Category Archives: RPG Evolution

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.

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.

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.)

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.

2016. The halfway point. Quarter 2 in review.

Ah, the heady days of early summer in the RPG business, when we’ve maybe had a couple of pleasant surprises so far in the year, but all eyes are on Gen Con in a few weeks. Well, let’s look back before we look forward, shall we?

*Standard notes on the list: rankings are sales volume by game line at Games and Stuff for the period of April 1 to June 30 2016. It does not include accessories or miniatures.*

  1. Dungeons and Dragons (Q1 Rank #1)
  2. Pathfinder (Q1 Rank #2)
  3. Star Wars (Q1 Rank #3)
  4. Shadowrun (Q1 Rank #4)
  5. The One Ring (Q1 Rank #8)
  6. Through the Breach
  7. Numenera (Q1 Rank #17)
  8. 13th Age (Q1 Rank #11)
  9. Traveller
  10. Savage Worlds
  11. Call of Catthulhu (read that again, I said CAT thulhu)
  12. End of the World (Q1 Rank #18)
  13. Trail of Cthulhu
  14. Iron Kingdoms (Q1 Rank #6)
  15. Dungeon Crawl Classics (Q1 Rank #10)
  16. Fate (Q1 Rank #19)
  17. Mutants & Masterminds (Q1 Rank #9)
  18. Lamentations of the Flame Princess
  19. White Wolf (Q1 Rank #12)
  20. Warhammer 40,000 (Q1 Rank #5)

No surprises in the Top 4, although it should be noted that for the month of May, Star Wars outsold Pathfinder for the second time since the release of The Force Awakens in theaters. And a big shout out to Star Wars Force & Destiny for winning Best RPG at the Origins Awards this year!


ThroughTheBreachUnderQuarantineThat being said, The One Ring is back in the Top 5 and there’s quite a gap between that and Through the Breach at #6. Both games’  sales were bolstered by a flurry of releases, with the long-awaited appearance of the Rohirrim in the pages of the Horse-Lords of Rohan supplement. Mind you, the book doesn’t actually hit shelves until July 6th, but we’ve been doing tons of pre-orders for both Rohan and the Journeys & Maps set with the help of the Bits and Mortar program. Meanwhile Through the Breach has had four releases since the end of March. Much like with the Iron Kingdoms RPG and Warmachine/Hordes, if you sell the Malifaux miniatures game, you’ve got no excuse not to try out Through the Breach as part of your mix.

TravellerThe truly big surprise for me this time around was the new edition of Traveller. I started hearing some buzz back in February, but I was pretty blown away by the sheer volume of core rulebooks that we sold upon release, enough for the game to clock in at #9 for the quarter after only about three weeks of sales.  It just goes to show that there’s a demand out there for a well-produced Sci-Fi game that’s not a license from other media.  And this new edition certainly looks better than any edition to date.

CatthulhuPosterWhich brings us to Call of Catthulhu. Yes, CATthulhu. Only available from Indie Press Revolution, we were fortunate enough to have the designer Joel Sparks in the house for our Anniversary event back in April and while that helped sales, it was the simple addition of a poster to our Indie RPG shelf that sent sales skyrocketing. The current print run is sold through, but we expect more soon. As mentioned, you can get them from IPR or direct from Joel (as soon as he prints more!) He can also hook you up with one of the sweet posters shown here. Feel free to contact him directly by emailing

Speaking of our 16th Anniversary Event, we were absolutely overjoyed to have Monte Cook in the building as a special guest. Both Numenera and The Strange got a nice bump as you might expect. Monte was also kind enough to write about his experience here on his Monte Says blog.

What else? It’s nice to see Savage Worlds break into the list. I know many retailers do very well with the game, but we’ve never really had much real success.
Lamentations of the Flame Princess had a bunch of new releases including Towers Two, an adventure written by the late Dave Brockie, AKA Oderus Urungus from the band Gwar.

DraculaDossierI was a little disappointed to see that Night’s Black Agents didn’t quite squeeze into the Top 20, despite strong sales of the absolutely fantastic (and Origins Award nominated) The Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook. That book was easily one of my favorite releases of last year. Which is to say nothing of the companion volume, Dracula Unredacted, which is nothing short of an annotated version of the entire novel Dracula. Amazing stuff.

What am I looking forward to in the coming weeks and months?
Well, Call of Cthulhu 7th edition finally releases on July 25th.
The Pathfinder Horror Adventures hardcover should make a splash on August 4th, and I’ll also be keeping an eye on the release of the Polaris RPG when it pops up at the end of August. Delta Green is somewhere on the horizon, as is the final End of the World RPG, Revolt of the Machines. What about you? What are you folks excited about?

Check back in another week or so as I ramble on a bit while I debate chopping my Pathfinder presentation in half or even taking the Warhammer 40K RPG lines from their prime real estate on my sales floor.

How to make the most of Free RPG Day

It’ll be here before you know it. June 18th is this year’s date for FREE RPG DAY. I hope you’ve got your kits on order.

So in a few weeks you’ll have a pile of free stuff to give out to gamers. So how in the nine hells are you supposed to make this event profitable for your store? Well, I’ll got some ideas, but first, I thought it’d be cool to ask a few questions of Aldo Ghiozzi, the owner of Impressions, the organization behind Free RPG Day since its inception ten years ago…


Paul: First of all, congratulations on TEN YEARS of Free RPG Day! Has the event lived up to your hopes and dreams over the years? In what ways has it changed, or even changed from your original vision?

Aldo: It’s definitely more than what I ever thought it was going to be! Everyone always thinks RPGs are dead or dying, but they are still near and dear to a lot of folks. Year one was like, “Hey, let’s see if we can sell 100 of these kits to 100 stores…” That year, we stretched the donations to 300 kits for 180 stores. Since then, we’ve capped the event to 700 kits – it seems to be a really comfortable quantity. It covers about 500 retailers worldwide. The reality though is that the event is nothing without the publishers wanting to donate the unique items for the kits.

Paul: So at Games and Stuff, we run Free RPG Day almost like a mini convention. We schedule four-hour long RPG sessions, require sign ups for participation, and try to feature as many of the games included as part of the year’s kit. Is this how you envision the event being run?

Aldo: I honestly wish most of the retailers would do what you propose, but the reality is that most retailers order the kits and just figure being on our locator will attract people into their store. We’ve always said that the kit is a *TOOL* for stores to use to get people off their butts and into their store for the day. You’d be surprised how many stores *DO NOT* put Free RPG Day on their event calendar or create a Facebook event for it. Your store is a rarity and a joy for gamers. We try to encourage consumers to push their stores to prepare and schedule times and sign ups, but in the end, the store chooses how to run the event.

Paul: What suggestions or advice would you give to retailers who fail to find a way to make the event a profitable endeavor for their store? (Assuming that they have a healthy or growing RPG business)

Aldo: I’ve heard so many stores do the coolest things. One store orders a cake with a RPG theme and feeds their participants. Another did a TRUE Free RPG Day and started the event at midnight. Stores have sales, buy pizza for participants, and some even raffle off the Uber Kit items they paid more money to get! Again, the event is meant to be a marketing tool for stores to get folks into their store. Most gamers want to say thanks to the retailers for hosting the event because they know the kits cost them money, so even if the gamer comes in and doesn’t buy a RPG product, maybe they buy a drink or some dice. Any support that helps the store is a win in my opinion.

4. Other than buying the kits and participating, what can retailers do to help make the event successful?

Aldo: I just have to repeat that they shouldn’t expect our retailer locator to work all the magic. Game stores should be all about giving their customers and potential customers an experience…no online retailer can do that. I personally wish we could spend a ton of marketing dollars pushing the event to consumers, but we’re a small company in the grand scheme of things. We’ve really relied on word of mouth and the retailer promoting the event locally…and I thank all the stores for trusting us with their purchase of the kits…and I hope they can make back their money and then some on Saturday June 18, 2016!!!

Thanks Aldo!

OK, so it’s  Paul again.
So let’s talk about how to get the most out of Free RPG Day at your store.

Here’s the thing. How often do you get what effectively amounts to a  national holiday, with an advertising partner directing customers straight to your store, which celebrates an entire department of merchandise? Not very often.
That being said, you can’t expect the event to do all the work for you. Like Aldo stressed above, you’ve got to meet the thing half way. In many ways, it’s not dissimilar to International Tabletop Day. Sure, you could just have a pile of promos and expect sales to magically appear, but the stores who find monetary success with ITTD are the ones that make it an event, and the promos and marketing are just the skeleton to build that event around.

Let’s break it down.
How do you set yourself up for success with this event? There’s a couple things, regardless of store size, that everybody can do:

  • Wear the “Ask Me About Free RPG Day” T-shirts. You get one for free in every kit, but did you know you can order more? It’s too late for this year, but in the future, you can get them either through distribution or or directly from Offworld Designs. Hell, I’ve seriously considered doing pre-orders on the sellable non-staff versions. I know I could move a half dozen or so. There’s a unique design every year, and people like to collect them.
  • Promote the event! Aldo said “I think is the biggest way to help is for retailers to promote the event through their local calendar, social media and signage.  I’m just shocked as to the number of stores’ websites or Facebook pages I visit that never put the event up on their calendars.  It’s odd.” Most stores seem to manage a listing for a weekly FNM or draft event. You can certainly take the 30 seconds to create listings for a once yearly Free RPG Day! Treat it like the special event that it is!

So you’ve done the bare basics. What’s next?
So exactly what sort of stuff you can pull off will largely depend on the sort of space and manpower you can commit to the endeavor. Here’s what we do at Games & Stuff.

Schedule Games
We schedule as many four-hour long RPG sessions as we can. Usually this means four games firing at 11am, and four more firing at 4pm. Whenever possible, we run the actual adventures that are provided as part of the Free RPG Day offerings. Sometimes a staff member runs a favorite game, but more often then not, we invite our best customers or local brand champions to get early access to this year’s free product in exchange for agreeing to run the scenario. Games are open to everyone, and are free of charge, but space is obviously limited, so it tends to be first come first serve. The participants of these events are usually all given some of the goodies from the kit, usually dice or pencils, and sometimes if I’m feeling generous, some overstock product.
The important thing here is that there should absolutely be some gaming that’s happening on the day itself. Maybe in your store, that means you’ve got one table! But you should absolutely have at least one. It’s a talking, laughing advertising for the hobby.

Give Away the Free Stuff!
So yeah, this is what the event is all about right? But keep in mind that the rules as written are “I agree to abide by the spirit of Free RPG Day by giving away at least one of the kit items of my choosing to any patron (or single grouped family) walking into the store and asking for one on the day of the event.”
So what this means is that you don’t have to let each and every customer walk out with piles of stuff. How you choose to manage the product flow is up to you. We like to make sure that the participants in our scheduled games all get some stuff, and we generally take care of our regular (buying) RPG customers by making sure they get whatever they like. But from there, we usually have an employee “curating” the table of free stuff, acting as a cheerleader for the hobby and the free items, and also making sure that customers behave with courtesy and kindness to one another.

Host Other Promotions:
Why not? You’ve got a concentrated selection of RPG minded customers in your store on the ONE DAY that we’re all here to celebrate RPGs. It’s not uncommon for us to run a sale on some of our Used RPG titles (My Used RPG Rack will be the topic of a future column) or even do some targeted markdowns for products we might be long on. Typically what this means is maybe a game that I feel is a strong game, and sells well enough, but I just overshot it a little bit..? And I’m not ready to truly devalue it by putting it on clearance or permanent markdown? A one time sale just for Free RPG Day can go a long way. Maybe you’ve got a few too many core rulebooks for a particular line? Make a $60 book $40 for the day. You’ll recoup a couple bucks and maybe generate some new enthusiasts for the game. While supplies last of course.
Get creative. You could offer a deal on dice cubes with certain purchases or case deals on Pathfinder Battles minis…


So as a final note, I asked Aldo if there was anything that we as retailers could do for him to help make the event successful. I thought maybe if we encouraged publishers to take part…

Aldo: Yes, encourage the publishers to participate.  Try to convince them (if it’s the truth!) that when they participate in the event, it helps your sales.  The more they hear that, the more likely they might invest the dollars to produce materials and hope they get it back in product line sales through distribution.

Anyway, there we have it! I hope this jump starts a few ideas for your event. What sort of stuff do you folks do out there in the world for Free RPG Day that I didn’t mention? Speak out in the comments!