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Each tick of the clock brings us ever closer to the Great Event, that grandest of all nights, Halloween. In the meantime, though, there are a few other things that are ticking down, too, and some will be over before that one comes to pass.

For those who have been following along, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the new, 5e-compatible Iron Kingdoms: Requiem books for Privateer Press. These tomes not only bring the classic Warmachine and Hordes setting to 5e for the first time, they also update the setting itself to the way it exists today, in the aftermath of the Claiming – also for the first time. And if you don’t know what any of that means, don’t worry, the books will explain it.

Anyway, the latest installment is currently on Kickstarter and it’s entering its final hours. In fact, as I write this there’s only about a day left. It’s already funded, so at this point we’re just blowing away stretch goals, and while the stretch goal that’s a new adventure written by yours truly isn’t likely to materialize, there’s still some pretty cool stuff within reach. So, if you’ve been on the fence about it, now’s the time to get involved.

Plus, if you head on over to the Kickstarter page and check out the updates, you can get a gander of artist’s renditions of just a tiny handful of the many weird creatures I got the pleasure of designing this time around. And there’s plenty more (and plenty weirder) waiting in the wings where that came from.

And that’s not all. While the Kickstarter for Iron Kingdoms: Borderlands & Beyond closes up shop in about a day’s time, the Unwinnable subscription drive runs through the end of the month. For those who don’t know, Unwinnable is an incredible indie publication that pays its writers and publishes some of the best, smartest crit, essays, and cultural appreciation around – all based on an ad-free model that relies on your subscriptions.

We’ve already done really well on the drive, unlocking the “monster” theme issue that I absolutely had to get unlocked in order to survive, but we’ve still got more cool stuff up our sleeves, including a Doom-themed issue that’s about a minute away from unlocking. Besides movie reviews and my regular column on board games over at Unwinnable, I’ve also written long-form essays on everything from Monster Squad to my love of dungeon crawl games to, most recently, the weird fact that the original Universal Mummy sequels are actually set in the 1970s through the ’90s.

Few other publications would give me such free reign, so if you like reading the random nonsense that comes pouring out of my head, toss a coin to the folks at Unwinnable, who help to prop up such bizarro “journalism” from me and plenty of other incredibly talented writers and artists.

That may be the last you hear directly from me in this space before the one-two punch of my birthday and Halloween, but I’ll be very active on social media over the next few days, and there’s still a whole lot going on, so stay tuned…

Around a year ago now, give or take, I was working on a project for Privateer Press that, at the time, I couldn’t talk about. A few months later, it was revealed to be the new Iron Kingdoms: Requiem roleplaying game, compatible with 5e, which launched on Kickstarter in January of this year and blew away its funding goals.

Since then, I’ve been working on something else. A follow-up product that takes players beyond the walls of the Iron Kingdoms themselves and into the wilderness that surrounds them. For those who played the previous IK RPG, this can be seen as a companion to the Unleashed volume released for that game – I wrote an adventure for that, too, BTW, which was printed in the Wild Adventures supplement.

This isn’t just about the wilderness, though. It also explores – in depths that have never really been delved into before – the dwarven kingdom of Rhul and the elven nation of Ios, a nation which has undergone a stark transformation, making it just as alien and unfamiliar to long-term players of the game as it will be to those who are new to the setting.

Called Borderlands & Beyond, this new expansion also just hit Kickstarter today, and was funded within just a couple of hours. We’re already well into the realm of stretch goals now, and the campaign is less than a day old. Which is good, because one of the stretch goals is a new adventure written by yours truly, set to take place in the eerie wilderness of the Glimmerwood.

As with Iron Kingdoms: Requiem, I worked with an incredible team to help bring this book to life, all organized by Matt Goetz, who was the captain of our little ship. I can’t say what parts I did and what parts were the work of other hands, but I can say that, to an extent that has never been true on any previous tabletop gaming product I’ve worked on, we really did collaborate as a team throughout the project, with each person’s contributions informing the others in unique and dynamic ways.

