Big Changes Coming to Dungeons & Dragons?

There’s no denying that Dungeons & Dragons isn’t just the granddaddy of roleplaying games, it’s also the most well-known and recognizable example of the genre.

But there’s never been a richer time for roleplaying games than right now. Patreon and Kickstarter are bringing new designers and storytellers to prominence, websites like DriveThruRPG give terrific visibility to creators large and small, and contenders for the throne both old (White Wolf Games) and newer (Pathfinder) continue to grab their own share of the RPG market.

Although it’s two years away, the fiftieth anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons is looming large, and some big moves are being made this year.

At the D&D Celebration 2021 event, the creative team announced that the game will be getting a major update for the first time in nearly a decade.

The current version of the rules — known as fifth edition or 5e — marked a return to form for Dungeons & Dragons after a less-than-glowing response to their fourth edition ruleset, and it has served as a game system that welcomes new players and satisfies long-time players as well.

Now, we don’t know if this is simply an update to the system to improve/tweak the rules — D&D 5.5e, you might say — or if this will be a wholesale relaunch of the core system. (Though that seems unlikely, given that 2020 was the company’s most profitable year ever.)

What they have promised is that, whatever form the update takes, EVERYTHING that they’ve released for fifth edition over the last decade will still be compatible with the new system. This is not a cash grab that will force players to shell out for all sorts of new books.

It’s an intriguing announcement that has fans already speculating, even though the update’s release isn’t due until 2024.

[In this video, long-time roleplayers The Dungeon Dudes break down their thoughts on potential 5th edition updates.]

But those big moves we mentioned above aren’t only being made by the industry leader. Some important names from D&D’s past are also contributing to the growth and variety of roleplaying games in impressive ways.

It was recently announced that Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis would be collaborating on a new setting and system based on 5e rules: Skyraiders of Abarax.

Now, if you don’t know those names, you should. The world of D&D over the last 50 years would be a lot less varied without them. Tracy and Laura Hickman were instrumental voices behind two iconic D&D settings that have endured for decades — Ravenloft and Dragonlance — and the idea that they’re creating a brand new world for players to enjoy is immensely exciting.

Not only that, but several influential creators have launched their own new world and system on Kickstarter recently: Tanares.

Folks like Skip Williams, Bruce Nesmith, Jeff Grubb (who contributed some of my favorite Star Wars RPG supplements), and the legendary Ed Greenwood — who created The Forgotten Realms, another hugely famous D&D setting — have collaborated on an immersive new world and play system.

Considering that they raised over two MILLION dollars for the project on Kickstarter, it’s fair to say that there’s a market for fresh content that fits the D&D aesthetic but takes the gameplay in exciting new directions.

Now, if you’re not familiar with roleplaying games, you may be wondering what the big deal is. Why does an updated system or a new setting matter?

New systems can be welcoming to new players and put them at ease, or end up so daunting that it scares off new players while alienating established players.

Similarly, a new setting can offer fresh gameplay opportunities and give players the chance to try different styles, genres, and characters in ways they might never have considered otherwise.

And who knows where roleplaying games will be in two years? Will indie publishers continue to thrive? Will Tanares or Skyraiders of Abarax be household brands? And what exactly do the designers behind the world’s most famous roleplaying game have in store for their loyal and lapsed players in 2024?

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, keep rolling those dice. Happy roleplaying!


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Halloween is almost here, and we have some spookily good deals for you to check out. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

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PuzzleNation First Look: Letters to Margaret, an interactive puzzle novel

Some of the coolest puzzle experiences of the last decade have come from the team at Lone Shark Games. Not only have they spearheaded numerous puzzle packs connected to various charitable causes, but they also created Puzzlecraft, a one-stop shop for learning how to construct dozens of different puzzles!

Their masterpiece, though, is The Maze of Games, a wonderful story-driven series of puzzles that took literal years to finally be unraveled by dedicated solvers.

These days, The Maze of Games encompasses an audiobook version read by Wil Wheaton, an accompanying radio show full of audio puzzles, a poster map, The Keymaster’s Tome, The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze, and the main book featuring hundreds of pages of story and puzzles detailing the epic adventure of the Quaice siblings and their quest to escape the clutches of the diabolical Gatekeeper. It’s an entire world to explore.

So, when I heard that there was a new narrative puzzle project on the horizon for this talented team, you better believe I was excited.

