CAR-PGa NEWSLETTER, Vol. 32, No. 10, October 2023

An international network of researchers into all aspects of role-playing games

David Millians, Editor

Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA


Hello All,

Our guest this month was Matt Madsen of Dungeon Learning. Matt uses tabletop scenario-based learning to help solve needs for businesses when staff can learn through experimentation and trial-and-error, the problem is complex or abstract, the learners need a lot of feedback, or times where other trainings have failed. He also produces Gathering Kits, which are miniature tins with two games and dice that are perfect for offsites, conferences, icebreakers, mixers, and training sessions. He’s also now a member of the CAR-PGA, so welcome Matt! You can watch our video discussion here.

In October we’ll be interviewing Dr. Sarah Stang. Dr. Stang is an Assistant Professor of Game Studies in Brock University’s Game Design program, housed in the Centre for Digital Humanities. She is a feminist media scholar who specializes in analyzing representation and identity in popular media, especially video games, and she received her PhD from the Communication & Culture program at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is also the Secretary for the International Communication Association’s Game Studies Division and the former Editor-in-Chief of the graduate student journal Press Start. Look for an invitation to our chat in your mailbox soon.

I mentioned previously how I’d love to get together at conventions to meet people (remember those days?). Unfortunately, due to personal vacation plans I don’t think I’ll be able to resume travel to Gen Con just yet, but I’m hopeful that I can continue to attend more local cons—and if we have enough interest, even have a CAR-PGA meetup. As soon as I know what conventions I’ll be at, I’ll be sure to share with you all.

Now that the pandemic has calmed down somewhat (but is never truly over), I really want to get back to gaming in-person again, but there’s a lot of logistical challenges I still have to figure out to make it work. I know I’m not alone in this.

I hope you all get a chance to do some in-person gaming yourself this Fall!


Mike Tresca

CAR-PGA Committee Chair


The SPIEL ´22 in Essen

Part Two: Advertising for RPGs, Fanzines, and German RPGs since the Corona-Pandemic

By Carsten Obst

Traditionally, the RPG publishers are located in the Hall 6, where their new products are offered to the potential customers. For RPG fans this is also the place on Earth which gives them an impression of the paradise.

Within less than five minutes after entering the mythical Hall 6, I had already met some friends, whom I had not seen since 2019. At once we discussed our experiences during the Corona pandemic and our attempts to keep our hobby alive in spite of the German quarantine restrictions. These regulations prohibited for a long time any personal contact between people, who were not members of the same family. As a result, it was difficult for a group to meet in the traditional way. Online meetings were a solution for this problem, but for that GMs and players needed the necessary technical equipment to enable them to communicate without longer delays.

With some patience and good luck, the RPG fans found in the Hall 6 everything they sought. However, caution must be advised, because sometimes the publishers surprise you with exorbitant prices. I found a highly interesting anime/manga RPG, but as a result of my long experiences I first asked for the price. It was a special edition, they said, for only Euro 100,–. Suddenly, I lost my interest in anime and manga.

The RPG publishers concentrated also on the advertising for their products, so that they could compensate the pandemic related losses by winning back the interest of the fans. One method was the distribution of free advertising materials. This way I became the owner of two little dragons made of wood, both with the inscription, “MEEPLESTUDIO.COM”. They promote Meeple Studio, a company producing such game pieces. Perhaps I will use them some day as baby dragons in a fantasy RPG.

Several times I discovered an unusual means of advertisement. We all surely remember the gumball machines from our childhood, which offered children chewing gums and other sweets as well as small toys or jewellery. In Germany the number of these machines has decreased in recent years, but some of them found new jobs in the advertising for RPGs.

I could not resist the temptation and invested EUR 0.50 in two converted gumball machines. From the first I got two six-sided dices, a conventional one and a green one without any dots. For a GM the green dice is very useful, when you pretend to roll behind the GM screen in spite of the fact that the result was set already before, mostly against the PCs.

The second machine gave me a plastic ball, which contained a short adventure plot for fantasy RPGs with the title “Kopfgeld” (Bounty). Here the PCs accept the mission to capture a gang of outlaws, which seems to be a simple task, but soon they face complications like a seer, who has joined the gang, a group of mercenaries, and a hidden mastermind. Before the pandemic it was often assumed, that RPGs will be downloaded from the internet in the future, but perhaps we will get them instead from converted gumball machines.

I tried to gather information about the current and future projects of the German RPG publishers. Some of the answers were a disappointment, but I could also record positive feedback. The Corona pandemic affected the German RPG-community in a negative way, too, but overall, we can be optimistic: our community successfully resisted the virus.