In all, I contributed even more words to this project than I did to Requiem, and got to build more stuff from the ground up than ever before. And I’m already looking forward to the next project, which the success of this one will all-but ensure.

And I can say one other thing, I think, that will likely come as a surprise to no one. If you check out the Kickstarter for Borderlands & Beyond, you’ll note that they mention “a horde of never-before-seen monsters to test every last ounce of your players’ resolve.” The other thing I think I can say is that more than a few of those never-before-seen monsters are ones I helped cook up. And I hope you’re going to love them.

I grew up with Warhammer. While I was too poor to play, I was into the game, its world and its army books, its setting fluff and maps and stupid little models, from very early days. Before I had ever read The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, before I had ever rolled a die in D&D, I had bought my first White Dwarf. (It was this one, by the way.)

So I have an affection for Games Workshop’s products that goes back a long way, and their take on what a bog standard fantasy setting looked like helped to shape my expectations of same. Which means that I am likely to give them a pass in places where they may not deserve one. At the same time, something that initially pulled me into Warhammer was that, even as a kid, I saw the satire in it.

This was not a story about Good versus Evil, even if the Empire or the Imperium or whoever you were talking to at the moment might want you to think it was. Sure, Chaos might be evil, but the alternative was little (maybe no) better, and at least Chaos wasn’t a bunch of hypocrites.

It was deployed with varying degrees of nuance and skill, but always there was something tongue in cheek about the setting, whether that setting was the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy Battles or the grim darkness of the far future. You could spot it in sometimes unlikely places, like the company’s genuine affection for the mindlessly destructive orks or orcs or orruks or whatever.

The “good guys” were mostly fascists, and they spent human life like it was going out of style. They portrayed this as a grim necessity, but the game knew better, and let you in on the joke in various little ways. It was (perhaps unsurprisingly) satire in the Verhoeven or Judge Dredd vein – all too easy to misapply and turn into lionization.

As I’ve gotten back into the gaming sphere in recent years, I’ve seen (and occasionally fielded) a lot of questions about whether or not this was still true. This blog post, which is actually about a game called Kriegsmesser and only tangentially about Warhammer at all, makes a lot of those concerns explicit: over the years, much of the satire has seemingly bled away, replaced by an inadvertent celebration of fascism that is, unfortunately, probably too often embraced by fans as a good thing, actually.

To some extent, this is maybe inevitable. It’s hard to sustain satire when you’re building a massive brand across dozens of games, numerous video games, novels, toy lines, you name it. There’s a reason why punk rock was always afraid of selling out, and it isn’t just that it’s hard to be anti-corporate when you’re a corporation. Satire works well in small, bitter pills. Spread it too thin, and the sting dissipates, to become what it was satirizing in the first place. (See also: RoboCop becoming a toy line, a cartoon series, etc.)

So, is modern Warhammer pro-fascist? I wouldn’t go that far. The satire is still alive, if not necessarily alive and well.

The Imperium is still a bureaucratic nightmare that wipes out entire worlds due to clerical errors, but the barbs which were once the beating heart of Warhammer’s various settings now all too often wither on the vine. And while Age of Sigmar may lean hard into its Moorcockian underpinnings, the ambiguity of those stories is often obscured, when it’s not lacking altogether.

I don’t know the people behind Games Workshop in its modern incarnation, any more than I did the ones behind its earliest ones, but I don’t get the impression that any of this is intentional, or a sop to the worst impulses of their fanbase. Instead, I feel like it is the… if not inevitable, then at least most likely casualty of their own success.

To paraphrase the Green Goblin, you either die a satire, or you live long enough to see yourself become the very thing you were a satire of.

For various reasons, I’ve had dungeons (and possibly also, to a lesser extent, dragons) on my mind of late, which I’ve already posted a bit about on here. While I’m known today as a horror writer, to those who know of me at all, I grew up with sword and sorcery every bit as much as I did with horror, and especially sword and sorcery as filtered through D&D, Warhammer, and various adjacent games – not to mention countless JRPGs played on the Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Playstation, and so on.

