All posts by Paul Alexander Butler

Now Reading: Polaris Quickstart Guide

PolarisQuickGetting a jump on the release of the main book set later this week. The setting seems very interesting, although it’s one of those games that I’ll be eager to see what exactly the characters DO in the game, ya know? The rules are a bit crunchy for my personal taste, but they’re certainly lighter than something like Pathfinder. Will the $89.90 price point sink this thing before it launches? (ooh, bad puns) We shall see.

I’ve sold out. To a charming little fellow named Baggins.

Hello all.

In the interest of keeping everything transparent here at RPG Evolution, I feel obligated to inform everyone that I have agreed to work for Cubicle 7 to help with the launch of their forthcoming Adventures in Middle-Earth supplement, and some other unannounced projects in the future. If you’re so inclined, you can read the official announcement at the Cubicle 7 website.

I do not intend for this new role to impact the manner in which I recommend or suggest various products or practices to retailers here at this blog. I believe I am perfectly capable of wearing two hats. As most anyone can tell you, I have been a fan of Cubicle 7’s work for sometime (and The One Ring in particular). And frankly, I do strongly believe that Adventures in Middle-Earth is the sort of top tier, second party 5E supplement that many retailers have been wishing for.
I’m working for Cubicle 7 because I love their stuff, I don’t love their stuff because I’m now working for Cubicle 7. In fact, this isn’t even the first time I’ve worked for them, as I’ve done some freelance writing for an as-yet-unannounced project.

Going forward, any blog entry highlighting Cubicle 7 product will feature a small disclaimer just to keep everyone honest.

As always, I welcome questions and comments.
The road goes ever on and on…



Gen Con 2016 : Order these now.

I’m gonna make this short and sweet.
What RPGs debuted at Gen Con last week that you should be looking at and pre-ordering for your store now? It’s the most frequent question I’m asked.
“Butler, you go on and on about carrying those other roleplaying games and how they’re as important to the department as the big boys, but what should I be carrying?”
I’m here to help. I’ll even give a kick in the pants to your D&D sales while I’m at it.

In no particular order:

7th_sea_cover_V17th Sea from John Wick Productions
This puppy has potential. Many people have fond memories of the first go ’round with this world, and the hobby is really lacking a strong swashbuckling themed brand (Freeport not withstanding). The new rules seem to be of the love it or hate it variety (I have not yet read them myself) but word is that it’s a bit more narrative in flavor, which may appeal to the indie-game crowd. That’s the demographic that is certainly doing good things for my bottom line. Personally, I’m really excited. This will be exclusively available to retail through Indie Press Revolution starting Monday, August 15th. So if you ever really needed an excuse to have an account with IPR, there you go. Get on it.
Available to order exclusively through IPR.

TomeofBeastsTome of Beasts (for 5E D&D) from Kobold Press
If you’re not carrying Kobold Press stuff, you should be. Everything they’ve put out has been of stellar quality. In case you didn’t know, they’re the design studio behind Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat, so they know their way around 5E D&D. Tome of Beasts fills a void for those D&D players that really want more monsters, and while other companies have done monster books for 5E, none have been to this level of quality. Hungry for more D&D 5E product? Kobold has you covered.  Also releasing the same day: Book of Lairs.
Available to order from Alliance and ACD.

Agent's Handbook Cover.inddDelta Green from Arc Dream Publishing
The beloved Delta Green setting returns. I know plenty of people who talk about Delta Green in hushed, reverent tones, or even with a bit of regret, pining over something lost… “Delta Green. Yeah, Delta Green was good.” Well, it’s back. Not familiar with it? Think Cthulhu meets X-Files, but waay cooler than that suggests. It’s got two products releasing out the gate, a $39.99 Agent’s Handbook, and a quick-start product called Need to Know at $24.99
Available to order from Alliance and ACD.

Adventures_in_Middle-earth_front_cover800Adventures in Middle-Earth Player’s Guide (for 5E D&D) from Cubicle 7
What is there to say about this? It’s Middle-Earth and D&D together for the first time. PEOPLE, THIS IS CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER TOGETHER AT LAST.
All kidding aside, I have read the entire book, and the tone is perfect. It still feels like 5E, while managing to bring in all that Tolkieny goodness without drowning in the minutia that sometimes scares people away. Casual fans of Lord of Rings want certain things out of Tolkien and are less concerned with obscure family lineages or the Lay of Beren and Lúthien ya know? For that latter group, there will always be The One Ring RPG, (which is awesome and my favorite RPG of all time) but this? This you will sell metric piles of. Put it next to your Player’s Handbook and watch it go. For decades people playing D&D have had to play “rangers” or “halflings”. Well, now they can play Rangers and Hobbits.
Available to order from just about anyone.

CoC7th-724x1024Call of Cthulhu 7th edition from Chaosium
It’s been delayed quite a few times, but it’s finally coming. After all these years of Cthulhu veritably oozing into every corner of our stores, if you can’t sell a brand new edition of the seminal Cthulhu roleplaying game, you’re not even trying. Core Rulebook, Investigator Handbook, and Keeper Screen Pack all release on the same day, which is next week by the way.
Available to order from just about anyone.

FantasyAgeBestiaryFantasy Age Bestiary from Green Ronin
Fantasy Age has been doing pretty well for us, nothing earth shattering, but it’s got a solid following and the addition of a Bestiary should spike some interest. Fantasy Age is one of those second-tier games that could really bulk up your RPG presence,
Available to order from just about anyone.



BaronMunchausenAdventures of Baron Munchausen from Fantasy Flight Games
Baron Munchausen is the grand daddy of all indie RPGs. It’s a game of competitive lying, in the best possible way. Honestly, if you haven’t read the product announcement at the Fantasy Flight website, you should do yourself a favor and read it. If you’ve got an indie RPG crowd, this is a must carry.
Available to order from just about anyone.



Polaris from Black Book Editions
A futuristic post-apocalyptic game in which humanity has gone beneath the seas to survive. It certainly looks unique. But be warned, the twin hardcover slipcase set retails for $89.90
In reality, that’s cheaper than a PHB and DMG, but there may be some sticker shock. It’s certainly really pretty, but will probably only move if you’ve got a copy open for people to look at. But boy o boy is it pretty.
Polaris is being distributed through Paizo, so it should be available from most distributors. 


Shadowrun Anarchy from Catalyst Game Labs (not final cover)
An alternate rules set for the seminal Man Meets Magic and Machine roleplaying game. A rules-light, narrative way to play Shadowrun, based on the system from Cosmic Patrol and the Valiant RPG. I’ve read this one too, and I’m very excited. This is what will get Shadowrun to my personal table again, and with any luck will bring in an entirely new batch of players, and maybe some lapsed players as well. At the top of my personal wish list right now.
Available to order from just about anyone.

BlueRoseCropBlue Rose from Green Ronin
And now for something a little different. The Blue Rose “Romantic Fantasy” RPG is being updated with the AGE system (mechanics from Dragon Age and Fantasy Age). It didn’t actually make it to Gen Con, but it’s coming soon. From Green Ronin’s own product page –

“While Dungeons & Dragons and many subsequent fantasy RPGs drew inspiration from authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, and Fritz Leiber, a different sort of fantasy fiction began to develop in the 80s—what we call Romantic Fantasy—and there wasn’t a game built off its common themes and tropes. We thought there were a lot of fans who’d want an RPG inspired by writers like Tamora Pierce, Mercedes Lackey, and Jacqueline Carey. And we were right.”

And holy crap that art.
Available to order from just about anyone.

Finally, I give you an extra scoop of post-apocalyptic goodness:

MutantYearZeroGenlabAlphaMutant Year Zero Genlab Alpha from Modiphius 
A fully stand-alone sequel and expansion for Mutant Year Zero, Genlab Alpha brings the descendants of humanity’s gene-splicing experiments to the forefront of the MYZ setting. The original Mutant Year Zero was a big hit for me, and I hope this to do at least as well.


And that’s all I’ve got. Get those pre-orders in now kids.
What did I miss? Let me know.

(Full disclosure:  I wrote the preface for Shadowrun Anarchy, and I helped with some proofreading on Adventures in Middle-Earth.)

Now Reading: Adventures in Middle-Earth (5E)

AMECoverA couple weeks ago, I was asked to help with some proof-reading on Adventures in Middle-Earth for the fifth edition of everybody’s favorite RPG. So I’ve been lucky enough to read the whole thing at this point, despite the thing not coming out for another couple of months or so.
I’m happy to report that they nailed it. It still feels like D&D, but with a decidedly Middle-Earthy tone, yet not so steeped in Tolkien lore that casual fans will be turned off. And the armchair Tolkien scholars and fans of less familiar rules will still prefer The One Ring.
This is exactly what it needs to be. Chocolate and Peanut Butter together at last.

