All posts by Paul Alexander Butler

First quarter of 2017

Hello and welcome to new readers that may have seen my seminars at the GAMA Trade Show or PHD’s Speed Gaming last week.

So as some of you may know, in addition to my many other roles, I’m also a member of the Academy of Gaming Arts & Design. Specifically, I’m a member of the jury that selects the nominees for the Origins Awards for the RPG category.
And can I just say? Having spent the better part of the last couple months poring over the releases from the past year, we are in a new golden age of RPGs. The quality of stuff coming out today is simply out of this world. And with an edition of D&D on the shelves that people are really loving… there’s no way you as a retailer shouldn’t be knocking it out of the park with RPG sales right now.

On with the show.
Games and Stuff’s Top 20 selling roleplaying games by game line for the period of January 1, 2017 through March 31, 2017

  1. Dungeons and Dragons (Q4 Rank #1)
  2. Pathfinder (Q4 Rank #2)
  3. Star Wars (Q4 Rank #3)
  4. The One Ring (Q4 Rank #6)
  5. Shadowrun (Q4 Rank #4)
  6. Call of Cthulhu (Q4 Rank #5)
  7. Traveller (Q4 Rank #7)
  8. Fate 
  9. Lamentations of the Flame Princess (Q4 Rank #19)
  10. Savage Worlds 
  11. Mutant Year Zero 
  12. Numenera 
  13. Warhammer 40,000 (Q4 Rank #8)
  14. Iron Kingdoms (Q4 Rank #15)
  15. Cats of Catthulhu (Q4 Rank #10)
  16. The Dark Eye 
  17. GURPS 
  18. The Strange 
  19. Dragon Age 
  20. Adventures of Baron Munchausen 

First thing that stands out to me is that The One Ring* has usurped Shadowrun in the #4 spot. The game is gaining traction with groups among my customers, but the big thing here was the release of The Adventurer’s Companion, the first One Ring supplement targeted specifically at players of the game, and not necessarily just Loremasters. This has had a significant impact on the sales of the line.

Moving down the list, we see both Traveller and Call of Cthulhu holding fast just outside the Top 5. It’s rare for me to see games hold their rankings outside those first five. For two games to be in the running for six months is significant. Call of Cthulhu in particular, rather deserves this spot. It’s a modern classic, and I’m eager to see if Chaosium can keep up with the regular releases. The quality has been really good too. I was especially impressed with some of the adventures in Nameless Horrors, which I recently read.

Beyond those two, the familiar faces from the end of last year are few. Sales of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess line were bounced by a couple of new releases, including Blood in the Chocolate, a twisted fantasy Willy Wonka adventure done in the way that only Lamentations can.
My deep stock of the defunct Warhammer 40K RPG stuff is just about depleted, and the re-named Cats of Catthulhu (formerly Call of Catthulhu) keeps selling piles of those little paperbacks.

Dungeon Crawl Classics and Through the Breach both slipped off the list, after at least six months for each of them. Breach is waiting for a new edition, while I fully expect DCC’s disappearance to only be temporary. Plus, we’ve got Mutant Crawl Classics coming later this year.

So where’s that leave us? NINE game lines that didn’t make an appearance last go ’round. I’m overjoyed to see The Adventures of Baron Munchausen make the cut. Released about half way through December, the newest edition is a smart looking little $25 hardback book. I love that even though it’s obviously the smallest part of their bottom line,  Fantasy Flight Games still supports quirky RPG stuff beyond their main Star Wars RPG offerings.
For those of you that have success with things like Fiasco and other Gamemaster-less RPGs, I can’t recommend Munchausen enough. It really is the grandfather of so many of today’s indie RPG darlings. It’s basically a trial of oneupmanship; it’s a competitive game of lying and storytelling.

Nice to see The Dark Eye make the list. I had my doubts about the strength of the game in the US market. Maybe I’m wrong.

And that’s that.
What’s coming soon that I’m excited about? Well, the 7th Sea supplements have just started hitting shelves. I’m eager to see how the continued line fares.
Beyond that, I’m looking forward to:

  • Blades in the Dark (Evil Hat)
  • Cthulhu Confidential (a 1 player/1GM system based on Gumshow from Pelgrane)
  • Blue Rose (Green Ronin)
  • The Two-Headed Serpent (an epic Pulp campaign for Call of Cthulhu)

And with that I’ll leave you.
See you next time!

*Full disclosure: I am an employee of Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.

Now Reading: No Thank You, Evil

My Origins Awards notes are in the final stretch, as I await deliveries of a few last titles. In the meantime, I’m refining my scores I’ve already completed. No Thank You, Evil may be the perfect kids-level introduction to RPGs. It’s at least as good as Adventure Maximus! but NTYE might edge it out simply for accessibility alone. Not putting the words “roleplaying game” on the box hurts me a little bit, but it was a stroke of genius.

Q4 2016. Post-holiday wrap-up.

Hi there!
I’m pleased to say I’m a little late getting this End-of-Year update posted because Games and Stuff had a phenomenal fourth quarter, December especially. Which is to say nothing of the many sorta secret projects that are currently occupying my time, some of which I hope to be able to talk about soon. Suffice to say, it’s been a busy eight weeks or so.