The German cyberpunk/post-apocalypse RPG Frostzone was cancelled by its publisher, the Nackter Stahl Verlag. According to a staff member, the Corona pandemic was not the reason for this decision, but the sales figures did not meet the expectations. This is a surprise, because Frostzone offered an interesting background. After a climate catastrophe, new nations rise to power, but their political ideologies cause a second Cold War, which must be understood literally. As so-called black operatives the PCs work for governments, intelligence agencies, the military, corporations, organized crime, or just themselves. Perhaps the 560 pages of the basic rules scared off potential buyers. The RPG is still available, and so you should buy it as soon as possible, if you are interested in the unusual background.

Since 2019 Mannifest Games, the publisher of the German science fiction/post-apocalypse RPG No Return, did not release new products for it. Instead, a second edition of the basic rules is scheduled for 2023, which shall be financed by a crowdfunding project. The history of the No Return world will be updated, and so new adventures will take place eight years after the original setting described in the first edition.

Even in our digital age, traditional fanzines still exist. One of them is the Trodox – Ars Arcana, first published in 1987. At the game fair I got the current issue, no. 72, but also the older no. 49, 50 and 66. The no. 49 offers the adventure “Und all das Gold” (And all the Gold) for the German fantasy RPG DSA, rule extensions for the tabletop Pound of Leap, an interview with the Trodox author Kerstin Häntsch, the short story “Katz und Maus” (Cat and Mouse), and the ironic article “Frauen im Rollenspiel” (Women in RPGs). By the way: never call a German woman “Braut” (“bride”, roughly “chick” in English) – they hate that!

The no. 50 starts with the adventure “Ujordings Fluch” (Ujording´s Curse) for the fantasy RPG Malmsturm. “Rollenspiel & Rollenspiel” (Roleplaying Game & Roleplaying Game) describes winking the importance of dice, while “Die Kriegerprinzessin” (The Warrior Princess) introduces a female NPC for an Asian setting. Outwardly, she seems to be a quiet loner, but she hides a deadly secret, while she pursues her own agenda. Will the PCs become her allies or her enemies?

In the issue no. 66, you get the Shadowrun adventure “Salzwasser, Kugeln und ein paar ausgeschlagene Zähne” (Salt Water, Bullets, and a few knocked out Teeth). The article “Rollenspiel und Politik – die Antagonisten?” (Roleplay and Politics – The Antagonists?) deals with politics in RPGs. Finally, an interview with Tobias Schulte-Krumpen follows; he owns one of the largest RPG-collections in Germany. A special highlight of the Shadowrun adventure is the “Red Troll,” a pub visited only by orcs. The description proves, that the authors did not lose their creativity during the Corona pandemic. PCs who visit this pub should always keep one thing in mind: for the orcish regulars, the terms “humans,” “elves,” and “dwarves” are interchangeable with the term “targets for shooting training.”

The current issue no. 72 begins with the article “Taran und der Zaubersumpf” (Taran and the Magic Swamp) about two so-called adventure-comic-games based on the animated movie The Black Cauldron. With “Der Weg der Wachtel” (The “Way of the Quail) and “Mahrons Tod” (Mahron´s Death) two solo adventures are offered, while “Nikolaus Qualen” (Nikolaus´ Torment) is a short satirical solo RPG with a Christmas background.

Das verwunschene Land (The Enchanted Country), published by Edition Barth, should start a new series of fantasy adventures, especially for the German RPGs Heroen and Midgard. Unfortunately, the Corona pandemic stopped the project after the release of “Maskenball” (Masquerade Ball), the first adventure. Once part of an elfish empire, the so-called enchanted country was destroyed in a war. Now inhabited by monsters, ghosts, and similar beings, its rulers control it with magical artefacts left by the elves. Many groups try to recover the elfish magic, and so the neighbouring county of Alkron is a hot spot of intrigue. When a murder happens, the PCs are commissioned to solve the crime. The book includes a history of the region, a description of Alkron, and a list of important NPCs. A transfer of the setting into other game worlds is easily possible. Recommended for all fantasy-RPGs.

I also visited the Redaktion Phantastik, the publisher of the German detective RPG Private Eye, which is based on the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories. During the Corona pandemic, it was often feared that small publishers have small chance to survive the financial setback, so it must be seen as a pleasant surprise when a little company like the Redaktion Phantastik successfully continued its activities despite all the economic problems. The fact that its owners work full-time in other areas, while they are publishers in their free time, getting support from amateur authors, may have been crucial for this.