Those who have been following my aesthetic thread on Twitter or my board game coverage at Unwinnable, or, indeed, just following along around these parts, may not find any of this surprising, especially since, over on Twitter, I posted some art from some particularly formative JRPGs such as the various Shining Force games.

Indeed, this may also not be news to anyone who follows my writing closely, as, even before I started working on the new, 5e-compatible Iron Kingdoms: Requiem books, I had already done a considerable amount of work for Privateer Press over the years on their Warmachine and Hordes games, as well as their previous Iron Kingdoms RPG. In fact, my first ever novel – and, until recently, the only one I had ever published, though my occult cyberpunk (another perhaps unlikely subgenre) novel is currently being serialized on the Broken Eye Books Patreon – was a fantasy tome written for Privateer Press, set in their Warmachine universe.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that, while you won’t find much “gothic fantasy” in the Ravenloft vein in a lot of my work, my fascination with pulp horror and pulp fantasy has always existed side-by-side and intertwined, even while I tend to like my fantasy brighter even as I like my horror fun – not that there aren’t exceptions, after all, as Castlevania (the video games, not the Netflix cartoon) remains one of my favorite things ever.

Recently, for various reasons, I’ve been crossing the wires a little more often, resulting in things like my column in the latest issue of Weird Horror from Undertow Publications, in which I discuss a few of my favorite recurring themes, such as dungeon crawls, hollow earths, and, of course, the monsters that call both home.

Dedicated readers will probably also remember that I wrote a few stories in what I called a “story cycle” dealing with the Hollow Earth and other things, one of which was “No Exit,” which made it into the Best Horror of the Year. I’m not done with that cycle just yet, though COVID and other things have delayed the planned timeline a bit. There’s still more stories coming, though, and I have plans. Just you wait.

In the meantime, I’ve been playing games more, sometimes solo and sometimes just with one other person (thanks again, COVID) but as vaccinations have all happened ’round these parts, we can start getting together in groups more, playing actual D&D and the like. All this, along with other factors, including that aforementioned board game coverage at Unwinnable, has led me to a few conclusions about the dungeon crawl and my relationship to it.

The dungeon crawl is, at its base, colonialist. We have to grapple with this, just as we have to acknowledge the fact that Lovecraft was a fucking racist if we’re going to enjoy his work responsibly. But it has an undeniable appeal, even to (some of) those of us who oppose colonialism and its various fruits. There’s something about that subterranean ecosystem – something that I tried to capture in that Weird Horror essay, something that I’ve tried to capture in some of those “Hollow Earth” stories – that keeps my monster-loving heart circling back to it time and again.

In some ways, this can be epitomized by a video game I haven’t previously mentioned here: Torchlight, which I became taken with some years back. Its first sequel provided an improvement in pretty much every aspect of gameplay while also adding in overworld areas that opened up the setting considerably. In so doing, however, it also lost a little something: that idea of a multi-level dungeon beneath the eponymous town, each level something entirely different from the one before, all buried in sedimentary layers beneath the small burg with its adventurer-centric economy. There’s a magic there.

Plenty of board games have been made that explore this idea in various ways, some better than others. And I’ve been infatuated them since before I ever even tried to roll the dice in a game of actual D&D. Since the days of HeroQuest, whose box art and board decorate my writing space, I have been dreaming of taking journeys in the dark.

One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that in spite of this, I seem to not be the target audience for most modern dungeon crawl board games. More and more, these games seem to try to get as close as possible to the experience of playing a campaign of D&D, without (in some cases) the need for a dungeon master. But if I want to just play a game of D&D, I’ll do that. No, when I come to a board game dungeon crawl, I want something else.

Thanks in part to Massive Darkness, which I wrote up for Unwinnable a while back, and in part to Warhammer Quest: Cursed City, which I was thrilled to pick up when it came out, I think I’ve nailed down what it is. Most of these games advertise their wares by offering increasingly lengthy and immersive experiences. If they’re offering a single campaign that lasts 30 hours, what I actually want is 30 different adventures that are less than an hour each.