So anyway, Games and Stuff actually ended our year with the RPG department having greater sales than 2014, which for those of you keeping score at home, was the year that the current edition of D&D was released. Better RPG sales than a D&D launch year? I’ll take it!

So! Onto the rankings. Top 20 RPG lines by dollar volume for the period of October through December 2016 at Games and Stuff:

  1. Dungeons and Dragons (Q3 Rank #1)
  2. Pathfinder (Q3 Rank #2)
  3. Star Wars (Q3 Rank #4)
  4. Shadowrun (Q3 Rank #3)
  5. Call of Cthulhu (Q3 Rank #5)
  6. The One Ring (Q3 Rank #7)
  7. Traveller (Q3 Rank #20)
  8. Warhammer 40,000 (Q3 Rank #6)
  9. White Wolf 
  10. Call of Catthulhu 
  11. Through the Breach (Q3 Rank #9)
  12. Timewatch
  13. 7th Sea (Q3 Rank #10)
  14. Dungeon Crawl Classics (Q3 Rank #11)
  15. Iron Kingdoms 
  16. Fantasy Age 
  17. End of the World (Q3 Rank #13)
  18. Dresden Files 
  19. Lamentations of the Flame Princess (Q3 Rank #8)
  20. Fiasco 

So let’s dive in.
Spots #1-4, yeah yeah, no surprises there, although the success of the rules-light version of Shadowrun, Shadowrun Anarchy* may have the legs to give Star Wars a run for the money in the coming months, that’s if (and that’s a big IF) the game takes off to the point where folks are picking up Shadowrun 5th edition books to support their Anarchy games with source material.
Meanwhile the gap between spots 1 and 2 is widening. Bolstered by third party products like Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-Earth* and Kobold’s Tome of Beasts, D&D was tracking at about three times the sales of Pathfinder for November and December. And that hobby-store exclusive cover for Volo’s Guide was nothing to sneeze at either.

The new 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu continues to sell, and with new products (like Pulp Cthulhu) coming out at a steady pace, good ol’ COC may find itself in the Top 10 for a while. The new edition is really good. It finally looks and feels like a modern game, and not a nostalgia driven relic. We also saw some nice bumps to Cubicle 7’s Cthulhu Britannica* stuff as a result of the success of 7th Edition. Speaking of which, there’s a ton of support out there for Cthulhu. Much like D&D, there’s all sorts of third-party stuff out there to support the COC line. In addition to the aforementioned Cthulhu Britannica stuff, Modiphius’s Achtung! Cthulhu uses the same basic rules set as well. Though for purposes of this ranking, Achtung! is not included in the Call of Cthulhu sales figures.
Many flavors of the same thing! Not entirely unlike a vanilla Frosty. But we all know vanilla Frosties are the false prophet of Wendy’s. But I digress.

Traveller. Traveller! I’m not sure if I’ve got a higher than normal percentage of grognard customers, but the new Traveller continues to sell for me. A steady stream of smaller inexpensive supplements, plus the more pricey Central Supply Catalogue, have kept this thing in the Top 10. It’s been a while since a hard science fiction game has really made an impact on the RPG scene, and I’m glad this one’s got some traction. Much like Cthulhu 7E, it’s the first truly modern looking version of the game in, well, ever.
I just wish somebody had talked them out of that $60 Starter Box that’s releasing at some point in the future. That’s $10 more than the Core Rulebook. Starter Box, people, Starter Box. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The death throes of the Warhammer 40K RPGs continue, and as the prices on the secondary market skyrocket, I’m happily selling my piles of stock at full retail to completionists. I think I’ve got one Dark Heresy and one Deathwatch core book left… expect this to drop off the list almost entirely by the time we circle around again in early April.

OK, let’s talk about Call of Cathulhu. I know I’ve mentioned it a few times already here, but let’s be serious. You sell Cthulhu stuff, and I know you sell cat-themed stuff. I cannot undersell just how many of this little thing I’m moving. It flies off the shelves. It’s coming to ACD distribution soon, and it’s available from IPR now. Get on it. You’ll thank me later.
There’s cat dice too. That can totally be sold to anybody that wants unique cat-themed six-siders.

Anything else new and interesting? Well, Timewatch from Pelgrane made a decent showing, though I doubt it will make much more than this splash upon release. That cover art isn’t doing it any favors, but there’s a solid game in there. If we see some support material, it could have some legs.

White Wolf shows up again, thanks to moving a few of the super costly Print-On-Demand volumes during holiday shopping season. If the forthcoming new edition gets something resembling a regular retail distribution deal, things might get interesting…

What else to keep an eye on in the coming months?

7th Sea could make a play for a regular position on the charts if we start seeing some of those supplements come into print.

Through the Breach announced a second edition. Mark those first edition core books (Fated Almanac and Fatemaster’s Almanac) down now! Everything else stays relevant in the new edition.

Starfinder anyone? Sigh. Who the hell knows?
What I will tell you is that Paizo opened up pre-orders for a bunch of titles on their site, so there’s no reason you can’t start taking that money for yourself.