In spite of the Corona pandemic, the Redaktion Phantastik delighted Private Eye fans with some new books (see below) but also plans the publication of a Prussia sourcebook. The Kingdom of Prussia, the largest member state of the German Reich, had a well-developed police and judicial system but also faced the challenges of fighting criminal gangs and the beginnings of organized crime in its cities. This era of Germany´s history offers therefore interesting adventure possibilities, especially since the Prussian state was also a combination of the traditional nobility and the upcoming industrial capitalists.

A Steampunk expansion, based on the Czech-Slovak movie Vynález Zkázy, produced in 1958 (German: Erfindung des Verderbens; English: The Fabulous World of Jules Verne), was also discussed by Redaktion Phantastik. This film adaption of Jules Verne´s novel Face Au Drapeau from 1896 was very successful in Germany, shaping strongly the German imagination of how a Steampunk-world looks. A Private Eye expansion based on this would combine the technophile optimism of the 19th century but also the dangers of abusing the scientific progress, combined with humanity´s responsibility for the ethical use of science and technology. Of course, the wonderful flying machines, submarines, and other technological gadgets make a setting that is also very amusing and lovable.

Another idea, but in a winking way, is a superhero extension for Private Eye. Here heroes like the Batknight, the Lord of Steel, or the Wonder Lady fight against super villains like Le Joker. At the same time the morally ambivalent Catlady sometimes supports the superheroes or tries to rob the Bank of England. Let us wait, what will follow this idea.

The Private Eye adventure Die Hand aus dem Grab (The Hand from the Grave) is an implementation of the European interest in Egyptology during the 19th century, which caused numerous archaeological excavations in Egypt. It also resulted in legends like that of the pharaoh´s curse. A reception in the manor of Sir Jasper Hartnell is interrupted by Safi, the Egyptian servant of the archaeologist Dr. Meredith, who in a sudden vision accuses the host of being a blasphemer. When a series of crimes begins, the investigating PCs find hints to an archaeological expedition, which Hartnell and Meredith undertook two decades before. Is it possible that supernatural powers are taking revenge? The adventure is a masterpiece in how to use historical topics for RPGs, supporting the GM with lots of material like maps, letters, a description of the NPCs, and a chronological list of events. It proves again the high-quality standard of the Redakton Phantastik. With some changes the adventure can also be used for other RPGs in the 19th century like Cthulhu by Gaslight. Highly recommend!

Auf der Spur des Grauens (On the Trail of Horror) is the first campaign book for Private Eye, published in spite of the Corona-pandemic. It expands the original setting with the Schauergeschichten genre, which may be translated as the “shivering stories genre”. For this reason, the book needs a closer look. Schauergeschichten are based on the gothic fiction, which originated in the late 18th century but also influenced the German literature of the 19th century. In the introduction, the authors explain this genre and its use in RPGs. These stories and therefore a Schauergeschichten RPG differ from the horror genre, because they concentrate on the scary elements as well as on fear and anxiety of the PCs. The supernatural may occur but does not have to do so. Mostly a rational explanation will be found, although something inexplicable can and perhaps should remain. The suspense arises from plot elements like darkness, the fear of the unknown, or the uncertainty about the events. You find them even in the Sherlock Holmes stories like “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” the ghost dog, the dangers of the Dartmoor, or the escaped convict, who hides in the moor.

The starting point of the campaign book is the great interest for the supernatural, occult, and spiritualism during the late 19th century. In the context of Private Eye, the authors introduce the Society for Paranormal Exploration And Research (SPEAR). As investigators of SPEAR the PCs study seemingly supernatural events, whereby all players can choose whether their characters are sceptics or believers. Think of Moulder and Scully in the 19th century. The book describes the founding of SPEAR closely linked to the history of real organizations, which were active at that time, and so the authors expressly point out that it is a fictitious association. Furthermore, you get a description of the procedures for the investigations, advice for the GM how to run adventures, and a list of possible PCs, whose social backgrounds and motivations provide ideas for creating one’s own characters.

Three adventures and two scenarios enable the GM to run a SPEAR-campaign. The location of “Das Monster von Sark” (The Monster of Sark), the first adventure, is the island of Sark, a Channel island, that has even today the status of a British crown dependency. When a series of murders happen, the local authorities ask SPEAR for help. The only eyewitness saw a monster, but the man is an alcoholic, so his statement is not reliable – or is it? The adventure includes a history of Sark and a detailed description of the island. “Die Macht des Teufels” (The Power of the Devil) is its first scenario. Here SPEAR is asked to investigate the case of a lady, who seems to suffer from a demonic possession. Her husband has already called an exorcist. In the second adventure, “Die toten Kinder von Willow Hall” (The Dead Children of Willow Hall), the PCs investigate a country house which may be haunted by the ghosts of two murdered children. It begins as a classic spooky story, but soon they find proof for heinous criminal activities: a mass grave of more than hundred children. In “Die Todespfeife” (The Death Whistle), the second short scenario, an Aztec ritual seems to have brought a murdered woman back to life – and now the resurrected victim tries to find her murderer. Finally, the PCs must investigate in the third adventure, “Der gefallene Prinz” (The Fallen Prince), another series of murders, apparently carried out by demons, which a cult summoned. The trail leads to the highest circles of the British society, where you can find even the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. Of course, he is above all suspicions – isn´t he? Lots of handouts like letters, floor plans, and photos enable the GM to run the campaign and to create an ambience of cultivated shivering. All adventures and scenarios have rational solutions explaining all events, but in each case also has weird facts or observations, which seem to lack explanations. A number of hints suggest further adventures, turning the campaign into a starting point for further SPEAR investigations, as well as advice on how to use the book for other RPGs like Cthulhu by Gaslight. The Redaktion Phantastik offered Private Eye fans a real masterpiece with Auf der Spur des Grauens. Highly recommend!

In spite of the Corona pandemic the authors of the Austrian Steampunk/fantasy RPG Finsterland continued their activities too. With Freiheit für Schwarzenbrück! Eine Finsterland-Kampagne. Teil 2 (Freedom for Schwarzenbrück! A Finsterland Campaign. Part 2), the second campaign book is now available. It continues the part one, which I reviewed in my article about the SPIEL ´18. [April 2019 issue of this newsletter] The PCs are still working as journalists for a newspaper in the autonomous city of Schwarzenbrück. They investigate three seemingly independent cases, but the respective events may be connected with each other. For adventurous journalists, this is a good reason to investigate further. The book begins with a detailed introduction of the man who is actually responsible for these events. His biography, motivations, approaches, connections – especially within Schwarzenbrück – and intentions create a complex and dangerous NPC. Working from the shadows, he always tries to stay in control. In three adventures the PCs must discover the connections between the cases, find the man, who is responsible for the events, and finally prevent his machinations. In the first adventure, “Der Kindermörder” (The Child Killer), several children who live on the streets are murdered by a serial killer. The police are unable to solve these murders (or are they completely uninterested?), and so the PCs must stop the killer. A secret group of police officers carries out vigilante justice in the second adventure, “Die Totenrichter” (The Judges of the Dead), by murdering residents who may be guilty of crimes. This may have far-reaching consequences for the city´s police department. In the third adventure, “Im Sumpf des Verbrechens” (In the Swamp of Crime), a corruption scandal in the city administration endangers Schwarzenbrück´s security and therefore its autonomy. The investigations of the PCs may be important for the city´s political future. It is possible to play the three adventures in any order, depending on the GM´s ideas for the campaign, but because the plot of the third adventure develops in a slower way, it can also be run parallel to the other two before the big finale begins. If the mastermind behind all these events escapes, the PCs will probably encounter him again – to be continued. The campaign is a must for all Finsterland fans, but with some changes it can also be used for other Steampunk-RPGs like Space 1889 or Castle Falkenstein. A transition for RPGs with a late 19th/early 20th century-setting is also possible. Highly recommended!


This is a compilation of articles and other resources that have come to the editor’s attention over the last month. Everyone is welcome to send bibliographic information about anything you discover that fits the mission of CAR-PGa and this newsletter.

Arnaudo, Marco (2023 Sep 17) Studying Gamebooks: A Framework for Analysis. Looking for fundamental traits across generations of games.

Blakinger, Keri (2023 Aug 31) When Wizards and Orcs Came to Death Row. The source of the New York Times article cited last month..

Campbell, Steph (2023 Sep 6) TTRPGkids recap of GrandCon 9. Panels, connections, a booth, and lots of games.

Campbell, Steph (2023 Sep 12) Review: Paris Gondo – The Life-Saving Magic of Inventorying. A fun game about the stories our stuff creates.

Campbell, Steph (2023 Sep 18) Kid-Friendly Tabletop RPGs with Cozy Vibes. Recommendations and more.

Campbell, Steph (2023 Sep 20) Review of Kittens & Dragons a CYOA and search-and-find game for kids. Graphic novel format adds fun and makes the story accessible for non-readers.

