Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne looks at two upcoming RPGs that seem to be influenced by Netflix's Stranger Things.

It appears that the success of Nexflix' Stranger Things will have an effect on the series source material.  One of the key points of the series was the bonding of the main characters over their shared enjoyment of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG.  Even Games Workshop gets to make a cameo appearance in one scene as the camera shows one of the characters painting a Citadel figure while talking with another character.

So flipping through the current issue of Alliance Distributors' Game Trade Magazine, what did I spot but a couple of RPG's set in or inspired by 80s style RPGs and culture.  The first one I noticed comes from Fat Goblin Games, which by the way also publishes adventures suitable for use with 1st edition AD&D and is titled vs. Stranger Stuff: Send In The Clowns.  From the GTM descriptive text:

"Send in the Clowns is a special edition of vs. Stranger Stuff, a mini-roleplaying game of 80's inspired adventure/horror/sci-fi, typically involving children and teens."  At $14.95, it looks inexpensive and interesting enough to stock in, especially if you can tie it into interest in the upcoming second season of Stranger Things."

The other offering is Monte Cook Games' much pricier expansion for the company's Cypher System, Unmasked.  From the GTM description:

"It's 1986.  Top Gun is in theaters, "Papa Don't Preach" is on the radio, Hailey's Comet is in the sky and IranContra is in the news.  The Russians are in Afghanistan and the Doomsday Clock is at 3 minutes until midnight."

"But that doesn't matter.  Because at school, at the mall, down by the 7-Eleven, you've started seeing things others don't.  Hidden power glowing in what seem to be everyday items.  And when you follow that strange compulsion to create a mask from those items, you become… someone else.  Someone with abilities and strengths the world has never seen, and agaend that may not be your own.  And there are others, with their own agendas.  Maybe that Doomsday Clock matters after all… Superpowers.  Horrors.  A Dark 80's."

Again, an interesting sounding premise that opted to get set in the 1980s rather than in some unspecified time as most modern format RPGs do.  The page long GTM preview makes the game sound as if it would be a pretty interesting novel.  I am not sure how well it will work as a RPG.  However, as noted earlier, this is not a standalone RPG, it also required the players to have a copy of the Cypher System core rulebook, meaning that anyone wanting to play Unmasked needs to plan on spending over $90, around $50 for the core rulebook and another $45 to pick up a copy of Unmasked.  Although Wizards of the Coast and Pazio have both demonstrated the willingness of consumers to shell out the necessary $50 for a core rulebook, there is still a significant amount of price resistance among customers regarding purchasing expensive rulebooks that don't have the Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons logos on them.

Our store will definitely bring in a couple of copies of Vs. Stranger Stuff and will likely pick up a copy of Unmasked but will feel more comfortable with the latter if/when we get a couple of pre-orders for it.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of