Aabria Iyengar as the Game Master of A Court of Fey and Flowers

Linda Codega is a role player. For the past five years, they have been covering and playing the games. You can keep up with their reports here. Suggestions, new games, and tips can be sent to lcodega@io9.com.

The top story:

The past two years have seen a rapid shift in the landscape of the table top industry. The movie business will boom over the next year as both D&D and 40K are made into movies. There will be more players, more games, and more money flowing as a result of this year's growth.

What we’re waiting for:

  • The progression of OneDnD and its release-playtest-update cycle. It’s been getting a lot of attention and changes are happening faster than ever for the roleplaying game as Wizards of the Coast implements feedback quickly and communicates directly with the playerbase in a way they did not do in 2014 during the shift from 4e to 5e.
  • What each crowdfunding site offers in terms of customization and full-service product distribution. Kickstarter’s monopoly broke this year, and now IndieGoGo, Crowdfundr, and even BackerKit have stepped up to the plate.
  • Virtual tabletop sites specializing in niche offerings to differentiate themselves from the competition, as well as creating content like actual-plays to support their digital offerings.
  • As more and more workforces consider unionization, gamers will be watching to see what big companies do to support their creative and support staff.
  • Independent outfits, creator-owned-and-operated companies, and co-ops will start establishing themselves more firmly in the industry, especially with the popularity of cons returning and giving them space to market themselves.

Unconventional wisdom:

Games are more important than systems. The intention of the systems is to be accessible and flexible, but they don't have a game that makes them stand out. The tentpole mechanical system is what companies want so they are not dependent on any other system. I want more games. I want games built around a system that supports the game from the beginning.

Independence, franchise opportunities, and the ability to develop a style are some of the things systems give to creators. There are a lot of systems out there that are without an inquisitive game to back them up and rely on a third party to gain traction. I want to see innovative new games that are built on top of a system that can be adapted into a system that can be used in other ways.

People to follow

Journalists, reporters, and critics.

  • Chase Carter — A TTRPG journalist, Chase is a considerate and thoughtful writer who is unafraid to dive deep into a text or a company culture and come out the other side with insightful criticism of a game —or a scathing breakdown of management abuses.
  • Charlie L. Hall — Polygon’s tabletop senior editor has been pushing for more transformative and broad TTRPG coverage for a long time, and has helped build coverage that has range, depth, and showcases a lot of innovative work.
  • Rob Wieland — The kind of person who can write about literally anything, author and designer Wieland’s interviews and coverage of established designers is always thought provoking. He makes slideshows look dreamy, and his knowledge of the TTRPG space is impressive.

Designers and creators.

  • John Battle — Not only does Batts produce innovative designs and incredible games, but they also spend a lot of time elucidating on the nature of games and writing. They’re an incredible resource and their writing is fascinating and heart-wrenching in equal measure.
  • Connie Chang — This list would be remiss if I didn’t include at least one TTRPG streamer, and I think that Chang is one of the cleverest and most creative out there. Their work with Transplanar and on Dimension20 has established them as one of the future voices of the craft.
  • Jennifer Kretchmer — A professional Dungeon Master and disability advocate, Kretchmer has helped create a variety of disability aids for roleplaying games, including the massive D&D For All kit, which has aids and instructions for creating an accessible table for those with a wide range of disabilities.
  • Jeeyon Shim — Shim’s games go from adventurous to devastating in seconds. As she pursues sustainable game design as an independent creator, she has released nearly a dozen games over the past three years, establishing herself as an innovative and fresh voice in tabletop design.

I asked for their favorite designers in order to make my job simpler. This backfired on me, as had 10 times more names than I was previously considering, but you can peruse all the responses.

Companies to watch:

  • Distribution companies like itch.io and Drive Thru RPG, and how they adjust to AI Art, privacy concerns, and creator-led innovations.
  • Specialty virtual tabletop spaces like One More Multiverse, Role and Alchemy.
  • Small, independent presses like Good Luck Press, Possum Creek Games, Possible Worlds Games, Rowan, Rook and Decard, and The Gauntlet, who produce innovative games and help independent creators get their work published.
  • Companies that specialize in IP-to-TTRPG adaptations like Free League.
  • Specialized tabletop and gaming outlets like Dicebreaker, Uppercut Crit, and SideQuest.
  • I recommend everyone follow at least one or two short form TTRPG magazines. Arcadia, Nerves, Wyrd Science, and Knucklebone Magazine are some of my favorites.
  • Dimension20 and all their alum—Brennan Lee Mulligan, Surena Marie, Lou Wilson, Omar Najam, and Aabria Iyengar deserve their own article, but the games, production, and talent coming from D20 is truly great.

A longshot bet:

As current players decide whether or not to switch to the newest edition of D&D, OneD&D's release will prompt an onslaught of new content that is completely divorced from the original game. I hope that when this shift comes, it opens space for different systems to upset the grip that the D20 system has on third party presses, actual plays, and convention space.

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