There are so many great publishers out there, putting out a huge number of RPGs and RPG supplements. The wealth of creativity within the industry is inspiring and today I’m going to pay tribute to my 5 favourite publishers.
These rankings are completely subjective and based on my own experience of the products put out by these companies, along with their service and how they communicate with customers.
5: Wizards of the Coast
Publishers of Dungeons & Dragons, the self-declared “worlds’ greatest roleplaying game,” WotC would not have made this list a few years ago. The success of the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons has revitalised my interest in WotC. It helps that not only are they putting out great products, but they’re engaging with the community really effectively with previews, streaming, videos and more.
In terms of their D&D output, I feel like they’re being quite conservative. The release schedule is not stuffed with supplements as has happened in previous editions and the content itself tends to be quite ‘standard’ and sometimes unadventurous. Content has generally been new spells, some subclasses, and adventure modules. More recently, they’ve branched out a bit with the Acquisitions Incorporated book and I’m liking the look of the upcoming Eberron book.
And, hey, just because the content isn’t adventurous does not mean it isn’t good. I love the Curse of Strahd book, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and others. It’s all good content!
4: Kobold press
Kobold is my go-to example of a great publisher putting out content for someone else’s game. They create content for D&D, Pathfinder, 13th Age and other games. Of course, it’s their 5E D&D content that I’m interested in.
Their Midgard setting is great! I love my Midgard Worldbook and Heroes Handbook. I like my Zobeck books and Tales of the Old Margreve. They all mix fantastic content with really nice art. I was a little disappointed with Courts of the Shadow Fey. The book is fantastic and really well written, but I was hoping for more art. It has some nice maps and good bestiary images, but in between these it’s all pretty sparse.
Their bestiaries are great, too. I use my Tome of Beasts and Creature Codex a lot. They expand considerably on the available monsters for 5E and they’re stuffed with great art for each enemy. These are my most used Kobold Books by far.
3: Mongoose Publishing
I first heard of Mongoose back when they were doing the Starship Troopers miniatures game back in 2005. Looking at the rules and the miniatures, I wasn’t that impressed. Round the same time, they also had a Babylon 5 RPG and another based on Conan the Barbarian. None of these games appealed to me at all.
They came back on my radar in the past few years with their work on the new editions of Paranoia and Traveller.
The latest edition of Paranoia is really good. It’s simpler than previous editions, with the good and the bad that such a statement implies. The combat system is a little iffy but generally, I like it. I’ve certainly made a point of picking up everything that Mongoose has released for it. I’ve also played it a fair bit now and I’m glad this is a line out of which I am getting a lot of use.
The newest edition of Traveller is really nice. I have picked up all of the ‘core’ books – basically anything that isn’t an adventure module or campaign – as well as the Pirates of Drinax boxed set, which is a beautifully produced product. I actually like the production values of the whole line. The book looks great and I’ve enjoyed the couple of sessions I’ve played so far.
I also like the look of their upcoming Sea of Thieves RPG. I never had much of an interest in the video game, but a light, pirate-themed RPG? Yeah, I can get in on that. It’s also a beautiful product – possibly the best production I’ve seen from Mongoose. I’ll be watching this one pretty closely.
2: Evil Hat Productions
I love the Hat. First of all, as a company, I like how open they are. They share their struggles and their joys and I, as a customer who wants the best for the company, really appreciate that.
I also love FATE, their main game system. The core books are system-neutral and are intended as scaffolds over which to hang the window dressing of your campaign setting. The books themselves can be a bit bland art-wise. What are they have is fine, but being system-neutral there’s not a strong aesthetic. I do like the very clean style of the books, though. I especially like the purple books (system toolkits) which focus on helping the GM develop a specific aspect of his or her game. I especially like the Horror toolkit.
The best implementation of FATE is the Dresden Files Roleplaying Game. Not only does the FATE system work perfectly with this property, but the books are beautifully produced objects in their own right. Like, really nice. The Dresden games I’ve played have been among my favourite RPG experiences.
Evil Hat’s non-FATE products are great, too. I especially like BubbleGumshoe and Blades in the Dark and its sci-fi implementation, Scum and Villainy. Another thing I really like is the form factor of their small hardback books. They’re just nice products that sit well in the hand.
1: Onyx Path Publishing
A few years ago White Wolf would have been on this list for their World of Darkness games. In the absence of a functional incarnation of White Wolf for some time (and I would not have called the most recent incarnation functional), it’s been Onyx Path that has carried the torch for the Worlds of Darkness, Old and New, under license.
They continued the development of the classic World of Darkness with a series of 20th Anniversary editions and a number of associated supplements. They’ve done even better with the New World of Darkness, or Chronicles of Darkness, releasing second editions of most games, developing new games like Beast, Mummy, and Demon, and again a lot of great supplements.
They’ve also put out their own properties, such as Pugmire, which is a lot of fun. When I first heard of it I was doubtful, but reading through the book has convinced me that my early judgment was wrong. They bought and are developing some of White Wolf’s other properties, such as Trinity Continuum and Scion. I don’t Trinity at all, but I do like Scion.
I’m looking forward to their upcoming game, They Came from Beneath the Sea, which I briefly discussed on this blog after playing it at Tabletop Scotland 2019. I have also preordered the upcoming Chicago by Night book for the 5th edition of my beloved Vampire: The Masquerade.
Onyx Path are also expanding their online presence with a very active Discord server and a growing Twitch stream on which they share some really cool content. I like this sort of online engagement between publishers and fans.
There are two companies that narrowly missed out on inclusion in the list. The first of these is Chaosium:
I’ve been reading the new edition of Call of Cthulhu and am finding it quite promising. I’ve since reached out and picked up a few PDFs of other Chaosium books to get a wider view of what is available for CoC and what Chaosium produces. I’ve enjoyed reading Petersen’s Abominations and Terror Australis, as well their non-Lovecraft 7th Sea game line. I think this would have been a stronger competitor for the list if I’d gotten to play any of their games, but I’ve just not had the chance yet.
The other contender that did not quite make the list is Bully Pulpit:
Bully Pulpit make a game that I really like. This is Fiasco, a GM-less game of capers-gone-wrong. Our last game of Fiasco, set at a pen convention, was one of the best RPG sessions I’ve taken part in and led to a night of fun and hilarity. The book is also very well produced, which is always a plus for me. Other than Fiasco, I have read through the books for Durance and Night Witches which are both, again, just great books. One other title that I’m really keen to run is Winterhorn. I like the theme and the approach taken with this game about government suppression of protest. It’s interesting and seems quite timely.