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Meet the Publisher: Lin Codega

I first became aware of Lin Codega like, I suspect, many gamers: for breaking the news of the proposed changes to the Open Gaming License that Wizards was proposing. They're a co-founder of Rascal, a new gaming oriented news and opinion site, and they've broken or covered several other stories of importance to the gaming community, including writing of a culture of abuse within the Wyrmwood gaming accessory company and, as recently as this month, breaking the news that Cynthia Williams, president of WoTC, will be stepping down. Lin was kind enough to answer some of my questions.


Question: I guess my first question is regarding the OGL fiasco you were instrumental in covering. When it broke it seemed to have caused a sea change among smaller companies, with a number of them announcing they were no longer going to be using the OGL and would be creating their own bespoke systems and versions. The biggest, of course, is Paizo, but Kobold Press -- arguably the largest third party-publisher for 5e products -- is also charting that path. My interest is primarily in OSR games, and the OGL fiasco spurred Gavin Norman of Necrotic Gnome to change his plans for the Dolmenwood Kickstarter and release it as a new system. Can you talk about your experience in both breaking and covering the OGL fiasco, and what, if anything, you think it has changed in the gaming industry? I still see major projects (looking at you, Adventure Time) using 5e not because it is a good fit for the genre but because it draws in pledges.


Answer: It was a hectic three-to-four weeks, and another really intense month afterwards. I was constantly on the lookout for angles, ideas, and threads to pull on; anything that would give me more clarity into the situation or give me a better understanding of what was happening both in the offices of Wizards of the Coast and in the game rooms where people were learning and reacting to these new restrictions. I think that my previous work as a fandom journalism and someone who takes fandom seriously were immensely helpful. 


I think that it has changed the game industry. A lot of designers and companies, some of which you’ve listed, are no longer pursuing compatibility and are instead working on their own projects and systems away from Dungeons & Dragons products. While “major projects” are still using 5e, they are doing so primarily because they want their project to make money, not because they want to innovate new gamestyles or even–and especially in the case of an IP forward product like the Adventure Time RPG–own the end product. I think for IP products and niche supplements, 5e is going to be the easy choice. It’s the game people know, and many folks who are creating work want to be successful. It’s far easier to be successful when you are familiar. 


But I do think that for many D&D fans, there’s been a shift. D&D is being removed from WotC in people’s minds, which is both a good thing and… well, a little bit of wishful thinking, as the product is the property, and exists to support the company. I think the big change will be when D&D 2024 comes out – especially with what happens with whatever licensing agreement they try to foist onto fans. 


Q: Can you talk about Rascal? Who your co-founders are, what you're hoping to achieve, and anything else you'd like to share?


A: Rascal is an independent, alternative, roguelike TTRPG news site. We cover new games, actual plays, designers, theories, and industry news. We’re three bardpunk journos–me, Chase Carter (Dicebreaker, Polygon), and Rowan Zeoli (Polygon, Fandomentals)--who are trying to make it in this industry as reporters and writers. We’re fully independent, ad-free, reader-supported, and worker-owned. We’re committed to voicey, expansive journalism, and working to break news and tell stories with abandon. 


Our goals are simple: report on the industry, uplift creators, hold big players to account, write some fun stuff, and, if all goes well, we’d like to pay rent. We’ve achieved everything but the last goal, but this is a marathon. If we blog it, it will happen. (That’s what we hope anyway).


Ultimately, it’s a project in sustainability within the industry. All three of us have, at some point, led the TTRPG conversation due to our reporting, and we want to see if the industry values that kind of reporting the way I hope they do. We’re working to cover all areas of the industry, and we’re looking forward to writing about as much of it as possible. 


Q: I'm curious about what you think tabletop gaming will look like in five years. I do a weekly OSR News Roundup, and I've noticed a dramatic increase in both solo games and VTT options, even for a genre like the OSR that tends to be filled with older, less tech-savvy players. 


A: I think in five years we’re going to see a massive influx in gamers who are, right now, teenagers and only know about Dungeons & Dragons. The kids in high school and college who are just learning about games outside of the million pound lizard in the room are going to change the landscape. I’m excited about the new gaming innovations that are becoming mainstream–solo games, VTTs, experimental and lyric games. I’m fascinated by how people continue to innovate dungeon delvers and how people satirize the game space. I’m looking forward to what people are going to say about this era–post-pandemic, pre-evolution, and the games that will be made with the new generation of gamers in mind.


Q: Tangentially to that, I'm really interested in hearing your take on AI and its impact on the gaming field. I have a policy of excluding any products with AI assets in my Roundups, and figuring out what does or does not have AI in it is taking up more and more of my time, and it is becoming harder to tell which is which. 


A: Rascal is also distancing itself from generative art and writing, as it is antithetical to not only our beliefs in the power and necessity of human creativity, but it is, at the moment, in a very dubious position, both ethically and legally—for a variety of reasons. Even “ethical” generative models–where people have to “opt-in” to have their work used as data training—have not proven to contain purely ethical output. 


Currently, our process is simply to believe people when they say they did not use generative models. If we are suspicious of generative model usage, we ask. Like you, we only have so much time to spend on figuring out what is and what isn’t getting our attention, and we have found a boundary that works for us. If we find out we have been lied to we will remove that work and re-evaluate our process. But right now, most of the community is aligned against including generative model output, and those that are using generative models are typically very forward with it. I think the only “tell” I can reasonably rely on is whether or not artists are credited widely and specifically.


With regards to my take on AI and generative models, I simply think that it is a fad that will improve in some ways and never quite live up to the hype in many, many more ways. It’s not going to disappear entirely, but I hope that people will be honest about its usage and allow their audience to evaluate whether they are comfortable ethically, morally, and financially supporting work that the author can’t even be bothered to craft themselves. 


Q: Finally, feel free to pitch anything you'd like: any personal projects you're working on, someone else's project that you've been impressed by, etc.


A: Oh, I’m just out here slinging headlines and writing blogs, I don’t have anything to pitch. In fact, I would love it if your audience pitched me! Feel free to email me at lin@rascal.news if you have a fun game coming out or going to crowdfunding, a story that needs to be told, or you want access to our announcement section. The announcements are a free public service we’re offering, and you can read more about it here.


We’re trying to make Rascal into a resource not just for readers, but for the industry. This is just one part of how we’re trying to make the site, and our reporting, accessible.

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