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 discusses the cancellation of Origins as well as the banning of controversial Magic: The Gathering cards.

Geez.  Each time I plan to do a column on Free RPG Day, other stuff comes up, this time primarily due to Origins and Magic.  As Bullwinkle used to say in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends, “Next Time For Sure.”

First, due to the COVID-19 epidemic,  GAMA announces it will postpone the Origins Game Fair until October and hold an online version of Origins over the weekend of June 18 through the 21, the weekend originally scheduled (see "GAMA Postpones Origins Game Fair").  Then, due to what a lot of attendees perceived as a tepid response to the Black Lives Matter movement in the time since the death of George Floyd, GAMA saw a cascade of individuals responsible for scheduling, operations, and programming as well as companies pulling out of the event which weakened the Origins Online to the point that GAMA felt cancellation was the only viable option (see "GAMA Cancels Origins Online").

GAMA posted a statement announcing the cancellation of Origins Online without specifically referencing the pressure the organization had come under and offered to refund exhibitor fees or to donate them, at the exhibitors request, to one of several organizations and matching those donations.  This last offer did raise some questions as to why GAMA did not announce it would make donations first and then offer to match exhibitor fee donations on top of that.  It appears that canceling the Origins Online event will hit GAMA in the pocketbook as the organization is talking refunds in the neighborhood of $100,000, which is not close to what the physical event takes in, but not an insignificant sum either.

Then, yesterday, GAMA announced that, due to the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19 hitting the states this fall, the organization announced it would cancel the rescheduled October show (see "GAMA Cancels Origins Game Fair 2020") joining other events such as Gen Con (see "Gen Con Officially Cancelled for 2020 Over COVID-19 Concerns"), and San Diego Comic Con (see "San Diego Comic-Con, WonderCon Canceled"), and a lot of smaller regional conventions such as KhanCave, Inconjuction and Conglomeration in cancelling events this year to minimize the likelihood of spread of the virus.  While a responsible thing to do, canceling Origins for this year had to be a hard decision to make.

Meanwhile, in response to the growing backlash over questionable (at best) illustrations on some of its cards, WotC announced it would permanently ban seven cards from all formats of play (see "Wizards of the Coast Removes Racist 'Magic: The Gathering' Cards ") and TCG player quickly followed by removing the ability to sell those cards through its marketplace (see "TCGplayer Deactivates 'Magic: The Gathering' Cards Depicting Racism").  The action by WotC drew enough attention to warrant an article in The Wall Street Journal and, of course, proving that nothing derives demand like controversy, the price on eBay for Invoke Prejudice, the art for which has been controversial among Magic players since its publication in Legends back in 1994, has shot up from around $240 to $500 since the announcement.  Why anyone thought the card art a good idea and why it took WotC so long to respond are questions for the company is beyond me?  Who knows, maybe WotC is buying up copies of the card as they hit the market in order to get rid of them?

Feel free to email comments on either Origins or the card banning to

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