I don’t want the commitment and the time sink. I don’t want to sort through a thousand cards and a million tokens, playing the same game across a dozen nights. I want something that’s ready to plug-and-play. Earlier games of Warhammer Quest (mainly Silver Tower, and its previous un-subtitled incarnation) nail that in ways that Blackstone Fortress and Cursed City have moved away from. Massive Darkness, with its on-the-run leveling, nails it in some ways even more.

But, again, I seem to be in the minority in a climate where most games are striving to be the massive boxed experience that is, say, Gloomhaven. And there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that experience – it merely isn’t, I’m coming to learn, what draws me to the game. Of course, the great thing about the moment we live in is that it’s got Massive Darknesses and Gloomhavens (and everything in-betweens) rubbing shoulders, so there’s something out there for everyone.

If you’re willing to dig for it…

A while back, I got briefly really obsessed with Bloodstone Gnomes miniatures from Reaper, which I gather are ostensibly for Warlord, a game I both don’t play and don’t know anything about. Indeed, I’m not even terribly positive about the name, or that said gnomes are actually for it.

I picked them up as generic goblin/gnome-size critters for games of D&D or whatever. At least, that was the justification I gave myself. Really, I just picked them up because I thought they looked great. One of them is even riding a beetle! Only later did I realize why I liked the look of them so much: it turns out they were designed by Wayne Reynolds.

Anyone who has ever picked up a Pathfinder book or, indeed, looked at an RPG-adjacent tome in the past twenty years or so is familiar with Reynolds’ artwork. Around the same time I learned this fact about the Bloodstone Gnomes, I was also posting a string of RPG-related artworks to my year-long daily aesthetic thread over on Twitter, including a couple of pieces by Reynolds.

In the process, I learned that a lot of folks really don’t like his stuff – though the ubiquity of it would suggest that those folks are probably in the minority. I like his work for a number of reasons, with perhaps the most significant being his knack for absolutely layering his characters in bits and bobs while still making the art feel clean and sharp. His adventurers look like what I think adventurers ought to look like. He’s got an immediately recognizable style, and draws great gribbly monsters – witness the popularity of his Pathfinder goblins – which also endears him to me more than a little.

All those traits combine in the Bloodstone Gnomes, which probably helps to explain why I like them so much, even if the models lose some of that crisp definition. They also make good stand-ins for goblins. And I do love goblins.

It’s all-too-easy to get drawn into the soft undertow of minutia and lose track of how much time has passed, how much has happened, what has changed. The sediment shifts so gradually that it seems like each day is largely the same as the one before, even when they aren’t. So, what’s been going on?

I got my second jab of the Pfizer vaccine a week ago and so far there’s nothing much to report. I was tired right after, and my arm hurt for a day or two, but no other ill effects, save for a disappointing lack of monsterism, as I reported on social media. It’s a surprising weight off my shoulders, honestly, given how low-risk my lifestyle is generally, which is good because my shoulders are going to need that extra weight freed up to hold the giant eyeball I’m hoping to get there.

While the production of new fiction remains throttled, I’ve been working on various freelance stuff apace, including forthcoming game writing projects that, for now, have to remain under wraps. (In case you missed the last game writing stuff I was doing, you can read a bit about it here.) I’ve been doing my usual stuff, too, watching weirdo movies and occasionally reviewing them at Signal Horizon and Unwinnable, as well as continuing to write my regular columns various places, ranging from my column on Friday the 13th: The Series at Signal Horizon to my column on board games at Unwinnable to my column on … whatever the hell at Weird Horror.

I’m also continuing to sort of accidentally co-host the Horror Pod Class at Signal with Tyler Unsell, where we talk about horror movies chosen more-or-less at random and try to apply their lessons haphazardly to the classroom. You can watch it live at the Facebook group or stream it wherever you get podcasts. Speaking of which, I recently bought a new permanent addition to my ensemble from 1000 Dead Draculas, which will be making its Horror Pod Class debut on the upcoming Viy (1967) episode.

