to deal with the consequences. The main sourcebook contains the character options and setting information one would expect. This event will include additional adventures, lore, and other rules crunch published throughout the year.
Meanwhile, on the Pathfinder front, we have the Dark Archive sourcebook focusing on all things paranormal. There once was an archive of all things dark and mysterious. It is now gone but there are “stolen case files” from the archive still floating around. Each case file in the book has reports, player & GM options, and a mini adventure. Of note, there are two new classes. The Psychic is a caster that has abilities used in a “conscious” or “unconscious” state (choose 1 of each.) They are a bit of a cantrip specialist, casting lots of cantrips with the ability to “amp them up” to make them more powerful – like taking a mage hand and turning it into a hold person. The other class is the Thaumaturge. They serve as a sort of front-line striker detective/monster hunter who knows all the lore about their enemies and can then strike more effectively. They also have access to some mystic implements that can give them a wider range of powers (like a chalice for healing.)
Pathfinder also has a Lost Omens: Travel Guide. This is almost exclusively a lore-oriented book on the base Pathfinder setting. Rather than a top-down view, the book takes a look at the world from a person-on-the-street view. It touches on architecture, food, styles, sports, hobbies, and the layperson’s take on magic in general. There’s a bit of rules here and there (like price guides, etc…) but it is meant to be a lighter read for people who want more depth in their setting.
Finally, we come to the rerelease of Kingmaker. Kingmaker was one of the best received campaigns in 1st edition Pathfinder and was later made into a computer RPG. The campaign centers around carving out space for a small town, defending, and then growing the town over the course of the campaign – possibly ending up with the players’ own kingdom. The entire campaign is redone for 2nd edition and will now take characters from 1st all the way up to 20th level. The main adventure path book is a whopping 600 pages long. A campaign guide is available that also brings in fan favorite NPCs, feats, and options first found in the computer game. Finally, there are two additional besiaries. They don’t introduce any new monsters. Instead, they bring in rules for monsters for 1st edition Pathfinder or 5th edition D&D – allowing the campaign to work with any of those three rules sets. Those wanting additional bling will find three large Flip Mats for important places in the campaign and a Pawn Box full of cardboard standees explicitly matching the grand adventure.
Randal Hampton Art
The Little Game Master and The Little Game Master: of Bards and Bullies are two illustrated books that take the reader through the steps of setting up and playing an RPG. The book takes on the voice of an explainer that walks five friends through the ideas of rolling up a character and going off on an adventure using their own creativity.
The sequel, of Bards and Bullies, has the friends come back together for more adventure, but they are now joined with the older brother Will who starts off mocking the game but is eventually brought on board – showing the importance of empathy when playing RPGs.
Snowbright Studio was showing off the Teatime Adventures. Based off the d20 system it is a non-violent animal-themed RPG with a focus on role playing and solving mysteries. To add flavor (literally) the sourcebook is sprinkled liberally with actual thematic recipes that match the game world and the four one-shot adventures included in the book. The setting also boasts a diverse cast of NPCs (think gender, disabilities, etc…)
Wizards of the Coast
Online RPG channels and shows like Stranger Things continue to help propel the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons out to a wider and wider audience. Wizards has been releasing new products every few months. Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel is a set of 13 short adventures written by a cast of diverse individuals. The Radiant Citadel is a city in the Ethereal Plane, making it a great jumping off point for adventures into all kinds of settings. The diversity of the authors has influenced the adventures such that they have ties to various real-world cultures and mythologies.
August 16th sees the release of a whole set of books revolving around the “D&D In Space” setting of Spelljammer. Spelljammer: Adventures in Space has everything the aspiring space-captain needs to adventure into the great unknown of Wildspace, the Astral Sea, or just hop between the many worlds of the D&D Multiverse. This release is not just one book, but three – along with a poster map, DM screen, and a slipcase. The Astral Adventure’s Guide has new character options as well as deck plans and ship descriptions – all you need to set up your own Spelljammer ship. Boo’s Astral Menagerie is 64 pages of monsters and other creatures to meet. Everything from astral elves and space clowns to larger threats like murder comets and lunar dragons. Finally, Light of Xaryxis is a Spelljamming adventure for characters of 5th to 8th level.
The next bid to bring in newcomers to the game is the D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle. It contains the typical book of streamlined rules, ready-to-play characters, dice, and a new-DM friendly adventure. New with this package is an accompanying set of online video tutorials (and other resources) to onboard new players. Currently a Target-exclusive product, it will see wider release on October 4th. Along with the starter set, this fall will see the release of D&D Club Kits designed for use by schools, libraries, and other organizations that want to add in the educational and social benefits of role playing.
As always, Wizkids comes to Gen Con with an entire army of miniatures. Each year those “minis” start to feel less “miniature.” I’m also going to give Wizkids props for starting to lean a bit away from the collective minis attitude and starting to offer more pre-packaged minis options that are designed to compliment major RPG adventure and setting releases.
November 22nd sees the release of the Terraque (one of the biggest, deadliest creatures around, capable of world-spanning rampages.)
Daern’s Instant Fortress (late October) is part setting, part dice-tower. While it is “to-scale”, the tower does not open up for inside use. Instead, a trap door in the roof leads to a dice tower, spitting dice out of the front door of the fortress.
The Teeth of Dahlver-Nar are more like props than anything else. Referenced in the Tasha’s Cauldron sourcebook, this is a set of teeth from various monsters that have magical properties. While not to scale, there are teeth from a Tarrasque, red dragon, and a beholder along with some more mundane choices.
The Pathfinder Battles line has the Rusty Dragon Inn. It collects all the minis and furniture that were previously released in a collectible format set.
My favorite line, the 2D stand-up minis on transparent plastic that are very cost effective, is back with a special companion set with the new starter set, Dragons of Stormwreck Isle. It has all the player characters and many of the monsters found in that release, all in a nice, more affordable package. There aren’t any new 2D sets to announce as the line is taking a breather to focus on more thematic sets (like tie-ins with RPG releases) rather than more general releases.
The new Spelljammer D&D setting provides a wealth of possible miniature content. There are large figs, such as the slug-like Astral Dreadnought and the snake-like Neolithid. October sees a release of D&D Spelljammer: Adventures in Space which is a traditional collectible box format. Look for NPCs like Giff (hippo-people), Giant Space Hamsters, and an assortment of strangeness like robotic autognomes or plasmoids.
The premium figure of the Spelljammer set will be a Solar Dragon.
What would D&D in space be without space ships? Wizkids has you covered in a set of spaceship minis. Running a scale of about 1:600, they’re roughly 10x smaller than the rest of their miniature line. The ships combine with the D&D rules allowing gamers to run ship to ship and ship vs monster fights in the depths of space.
Finally, we will end with the newest wall trophy, the Blue Dragon. If you have (just under) $500 to spend and a spot on your wall between the Red Dragon and Illithid heads, you’ve set. Hang that up there and no one will doubt your dragon-slaying prowess again.
For more Gen Con 2022 content, check out the following reports as they are published: