I have to admit I haven’t really followed the discussions surrounding the Critical Role Kickstarter project. Heck, I haven’t even checked out the project itself until recently. So what is all the fuzz about? Matthew Mercer and his motley crew of voice-acting friends, famous for their D&D actual play series Critical Role, are raising funds for the production of a animated TV series called “The Legend of Vox Machina”. In no time, they reached the set goal of about 666.000€ and at the time of this writing they have raised over 6 million euros. This is HUGE! I don’t think any roleplaying-related fundraiser had ever raised that much money.
Quickly criticism was raised (Check out this article on Kotaku). At first people from the industry were obviously miffed that streamers like Critical Role make more money off of RPGs than the people actually designing those games. In a way I can understand the frustration. Making money in the RPG business is extremely hard. There are only a few designers out there who can live off RPGs alone.
But in that case it’s IMHO an apples versus oranges situation. Critical Role is raising money for an animated TV series. A lot of the people interested in this series might not even be roleplaying game fans themselves. I have watched a couple of episodes of both seasons of Critical Role and I can see the appeal of taking part in their adventures as a spectator. It is possible that some of the backers have never played a roleplaying game in their lives. Perhaps they heard from friends about the show, or they know Vox Machina from their cameos in the Pillars of Eternity 2 video game. Will some of the people backing Critical Role now eventually throw money towards roleplaying game creators? Possible. My point is that the show might have a larger appeal than just people playing D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder at the moment. In the long run the success of Critical Role will probably lead to more sales in the RPG industry.
The second criticism raised is about diversity. While this particularly group of friends is not entirely male, like way too many roleplaying game groups, the lack of persons of color is noticeable. We all know that representation is important. Critical Role has become a kind of ambassador for the roleplaying hobby, and so it would be great if their cast included persons of color.
But things are not that easy. Before Critical Role was a hit show on Twitch and YouTube, the members of the group were just friends enjoying the game. There have been several guest players on the show and perhaps they might actually add a non-white person to the cast. Since the show evolved from a fun past time to something greater, calling for more diversity and more representation of minorities on the show might not be unreasonable, but it’s not something we can force. Change is slow. But I think we are on the right track.
With their popular and financial success comes a certain responsibility. The future will show if they use their power to do good for the whole community or if they are more interested in increasing revenue for themselves. From what I’ve heard so far, Matt Mercer and crew are good people. They’ll hopefully do the right things. And if not, we – as fans and fellow roleplayers – can nudge them into the right direction again. It’s the same in live as it is in roleplaying games: It’s not only one person’s job to ensure everyone is having a good time. This responsibility falls to all of us.
What are your thoughts on the criticism regarding the Critical Role KS? Please share your thoughts below!
If you have been following this blog for a while you might already know that I love the old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Game from Games Workshop. It was basically the first RPG I played for an extended period of time, and back in the day I immediately fell in love with both its setting and the rules. So it is probably no surprise that I have a soft spot for Zweihänder by Grim & Perilous Studios (My fellow blogger Peter recently wrote an extensive review of this game here on our blog). Zweihänder is a fans love letter to this game, a 600+ pages tome which contains enough material to keep you playing for years. Zweihänder’s rules are pretty close to the 1st and 2nd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but also introduce new ideas. It’s not just a “retro clone” but rather a refinement of the original rules. The implied setting is basically the Old World with the serial numbers filed off, but there are also a few example settings included.
A while back, Grim & Perilous Studios’ David D. Fox started posting artwork for an upcoming project and I immediately thought: “Hey, this looks a lot like Colonial Gothic”. Unbeknownst to me David D. Fox had been working with Rogue Games’ Richard Iorio to combine the awesome setting of Colonial Gothic with Zweihänder’s rules. Personally I love this idea. I think Colonial Gothic needs more love. It is an awesome game but is often overlooked by the gaming community. Combining the setting with a more popular system could bring it into the limelight.
Ok, what is Colonial Gothic all about? Colonial Gothic is a roleplaying game set into the early years of the American Revolution. Aside from the fight against the British there’s also a secret war brewing against the forces of chaos and darkness. These might be unspeakable horrors spawned by Magick, vampires from the old world, witches, angry spirits, and many more. What sets Colonial Gothic apart is the amount of research that went into it. Some of the sourcebooks for the game can easily double as historical text books. Yes, they are that good!
I probably should also mention at this point that I also have a more personal connection to Rogue Games. I first met Richard at GenCon in 2010 and we have stayed in touch after that. Even though we don’t talk or chat as often as I’d like I consider him a friend, a kindred spirit. I also did proof reading for several of his books. Unfortunately I was never able to actually run a game of Colonial Gothic. The interest in the setting is quite limited over here in Germany.
Ok, let’s talk a bit more about the upcoming game. Colonial Gothc: Grim & Perilous RPG will be another 600+ page book. It will be an all-in-one rulebook with all-new artwork (I’ve added the example artwork from the official press release into this post). I guess the rules will mostly be unchanged from what we’ve seen in Zweihänder, but there should be new careers, new monsters, and a different magic system. While some might be intimidated by the tome-like qualities of the book, I actually applaud the decision to make it an all-in-one affair. That’s actually one of the reasons why I always preferred the original WFRP to its successors. I have to admit, I am pretty excited about this upcoming game and I really hope this will be a successful venture for both David D. Fox and Richard Iorio. I wish you guys all the best of luck!
What are your thoughts on this marriage of Colonial Gothic and Zweihänder? Are you as excited as I am or does the setting leave you cold? Please share your thoughts below!
A few days ago I was surprised to find emails from DriveThruRPG in my inbox with links to free copies of three new products. As it turned out Mödiphiüs had just released an updated version of their Achtung! Cthulhu game for 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu, and as one of the original backers I was eligible for a free copy. The core rules consist of the Investigator’s Guide (a 128-paged PDF containing all the rules needed by the players) and the Keeper’s Guide (a 216-paged PDF with the background, new rules for WW2 combat, a bestiary, and everything else the GM needs to run this game).
Achtung! Cthulhu is – as the name implies – a Call of Cthulhu game set into World War 2. The horror of war and the atrocities of the Nazis are combined with Lovecraftian cosmic horror. The characters are Allied soldiers or agents of Allied services fighting both the Axis and the Mythos creatures weaponized by them. The setting also helps to solve one the issues that often crop up in Call of Cthulhu games: why should the investigators travel the world, risking their lives and their sanity, while at the same time jeopardizing their jobs and relationships? Delta Green solved the issue by making the investigators members of a government conspiracy. In Achtung! Cthulhu you’re playing the soldiers fighting a war. Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to actually play Achtung! Cthulhu yet, but now I can at least do so with the latest iteration of the Call of Cthulhu rules. If you enjoy Lovecraftian Horror and have an interest in WW2, you definitely should check Achtung! Cthulhu out!
While checking out the official Mödiphiüs site I was also reminded of Achtung! Cthulhu Skirmish, their tabletop miniatures game in the same setting. Miniature skirmish games have always been a mixed bag for me. I love playing those games, but I am not particularly good at them. They can also quickly become a huge money and time sink. I have to admit that Achtung! Cthulhu Skirmish looks quite tempting and the miniature prices are very reasonable. If you are into these kinds of games, you definitely should give it a look.
What are your thoughts on Achtung! Cthulhu? Have you actually played the RPG or the miniature game? Please share your comments below.
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