Pathfinder: The Reaping

Or, The Great RPG Department re-merchandising project of 2016.

So it’s come to this.
Make no mistake, Pathfinder is still the #2 RPG at Games and Stuff by an easy margin, although Star Wars occasionally barks at its heels. But more and more it’s becoming apparent that the sales volume generated by the game is from hardback books and new releases, with current and fully in-print Adventure Paths holding their own. But the four linear feet I have dedicated to back catalog Pathfinder books is no longer earning its keep.
It’s the Pathfinder brand loyalists driving the line now, and it has been for a while. I’ve sold a grand total of seven core rulebooks and two Beginner Boxes in 2016. Those are not the numbers of a healthy and growing player base for a game of this size. One has to wonder how much the recent announcement of a stand-alone and fully compatible Starfinder RPG was a direct result of this trend.

Meanwhile, my “Other” category is doing an increasingly large amount of heavy lifting for my RPG department’s bottom line. For regular readers of this blog or attendees of any of my RPG Evolution presentations, this should not come as a surprise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can double or triple your overall RPG sales by having a robust selection of RPGs that aren’t the default “Big Four” : D&D, Pathfinder, Star Wars, and Shadowrun.

So for a while now, as I’ve been crunching numbers, I’ve been debating shrinking down the shelf space dedicated to Pathfinder in order to spread out my Other stuff. The puzzle becomes about how much can I afford to chop? Can I seriously reduce my Pathfinder product mix without impacting Pathfinder sales? Or at the very least, can I increase my Other RPG dollars by a greater amount than any lost from Pathfinder?  Well, we’re gonna find out. Take a look at this chart, and pay close attention to the orange (Pathfinder) and green (Other) lines.



Since the release of D&D 5E, Pathfinder has been on a slow decline, but as April of 2016 shows (with Ultimate Intrigue) it still sees nice spikes when new hardbacks are released. Meanwhile, that green Other line frequently outperforms D&D!

So last week, I started tearing apart my Pathfinder fixture and crunching numbers on specific SKUs. To my surprise, even the hardcovers, which sell well enough, don’t sell well enough to keep two in stock at all times, so chop! chop! Down to one unit of of all the hardbacks except the Advanced Race and Class Guides.


I also cut out all Adventure Path product for paths which no longer have availability for all six parts. Gone too are back-catalog books older than six months since release. I did keep the single volume modules, because they continue to sell well as a whole, so as long as I’ve got a nice selection I’m pretty good there.

What I did not do, by the way, is put the cut stuff in clearance, seriously marking it down. Instead, I knocked a few bucks off most items, and moved it in with our Used RPG racks. I still want to protect the brand as much as possible and not further undermine the community by throwing a metric pile of Pathfinder books into markdown. Indeed my staff has been instructed to make sure that we communicate the reduction in space to our Pathfinder customers. “We’ve streamlined our Pathfinder product selection, but we have increased our commitment to stocking used Pathfinder product. Be sure to check out the Used shelves if you’re looking for specific title you can’t find.”

Rogue_Trader_-_Core_Rules-1While I was at it, I also removed the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying games from the endcap that they’ve occupied for about a year. I would have thought the games’ sales would have died many months ago, what with not a single release announced for any of the five game lines. But my proximity to the former HQ of Games Workshop and the long regional legacy of people very invested in the 40K universe has created a sales tail much longer than I ever anticipated. Collectively, the games still sometimes crack the Top 10, and as recently as April they were #5 on my Quarterly rankings. Still, the writing is on the wall, and many of the titles have completely disappeared from distributor shelves. So while I’m certainly not cutting the line, I’m pulling it from prime real estate. I’ve put The One Ring in its place. The Lord of the Rings roleplaying game from Cubicle 7 has been trying its hardest to claim a spot as our #5 top selling game, so it’s time to give it a shot at making #5 its permanent home.

So where’s that leave us? In addition to swapping out 40K for The One Ring, I eliminated a full four linear feet of Pathfinder and spread out all the other stuff. Better real estate, or at least more room to breathe has been given to Mutants & MastermindsDresden FilesDoctor WhoThrough the Breach,  Fantasy Age, Night’s Black Agents, and Iron Kingdoms, which is to say nothing of all the other stuff that’s now slightly less packed. I’m excited about what this shift might do for our bottom line, and how it might shake up our Top 20 Quarterly list come the end of September.

We shall see.