And that project is going live on Kickstarter today!

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Letters to Margaret is a solvable, double-sided 128-page comic book loaded with crossword puzzles. Yes, there are two overlapping narratives here, exploring the story from two perspectives, each with its own puzzles and insights.

Knowing what they pulled off with The Maze of Games, I’m already psyched to see the final version of Letters to Margaret, but I’m even more intrigued knowing that Lone Shark Games is working with artist Hayley Gold on this project.

Hayley is an incredibly talented artist who previously combined her creative spark with an wry insightful look at the puzzles published in The New York Times in her webcomic series Across and Down. Each comic focused on a particular puzzle, offering a delightful mix of humor, tongue-in-cheek wordplay, and savvy commentary from an experienced solver, discussing themes, crosswordese, and pop culture all in one fell swoop.

Honestly, this is a can’t-miss pairing. Both Hayley and the Lone Shark team have plenty of experience crafting engaging visual narratives, and each brings a keen understanding of puzzles to the table in their own unique ways.

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The first chapter alone opens with a crossword to solve, delves a bit into crossword history, introduces our main characters, and gets the narrative rolling, all with some smartly snarky commentary on college life, modern media, and crossword solvers (and their blogs). It’s a brilliant whirlwind of an opening, and you genuinely won’t want to wait to read (and solve!) the rest of the book.

But you don’t have to wait! We’ve been granted an early look at some of the art for the comic book. One picture is featured above, but here are two more exclusive images! (They are missing any dialogue and the notations from the omniscient commenters that appear throughout the book. But you can’t fault the team for keeping gems like those tucked away for now.)

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But that’s not all!

We’ve also got an exclusive puzzle preview for you to enjoy!

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[Click this link to download a copy of this puzzle!]


You can click here to check out the Kickstarter campaign for Letters to Margaret, which includes information on the puzzles, Hayley’s perspective on the story, and much more!

It’s a really smart, sincere story told from two sides, loaded with top-notch puzzles and a lot of humor and worthwhile commentary. It would be cliche to call it a love letter to crosswords, and incorrect to boot. It’s more like a slyly subversive wink to crosswords and crossword culture through a thoroughly modern lens. I really dig it, and I think you will as well.

Thank you to Mike Selinker, Hayley Gold, Andy Kravis, and the entire Lone Shark Games team for giving us an early look at the project. I think it’ll be a grand success!


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5 Questions for Game Designer Ellie Dix

Welcome to 5 Questions, our recurring interview series where we reach out to puzzle constructors, game designers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life!

It’s all about exploring the vast and intriguing puzzle community by talking to those who make puzzles and those who enjoy them! (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And we’re excited to welcome Ellie Dix as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

I first encountered Ellie Dix after stumbling upon the Kickstarter campaign for The Imp Box, a family-friendly game collection designed to look like a Christmas cracker. (Naturally, it immediately made the list of games to include in this year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide.)

I soon discovered that she, much like this intriguing game set, was far more than meets the eye. Ellie Dix is not only the designer of every game under the Dark Imp umbrella, but she’s also the owner of the company. A puzzle designer, game designer, author, and more, Ellie Dix is a self-made dynamo, representing the entrepreneurial spirit that has grown to define the industry during the modern board game renaissance.

With The Imp Box now available for sale worldwide and a new Kickstarter campaign on the horizon, I have no doubt that Ellie Dix is a name we’ll be hearing about for many years to come.

Ellie was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!


5 Questions for Ellie Dix

1. How did you get started in the games industry?

I’ve been designing games as a hobby for some time, but when I sold my Education company I decided to focus full time on game design and publishing. Before that I’d used games in teaching and training. I’ve also been a hobby board gamer myself for a long time (and my parents before me). So when I finally made the switch, I just jumped in with both feet. I wrote a book called The Board Game Family: Reclaim your Children from the Screen, which came out in July 2019. My first games were published in November 2019. Since then it’s been a full on schedule of design, development and publication.

How has your experience been as a woman designing games and running a board game company, either in terms of challenges or general insight from your perspective?

Honestly, I expect the challenges have been very similar to those that a person of any other gender would experience. The board gaming community is so inclusive that my own gender seems completely irrelevant. I do, however, realise that I’m in the minority in this industry. I suppose the only thing of note is that I’ve been approached several times by other cis-females who’ve commented that they’re pleased to see the success of another woman in the industry. So clearly it can be helpful to others to see a woman doing what I’m doing.