In hobby-related news, I’ve played a few games of Warcry and more than a few of Warhammer Underworlds, and I’ve continued collecting the various Underworlds warbands as they’re released. Which means that I’m very excited about the recent announcement of the final warband for this season, Elathain’s Soulraid, because it involves a giant crab!

I’ve said before that Mollog’s Mob is never going to be unseated as my favorite band, and that’s still true. It is basically impossible to top a big, doofy monster with mushrooms growing out of his back who is followed into battle by a gaggle of squiggly beasts. But these guys might end up being a close second. Only time will tell…

I also finally got in my first (solo) game of Cursed City, and while nothing may ever quite top Silver Tower for me in the Warhammer Quest category, Cursed City was fun at first blush and, as with Blackstone Fortress (which I’ve owned for months and still haven’t played), the dynamite miniatures absolutely make it worth it, even without playing.

Those of you who have been following along with my recent digressions back into the world of tabletop gaming (sorry about all that) may be aware that, over the last year or so, I’ve exposed myself to all manner of new and new-to-me games, several of which I’ve already written about as part of my new recurring column on board games over at Unwinnable. (The column on a generally social activity that began exactly when we could all no longer be social anymore, because I have truly incredible timing.)

Of those, some have quickly become favorites. I recently wrote for Unwinnable about Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower, just in time for the folks at Games Workshop to announce the latest incarnation of the Warhammer Quest line: Cursed City, which is essentially the Warhammer answer to Castlevania. So naturally, that’s what I’m really excited for right now.

In all this, though, I’ve hardly mentioned what has rapidly become probably my favorite of all the new-to-me games I’ve experienced: Warhammer Underworlds. For the uninitiated, Underworlds is the smallest and most intimate of GW’s various skirmish wargames. Played across a couple of hexed game boards that fit easily on the kitchen table, with warbands numbering as few as three models and never more than nine, Underworlds makes even games like Necromunda, Warcry, or Kill Team feel epic by comparison.

I’ve long realized that I was more attracted to skirmish games than all-out wargames. The bigger armies simply tax my energy levels too much. I have fun, but I end the process feeling exhausted and wrung out. With Underworlds, I hit a sweet spot.

It isn’t just the smaller scope that appeals, though. I like the turn limit, the necessity of shepherding what resources you have carefully because you only have three rounds in which to accomplish your goals, and only four activations per round. I like the way that play alternates back-and-forth between players, and I like that your goals may not be best served simply by defeating the enemy.

I like the cards, which bring a level of randomness to the proceedings that dice alone cannot. Your goals will shift as the match progresses, as will the tools you have at your disposal. This takes some of the pressure of strategizing off, at least for me, and forces me to accept the hand I’m dealt with equanimity, and make the best of it. This is good for my anxiety.

Most of all, though, I love the warbands. I love the way each character has a name and a role, like positions on a team. I love the way each one brings personality to their fighter, so that each one feels like a legitimate loss when they fall. I love that, while there is deck-building, there is no army building. The warband is the warband – there’s nothing you can do to change it. I love the way all the fighters in the warband go together, like an adventuring party under your control.

When I first got into Underworlds, it was because of one warband: Mollog’s Mob. Anyone who knows me at all will not be surprised in the least when I say that Mollog’s Mob is not only the best of all possible warbands, it remains my favorite and probably always will. But something else I came to love, as I got into the game, was the “collectible warband” aspect of it.

While other wargames encourage you (by dint of the fact that they are expensive and models are plentiful, if for no other reason) to pick a faction or two and stick with it, collecting multiple warbands in Underworlds is not only feasible, it actually makes tactical sense, as each warband comes with unique universal cards that can be used with any of the others.

I didn’t start doing it because it made tactical sense, though. I just love my stupid little plastic friends, and I enjoy pushing them around on their hexes and making the fantasy equivalent of blim-blam noises (or, in the case of the Thundrik’s Profiteers, actual blim-blam noises).

