When I wrote the original Designers & Dragons history books, I ultimately had to limit myself in what RPG companies I covered. Obviously, I did my best to cover all of the most notable companies of each era. But, there were many other stories to tell, and those “lost histories” might be just as intriguing as what I was able to capture in the original books.

Thus, I’m proud to announce that I’ve begun work on the next sequence of Designers & Dragons books, at least one of which will be a book of Lost Histories, covering the companies you didn’t hear about the first time around (or which you only saw discussed in small mini-histories). As I begin work on this project, I’m listing out a dozen or so publishers from each decade that I could cover; those listings follow. There’s no guarantee that I’m going to cover them all, but these folks are at least under consideration. (In fact, this list is certainly too long to cover entirely, unless Lost Histories ends up being two volumes.)

A reminder on dating: Designers & Dragons organizes companies by their first publication of a roleplaying book. These listings follow that organization, which is why a few of these companies actually date back to the ’70s: they still started publishing roleplaying books in the ’80s timeframe.

What Makes Companies Important to Cover

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of companies that have published in the roleplaying industry, and though I’ve now detailed the stories of somewhere in excess of 100 of them, I will never cover them all. So, whenever I think about writing about a company, I make sure that I have a reason to do so. Obviously, this helps me to decide where to spend my time, but it also helps me to focus the story of a company and it even helps me to focus the story of the industry.

Here’s some of the reasons I’ve used to pick companies:

  1. Importance. If a company produces a lot of products, sells them in the mass-market, and appeals to a lot of people, obviously they go into Designers & Dragons. TSR, Wizards of the Coast, White Wolf, and Paizo are the four most obviously examples.
  2. Connections. Smaller companies might be covered if they provide connections, extending the stories of designers or products from other publishers. For example, Creations Unlimited [’80s] was a small publishing house with just four products, but it told the story of Rob Kuntz and Kalibruhn, which extends out of the origin story of D&D itself.
  3. Trends. A smaller company can get some attention if it highlights a trend. Metropolis [’90s] might not have been notable enough as the publisher of Kult, but it also revealed the trend of the first foreign RPGs appearing in the US in the ’90s.
  4. Backdoor Histories. Sometimes one history can gain weight if it’s able to tell the story of another company. So that Metropolis history was also useful because it revealed the first foreign-language history in Designers & Dragons: Target Games.
  5. Lessons. Finally, some histories can offer interesting lessons for the industry. For example, even if Paizo weren’t a major publisher, and even if they didn’t have connections to Wizards of the Coast, then they’d still have been worth covering for the explicit lessons they offered about publishing magazines.

As the last two examples should make obvious: if a history can meet several of these criteria, it becomes even more powerful.

The Possible Lost Histories of the ’70s

Little Soldier Games (1975-1978). Primarily a board game publisher, though they also produced a number of generic (D&D) fantasy supplements in the early days of the hobby.

Why They’re Important.. Little Soldier published the first monster manual, the Book of Monsters (1976) — out a year before either Chaosium or TSR got into the act. They’re also a good place to begin highlighting the early years of gaming in the mid-Atlantic region, especially since they’re the first of a trilogy of companies all in the same area.

Tyr Gamemakers (1977-1979). The maker of just two RPGs, Space Quest (1977) and Bushido (1979).

Why They’re Important. Bushido traces its way through two more companies: Phoenix and FGU. Meanwhile, this company history continues the story of the mid-Atlantic, and can help reveal the influence of the SCA on the area. Overall, it’s a great bit of connectivity between a few different companies.

Davco / Skytrex / Westreim (1977-1980). This one’s a little tricky, but the idea is to talk about the publisher(s) of the Bifrost RPG. The tricky bit is that there’s a different company name on each of the four volumes!

Why They’re Important. Bifrost was an early RPG design coming from outside of the US (the UK to be precise). The question is whether there’s enough information out there to make heads or tails of its weird publication schedule.

Phoenix Games (1978-1980). A publisher of generic fantasy, generic science-fiction, and Bushido.

