[MUD-Dev] Role-Playing Games Are Not Dead

Michael Tresca talien at toast.net
Thu Nov 22 07:50:18 CET 2001

Raph posted on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 11:19 PM

> My impression of the commercial reach of tabletop RPGing is that
> it has not enjoyed significant growth over the last decade. Part
> of this may be my impressions of management issues at TSR and its
> subsequent absorption, part of it certainly is figures I have
> heard from folks formerly in the industry, who told me rough
> ballpark sales figures for typical D&D materials.

I'll let Ryan Dancey answer this.

> This says nothing about 26,000 people attending GenCon. That's
> certainly more than attend a typical online gaming convention
> (attendance at which is in the low thousands, albeit for
> single-game conventions). There may well be 5 million tabletop
> gamers out there. But my sense is that there were 5 million ten
> years ago, too.

I disagree.  The market for role-playing games has expanded
considerably.  There's more than just WOTC products.  The Open
Gaming License expanded it even further.  Again, Ryan can back this
up better with stats than I can.

> But they are, and I will say it bluntly, CRAPPY MODELS FOR MUDS. I
> simply fail to understand why everyone regards the pen and paper
> model as the savior of mudding. And I have to conclude that it's
> people who want to do more tabletop RPGing than they get to.

Now this is something different.  You're not saying that "tabletop
RPGs are dead."  You're saying "tabletop RPGs are not a valid model
for creating an online multi-user game." I agree with you 100%.

On the other hand, I don't believe anything will destroy MUDding --
anymore than tabletop RPGs are going away.  MUDs fill a basic niche.
I think Dave pointed out that it's not really the same niche -- it
competes with TV.  Tabletop RPGs are a social activity.  When you
can't be social, MUDs and MMORPGs fill the gaps.  A world of
frustrated gamers.

> But it's also been done. There have been MANY, MANY attempts to
> replicate the pen and paper experience online. They have been done
> in chat rooms, they have been done on web boards, they have been
> done on mailing lists and via email, they have been done in IRC
> and on muds, and they have been marketed as commercial products at
> least twice--and one of them even with a major license. Anyone
> remember the Storyteller mode in the computer version of Vampire:
> The Masquerade? Or heck, let's not forget Baldur's Gate
> multiplayer, since we're on the subject of D&D.

I don't really see NWN as attempting to just port the tabletop RPG.
It's more like buying an accessory, like purchasing dice.  I view it
as buying a huge series of models with built in rules.  What's

  1) It's the official rules.  Very few games can claim that (beyond
  Baldur's Gate).

  2) It's a tool for building worlds, not just a universe we either
  participate in or leave.  In short, I don't have to play YOUR
  game, I can make mine.

>  - no form of online activity that discourages novices thoroughly
>  will bring sweeping change

>  - no form of activity that requires heavy manual intervention
>  will bring sweeping change

>  - no form of activity which requires multi-hour sessions in order
>  to feel successful will bring sweeping change

So it's hard, takes active participation, and time.  That's pretty
much why we love RPGs when we're young and have all that time.  And
why the "geeky group" plays it and others don't.  It takes thought.
It takes effort.  It can take more effort than a high school class.

This by no means invalidates the pastime.  Be wary of the path
you're going down here Raph.  Because the conclusion may be,
"There's too many stupid people in the world to actually enjoy
tabletop role-playing on a large scale." I don't know if that's what
you meant, but that's what I'm reading from those statements.

We spend hours endlessly discussing how to retain those casual
gamers who want quick fixes and immediate game play and how
ultimately, we want their money.  But you know what?  Casual gamers
can stick with solitaire.  Rich, fantasy universes deserve the time
and investment.  If a player don't have time or energy to get
involved, that's the player's problem. Of course, when you're trying
to make money off of those folks, it's a different story.  But the
"quick fix" gaming approach ultimately leads to thinking that
tabletop role-playing is insular and old, slow to catch up, and too
hard for new players.  It may be true that it will never be a
widespread popular hobby, because it requires exercising one's
imagination pretty vigorously.

MUDs, on the other hand, are not a valid comparison.  MUDs fail in a
lot of ways because they try to be what MMORPGs are now.  I don't
read graphic, detailed combats, I read "You hit goblin hard.  Goblin
misses you.  You barely hit goblin."  This is not exercising my

MMORPGs require me to think even less.  Look at the pretty colors!
Now I can see Bubba the Barbarian hit the goblin rather having it
described to me in boring sentences.

Movies, radio, and TV were all supposed to destroy the pastime of
reading.  Novels would be a thing of the past, because why bother to
read when you can actually see it? Same arguments apply.  Tabletop
RPGs are the original, raw, imaginative social story generators.
Tabletop RPGs aren't dead and they're not likely to die any time
soon.  I go to movies, listen to the radio, watch TV, and I just
finished a novel (Timeline, not too bad).

> You know the single biggest reason I havce heard for wanting to
> play NWN?  It's not "wow, I'll have a better roleplaying
> experience" or "wow, I can create my own content." No, it's "cool,
> it's a mud where I can keep out the jerks."

That's my reasons, only take out the "MUD" part.

Mike "Talien" Tresca

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