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 some recent news stories and what they mean for his store.

Remember me talking about the Magic Gift Sets a couple of weeks ago and how they would be great to sell to families and friends of Magic players for whom they were Christmas shopping but would not sell to Magic players themselves. Turns out, at least here, I was right on one count and wrong on one. Unfortunately, I was right and wrong on the predictions I would rather not have been. I figured we would sell these to families of Magic players looking for a Christmas present for them. Unfortunately, that turned out not to happen. Not only did the Magic players pass them over, despite the extremely limited “Shooting Star Lands,” but so did their gift buyers. Based on comments from customers and the sales track record, it would appear that the Magic player is a difficult enough beast to buy presents for that those looking for presents for them shrugged and went for the default option of a gift certificate instead. Incidentally, I noticed the same reaction to the assorted Pokemon gift sets we stocked up on but I also saw a good-sized stack of those still at our local GameStop a couple of days before the holiday so I feel less badly about them.

In other Magic-related news, Wizards of the Coast will bring back the very popular Event Decks, now called Challenger Decks, suitable for Standard tournament play right out of the box.  These always sold quite well for us to new players and to Magic players who showed up for a Standard tournament without a legal deck. We always sold them as pre-made decks built to give players a good chance of, while not winning, having a competitive chance in the tournament.

White Wolf moved one step closer to the launch/re-launch of Vampire: The Masquerade with a logo for the 5th edition of the game. White Wolf announced the 5th edition of Vampire last spring, and offered players the chance to participate in an “alpha” playtest of the new rules last fall, which I know a lot of our lapsed 3rd and 4th edition players sunk their teeth into trying out. We still have customers coming in semi-regularly looking for 2nd and 3rd edition material, never ever ever EVER 4th edition books though. Although White Wolf has stayed pretty tight-lipped regarding the plans for 5th edition, most players I have talked with hope that the rules and storyline will reset to something compatible with the 3rd edition rules, since those improved on both gameplay and storyline over 1st and 2nd while 4th left most of them cold. White Wolf has only announced a release sometime in 2018 but given the company’s fondness for Gen Con (in its heyday, White Wolf threw some fantastic parties there for fans of the RPG), I would expect to see, if not a full-throated launch there, at least some form of soft launch.

It appears Paizo may have waited too long to capitalize on the success of Starfinder. After arguably the hottest product launch in the company’s history , everything for the RPG stayed out of print for 2-3 months (the GM screen is still out of stock as of this writing). Likely this was just the result of Paizo getting caught by surprise at the popularity of Starfinder at launch, but lack of availability sure seems to have cooled interest, with most retailers from whom I have heard saying very few of the reprints have sold.

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