Why They’re Important. This is the final article in the mid-Atlantic trilogy that traces through Little Soldier and Tyr, and it in turn acts as a bridge to histories found in Designers & Dragons already: both Gamelords and FGU. It also shows how publishers in the ’70s might have started out with “generic” publications, but if so quickly moved on to systems of their own.

Fantasy Productions (1978-1980). Jeffrey C. Dillow’s company, which he created to produce his light and relatively simple High Fantasy (1978) game.

Why They’re Important. Fantasy Productions may actually not be important: High Fantasy came and went and didn’t get great reviews in between (at least not for the RPG: the supplements were somewhat lauded). However, I often dovetail histories like this into larger histories, and that’s what I plan to do here: Fantasy Productions will be covered in a likely article on Reston Publishing in the ’80s.

Balboa Game Company (1978-1980). The publisher of The Complete Warlock (1978) from The Spartan.

Why They’re Important. Warlock was one of the earliest standalone RPGs, albeit in a very derivative, non-professional form. It’d be wonderful to talk about it more, but when I researched it a bit for the Aurania Gang article [PA], there wasn’t a lot of publicly available information. I hope to get more when I start working my way through A&E.

Martian Metals (1976-1982). A notable maker of miniatures in the late ’70s, and likely also the producer of the two “Martian Game Modules”.

Why They’re Important. It’d be nice to have a few more miniatures histories in Designers & Dragons, and these guys did the famous upside-down ads that were so iconic in their time period. They also went out of business when their warehouse burned down! And, besides being a miniatures company, they fit within the general purview of Designers & Dragons if they indeed did publish the two “Martian Game Modules” (and it looks likely they did, as they appeared in Martian Metals catalogues.)

Tékumel Games (1978-1986) / Imperium Publishing (1978). Each of these companies is the publisher of a half-dozen Tékumel supplements: Imperium mostly in the ’70s, Tékumel mostly in the ’80s.

Why They’re Important. Tékumel is one of the great game worlds, and it’d be nice to trace the history of the game through some of the smaller companies in more detail than was found in Designers & Dragons, but a Tékumel expert would be required to help sort them out.

Rider Fantasy Creations (1978-2011). Bob Liddil’s on-again, off-again company that published early Tunnels & Trolls supplements and later d30-related books of tables.

Why They’re Important. Bob Liddil published the first-ever third-party supplement for Tunnels & Trolls (1975) and some of his later books from the ’80s continue to be so small press that today they’re intriguing curiosities.

Fantasy Art Productions (1979). Erol Otus’ super small-press company that put out two unofficial OD&D products.

Why They’re Important. Erol Otus is one of the most notable artists in the classic D&D era, and this is an opportunity to highlight him and his work. This is especially important because I always felt that Designers & Dragons was light on highlighting the artists that helped to create and develop our industry. However, Fantasy Art Productions is so small press that there’s no history of it in the public record, so this would likely require talking with Erol Otus (or Paul Reiche III) to make it work.

Legacy Press (1979). The one-shot publisher of the Legacy game.

Why They’re Important. They did have an early universal-ish system, but they’re probably too small press.

Ragnarok Enterprise (1979-?). The very long-lived publisher of David Nalle’s small-press Ysgarth roleplaying game (1979).

Why They’re Important. A small-press company that has stayed around so long is pretty notable. Also, Nalle founded the Scriptorium font site. Unfortunately the game was small press enough that most info on it is the Abyss ‘zine, which makes it a bit harder to access than most companies that spanned that long of an era.

The Possible Lost Histories of the ’80s

Reston Publishing (1971-1985). A mass-market publisher who reprinted the High Fantasy RPG (1978, 1981) and then some products for Chaosium.

Why They’re Important. This is a great place to look at the High Fantasy RPG in a larger context. It also offers some useful discussion of how mass-market publishers started picking up RPGs in the late ’70s and early ’80s. (I’ve already drafted this for the Designers & Dragons Patreon.)