For those who have been following along with my recent adventures getting into (or back into, as the case may be) D&D, dungeon crawlers, board games, and so on, the latest installment of my “I Played It, Like, Twice” column is up at Unwinnable today, marking the confluence of all of those interests and more.

As I say over there, Warhammer was one of my earliest fandoms, and it was followed in short order by the Elric stories of Michael Moorcock. Both those and other things, along with my obsession with dungeon crawl board games with their delightful miniatures and tiles, all crash together in Warhammer Quest, a game that has been released in a variety of forms over the years.

As I mentioned in the column, I actually had the very first copy of Warhammer Quest, back when it neither needed nor had any subtitle. It was a bit of a mess in a lot of ways, but there was something magical about those illustrated dungeon tiles, the sensation of reaching a plastic doorway and turning over a card to see what waited on the other side, never quite knowing.

I’m happy to say that Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower keeps more than a little of that magic alive, and in a game that plays better than its predecessor ever did. I’m unhappy to say, though, that it’s now well and truly out of print. The game’s most recent incarnation, Blackstone Fortress, is a big deviation, taking the setting to the “grim darkness of the far future” of Warhammer 40,000. I haven’t played it yet, but it’s sitting on my shelf. Waiting.

Shortly after I finished writing today’s article, though, and shortly before it went to print, Games Workshop announced the next iteration of the Warhammer Quest franchise. Cursed City takes the action back to the Age of Sigmar and sounds like Castlevania by way of Warhammer. As I said on social media when the news broke, “It was nice knowing you, money.”

Warhammer Quest is also far from the only iteration of the popular setting that I’ve been enjoying during the pandemic, either. I’ve gotten heavily invested in Warhammer Underworlds, which released its new season recently, and which is probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing a tabletop wargame.

My favorite warband is Mollog’s Mob for … obvious reasons. But one thing I love about the game is its ability to allow you to (affordably) collect warbands, instead of collecting individual models for one faction, and having to leave the others on the vine.

While I’ve been getting back into Warhammer stuff, I’ve also not forgotten some of my other loves, and I recently had the opportunity to do quite a bit of work on the newest iteration of the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game from Privateer Press, this time compatible with 5e D&D. The Kickstarter for the books that I helped write is still underway and, as of this writing, has nearly quadrupled its funding goal, with a little over a week left.

I think it’ll be an interesting thing, both for newcomers to the setting and old hands who, like myself, have been around since the original Witchfire Trilogy all those years ago.

While I’ve been immersed in games a lot more lately – both writing and playing, or at least thinking about playing – I’ve also been hard at work on other things. The pandemic damaged my attention span for watching movies, but in January I finally seem to have gotten it back, and I’ve been back doing reviews again. I also contributed a second H Word column to Nightmare Magazine, about victims, volunteers, and how the Vietnam War changed horror.

I guess columns have been where it’s at for me, lately. In addition to that, and my aforementioned board game column at Unwinnable, as well as my “Grey’s Grotesqueries” column in Weird Horror, I just started a new monthly column at Signal Horizon, dedicated to deep dives into horror television series. If all goes according to plan, the first full year of “Something Weird on TV” will be dedicated to Friday the 13th: The Series, a before-its-time horror anthology-hybrid show that I had never actually seen even a single episode of before starting this column.

So that’s (some of) what I’ve been up to. To bring us back around to the beginning of this post, I used to have a handful of worn paperbacks of Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories that I read and re-read throughout high school. One of those was The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, which a friend had defaced by adding the word “Moon” after “Sailor” in ballpoint pen.

I don’t know if I still have that copy, but I hope I do.

Remember back in November when I said that I was working on a game writing project that I couldn’t talk about because it was under NDA? This is what I was working on.

Iron Kingdoms: Requiem is far from the first piece of game-related writing that I’ve done for Privateer Press. Back in 2017, I produced a Warmachine tie-in novel that was the first novel I’ve ever written. I wrote very nearly all of the Legion of Everblight content for the previous iteration of the Iron Kingdoms RPG, not to mention adventures and other content for same.

