[MUD-Dev] Tabletop RPGs and Inspiration (was: no subject)

Sean K sean at hoth.ffwd.cx
Tue Nov 20 13:45:10 CET 2001

On Fri, 16 Nov 2001, Brian 'Psychochild' Green wrote:
> "Koster, Raph" wrote:
>> Is it just me, or is tabletop RPGing basically dead? A corpse
>> shambling along without any significant audience growth in a
>> decade, low revenues (does an AD&D CRPG make more than the AD&D
>> books do? I have no idea, but it wouldn't surprise me), and a
>> terminally geeky image, and what's worse carried in part by
>> another industry that is also teetering on bankruptcy, the comic
>> shop.

> One of the problems with tabletop RPGs is that they're a
> self-defeating market. You need a good imagination to play RPGs in
> the first place.  If I have such an imagination, why do I have to
> buy the newest book filled with foozles, or even the next version
> of the game?  For example, I have lots of 2nd edition D&D books,
> why should I fork out more money for 3rd edition books when I can
> use 90% of my 2nd edition stuff with little effort?

In the case of D&D, my argument would be "because the 3rd edition
rules are just plain better than the earlier rules."  I wouldn't
consider it too much expense to drop $40 on the new handbook and
dmg, and any older modules or rules or whatever can always be
converted to the d20 system with a bit of work.

> Anyway, that industry has changed to adapt.  Tabletop RPGs gave
> way to collectable card games (CCGs) just as wargames gave way to
> the RPGs.  (I believe the more modern name for CCGs is now
> "trading card games", or TCGs.)  CCGs basically addressed what
> people wanted; a quick game with interesting rules, yet something
> that could spark their imagination. Games like Magic: The
> Gathering had much of the depth of a fleshed out RPG world.

And the marketing strategy of Magic and similar games was to get
players to spend as much money as possible by continually releasing
sets of more powerful cards, rendering previous killer cards
obsolete.  Pokemon and some of the more recent games IMO fully
justify the term "collectible card-game" as the card-collecting
aspect is easily as important as actually playing the game.  Also,
it should be clear that there is no role-playing with CCG's, though
I agree that they've taken a huge chunk of the p&p market.

> What does this mean for us tabletop RPG fans?  Not much.  Sure,
> it's tough to get new blood into the hobby, but there are enough
> of us out there that we can possibly find each other.  My 2nd
> ed. AD&D books don't need a server to run.  Plus, after attending
> GenCon the past few years, it seems that there's enough of a
> following and enough gaming geeks are bringing along their
> children that I think we've just hit a lull.

IMO games like Neverwinter Nights will be a huge boon to RPG fans.
In many places, it's difficult to find a group of people to play
with.  The internet obviates that need.  Sure it isn't the same, but
with NWN it'll be getting a few orders of magnitude better.

> Referring to the original post, however, I think that trying to
> make an online version of the table RPG experience is just silly.
> Most of us have as vivid memories of the people and places we
> played as in the games themselves.  While I certainly loved my
> dwarven berzerker in the campaign I played in college, I also
> remember the hyperactive red-headed GM that loved warm, flat
> Mountain Dew walking along the tables in the college common room.
> (I kid you not!)  You lose almost all of this other sensory input
> when you move it to the online medium.  The lesson here is: do
> your game in the right medium.

Of course.  Sitting in front of the computer will never re-create
the atmosphere of a p&p session, but that doesn't make it not worth
trying.  I'm looking forward to NWN as much as a programmer as I am
as a gamer.

> For example, I've finally gotten around to reading the Harry
> Potter books (actually, listening to the audio books).  (Yeah,
> yeah, I know. I'm a trend-setter, eh?  Only several years too
> late.)  Anyway, the books really got me thinking about things.
> No, not "wow, a Harry Potter online game would be a cash cow!"
> But rather, how things are presented.  One thing the books do is
> present magic in a way that's both strange and wonderous, yet
> vaguely familiar.  It gave me reason to consider how you could use
> something similar to introduce magic in a game.

Harry Potter doesn't break any new ground.  It relies on all the
classic archetypes.  However the books are very very well-written.
I love them, and I know I would have loved them even more as a
child.  I'll refrain from an analysis, however :)

> While I think there is a danger in clinging to the past blindly
> ("Tabletop RPGs can sell well to a mass market!  We just need to
> develop the right one!"), I think there is similar danger in
> becoming too blind to where we are going.  I can't count the
> number of times people lamented the death of imagination right
> before CCGs were introduced. People looked at slumping RPG sales
> and reasoned that society was doomed to be stupid.  Of course,
> these same people decried CCGs as "stupid entertainment", a pale
> shadow of the great amount of imagination that RPGs require!  Some
> people felt their hobby was too threatened to see CCGs for the
> intresting games they were.

I don't see CCG's as the salvation of role-playing, but neither do I
think the genre is very bad off.  TSR released a new version of the
D&D rules after nothing for like 10 years, and CRPG's are exploding
in popularity.  And, despite what some others say, I think CRPG's
*are* an entry to p&p gaming.


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