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, Scott Thorne says goodbye to another RPG designer, gives an update on the tariff situation, and points out the real problem: counterfeits.

Just wrote one of these a couple of weeks ago but the game industry lost another member this past week.  About 2 a.m. on June 28, RPG designer Lee Garvin passed away.  Garvin, best known as the designer of the Tales from the Floating Vagabond RPG in the early 1990s and who also wrote material for the Star Wars, Indiana JonesDeadlands and 7th Sea RPGs, had suffered significant health problems during the last five years, but had still managed to keep producing material, both through his company Reality Cheque and for others such as Skirmisher Publishing, which is currently offering a bundle of three of the books Garvin wrote for them:  The Noble Wild, The Noble Wild Pathfinder Edition and  Updated Animal Familiars.  As a tribute to Garvin, Skirmisher is currently offering all three books for only 3 cents, hoping that players will take advantage of the bundle to get to know the work of this funny author.  RIP Mr. Garvin.  The gaming industry is a little less imaginative this week.

Tariffs are going back on hold, the President announced over the weekend after an 80 minute conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 conference in Osaka, Japan.  In order to get the talks with China started again, Trump announced that he would offer concessions to Beijing including easing of restrictions on tech company Huawei and holding off on imposing the new tariffs he had threatened on many consumer products imported into the US from China.  In return, the Chinese would start buying unspecified agricultural products from the U.S. again, as they were the largest customer for American soybeans and pork, with sales of both collapsing after the imposition of the original round of tariffs.  No mention was made of reducing or eliminating the agricultural tariffs China had put in place on imports of American agricultural products, but I doubt the Chinese would want to harm their own economy by leaving them in place.  This means the game industry has dodged the proverbial bullet, at least for the meantime, as the latest round of tariffs under consideration would have squarely hit the game industry, causing prices to rise from 5 to 25% , assuming no successful negotiations  between the US and China regarding the two countries trade disputes.  That threat has been taken off the table, at least for now.

Now the U.S. does have a significant problem with Chinese manufacturers infringing on US intellectual property, which does need addressing.  You can find quantities of Codenames or Catan for sale in bulk on for about half the price through regular distribution  with Czech Games or Catan Studios not seeing a dime in profit from the sale.  While not as bad or blatant as a few years ago, when you could find dozens of manufacturers selling knock-offs and unnamed variants of Cards Against Humanity (you can still find them, just not as easily), intellectual property infringement by Chinese manufacturers is still a major problem with which the U.S. must deal.  It will take time and negotiations between the two countries to resolve.

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