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MCDM Productions is raising money to produce its own D&D alternative

With roots in video game development and at Critical Role, Matt Colville’s crew is branching out

A party of adventurers celebrates at a tavern. As a bard plays on, several drink and carouse. A dwarf admires a sword with a magnifying glass in the foreground. Image: MCDM Productions

The fallout from Wizards of the Coast’s Open Gaming License fiasco continues as MCDM Productions, formerly a producer of popular third-party Dungeons & Dragons supplements, is now striking out on its own. The studio’s next project, due on BackerKit Dec. 7, is a campaign to create its own role-playing game currently called the MCDM RPG. A formal name will be determined at a later date, but delivery is expected by the first half of 2025.

MCDM was founded in 2018 by Matt Colville, formerly a lead writer at Left 4 Dead and Evolve developer Turtle Rock Studios. The company’s tabletop releases, which began in 2018 with Strongholds & Followers, have focused on adding depth to 5th edition gameplay and proved highly successful — including several multi-million-dollar efforts on Kickstarter. Strongholds & Followers (over $2.1 million) harkens back to earlier editions of the game by allowing players to make a mark on the world and build bases of operation where they can gather allies, research spells, or assemble spy networks. Kingdoms & Warfare (nearly $1.4 million) builds on those systems, providing rules for large-scale conflicts between organizations and nations. Where Evil Lives gives villains even more support by providing sample dungeons for all levels of play. Finally, its most recent offering, titled Flee, Mortals! (over $2 million), is one of the finest tabletop books released this year — and a great gift for your Dungeon Master.

MCDM also has deep ties to Critical Role. Colville began writing on Dark Horse’s Critical Role comics line in 2017. Meanwhile, MCDM lead designer James Introcaso worked with Matt Mercer on the Critical Role 5th edition D&D setting book Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount.

“We’re encapsulating decades of design experience into crafting an RPG experience that focuses on the heroes’ journey, filled with action and strategic combat,” Introcaso told Polygon in a statement. “It’s about making every character’s action significant, every battle a narrative in itself. Your character doesn’t just swing their sword. Monsters aren’t just bags of hit points. Every hero and monster turn is dynamic and full of cinematic action. We’ve been testing this game for months now. It’s already fun.”

The MCDM RPG will eschew the d20 system in favor of using primarily six-sided dice. Most challenges will be adjudicated by rolling 2d6 and adding d8s or d4s to represent situational advantages or disadvantages, or the strengths of your character class.

The game is focused on the cinematic rather than the more simulationist elements of D&D. The game runner, called the Director, is encouraged to only ask players for tests if the results of failure would be dramatic and not when they wouldn’t have much effect or would utterly derail the game. Similarly, there’s not all that much inventory management either. Characters are just assumed to have the gear they need to use their class features.

Initiative is determined by both the players and DM rolling a d6, with one member of the winning team acting first and then tagging an opponent to take their turn, going back and forth until every combatant has acted. Directors are also encouraged to call “Cut!” on an encounter if all of the major threats have been dealt with so fights end dramatically rather than feeling like a slog.

Most of the creature roles from Flee, Mortals!, like controller and minion, will also appear in the MCDM RPG. The 4th edition influence can also be found in rules for complex tests that resemble skill challenges, the use of the bloodied condition, and effects that can be shaken off by making rolls at the end of a turn.

MCDM has set a crowdfunding goal of $800,000, which will allow the company to publish the game’s core rules plus a book of monsters. If the stretch goals of $1.5 million or $2 million are achieved, MCDM will hire developers to work on a virtual tabletop for the system and publish a box set for the Vasloria medieval European fantasy setting first detailed in Kingdoms & Warfare.

The BackerKit campaign for the MCDM RPG begins Dec. 7, with a PDF of the Heroes book selling for $40. Delivery is expected in Q2 of 2025, though backers will be able to begin playing the game sometime next year. The books will also be available through MCDM’s webshop.

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