For this, though, I had a chance to do more. I’m not at liberty to say just which parts of Requiem I worked on, but all told I wrote around 40,000 words of the core book. And I had some creative liberties this time around that I had never gotten to flex on a project like this before.

For those who know me, you know that I came up on fantasy tabletop war games. Warhammer was one of my first fandoms, and in college I switched allegiances to Warmachine, partly because, while I had never really been able to afford either hobby growing up, the smaller scale of Warmachine battles appealed.

That was only part of it, though. I also loved the world that Privateer Press had cooked up – something one notch further even than steampunk, like if the tropes of Tolkienesque classic fantasy existed in a setting that had advanced to roughly the technology level of the First World War. I loved the on-the-table dynamic of the warcasters and their warjacks and, later, loved even more the warlocks and their monsters, including my beloved gators.

Perhaps more than anything else, I loved the Monsternomicons – especially those created for the earliest version of Iron Kingdoms, which I still consider some of the best tabletop gaming bestiaries ever created. I have original pieces from those first Monsternomicons hanging above my desk as I type this. (Of Rhinodons, in case you’re curious.)

I’ve owned every iteration of Iron Kingdoms roleplaying since the setting was first introduced with the original Witchfire Trilogy for D&D 3.5. I loved the second edition – the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game, which I had the pleasure of writing a little for – even while I also acknowledge its limitations, especially for those not already versed in Warmachine and Hordes.

And so it felt like a homecoming, of sorts, to contribute some of my work to bringing his new version of the Iron Kingdoms RPG back to compatibility with the world’s most popular roleplaying game – 5e, this time. For those who’re new to the setting, I hope it’ll bring you at least one good fight on a riverboat and/or train. For those who’re old hands, hopefully there’s some fun updates in this, which is the first major sourcebook to come out after the events of The Claiming.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about? I dunno, maybe consider picking it up. The Kickstarter is live right now and has an affordable early bird package. It’s already funded, so there should be plenty of stretch goals unlocked. And the game is designed to be accessible to new players. Plus, it runs on a 5e engine, so chances are you already more-or-less know how to play it.

I’ve already been paid for my work, so I don’t make any more if you back it. But feel free to put a note in with your pledge telling them I sent you, and that they should hire me for more stuff in the future. Can’t hurt.

Those who have been following along with my adventures in quarantine may have noticed that I’ve gotten heavily back into tabletop gaming, at least conceptually. Shortly before the lockdown began, I dug into D&D 5e for the first time, and found that I really liked it.

Gaming is not a new thing for me. I’ve been playing – or, often more accurately, thinking about playing – almost for as long as I can remember. I’ve even worked in the field more than once, writing fiction and the occasional piece of gaming content for Privateer Press. As recently as November, I actually embarked on a large work-for-hire contract that I can’t reveal just yet, but it was tabletop gaming related.

As I’ve gotten more heavily back into that world, I have written a few times about the racism problems that are baked into these kinds of games and Tolkien-derived fantasy in general. I don’t have a good, simple fix for it. I don’t think there is a simple fix for it. And I know that it’s unrealistic to expect one fix to solve the problem, anyway. After all, the problem is much bigger than just fantasy.

Hopefully I make all that clear in my latest piece over at Unwinnable, where I take Wizards of the Coast (the makers of Dungeons & Dragons) to task for the inadequacy of their latest gesture in that direction, contained in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, their most recent supplement for 5e.

It is, as I say in the piece, absolutely better than nothing, but this problem deserves a response that’s better than that, and, as the producers of the biggest game in this corner of the market, we should hold Wizards to a higher standard.

I have never yet published a piece of gaming media over which I had much creative control. But when I work, in this field or any other, I try to exert what control I do have to reduce the amount of potentially harmful material that I inadvertently disseminate. And I’m always going to fall short. Which is why, each time, I try to do a little better.

So should we all.