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Industry Insights: The GenCon Reports

GenCon '01 News

by Matt Snyder
August 3, 2001


While no single release or buzz dominated GenCon 2001, people were talking about the raging success of D20. D20 products are everyone, but selling fast. The con, expected to have nearly 25,000 attendees continues to be strong as this resurgence and positive outlook permeates the RPG industry.

Here's a look at what a few of the industries companies are up to:


Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) discussed its upcoming release Series Archer, a D20-based espionage game. While it initially hoped for a GenCon release, AEG decided to postpone until early next year. "We had a lot of resources to throw at it," says developer Patrick Capera. Now, they intend to release the game as a two-volume work of 250,000 words per book. The first will detail the basic rules for a comprehensive espionage setting, while the second descibes AEG's official Series Archer setting. Capera says they've created several new D20 mechanics for the game, including a chase mechanic, teamwork modifiers, and new character classes.


After an enigmatic contest on, Clockworks revealed the secret of its new game -- Chosen. Aaron Rosenberg describes the game as far-flung science-fiction combined with ancient myth. Characters are the chosen who manifest powers and can begin to take on aspects of the Beast, archetypal mythic creatures like the Phoenix or the Dragon that represent chaos and creativity, or the Wizard, a guild of rational, lawful-minded entities.


Concept Syndicate (CS) featured a unique offering at the con. The company sells RPGs in digital format that can be viewed on computer via Internet download or CD-ROM. The interactive format (read with an HTML viewer) allows their RPGs to be searched, hyperlinked and decorated with images and text. CS's Randal Allen put it this way to interested companies: "Would you like to see your company in this format?" He says CS will covert games to their digital format, then the product can be sold on either the CS web site or the company's own. "Gamers, by and large, are very technological," Allen said. The company currently offers Salvation, Kronos and Rumours, and it will release a science fiction setting next year.


Corsair Publishing got a lot of attention from D20 fans and industry folks. The company unveiled its D20 magazine, Campaign. CP Creative Director Jonathan Leitheusser said, "We want to do a magazine, and do it really well." He likened Campaign to the Dragon, but for independent D20 resources. The magazine will have a monthly theme (the first three issues' themes are sci-fi, horror, and war), in addition to its staple of D20 fantasy material. Every issue will include one fantasy adventure, and another adventure related to the issue theme. The peridical also contains D20 reviews and a monthly guest column "What I think of D20." John Wick has written that column for the first issue.


Decipher playtested an early version of the Lord of the Rings role-playing game. They will release an introductory box set for the game to coincide with the December release of the motion picture. They will follow up in February with a full RPG book. The game uses a system very similar to the Star Trek Icon engine, but has a few minor differences. "It's going to be much more of a heroic feel than, say, Call of Cthulhu or Runequest," said Kenneth Hite, who ran demonstrations of the game. He added, "Building a Decipher house system is going to help us in the long run." The company also demonstrated its upcoming Lord of the Rings collectible card game.


Dream Pod 9 continues to put out sourcebooks for its game lines. For its flagship game, Heavy Gear, they "launched" the Terranovan Spaceship Compendium. Dream Pod 9 displayed demos of the Heavy Gear TV show, which currently airs in Australia and will hit U.S. airwaves this fall. Tribe 8 Line Developer Hilary Doda described a few future events for that game's metaplot. "We see it very much as a series," she said. The second phase in the long-term story arc will move the game 15 years into the future and on the site of Quebec City, detailed in the upcoming Capal Book of Days. She says the new location and timeframe with have a lighter feel than the current dark feel of the game.


Green Ronin Games (GRG) says it will produce a sorucebook devoted to Freeport, the fantasy city at the center of its many D20 adventures. The company will also produce Spaceship Zero RPG, which will be a stand-alone RPG with its own rules set.


Guardians of Order (GoO) announced the 2002 release of Silver Age Sentinels, a 4-color superhero game that uses a modified Tri-Stat system. "We've shifted over to a d10 for this so we can increase the range for playability," says GoO's Lucien Soulban. Much of the book will be dedicated top rules and "how-to" material for building a superhero universe. The remainder of the book includes details, characters and crunchy bits for the game's universe. "It's more of the "Silver Age" (of comics) spirit we're going for," Soulban says.

Another upcoming game setting for GoO will be Tekumel, a eastern-influenced mega-world that's been around in other incarnations for over 20 years. In addition to a Tri-Stat Tekumel rule book, GoO will also reprint the novel "The Man of Gold," by Tekumel creator M.A.R. Barker. As for the creative staff for the book, "These aren't just fans. These are people who are in contact with Barker," GoO's Jeff McKintosh says. "He's been happy with what we're doing so far."


