I’ve long embraced humor in my role-playing games. The Bard Tale’s IV is among my favorite RPGs of the past few years, and I’m always up for Dragon Quest’s puns. And right now, Wasteland 3 is still making me laugh.

But when your game goes from RPG-with-laughs to a parody, you gotta make sure those jokes are good and smart from the get-go. And while I appreciate the tactical combat that’s the foundation of The Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet Of Chaos, I just don’t care for its crass humor.

And this is coming from the person who spends 2 hours a day making fart jokes in the VentureBeat Slack.

The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk comes from French author John Lang’s series of audio adventures that parody RPGs. I haven’t listened to these before, but I dig where this is coming from. I’m ready for a world in which we start getting video games from podcasts and Twitch liveplays.

But I found that Naheulbeuk has just too much bathroom humor, too many lazy jokes based on dumb ogres, cowardly rogues, ditzy elves, and so on. It’s off-putting, and I found that I had a hard time concentrating on playing the game because of it.

And that’s a shame. I dig developer Artefacts Studio’s tactical combat. It takes advantage of each character’s distinct abilities, with an emphasis on using cover and avoiding the threat areas of prepared foes. You have to think and plan on the battle map. It’s a smart system.

But sadly, the humor is as dumb as the tactical combat is smart.

A cool Core

Above: This comes from an adventure that a laid off receptionist created.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Manticore Games is a fantastic name for any company doing a deal with Dungeons & Dragons (the manticore has a long history with the RPG, appearing in its earliest editions). Its Core platform for user-generated games recently ran a game jam-like community contest for making D&D content. Folks made about 150 games, featuring combat, magic, and puzzles. Manticore announced Tuesday that Epic Games had invested $15 million into the company.

A couple of weeks ago, cofounders Frederic Descamps and Jordan Maynard, along with CMO Patrick Buechner, showed me some of the games people made with Core. The company makes all the assets, and folks build with them. You don’t have to create items, images, or anything else. Nor do you have to import anything into Core. It’s a far cry from using the toolsets from user-content creation RPGs like Neverwinter Nights (and its sequel). Heck, you practically had to know C+ to make Neverwinter Nights’ tools work (Neverwinter Nights 2 is a bit more forgiving). An old Neverwinter Nights modder — who also runs a haunted house in Utah — won one of the contest categories. Maynard said they were streaming themselves making their entry.

They seemed most proud about one person’s story, a receptionist in the U.K. who lost her job due to the pandemic.

“She got laid off because of COVID. She decided she would start getting into her kind of a dream job of building a gaming space in the U.K. building games and started with some very simple programming classes back in April. And then she discovered Core and the contest and built one of the most beautiful games in the D&D contest, and ultimately, she wants to create a game studio with her wife,” he said. “And this is kind of the inspiration for our journey.”

And this is what I find exciting about Core. I like the idea of folks using this as a springboard to learn more about careers in game development, but it’s the reasons why they want to make games that draws me. I hope I’ll be playing a game she and her wife make someday.

Hit Points

  • Kingdoms of Amalur Re-Reckoning has been an enjoyable return to the past. The original came out in 2012, and this action-RPG offered a huge world full of quests and beautiful areas to explore. I enjoyed its combo-focused combat as well. But going back to it eight years later in this remaster, it’s evident just how far open-world games have come since then. Re-Reckoning’s world remains gorgeous, but those character models sure didn’t age well. And the mechanics feel more … limited … compared to more recent action-RPGs. However, it reminds me of the bright future we thought that Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios had … and how it ended up going in flames and hurting so many people in the process. The ex-sportswriter in me views Schilling as a Hall of Fame baseball player (the game’s changing, and 300 wins shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all for Cooperstown anymore), but as an editor covering the business of games, I’d put him in any biz book as a prime example of how not to run a game studio.
  • Baldur’s Gate III has been pushed back again, and it’s now coming to Steam Early Access on October 6. Larian Studios put out a blog this week about how romance will work. Being a mack daddy with my adventuring companions isn’t how I approach playing the BioWare-style of party-based RPG, but I realize a lot of folks dig it. I wonder how many people are going to end up making sweet love with a goblin (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).
  • This makes October an attractive month for folks who enjoy D&D-style turn-based RPGs. Solastra: Crown of the Magister (which licenses the 5th Edition D&D rules) is coming to Early Access as well on October 20. So while I am looking forward to the new consoles hitting in November, chances are I’m going to still be rolling my virtual D20s in these games.

The D20 Beat is GamesBeat managing editor Jason Wilson’s column on role-playing games. It usually runs every other week. It covers video games, the digital components of traditional tabletop RPGs, and the rise of RPG streaming. Drop me a line if you have any RPG news, insights, or memories to share … or just want to roll a digital D20 with me.



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