Finally, curious about my Top 10 for the year as a whole? No surprises in the Top 5, but I think the next five are noteworthy. All that little stuff adds up people.

  1. Dungeons and Dragons
  2. Pathfinder
  3. Star Wars
  4. Shadowrun
  5. The One Ring
  6. Warhammer 40,000
  7. Call of Cthulhu
  8. Through the Breach
  9. Lamentations of the Flame Princess
  10. Dungeon Crawl Classics

Until next time.

*Full disclosure: I am an employee of Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd, and was a contributor on Shadowrun Anarchy from Catalyst Game Labs.

Call of Cathulhu coming to ACD

catthulhucoverHey folks.
Just boosting the signal for my friend Joel Sparks. His CALL OF CATTHULHU roleplaying game will soon be available from ACD Distribution (in addition to currently being available from Indie Press Revolution.)

Three separate volumes or a deluxe boxed set featuring dice, tokens and tiny plastic kitties.

Get with your rep and put in some pre-orders! Do your part to support RPGs in distribution!

Quarter 3 2016 from the deeps…

Happy Halloween everyone!
The weeks got away from me this past month, with a recent trade show and a convention that G&S is vending at in November, so I’m a little late on this. So let’s dive right in!

Here’s the top 20 selling RPGs by volume at Games and Stuff from the period of July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2016

  1. Dungeons and Dragons (Q2 Rank #1)
  2. Pathfinder (Q2 Rank #2)
  3. Shadowrun (Q2 Rank #4)
  4. Star Wars (Q2 Rank #3)
  5. Call of Cthulhu 
  6. Warhammer 40,000 (Q2 Rank #20)
  7. The One Ring (Q2 Rank #5)
  8. Lamentations of the Flame Princess (Q2 Rank #18)
  9. Through the Breach (Q2 Rank #6)
  10. 7th Sea 
  11. Dungeon Crawl Classics (Q2 Rank #15)
  12. Fate (Q2 Rank #16)
  13. End of the World (Q2 Rank #12)
  14. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 
  15. Savage Worlds (Q2 Rank #10)
  16. Cypher System 
  17. Ryuutama 
  18. Night’s Black Agents
  19. Numenera (Q2 Rank #7)
  20. Traveller (Q2 Rank #9)

So what’s to talk about? Star Wars and Shadowrun continue their little dance in the #3 and #4 positions, and Pathfinder maintains it’s hold on the #2 spot even after the sweeping changes I made back in July. I’m feeling pretty good about that move. I cut the real estate dedicated to the brand in half, without any appreciable decline in sales.

darkheresy2eWhat’s really interesting is those next three spots. Any other quarter this year and the sales of The One Ring would have been enough to seal the #5 spot, but with the September announcement of the end of the Fantasy Flight Games / Games Workshop licensing deal, people scrambled to pick up what they could of the 40K RPGs before they disappeared. (Indeed, my old friend Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay even showed up again at #14). I’ve got plenty of stock on a lot of the 40K stuff, but with the core rulebooks vanishing, I’m not sure how long the sales will last. I would recommend picking up a few copies of the Dark Heresy 2E Core book at the very least. As of this writing, there’s still stock out there.

CoC7th-724x1024And of course, the #5 position is held by the release of the new 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu. Despite having singled it out as an important new title this season, going into the release I was worried I had order a bit too heavily. The opposite proved to be true, as just a few days after street date I was scrambling to get quantities on the four SKUs that released that day.


Wyrd’s Through the Breach continues to sit pretty in the Top Ten, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess rose in the ranks thanks to two new releases. The release schedule for Lamentations is only getting stronger and stronger, and any store with an OSR community should really have this in stock.

7th_sea_cover_V1I’m very happy to see 7th Sea make the list. I’ll be eager to see if they game has legs. A lot of it will depend on the release schedule. I know a lot of folks picked this up out of curiosity or out of nostalgia for the game, but the response has been a bit polarized. I still want to spend some time with it. I’ve been told it’s more cinematic than the old system, and that sounds right up my alley.

I’m also happy to see Night’s Black Agents finally break into the list. The Dracula’s Dossier stuff deserves all praise it gets.

What should be on your radar for the rest of the year?

Well, on the fifth edition front, Volo’s Guide to Monsters releases this Friday. That hobby exclusive cover is something new. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be leveraging this a lot. I know I expect to move a lot of them. Then Adventures in Middle-Earth releases on November 9th. This will likely be the biggest RPG release of the year for me. And don’t forget to get in on that Tome of Beasts reprint from Kobold.

The One Ring will make an attempt to battle its way back into the Top 5 with both Journeys & Maps, and Erebor hitting very soon.

And finally, don’t underestimate No Disintegrations for Star Wars Edge of the Empire. It’s the bounty hunter book that everyone has been waiting for since almost the launch of the game. It’s even got some guy named Fett on the cover.



Full disclosure: I am a part-time marketing assistant for Cubicle 7 Entertainment, publishers of both The One Ring and Adventures in Middle-Earth.