In September, Hogshead Publishing (HP) will be releasing the much-anticipated Realms of Sorcery for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay later this year. The book is a completely new manuscript. "We started from scratch," says HP's James Wallis. The book will be availble in hardback, softback and a special, very limited edition, which is leatherbound. Only 100 copies of the limited edition will be available. Hogshead will also release the final Doomstones adventure module, written by Robin Laws, for WFRP

The Hogshead crew was very excited about the latest iteration of Nobilis (Oct.). They've lined up some fantastic artwork and created a uniquge book format of 11" square. "We're trying to create a beautiful book," Wallis says. Describing the game, Wallis says, "It's post-Sandman." Players take on an aspect of reality, like "dream" or "guns and fast cars." Characters are human incarnations of such realities, which can be either abstract concepts or material objects. Players then strive to save both the "real world's" reality and that of the mythic world.

Later next year, Hogshead will pruduce and English version of Bloodlust, a popular French game that Wallis decribes as "Sort of Elric meets Conan." Players take on the roles of sentient melee weapons, like Michael Moorcock's Stormbringer.


Holistic Design fielded a line of new pre-painted fantasy miniatures called Fantasy Encounters, suitable for D&D or D20 gaming. It currently offers sets of orcs and undead, and the company will soon release sets for dwarves and elves. For Fading Suns, the company released Spies and Revolutionaries sourcebook at the con, alongside their recent release Into the Dark, a collection of adventures.


Microtactix Games' (MG) Guy McLimore displayed his Dirt Cheap Dungeons, paperform, three-dimensional maps. MG also has Dirt Cheap Starships, Terrain and will release Dirt Cheap Interiors after the show. And, they have a line of paper soldier figures and vehicles, including fantasy and science fiction armies. "The nice thing about being here is that the people will actually be able to handle the stuff," McLimore says.

For game rules, MG has a scalable, interachangeable line of products. Simply Roleplaying is the RPG rules, while Compact Combat details man-to-man combat and Budget Battlefield provides rules for mass combat.


The publishers of The Slayer'S Guide to Hobgoblins and other similar titles will be releasing the Encyclopedia Arcane: Demonology (Sept.) and Encyclopedia Arcane: Necromany (Oct.). The Demonology book features several types of demons, spells and other magic-related resources.

Later this winter, Mongoose will be releasing "Gladiator." The product is a campaign setting, and also includes rules for arena combat. Players will take on the role of a gladiator boss (like Proximo in the Ridley Scott film Gladiator, says Mongoose's Alex Fennell) then put their band of gladiators against other players using a D20-based system.


Necromaner Games unveiled the latest in its Rappan Athuk dungeon adventures line. Rappan Athuk 2 arrived just in time for the con.


OtherWorld Creations previewed its D20 pulp setting called Forbidden Kingdoms. The setting includes several new character types like Academic, Clergy, Explorer and others. Editor Hyrum Savage describes as "Indiana Jones meets Around the World in 80 days."


Pagan Publishing offered a sneak preview of Godlike, a gritty superheroes in WWII game by Dennis Detwiller and Greg Stolze. Godlike, which has its own rules set, will also include an D20 rules appendix by Mike Mearls. Pagan will also be releasing a retail version of its out-of-print Delta Green sourcebooks Machinations of the Mi-Go, The Fate and Rainbow. The three volumes will be combined, possibly with additional adventures.


Skeletonkey Games (SG) showed of its magnetic dungeon tiles and metal boards at the con. SG's Edward Bourelle said they will be releasing expansion packs for the basic dungeon tiles. He also hopes to produce some D20 material in the form of a periodical called The Playground. Bourelle will dedicate the first version to all things orcish. He's also planning Campaign Construction Cards, which detail NPCs in a full-color index card.


After releasing Sovereign Stone with a unique game system a couple years ago, Sovereign Press (SP) decided to go the route of D20. Positive reaction to the move has been "stunning," according to SP's Don Perrin. He explained that the only hang-up he had to coverting the setting to D20 was the magic system. So, SP has created a magic system that hearkens to the original system yet remains true to the D20 system. SP also released a line of Sovereign Stone miniatures based on the distinctive artwork of Larry Elmore. In the future, they will continue to support their setting with D20 books, including the Codex Viserium, a sourcebook on their magic system. "We've added our magic system to the open source," Perrin says.


Synister Creative Systems' (SCS) The Last Exodus finally debuted at GenCon after being tied up in customs during Origins. "It's a book that was printed in Thailand with a half-naked woman on the cover. I don't what their problem was," Gareth-Michael Skarka said with a grin. The company made use of a Thai printer to save costs on printing, allowing them to create a slick publication. The book retails for $15.


Troll Lord games has an agreement with Gary Gygax to produce Canting Crew, a rogue-based setting. The setting will include an actual guide of thieves' hand signals as well as a lexicon of slang terms. Gygax also wrote an introduction to TLG's upcoming Codex Erde. which will be out in several weeks.