Campbell, Steph (2023 Sep 25) Journaling TTRPGs to try at any age. Resource list for writing and reflecting games and tips for using them to develop writing skills.

Campbell, Steph (2023 Sep 26) Review: Tales from the Loop. Adventures in the 1980s that never was for teens, tweens, and adults alike.

Carter, Chase (2023 Sep 4) Apocalypse World designer Meguey Baker receives public support following breast cancer diagnosis and surgery. Community support and gratitude.

Carter, Chase (2023 Sep 6) Board game designer duo charged in Gen Con theft of Magic: The Gathering cards worth $300,000. Update: two registered exhibitors charged, and cards returned from New York State.

Carter, Chase (2023 Sep 7) Society of Rafa trades heroes’ journeys for community healing in a Jewish RPG world of spirits and medicine. Dramatically shifting the core activity and setting in RPGs.

Carter, Chase (2023 Sep 20) Dimension 20 evokes Watership Down in new D&D actual play season featuring a family of stoats. Dungeons and Mustelids.

Crit Awards (2023) Winners 2023. New annual awards to recognize creators in TTRPGs.

De Bere, Laura Op (2023 Sep 17) Climate Larps: Environmental Design in Nordic Larp. Themes of design and play.

Designers & Dungeons (2023 Sep 21) Ben Riggs is with Pater Adkinson and 13 others. The descending fortunes of TSR in the 1990s.

Embry, Egg (2023 Sep 28) RPG Holidays Part Three = Additional RPG Holidays?. Irregular and unrealized.

Flat Earths (2023 Jun 20) From Small Beginnings. Building up game variations from a simple foundation.

Game to Grow (2023 Sep 26) Game to Grow Pausing Programs. Re-tooling for 2024.

Harries, Dianne (2023 Sep 6) Why are board games that simply let Black players have fun still all too rare?. Different definitions of “leisure”.

Horvath, Stu (2023 Sep 7) What D&D is to fantasy roleplaying, Traveller is to sci-fi RPGs, from Coriolis to Starfield. The legacy of the first sci-fi game.

Jarvis, Matt (2023 Sep 29) Rebel Moon tabletop RPG studio sues Netflix over cancelled adaptation of Zac Snyder movie. Collaboration conflicts.

Lantz, Frank (2023 Sep 12) How a card game helped avoid nuclear war. Book excerpt explores the mathematics of the ultimate gamble.

Meehan, Alex (2023 Sep 19) “I spend most of my days wandering around talking to myself”: Baldur’s Gate 3, Witcher 3 and Horizon: Forbidden West actors on how to be a better roleplayer. Skill transfer, breathing, accents, collaboration, and more.

Meehan, Alex (2023 Sep 22) Critical Role UK live show will broadcast to cinemas across US and Canada. Live streaming onto the big screen.

Montgomery, Andrew Logan (2023 Sep 9) The Ritual of Play: RPGs, Art, and Ritual. The deep meaning of the words we use, the stories we tell, and the games we play.

Montgomery, Andrew Logan (2023 Sep 12) Play as Recreation, A Follow Up. Growing and healing through play.

Nguyen, C. Thi (2019 Oct 1) Games and the Art of Agency. Agency as the medium of games.

Nguyen, C. Thi & Rebecca Scott (2020 Aug 3) Why I Use Dungeons & Dragons to Teach Ethics. Characters and narratives based in philosophical tradition, plus lots of fun learning.

Russell, Mollie (2023 Sep 29) Meta makes an AI DnD Dungeon Master (and it’s Snoop Dogg). AI-generated mobile text adventure gaming.

Saint-Croix, Cat & C. Thi Nguyen (2023 Jul 18) Do the Thing: Philosophy Teaching with Practical Workshops. Gaming a world of ideas. See also an interview with Rebecca Scott on the great Games For Thought YouTube channel.

Tresca, Mike (2023 Sep 11) Friends That Slay Together, Stay Together. Games and friendships.

Tresca, Mike (2023 Sep 18) When Gamers Retire. Elders gaming.

© Copyright 2023 by the Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games (CAR-PGa), ISSN 1071 7129. The CAR-PGa Newsletter is a monthly publication. For more information contact David Millians, Editor, Paideia School, 1509 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30307 USA, phone (404) 808-1070, fax (404) 377-3491, e-mail Back issues are available. Contributions of material from the membership are urged, and the byline is responsible for content. Deadline is the last weekday of the month, email preferred. Permission is granted to copy anything in the Newsletter, provided we get a credit line in the publication copying it, and it doesn’t have someone else’s copyright on it. Information, including details on joining CAR-PGa, can be obtained on the Internet at