Grenadier Models (1975-1996). There’s just one miniatures company in Designers & Dragons right now, Heritage. Grenadier would be a nice addition because of their longevity and the fact that they were one of the official producers of D&D miniatures. The fact that they produced a handful of RPG supplements gives me the ability to fit it into the standard framework of Designers & Dragons and the fact that a fan has produced two volumes of information on their miniatures and newsletters means there’s plenty of source material available.

Why They’re Important. They’re a notable miniatures company, and Designers & Dragons could use more discussion of that side of the industry.

The Armory (1976-1998). Similarly, there are no discussions of distributors in Designers & Dragons, and this is a great place to start (though the information is a little scant, as distributors tend to stay out of the public eye more). Similar to Grenadier, The Armory published a few RPG books (many of them linked to Rider Fantasy), and so they fit within the Designers & Dragons framework.

Why They’re Important. Distributors are a critical elements of the roleplaying industry, and The Armory was one of the big two, who along with Chessex formed Alliance in 1998, the company that today does much of the distribution for the roleplaying industry.

Paranoia Press (1980-1981). An early publisher of Traveller supplements. Their supplements such as Scouts & Assassins (1980) and SORAG (1981) were renowned classics in the ’80s and have mostly disappeared since.

Why They’re Important. Do we need the story of yet another Traveller licensee? It’s unclear. But they were definitely a name in the space at the time.

Timeline (1980-Present). The makers of The Morrow Project (1980), who have returned to support it in the modern day.

Why They’re Important. The Morrow Project has always been a somewhat notable game in the history of RPGs, with its very early focus on military post-apocalyptic roleplaying, and with its evocative background of sleepers waking in the future. The fact that it’s returned in the modern day suggests that it could extend the trend of other publishers such as FGU and Judges Guild who have done the same. The company is also notable for having a few spin-offs: Firebird (which could be briefly covered in this history) and the long-lived Tri-Tac Systems (for which, see below).

Adventure Games (1981). Dave Arneson’s company, which published his second RPG, Adventures in Fantasy (1981)? Sign me up! The problem has always been that surprisingly little was written about them in the popular press. Nonetheless, a history that mostly talked about the evolution of Arneson’s game design would in itself be worth while.

Why They’re Important. Obviously, because they published Arenson’s second game. But, as it happens, they also reprinted most of Imperium Publishing’s Tekumél supplements, so this would be a great place to also discuss the early years of Tekumél after TSR, because the information could all be consolidated here.

The Companions (1981-1986). I’ve been wanting to write about The Companions since the original Designers & Dragons, in large part because some of their adventure supplements like Street of Gems (1983) and The Curse on Hareth (1982) were evocative. However, when I was putting together the original books, I didn’t feel like I had enough information to say anything meaningful. Well, since then I’ve been in touch with one of the founders and also discovered a short article about them in a 1984 copy of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, so they’re a shoe-in for a Lost History.

Why They’re Important. The Companions has some interesting connections to the rest of the industry. At the beginning of their life they had some links to Don Lowry (of Guidon Games), and at the end with Jordan Weisman (of FASA). Their modules seemed somewhat ahead of their time, depicting the changes in adventure production in the ’80s.

Tri-Tac Systems (1983-Present). The publishers of Bureau 13 / Stalking the Night Fantastic (1983+), Fringeworthy (1984), and FTL 2448 (1982). These were definitely small-press games that became more professional in the ’90s.

Why They’re Important. This is one of the Timeline spinoffs, with Richard Tucholka coming over from that company. It’s also an interesting story of how roleplaying publication was changing from the ’80s to the ’90s (to the ’00s) and how Tri-Tac kept up. And, they’re pretty notably alive even if most gamers might not know about them. Oh, and they’re another company that was assaulted by idiot FBI agents who didn’t know the difference between a roleplaying game and real life, which is a nice connection to Steve Jackson’s similar experiences.

BTRC (1985-Present). Greg Porter’s very long-lived indie publisher got its start with Timelords (1987) and got its greatest renown with Macho Women With Guns (1988). Their most long-lived RPGs are CORPS (1990) and EABA (2003).

Why They’re Important. I didn’t give BTRC an entry in the original Designers & Dragons because they were a small-press that was mostly under my RADAR. However, the number of notable industry figures who praise Porter and BTRC and point them out as an early example of indie-design ethos just keeps increasing.

Corgi Books (1985-1986). Tunnels & Trolls did surprisingly well in the UK and Corgi was the second major publisher, but they also created a notable British RPG of the ’80s: Dragon Warriors.

Why They’re Important. This history can tell the story of the UK game scene in the ’80s through the lens of these two game systems.

Stellar Games (1987-1994). Publishers of a few one-off games, plus two horror classics: It Came from the Late, Late Show (1989) and Nightlife (1990). About 20 products total, pretty notable for the smaller publishers not yet covered in Designers & Dragons.

Why They’re Important. Stellar Games put out a play-the-monsters game a year before Vampire: The Masquerade (1991) took the world by storm. Is that enough to be notable? I’m not sure, but their high production record (and the fact that they ran ads in Dragon) has me interested.

Reaching Moon Megacorp (1989-2003). A fan organization that published for RuneQuest during the decade when its official publication faded out. By the end of their run, their products were as professional as many of the products in the roleplaying mainstream.

Why They’re Important. They pretty much kept RuneQuest and the world of Glorantha alive during a time when it might otherwise have entirely faded. They also are a vital link leading to Moon Design Publications, who ended up taking over Glorantha, RuneQuestHeroQuest, and eventually Chaosium in the ’10s. (This is another article that I’ve already written for the Designres & Dragons Patreon.)

They didn’t quite make my list, but I was tempted by the publishers of a number of infamous games from this era, all one-shots: Albedo (Thoughts & Images), Alma Mater (Oracle Games), Creeks & Crawdads (Crustacaeum Games), Dragon Raid (Adventures for Christ), and The Spawn of Fashan (Games of Fashan). There also may be some Australia publishers worthy of attention (Adventure Simulations, The Australian Gaming Group, HPAC), but I’d need to find some great discussions of the Australian gaming scene (or do some interviews) to really lay out that story. (I might have to start searching out more copies of Breakout magazine.)

The Possible Lost Histories of the ’90s

The ’90s have proven a particular challenge as it’s been a long-time since I’ve written much new about the decade. When I evened out the four decades for the four-volume second edition of Designers & Dragons, I already had almost enough ’90s content, so I just wrote one new history for that volume, on Leading Edge Games.

Shield Games (1990-1992). Publisher of an almost-unknown fantasy game called Fifth Cycle and about half-a-dozen supplements.

Why They’re Important. In his seminal essay, “Fantasy Heartbreakers”, Ron Edwards identifies a dozen “heartbreaker” games. This was the earliest of them. It’s thus a great place to examine what a heartbreaker is, and why it breaks hearts. This could also be a good place to look at what small-press publications looked like c.1990.

Better Games (1990-Publisher). A small-press who published “cinematic” games, albeit with print quality that seemed a little out of date. Also, the final publisher of Space Gamer magazine. They’ve used the internet to republish a lot of their games from 2018 onward.

Why They’re Important. Their games may be important for innovative play, though they’re sufficiently small press that it’s unlikely they were actually an influence on anyone else. They also offer the (sad) end of the story of the once influential Space Gamer magazine. Their attempt to then turn Space Gamer into an online magazine, circa the ’90s, was certainly ahead of its time.

Marquee Press (1991-1994). Publisher of Legendary Lives (1991), Lost Souls (1992), and Khaotic (1994).

Why They’re Important. Their breadth speaks for itself, and besides that their Lost Souls got a little attention, while their Legendary Lives is a second example of a heartbreaker. Also, a previous edition of Lost Souls went out under a different company name, so perhaps there’s a story of interest there?

Myrmidon Press (1993-1996). The publisher of Manhunter (1993) and Cosmic Enforcers (1995), plus the original editions of Armageddon (1996) and WitchCraft (1996).

Why They’re Important. They have a double set of connections to the roleplaying industry. On the front end, they have connections to Palladium, and on the back-end their CJ Carella games moved on to Eden Studios.

Precedence Publishing (1993-1999). The creators of the well-supported and well-advertised Immortal: The Invisible War (1994) RPG.

Why They’re Important. Is producing a game heavily influenced by the World of Darkness sufficient fame to warrant a history? Does it tell an interesting story about White Wolf’s ascendance in the ’90s? Right now the question is hazy. I’d need to see whether Precedence has other interesting elements. Word is that the authors took back the game from the publisher after a bad second edition, so that’s a start, and could lead to discussion of IP rights.

Pariah Press (1994-1995). Mike Nystul’s short-lived RPG publisher of The Whispering Vault (1994).

Why They’re Important. Pariah Press was instrumental to the foundation of Green Ronin, but they’re currently only covered in a few paragraphs. This offers the opportunity for a more in-depth look.

Gold Rush Games (1995-2004). A superhero publisher originally allied with Hero Games, who later was one of the publishers to really carry the flame for Fuzion.

Why They’re Important. Mark Arsenault was a real name in gaming at the time, and it’d be nice to tell the story of how Fuzion outlasted the Cybergames fiasco (for a time, at least).

Wingnut Games (1995-2005). A humor-game publisher founded by Aldo Ghiozzi, who put out about a dozen board games and RPGs.

Why They’re Important. Ghiozzi is the founder of both Free RPG Day and Impressions, so this is a great place to give him a spotlight. His caveman game, Og (1995, 2000) was also entirely clever. On the other hand, I’d have to admit that the board game Phart: The Dispersing (1995) exists.

Biohazard Games (1995-Present). A spin-off of Pagan Publishing best known for its Blue Planet roleplaying game (1997).

Why They’re Important. There are a number of interesting questions that this history could answer. What happened to the rest of Pagan Publishing? Who were they, and what did they do afterward? How did Blue Planet spin out of “End Times”? And what are they doing today?

Archangel Entertainment (1997-1998). A brief publisher of two games, Extreme Vengeance (1997) and Zero (1997).

Why They’re Important. Two words: Ken Whitman. Right now, his history is somewhat awkwardly sandwiched into the story of Margaret Weis Productions. This would give it space to breathe.

Obsidian Studios (1999-2000). A very short-lived publisher who put out Shards of the Stone (2000) and the second edition of The Fantasy Roleplaying Gamers’ Bible

Why They’re Important. Sean Patrick Fannon has done some fairly extensive work in the industry and gets only a single mention in Designers & Dragons. This would be a good place to address that since he was the core contributor to Jared Nielsen’s company. Also, Shards of the Stone was an interesting endeavor because it attempted to be a multimedia franchise before that idea was well-known. That’s probably why Obsidian ended up wrapped up in the Cybergames mess, which is another interesting connection. Finally, this could be a nice connection to Talisman Studios, who put out Shaintar, one of the realms from Shards of the Stone.

Moon Design Publications (1999-Present). Moon Design Publications was a relatively small press in the ’00s: they reprinted (in an updated form) a number of Chaosium’s classic RuneQuest 2 supplement, then picked up the HeroQuest line from Issaries, and published a small number of books that nonetheless were individually impressive (in both size and content). However, everything changed in the ’10s, about the time that the second edition of Designers & Dragons went to press …

Why They’re Important. In 2012, Moon Design raised a quarter of a million dollars in a kickstarter for the Guide to Glorantha; in 2013, they purchased all rights to Glorantha, HeroQuest, and RuneQuest from Greg Stafford; and in 2015 they took over Chaosium itself, which they massively revitalized. In less than a decade, Moon Design went from small press to being one of the most influential companies in the industry. (In fact, this is the one new Lost Histories that’s already been written for the ’90s, as it had been on my list for years.)

The Possible Lost Histories of the ’00s

The ’90s was a challenging decade in large part because I felt like I’d already discussed many of the most notable companies. For the ’00s, it’s the exact opposite problem: even though the published ’00s book covered an all-time high of 26 companies, I still feel like there are scores more I could discuss.

The reason for this has to do with barriers to entry. When the industry was young, in the ’70s, anyone could mimeograph a book printed on a electric typewriter, and they could find people to sell it for them. But, decade by decade it became harder (and more expensive) to get into the industry. Computer layout became a requirement in the ’80s, alongside professional artwork. Those requirements rose even higher in the ’90s, as full-color books began to appear for the first-time.

By the end of the ’90s, as CCG simultaneously suffused the industry with cash and pushed out smaller publishers, the barriers of entry were probably at an all-time high. And then in the ’00s, the industry was hit by waves of equity, as the d20 license, PDFs, and PODs suddenly leveled the playing field. Now, anyone could be a publisher again, just like in the ’70s. And hundreds of new publishers took up the gauntlet.

So I’ve increased my standard set of a dozen potential publishers to 15. These are all publishers from the ’00s who could be included in a ’00s book (along with some reasons why), but I’m very unlikely to cover them all.

I’ve also categorized these publishers, because the ’00s was the first time when there were generally a lot of decent-sized subcategories in the industry.

d20 Publishers

The d20 license was what set the ’00s afire.

Included in the ’00s already: Goodman, Green Ronin, Mongoose, Necromancer, Privateer, Troll Lord.

Dreamscarred Press (2006-Present). Creators of a few hundred books about psionics for D&D 3.5e (2003) and Pathfinder (2008).

Why They’re Important. They’re a long-lived and prolific d20 company, who also offer an opportunity to talk about psionics systems in games.

Malhavoc Press (2001-2009). The publishing house for Monte Cook’s d20 products after he left Wizards of the Coast. Highlights include The Book of Eldritch Might (2001), Iron Heroes (2005), and Ptolus (2006).

Why They’re Important. At the time of Designers & Dragons‘ publication, Cook had already shut down Malhavoc, to move on to other creative endeavors. So, the couple of pages detailing the company in the White Wolf history seemed sufficient. In retrospect, they weren’t: that Malhavoc Press appears on a dozen pages in the indices of Designers & Dragons really says it all. Now, Malhavoc is also an important stepping stone to Monte Cook Games, together telling a story of evolutionary design.

Paradigm Concepts (2000-Present. A long-lived d20 company who initially made their mark with their Arcanis setting, but has since published many games of their own, such as Rotted Capes (2013), Tale of the Caliphate Nights (2011) and Witch Hunter: The Invisible World (2006).

Why They’re Important. Paradigm Concepts is another long-lived and prolific company, and moreso, they’ve demonstrated how d20 companies could evolve and succeed over the years, moving from d20 to their own games to 5e. They also have interesting connections with the RPGA.

New Licensees

When the d20 license spun off into Pathfinder (2008) it created a whole new ecosystem of licensees; meanwhile, other publishers like Mongoose and Pinnacle were creating new open licenses of their own.

Included in the ’00s already: Kobold Press, Paizo Publishing.

Rite Publishing (2008-Present). Steve Russell’s company started out publishing products for systems like Arcana Evolved (2005), but would go on to be a major Pathfinder licensee, including 88 issues of the PWYW Pathways magazine. Though Russell passed in 2016, the company has continued.

Why They’re Important. Rite Publishing shows the evolution of the post-d20 category, from 3.5e, to variants like Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved to the Pathfinder game. They’re also one of the larger Pathfinder licensees. Beyond that, they published the successor to Amber Diceless RoleplayingLords of Gossamer & Shadow (2013).

Savage Mojo (2001-Present). The publishers of Shaintar (2005+) and Suzerain (2007+), who are major licensees for Savage Worlds (2003).

Why They’re Important. Savage Mojo has an interesting paradigm for their company, positioning themselves as a creative family; they also have recently adopted an interesting paradigm for metaplot, freely bringing in fun happenings from their fans. Otherwise, they’re notable for their connections to Pinnacle and to Obsidian Studios.