The biggest release for the gaming industry's biggest company, Wizards of the Coast (WotC), is Chainmail, a skirmish-scale miniature combat game. The game arrives in retail stores in October. While much of WotC's future releases, especially for D&D, are already well known, Bill Slaviscek, WotC vice president of role-playing, games and reserach & development, did say the company does intend to produce J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter property into an RPG. "We have the rights to her role-playing game, and we will release it at some point."


White Wolf (WW) brought to the con two stand-alone games -- Adventure! and Exalted. Adventure is a pulp setting in the same universe as the company's Aberrant and Trinity. Exalted is WW's full-fledged fantasy game set in a world before the World of Darkness. "With Exalted, we've taken a very much anime approach to it," said WW president Steve Wieck. Wieck also said WW will relaunch its Vampire: the Dark Ages. They will then follow up with new Dark Ages games for Mage, Hunter (which will be called Inquisitor) and finally Werewolf.

For their D20 setting, Scarred Lands, Sword and Sorcery offered Mithril: City of the Golem to con attendees. Wieck said they will be releasing (Dec.) The Divine and the Defeated, a book comparable to the old Deities & Demigods from first edition AD&D.

Having a blast, but I'm worn out from reporting!!!
Matt Snyder TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

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All Industry Insights

  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews China Mieville, April 24, 2002
  • lizard's Condensation of All Game Fiction, April 18, 2002
  • Sandy's "God or Whore?" GTS'02, March 26, 2002
  • Allan Sugarbaker with GAMA Trade Show '02: An Inside Report, March 22, 2002
  • Aldo of Impressions on the GamePlay CD, January 3, 2002
  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews Ken Hite, February 8, 2002
  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews Tim Powers, January 18, 2002
  • Aldo Ghoizzi on Inside the Making of GamePlay, January 3, 2002
  • The RPGnet Awards Cabal presents the RPGnet 2001 Awards Results!, December 5, 2001
  • Ken Whitman teaches us with A Note About Creating a Good Promotional Campaign, October 12, 2001
  • Sean Jaffe on The Fallout, September 27, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • Sean Jaffe on Interesting Times, September 21, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • GodLike: Dennis Detwiler and Greg Stolze, September 14, 2001
  • Jared Nielsen on Tribe Gamer, August 31, 2001
  • Mark Bruno teaches about Copy Editing, August 16, 2001
  • Ratings not just kid's stuff for RPG industry, reported by Matt Snyder, August 9, 2001
  • GenCon '01 News, reported by Matt Snyder, August 3, 2001
  • Origins Report: Would you send your mother to buy from them?, part 4 of 4
  • Origins Report: Booth Babes, part 3 of 4
  • Origins Report: Overview, part 2 of 4
  • The Origins Awards, part 1 of 4, reported by Jason Paul McCartan
  • Gary Gygax Interview, part 1 of 3, by Scott Lynch
  • Why I Write Gaming Materials by Greg Stolze, November 16, 1999
  • Blowing out the Nostalgia Candle by John Wick, October 19, 1999
  • Interview with Sean Pat Fannon, Shards October 5, 1999
  • Portuguese is not Spanish! by Thad Blanchette, September 14, 1999
  • Intuition and Surprise by M. J. Young, July 27, 1999
  • Fear and Loathing in the Wizards of the Coast Game Center by John Tynes, January 26, 1999
  • Breaking In,, on how to break into writing for RPGs, by Steve Kenson, December 22, 1998
  • ALT.RPG, first of a series looking deeply at what gaming is all about, by Matt Miller, September 1, 1998
  • The Night They Tore Old Mecca Down, GenCon report by Randy Porter, August 20, 1998
  • GenCon Fun: con, city, and even housing tips from Randy Porter, June 30, 1998
  • GenCon Lore Vol 3: Program Books, update on GenCon 98 attendance, by Randy Porter, June 23, 1998
  • The Missing and the Dead, update on GenCon 98 attendance, by Randy Porter, June 2, 1998
  • The Definitive Count on who is and isn't attending GenCon 98, by Randy Porter, April 28, 1998
  • How to Scam Games Part II by Steve Johnson, March 24, 1998
  • The Perils of Penniless Publishing by Aaron Rosenberg, February 3, 1998
  • Polyhedral Dice & Mirror Shades, by Greg Costikyan (or, the death of paper).
  • Ken Whitman: A Love Hate Relationship by (of course) Ken Whitman
  • Interview with Sean Punch, GURPS line editor, by Bob Portnell, October 1997
  • YOU DID WHAT? Perspectives On Becoming A Full-Time Writer In The RPG Industry, by Steven Long, September 1997
  • A Resurgence of Role Playing, by Gary Gygax, August 1997

    Other columns at RPGnet

    TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg