14 April, 2012

Where is roleplaying going wrong?

I had a few great conversations last weekend at Sydney's Eye-Con roleplaying convention, some of these were bout the way the roleplaying hobby seems to be going and how we can get it back on track.

My thoughts at the time led to conclusions about blaming "World of Warcraft" and MMORPGs, which aren't real RPGs, but which lure the majority of the players nto something that is a pseudo-roleplaying experience. But I even pointed out at the time...now we blame WOW, 20 years ago we blamed the rise of Magic the Gathering, and in the decades before that we blamed the rise of corporate miniature gaming conglomerates like Games Workshop. It's easy to lay blame, but hard to make the choices that might improve our hobby and spread it to the wider community.

Personally, I think the Cel*Style initiative is great. It reaches out to the anime fans with games that they might be inclined to play...and that crosses over to cosplay territory where the participants are halfway toward roleplaying anway.

I just clicked on a link on google+, I can't remember who posted it (sorry), but it has gotten me thinking about some of the other issues we have as designers, GMs and players of RPGs.

I'm not going to editorialise any further, head across and read the article. It's pretty well considered and offers some great food for thought. The link is here.


Joseph Bloch said...

Ironically, in the early 1980's, hex-and-counter wargamers were lamenting the fact that everyone was spending their money on D&D, rather than the newest version of the Soviet invasion of West Germany. Funny how things come around.

Reverance Pavane said...

The barrier to immediate engagement is why I think WOTC is taking exactly the wrong approach to the new edition of D&D than they should by trying to appeal to the existing fan (and heavily splintered since 4E) fan base. They are producing a game with a greater barrier to entry than even before.

The problem is that D&D is ideally positioned to expand role-playing back into the non-role-players, moreso than any other game. What they should be doing is concentrating on the D&D dungeon boardgames as the entry point to the game, then develop supplements that start to allow the players of those games the ability to create their own content and situations.

Roleplaying occurs naturally in these types of situations once you get the idea across. Take a look at kids playing Lego dungeons - they will spin great stories of their characters.

You can still go on producing profitable games for the dedicated boardgamers and increasing creative-enabling content for those who want to go their own way. With the increasing popularity of eurogames, it would definitely draw new blood into the hobby.

Computer games based on the D&D franchise don't offer this opportunity. For one, they tend not to be social - you don't get everyone sitting around the table, which is an important aspect of the tabletop RPG. But more importantly, they don't allow anyone to be creative - the barriers to entry to create your own content are too high for most people, and you are often limited in design or story choices to those envisaged by the designers (take a look at the Mass Effect 3 fiasco, for example, in how let down people were that their choices through the game were seemingly ignored). The only advantage computer RPGs have over tabletop RPGs is that you can play them when you want.

Instead WOTC is specifically targeting the existing fan-base, in the forlorn hope that all the people who left for Pathfinder or the OSR or other game systems will come back. Which won't happen, especially when people will have to buy a whole new slew of books and individual modules (all marked non-compulsory, but people will still be expected to use them). The good bit of this is that D&D remains, as it always did, a common focal point for our hobby (everyone can deal with a game of D&D at a con, for example). But it fails to bring in the desperately needed new blood.

Michael Wenman said...

Reverance Pavane, I think you've hit something really important here. Roleplaying is often something that develops spontaneously in the playing of other games. I'm actually starting to think that something like "Lego Dungeons" is a much better entry into our hobby than virtually anything being produced from within the hobby.

I'm actually thnking of moving more toward the expandable board-game model for some upcoming RPG projects.