Super Genius Games (2008-2013). A spin-off of OtherWorld Creations, Super Genius Games was Paizo’s first great Pathfinder licensee, focusing primarily on rules variants during the game’s first few years.

Why They’re Important. They’re another major Pathfinder licensee, who thus can tell the story of how Paizo created a new category of publication. However, much of their story already appears in the OtherWorld Creations mini-history, so the question is how much more can be said.

Small Press

It’s a little harder finding non-licensed small-press in the ’00s, but there were a number of ones of note who managed to survive the d20 boom and bust. Several of these small-press overlap with the indie industry, but they tend to be larger-scale, producing more mass-market books.

Included in the ’00s already: Arc Dream, Issaries, Pelgrane, Posthuman.

Driftwood Publishing (2001-?). Publisher of the early indie-ish fantasy game, The Riddle of Steel (2002), which got a lot of attention for a few years.

Why They’re Important. They were a notable small press when everyone else was doing d20 and they were a presence at Gen Con for years. Their demise was mixed in with some money troubles, and afterward they licensed a successor game.

Khepera Publishing (2005-Present). The publisher of Hellas (2008), Atlantis: The Second Age (2005), and Godsend Agenda (2005).

Why They’re Important. Khepera connects to the story of West End (through the d6 system) and Bard Games (through the Atlantis supplements). Jerry Grayson is also a notable designer who hasn’t otherwise gotten attention in Designers & Dragons

Rogue Games (2007-Present). Richard Iorio II’s publishing company, best known for Colonial Gothic (2007).

Why They’re Important. Colonial Gothic is a long-lived small-press RPG with an interesting early Americana setting. They’ve also published a few other products of note.

Indie Publishers

Most of the non-d20 innovation of the ’00s instead came through micro-presses: the earliest indie publishers.

Included in the ’00s already: Adept, Atomic Sock Monkey, Bully Pulpit, Burning Wheel, Evil Hat, Galileo, John Wick, Lumpley, Memento Mori, Ramshead

Black & Green Games (2005-Present). Emily Care Boss’ indie press, including the games later gathered as The Romance Trilogy (2016).

Why They’re Important. Boss’ story offers a female look at the indie industry, something that’s largely overlooked in Designers & Dragons (other than a short look at Meguey Baker’s works). Several of her games are also award-winning or nominated.

CRN Games (2002-2005). Clint R. Nixon’s small press.

Why They’re Important. Nixon was an important force in the early indie industry, as was his RPG, The Shadow of Yesterday (2004, 2005).

Timfire Publishing (2005). The one-off publisher of The Mountain Witch (2005).

Why They’re Important. The Mountain Witch is likely the most influential early indie game not covered in Designers & Dragons.

OSR Founders

The OSR was an important trend of the late ’00s that only got off-handed attention in Designers & Dragons. In particular, its founders deserve attention (and actually, these are the first ’00s Lost Histories that I’ve written).

First Edition Society (2006-Present). The publisher of OSRIC (2006).

Why They’re Important. OSRIC was the retroclone that got that whole arm of the OSR movement going.

Goblinoid Games (2006-Present). The publisher of Labyrinth Lord (2007).

Why They’re Important. Labyrinth Lord was the first OSR game with a notable commercial presence, transforming the creative movement into a publishing movement.

Mythmere Games (2008-2011). The second company founded by Matt Finch, who conceived of the idea of retroclones, and also the publisher of Swords & Wizardry (2008).

Why They’re Important. Finch is a central force in the OSR industry, and Swords & Wizardry is arguably the most successful of the retroclones. Also, the story of Mythmere feeds into the story of Frog God Games.

There are probably a few other OSR companies to cover, possibly including Black Blade Publishing, Expeditious Retreat Press, and Brave Halfling Publishing.

This article was originally published as Advanced Designers & Dragons #29, #33, #36, and #40 on RPGnet. It followed the publication of the four-volume Designers & Dragons (2014) from Evil Hat, and was meant to complement those books.

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