What’s the Future of Tabletop Roleplaying Games?

My thoughts on the Future of Tabletop Roleplaying Games

I believe the future lies not in the multiple 300+ page tomes that must be consumed and memorized before play – because, historically, that has not attracted mainstream appeal – but rather in short documents that can be read and mastered in 20 minutes, and taught in 5 minutes. After that, a (short) tome of advanced rules can be released to give the full (traditional) experience of tabletop gaming.

The topic is subjective as hell, but what do you think the future of RPGs looks like?

7 Replies to “What’s the Future of Tabletop Roleplaying Games?”

  1. There’s a lot to be said for positioning something as an introduction: I love dark roast coffee, Doom Jazz, and elaborate papercrafts – but I started with frappuccinos, swing, and making crates.

    Either way, I really like the idea of an introductory game being different than something one might play once they have more experience. This is one of the reasons I think highly of D&D 5th edition, despite having no interest in it personally; it feels like they really took the job of introducing new gamers to the hobby seriously.

    I do wonder if a focus on short-term (things that hold the interest of a new player) RPGs is truly the future though, in comparison to a long-term (things that hold the interest of an established player) focus? The structure of Accessible Game -> Expansions -> “Traditionally” Rich and Deep game is great in theory, but I don’t know that I’ve seen it done yet. To my eyes, most games that introduce additional mechanics through supplements aren’t starting accessible, and wind up an unplayable hodge-podge by the end (I love you, Shadowrun, but _we need to talk_).

    Anyway, I think there’s something worth exploring here.

    1. “Doom Jazz,” that’s new for me. I’ll have to check it out. 🙂

      I think you’re right, regarding how it’s been done up to now. However, I’m thinking of short (1-5 sessions) to medium (6-15 sessions) length games. And with how often people change up their settings/characters, I think such a system could last them for years after that.

      As for the “experienced” players going to games that are more involved…does that /need/ to be a thing? I mean, we do it that way because the industry trained us to. What if the “industry” (shorter games) trained newcomers to play those types of games? RPGs could become the new Monopology –– long games that take an entire evening, but potentially fun as hell, and with the possibility of a cliffhanger ending to pick up on next time.

  2. Hey Ryan, have you tried out some of the industry darling products like Maze of the Blue Medusa to up and coming ones like Lapis Observatory where they explore the technical writing aspect of products to make it usable at the table? I think that could potentially be the future and likely something that is enabled by having a tablet or laptop at the table. I mean keyed entries alone for traditional games would benefit a great deal from something like that.

  3. Since you’re talking about settings, maybe A Red and Pleasant Land, Yoon-Suin, or Hubris.

    If you’re talking about just from a formatting perspective, a print version of Maze of the Blue Medusa and Vornheim has some weird and interesting things that they do with the print format. Lots of these are reviewed here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvYwePdbWSEwUa-Pk02u3Zw/videos

    Lapis Observatory from Sword Fish Islands is doing some cool writing techniques (check this review out at http://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=3198).

  4. I think the future of RPGs lies in tablets, and the power of apps to hide complexity. The first stage would be self-optimizing character sheets so that someone who hasn’t been gaming for 25 years can create an efficient Eclipse Phase character within their first 3 or 4 attempts.

    Later stages will involve apps taking over and even improving webs of modifiers for range, conditions, and position in combats and maybe even other situations. Picture an Artemis Simulator situation, where the app has character sheets and NPC info, and the players are part of an ad hoc network where they can compel each other and make rolls, and the player tagged as the GM gets a similar but altered UI, like PowerPoint’s presenter mode display or the like.

    I don’t think the best situation is the current trend where rules are simplified and games are meant to be picked up, played once with essentially pregnerated characters, and disposed of. I think the goal is to have that level of ease of use and introduction of players new to the system or to gaming, _without_ giving up simulationist rules for appropriate games and the ability to have long-running campaigns.

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