2. What’s the key to a great family-friendly game?

Getting something that the kids and the adults will all want to play. Family games aren’t children’s games. Family games have to hook in and hold the interest of everyone. For me – complexity isn’t always an issue. Kids can cope with all sorts of levels of complexity. But making sure the game is fairly fast-paced is important. I don’t mean short, necessarily, but minimising downtime is crucial. Games with simultaneous play, actions for passive players or very quick turns work well. The theme has to hook the family in too!

3. We’re currently in the midst of a board game renaissance, with greater exposure than ever for all sorts of games and play styles. What’s one trend in the industry you’d like to see more of and what’s one trend you’d like to see less of?

I love asymmetric games and I’d love to see more of them. Games with varying player powers or factions. This increases replayability. I’ve recently created an asymmetric family game – Uranus! – which is currently in the final of the Board Game Workshop’s annual design contest.

For me, I struggle to get into the big campaign games (Pandemic Legacy, The King’s Dilemma, Gloomhaven). I suspect there are too many on the market for the people who are playing them to actually play. They’re often too much work for regular gamers and families to get into.

4. What’s next for Ellie Dix?

I’m developing a range of roll & write PnP games for any number of players. These are all games that can be played by zoom. I’ve got several out already and they’ve been going great guns during the lockdowns. More are coming out before Christmas. Uranus! will be coming to Kickstarter in early March 2021. I’m also working on some exciting school projects next year! It’s going to be another busy year.

5. If you could give the readers, writers, aspiring game designers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

It’s easy to get paralysed by perfectionism. Very few great games started out as a great games. Be brave and just put your game out there, as early as you can, with any sort of back-of-the-cereal packet prototype you can. Find a great playtesting group full of other designers (not friends and family) or create one yourself.

The playtesting process is so vital to development. It’s a waste of time to make sure all the cards are perfectly balanced before you get it in front of people. You could spend weeks on a game that ultimately nobody wants to play. A playtesting group will help you to find the fun and ultimately make a better game.


A huge thank you to Ellie for her time. You can follow her on Twitter for updates on all things Dark Imp, and be sure to check out her puzzles and games through Instagram, YouTube, her game blog, and of course, the Dark Imp website. Whatever she cooks up next, you know it’s going to be great.

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Kickstarter Alert! Check Out Fireball Newsflash Crosswords!

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One of the coolest parts about assembling each year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide is reaching out to crossword constructors I admire and respect. Not only do I get to find out what projects they’ve been working on and would like to promote, but they’re also incredibly giving to fellow constructors, shouting out the subscriptions, puzzle books, and projects that they most enjoyed solving during the year.

The bulk of the puzzle books/subscriptions section of the Gift Guide comes from these constructor interactions and the praise they heap upon each other. Not only is it heartwarming to read, but it’s valuable information for me and the PuzzleNation readership. After all, who better to tell you about great puzzles out there than top-notch constructors who know puzzling inside and out?

There are a host of brilliant recommendations in the Gift Guide, but today I’d like to shout-out one of my favorite yearly puzzle subscriptions. It’s launching on Kickstarter today for a new “season” of topical puzzles, and you should definitely check it out.

It’s Peter Gordon’s 2021 edition of Fireball Newsflash Crosswords.

Now, most crossword solvers probably know Fireball Crosswords by reputation alone. The puzzles are challenging (equivalent to a Friday or Saturday NY Times puzzle), but incredibly fun, inventive, and cleverly clued. Several of my all-time favorite crosswords have been published through Fireball Crosswords.

Fireball Newsflash Crosswords, on the other hand, are not nearly as difficult, so puzzlers who might find traditional Fireball Crosswords daunting can breathe easy.

Plus Fireball Newsflash Crosswords carry their own unique flavor by being as up-to-date and fresh as possible. Each puzzle is absolutely peppered with current references. Important news events, pop culture happenings, celebrity passings, memes, buzzwords, and cultural fads have all appeared in these grids in the past.

For example, after the 2017 Oscars had their snafu with the Best Picture award winner, Gordon mentioned LA LA LAND as Best Picture winner, then “corrected” himself later in the grid with the true winner MOONLIGHT. It was a lovely little playful jab at an awkward and noteworthy moment in time.

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And that sort of quick-turnaround puzzling and topicality simply cannot be matched by the major outlets.

