19 June, 2018

The 800 pound Gorilla...and their slightly smaller friends

It's been a busy couple of days, and it doesn't look like slowing down any time soon.

On Saturday, we had Free RPG Day at Games Paradise. I ran a six player session of The Law, which went reasonably well, but I couldn't help but think of all the players the local designers weren't reaching for various reasons.

It wasn't necessarily the location. It was in a game store, the intended destination for gamers looking to experience RPGs, and probably even looking to experience new RPGs. But I think a part of the problem was the lack of profile for Free RPG Day at this time. Most people coming to the store, and to the play area didn't even seem to know about the promotional event. Most had come into our vicinity because we were near the D&D books.

Lets round things off to whole numbers... If there were 60 people who came to browse, maybe half of them only looked at D&D stuff, so we're looking at 30 flat out D&D players, 30 others.

Of those 30 others, half looked at D&D stuff but spread their interest to Pathfinder products as well.

Of the 15 interested in products other than big name d20 derivatives, most clung to the Shadowrun chunk of the store, or Call of Cthulhu.

So, when it came to the 4 games being offered, the Call of Cthulhu game was clearly the one which drew the most interested players, Savage Worlds next, then the locally produced independent games. But even though we were offering games there and then, it felt a bit like fighting over the scraps left behind by the big games... even though there was no physical presence of someone running one of those games.

More often than not, I heard people say something in the vein of "are you running D&D?" to which there would be some kind of response indicating that some locally produced games were on offer... which then led to disappointment. I was feeling like a takoyaki specialist chef at a Japanese restaurant where most people came to purchase sushi or occasionally sashimi, then would walk away with nothing when those two options weren't available.

It's a multi-part struggle.

How do we get new gamers into the hobby? How do we get them not to be stuck in the D&D quagmire to explore the other vistas on offer? OSR offers them something similar to, but not quite, D&D... plenty of other games try to draw the crowds from LARP, miniatures, or computer games with hybrid offerings and varying degrees of success. Then there those games that just try to cannibalize the existing market with their claims of superiority, but requirement of prior knowledge before they can be properly played. I try to create games that lure new people to the hobby, but how successful that is...I'm not sure.

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