Saturday, March 17, 2018

What a Tabletop RPG Needs To Be Now: Part 7

It's time to bring this home. What does a tabletop RPG need to be now?

  1. Online: Your customers go to your site, where you link to the System Reference Document you maintain. That document is where all the rules and mechanics that you use in the content that they buy is found, and because you maintain one master document you never need to make new editions. Your game is evergreen in every way that matters, and people LOVE stability in products that they use- and you don't need the cost or overhead of a print publishing operation or a physical retail hustle to make this happen, so don't.
  2. Simple: Your design needs to something a prospect needs to come into cold (no preparation) and stupid (no prior knowledge or experience), and go from sitting down to playing in five minutes or less. That prospect needs to be engaged within 10 minutes, and well on their way to familiarity within an hour. "Character sheet" means a page out of a notepad or spiral-bound notebook that you use in school, not a custom-made form that rivals IRS tax returns for complexity. Embracing liminality makes this happen.
  3. Regular Content Production: This is what makes you the money. Publish playable content early and often, putting it out there where customers actually shop online: Amazon. Give away the rules; sell the content- and sell it cheap so it's an evergreen impulse buy (That means $5 or less, usually $3 or less.) This is a core way you adapt the Galaxy's Edge model to serve your purposes. The ideal is something new every month.
  4. Strong Support for Game Masters: This is going to be something you spend a lot of time doing on the site, on your Twitch and YouTube channels, and so on. You do this, and you will increase your business by making prospects confident in their ability to run the game- not just play it. In time, you can get into the business of curating the best fan-made stuff; the more that people play your game, the more you can find ways to sell them content that they will want to buy.

If this can be summarized as "Original or Basic D&D's product size and complexity, but regular support in the form of convenience products and free skill development." then you're on the right track. Cultivate a play culture that supports open table gameplay, no time commitment (which is what boardgames and videogames use to compete favorably over tabletop RPGs right now), and otherwise actively recreate the original gameplay paradigm wherein tabletop RPGs facilitated their explosive growth. Replicate the conditions for success, and you will re-experience that success.

This is what it has to be now: digital, persistent, convenient, cheap, and simple. Get in and playing in the time it takes to boot up a PS4 and sdownload a game to the drive, or get dumped for alternatives that do just that.


  1. Bradford
    I've read your posts about on tabletop rpgs and they've been great.i learnt alot even as a non gamer about marketing any product online I do have one doofus question:
    What do gamers mean by mechanics. Is that like d+6 your wizard unleashes the hocuspocus spell and causes +2 damage?



    1. A mechanics is a specific procedure that a player uses, as if operating a machine, to make an effect happen in gameplay- during during play at the table, or before in character generation or improvement.

      Using D&D as an example, choosing what Class to play is a mechanic; you're choosing the chassis for your robot, as Class defines what your character can or cannot do and to what degree of competency. How your Fireball does damage (roll Xd6 damage, apply to target's Hit Points, saving throw for half damage) is also a mechanic- and mechanics can be nested together (as that example shows: how to do damage, how to measure damage, how to mitigate damage).

      When the mechanics of a game become too dense, players always turn to using them as the sole means of playing a RPG- something that competing media compel by their nature. (You don't have a choice to do otherwise.)

      Tabletop RPGs need only those mechanics that cannot be handled by the back-and-forth interaction of player and Game Master. (See the link to my post on the core gameplay loop a day or so ago.) Why? Because that puts attention on the virtual situation, and not on what lever to pull as an input into the machine to get the output that you want. It's not computer code, something that a lot of players and designers forget to their detriment.

    2. Bradford,

      Thanks! That's really helpful and clears up a lot of misunderstandings on my part. I better understand Larry's hilarious play by play of Heist/dramatic cop show.

      The mechanics were very sparse and help move the plot. The hilarity was Larry's interaction with his kids playing the game as tto what happened to the various characters and the mechanics were totally secondary.


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