One of the most popular tabletop RPG projects to arise from the smoking wreckage of Dungeons & Dragons’ OGL fiasco finished its Backerkit crowdfunding sprint with a whopping $4.6 million raised by 30,177 backers and fans.
The MCDM RPG, created by online famous YouTube dungeon master Matthew Colville and a team of tabletop designers, celebrated a whole year (!!) since Wizards of the Coast proverbially stepped in it by creating one of the most successful grassroots campaigns for a roleplaying game, beaten only by Magpie’s Avatar Legends and, funnily enough, MCDM’s Strongholds & Followers supplement for 5th Edition.
In an hour-long explainer video at the top of the campaign page, designer and writer Colville explains that the MCDM RPG is the culmination of “everything I’ve done since I was 16”. Proudly and nakedly a high fantasy adventure game about facing threats, gaining power and amassing rewards, MCDM RPG is also an intentional shedding of D&D’s influence on Colville and Co.’s creative output.
If you’re familiar with Wizards of the Coast’s preeminent tabletop product, MCDM’s largest surprise will be leaving the twenty-sided die to moulder on the shelf in favour of a pair of d6s (along with some d4s and d8s). Attack rolls and damage rolls have been combined in a way that evokes the old-school roleplay school of design where combat is always dangerous and resources are meant to be meticulously tracked.
It’s worth checking out all of the other shifts happening under MCDM RPG’s hood, especially if Western European fantasy pastiches rev your engine, but suffice it to say that the team is reinventing a very particular wheel for those players searching for an easy and well-produced exit from the Hasbro pipeline.
Colville and his crew, including James Introcaso, Lars Bakke, Jason Hasenauer, Grace Chueng, Jerod Bennett and Nick de Spain, aren’t the only ones to launch what many call a fantasy heartbreaker - Kobold Press’ Tales of the Valiant and several companies creating under Paizo’s Open RPG Creative License blazed that particular train. But none have managed the kind of financial success that the MCDM RPG achieved over the past month.
Chalk up part of that windfall to Colville’s career as a YouTube creator and 5E designer - he gained acclaim as the internet’s favourite dungeon master by doling out advice on running D&D campaigns with a killer combination of approachability and wisdom usually only seen in community college adjuncts. The MCDM RPG is well timed, leverages an existing payer base well and - if you like gaining levels by slashing trolls and goblins - an intriguing pitch for another One of Those.
Whether the proof exists in the RPG pudding remains to be seen. However pejorative, the phrase fantasy heartbreaker is used for a reason - a ‘better D&D’ can’t survive on design alone or else Wizards of the Coast wouldn’t hold the brand dominance it enjoys today. Luckily for everyone involved, $4.6 million in funding is already a success by every meaningful measure.