For just $13, you’ll get 20 such puzzles delivered to you by email, one puzzle every 2 or 3 weeks.

And with this Kickstarter, you can pledge for not just the newest season of Fireball Newsflash Crosswords, but hats, keychains, additional puzzles and puzzle magazines, and more.

I cannot say enough good things about this project, and I’m happy to spread the word to my fellow puzzle lovers. Take a moment and check out this worthwhile project. There are even sample puzzles to try out, so you know exactly what you’re signing up for and supporting.

Good luck, Peter! Cannot wait to see what you cook up for us in the coming year!


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Kickstarter Roundup!

Oh yes, it’s that time again.

For years now, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been hotbeds of innovative puzzle and game design, and I’m always happy to spread the word about worthy projects that I think will delight and intrigue my fellow PuzzleNationers.

So let’s take a look at some projects that are currently seeking funding and see if any pique your interest! (This time around, we’ve got twice as many recommendations as usual! So much puzzly potential!)


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The first is a project by Fireball Crosswords and Fireball Newsflash Crosswords constructor Peter Gordon, entitled A-to-Z Crosswords Volume 2: More Petite Pangram Puzzles.

The project is easy to explain, but mindblowing to think about. Every single day for 24 WEEKS, you get a 9×11 crossword puzzle that contains all 26 letters. The puzzles range from easy to medium in difficulty, arrive by email, and are constructed by Gordon and professional puzzler Frank Longo.

This is a very cool project that deserves your support — they’re a little more than a third of the way there, with 9 days to go — and you should definitely check it out!

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The next project is Puzzle Postcards: Season Two by the Enigma Emporium.

Last year, Wish You Were Here was part of our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, and it’s fantastic to see that the Enigma Emporium is Kickstarting another puzzle postcard mystery this year.

Essentially, an entire mystery is concealed within a handful of postcards, challenging you to mine them for every scrap of information as you uncover a series of coded messages. It’s spycraft in an envelope, very clever stuff.

Already funded with 12 days to go — and carrying a solid track record of previous successful Kickstarter projects behind them — I cannot recommend this one highly enough. I loved Wish You Were Here, as well as the follow-up series.

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For a change of pace, our next project is The Fuzzies.

Basically, this is a Jenga-style dexterity game, but made out of little fuzzy balls instead of pieces of wood. And instead of choosing which piece you remove and place on top, that is determined by a deck of cards instead.

I don’t know how it works — actually staying upright in the first place — but apparently it does.

This family-friendly game has already tripled its funding goal with 29 days to go, so it might be right up your alley.

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The next project we’re sharing today is the ENIGMAS deck of puzzle playing cards.

David Kwong — constructor, magician, and all-around puzzly fellow — has masterminded a puzzle mystery and a series of hidden messages and ciphers, all contained within a deck of cards.

ENIGMAS marries some of the ideas from his Enigmatist show — specifically the historical aspects — with an ingenious puzzle hunt to create an intriguing solving situation. Plus, once you’ve cracked all the puzzly elements, you’ve still got a beautiful deck of cards to enjoy.

This project has blasted well past its funding goal, and with 9 days to go, they’ve added a special limited-run deck of red cards (to compliment the standard blue deck) that will only be offered to Kickstarter backers and never sold in stores. With a pedigree like David’s, you can’t go wrong!

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Our next project is bigger and no less ambitious. It’s Sherlock’s Mysteries: An Interactive Puzzle Adventure (not to be confused with another Sherlock-based Kickstarter running right now).

Combining board game and escape room elements, this project contains 10 mysteries (described as chapters) that combine into one interwoven narrative where you try to save the life of Sherlock Holmes!

By combining murder mystery-style solving with puzzles like ciphers and deduction puzzles, this project definitely tries to encapsulate the experience of being the Great Detective from the comfort of your own home.

About halfway to its goal with 21 days left, this project isn’t a lock (given the price tag of $135 to experience the entire story), but it’s definitely worth a look. (I’m especially intrigued by the fact that certain levels offer “refill kits” that allow the experience to be played more than once!)

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For something just as puzzly but more immersive from a roleplaying point of view, there’s The Shivers.

In this game, someone has gone missing in the house owned by the Shivers family, and you play one of the family members trying to solve the mystery and defeat dangerous foes at work in various sinister and creepy scenarios.

This gameplay is bolstered by pop-up 3-D models of the various rooms of the house, bringing the setting and different stories to life right before your eyes.

This is a very clever combination of puzzle hunt, roleplaying game, and pop-up book that I’ve never really seen before, and like some of these other projects, it has blown past its funding goal with strong support from interested gamers and puzzlers.

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Following the escape room/puzzle mystery at home template, Legacy: Quest for a Family Treasure is our next project to discuss.

You receive a black box in the mail, and inside, you discover in your estranged father’s will that there is a family treasure hidden somewhere in Europe. And you’ll have to unravel secrets of the past in order to secure your future.

This immersive mystery involves audio and video clues, physical evidence to pore over, and even incorporates Internet searching into the gameplay. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the level of depth and attention to detail in this one, and clearly I’m not the only one, as the project has already met and surpassed its funding goal with 10 days to go.

The familial element adds a neat twist to the mystery-at-home genre, and I suspect this project will do very well.

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The last project we’ll be sharing today is The Labyrinth: An Immersive Multi-Platform Puzzle Challenge.

There’s a lot of stuff included in this one: puzzle boxes, ciphers, maps, tools. They’re sending you a CRATE full of material here. The goal is to move through the various chambers of a labyrinth, solving puzzles as you go.

With 55 puzzles included — and an expected solve time of 8-10 hours — this is a breathtaking amount of puzzly paraphernalia. So there’s cost to consider here. The full puzzle costs $195 (there’s even a more expensive deluxe edition), so although that easily makes it the priciest project we’re discussing today, but also one of the most visually impressive.

And yet, with 14 days to go, they’ve already passed their funding goal nine times over. Check it out and see what you think of the expansive puzzle selection offered here.


Have any of these games or projects hooked you? Tell us which ones you’re supporting in the comments section below! And if there are any campaigns you’re supporting that we missed, let us know!

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PuzzleNation First Look: Everything Board Games Magazine

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The world of board games is expanding and evolving in new ways every day. Encompassing everything from traditional board and dice games to card games, roleplaying games, and more, we’re talking about an ever-expanding universe of gameplay possibilities.

So when I heard about a new publication called Everything Board Games Magazine, I simply had to investigate. Based on the ambitiousness alone, I was intrigued.

The debut issue of the magazine is now available for free on their website, and I’ve gotta say… I’m pretty impressed.

It’s 82 pages, a full-color reading experience that is vibrant, visually engaging, and absolutely jam-packed with content. I’m pretty plugged into the board game world, and I discovered half a dozen games I knew nothing about.

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After a few pages of ads, we’re greeted with a letter from the editor, and you immediately get a sense of the passion and excitement that permeates every page of the magazine:

Thank you for taking the time to read through the first ever issue of Everything Board Games Magazine! We know there are a lot of voices vying for your attention in the wonderful world of board games. We’ve strived to produce something that will bring value and joy to the gamer in every walk of life. Our team of board game fanatics have scoured the wide-world of gaming to bring you a diverse and interesting selection of articles, interviews, game reviews, previews and more! It is our hope and desire to connect with you once every two months, filling your mind with gaming pleasures.

Every piece in the magazine — whether it’s a game review, informational article, or interview — is loaded with enthusiasm. The writing crackles with excitement, and every contributor clearly loves the world of board games.

And honestly, in a world where a lot of genre-focused content seems to drip with sarcasm and know-it-all condescension, it’s refreshing to read pieces full of sincerity and affection, even when offering constructive criticism.

The magazine has teasers for upcoming games and Kickstarter campaigns, loads of reviews (though many reviews are just links to the full reviews on their website), as well as interviews about hobby gaming, board game design, running a board game cafe, and more.

Giveaways, polls, board game art, a bi-monthly top 5 games countdown… every page is packed with content.

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And every last page is interactive. Links with more information, links to websites, links for ads, links for email, links to contribute or suggest content or offer feedback. Interactive everything. (And thankfully, no auto-play ads or videos or audio clips to spoil the experience.)

In this first issue alone, they featured games based on history, monsters, latte art, the golden age of sci-fi, theme parks, mythology, war, painting, and crime-solving.

They even managed to throw in a free print-and-play stock trading game AND a free RPG adventure for Dungeons & Dragons.

Aside from a few typos here and there, the debut issue of Everything Board Games Magazine was a brisk, engaging, thoroughly enjoyable read. The only bad thing is waiting two months for the next one.

You can check it out and sign up for your free subscription here.


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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!