The Alphastream Game Design Blog
This week on the Mastering Dungeons podcast, we looked back on a fascinating 2021 and then imagined what 2022 may bring. For tabletop games, 2021 was like no other.
I hope you enjoy listening to the episode. 2021 was another incredibly challenging year for our industry. Covid and global shipping woes impacted almost everyone, but we somehow saw incredible growth both for D&D and other RPGs. The list of crowdfunded projects exceeding $1M was higher than ever, including record-breaking non-D&D projects. D&D official releases were huge successes, regularly topping the best-selling lists across all books on Amazon.
As we’ve covered on the podcast, WotC became Hasbro’s focus, directing WotC to lead and teach the rest of the company. Vital projects, such as new TV shows, are being created around D&D. As part of this, D&D sped up product releases. My article Return of the Classics – Why 5E is Such a Success looks at how a slower and focused release schedule helped 5E succeed and launch a new generation of iconic recognizable adventures. This unfortunately may no longer hold true, but D&D has found other ways to succeed. If D&D continues to accelerate releases, how will D&D manage that in 2022?
D&D’s biggest announcement was that they will revise 5E in 2024. One of the most interesting questions is whether WotC will break away from the partnerships with VTTs and digital tools that have been a huge success for both gamers and WotC. I really believe in partnerships. I’ve talked about D&D’s amazing growth and lack of competitors and how I find partnerships to be mutually beneficial.
Online gaming exploded, and we hope to have games in Spanish in 2022 as we help further grow the monthly Virtual Weekends internationally. If you are a Spanish-speaking DM, contact me to get involved! If you are a Spanish-speaking player, keep your eyes on the Yawning Portal site and sign up for games in Spanish when they show up! And if you speak Portuguese, games are already running on the Portal!
2021 brought more financial transparency to our hobby for creators. Creators shared salaries and word rates, and called out companies with harmful policies. Paizo’s employees and freelancers rose up, establishing the first union in our hobby. Companies with good policies gained recognition. MCDM led the industry for freelancers, paying top rates and giving freelancers the spotlight after every project. Roll20 led the industry for employees with amazing job postings with clear job tasks, growth, and salary ranges. All of these changes make our hobby a better place for creators, though there is still a lot of ground to make up to establish this industry as a place where creators can buy a home, purchase healthcare, and eventually retire.
The end of 2021 brought dire news as both Kickstarter and IndieGogo announced plans to support the energy-hungry and problematic blockchain technology. This hurts the industry deeply, as gamers stop backing projects and creators look for alternatives such as Gamefound, Ko-fi, Itch, and other relatively unproven sites. I’ve personally stated I won’t back Kickstarter projects or launch one unless they change their decision. Will the other platforms ramp up functionality? Will Kickstarter reverse its policy? This will be a key 2022 issue.
In 2021 I wrote half as many words as in 2020. This was a deliberate choice, as I spent more time with my family, improved my sleep, and focused on acquiring new skills and contemplated how best to self-publish. I still managed to see some very cool releases!
The Kingdoms & Warfare book by MCDM was released to backers after a $1.37M crowdfund. I wrote The Regent of Bedegar adventure and loved working with MCDM. I am really proud of the design, and it was really gratifying to hear Matt Colville talk about how he liked it.
The revised HeroQuest boardgame (over $3M crowdfunding) reached backers! I wrote the scenario Spirit Queen’s Torment, where I had an opportunity to revise how orcs are portrayed in the setting.
I again worked with the amazing Dwarven Forge team on short adventures supporting their Wildlands terrain ($4M crowdfunding).
I wrote a short adventure for Danny Herrero and 3D Printed Tabletop.
I wrote for possibly the most amazing project I’ve ever had, but it was canceled. This one was tough, because it would have been an amazing thing to announce, but sometimes companies decide on a change of approach. I really like what I designed and the pay was great. But this one hurt. As luck would have it, a different really cool project has begun! It should be announced in 2022.
I was fortunate to be on superb podcasts and livestreams, and I was a guest at GameHole Con for the first time. I absolutely loved the convention and I hope to return soon. Looking back, it was a tiny window as the pandemic slowed and just before Omicron.
While at GameHole I playtested the adventure my son and I wrote, The Clockwork Tower. It was a lot of fun to see how well it ran! We had intended to launch the adventure on Kickstarter, but their blockchain decision has delayed that. I’m examining other options and can’t wait for everyone to see this adventure!
Recently I shared the new Alphastream logo, which you can see on this site! It’s the first exciting step towards a series of plans I will share in January!
I truly love this hobby. Seeing it become a better place to work is fantastic. Recording the Mastering Dungeons podcast with Shawn is wonderful each and every week, and being able to invite periodic guests made me really happy. I can’t thank everyone enough for being a part of my voyage, and it gives me a lot of hope and energy going into 2022