Wednesday, 2 August 2017

RPG a Day 2017: Day Two

The topic for day two of #RPGaDAY is what RPG I would like to see published. Since the ease of self-publishing and open licenses on so many RPG systems has led to a surge in the variety of RPGs available it feels like there is a game for almost every taste out there. When I run them, I find I still need to tweak things. Sometimes I massage a game's rules so much it's not really the game I started with but my tastes run toward pulp action with an element of danger in casting magic.

That doesn't mean I want a new pulp action fantasy game. It certainly couldn't hurt. I'm sure I'm not the only one who likes the kind of game I like, but that's not what I'd like to see published right now. I'd like to see a game published that is designed for and marketed to new players. The only game out at the moment that seems to even consider new players in its design is Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Every other game is aimed at people who are already players. That means the entire hobby rises and sinks on the success of D&D. The latest edition is pretty good, but it has some fiddly bits and 50 years of expectations as baggage. All of that might form a barrier to new players. Besides, I don't trust a bunch of corporate stooges with my hobby.

What I would like to see is a new game that doesn't have the baggage of 5e D&D that is designed to be easy to pick up and play for new people. I'd like to see a game that delivers all the wonder and excitement that can be packed into a fantasy RPG, with intuitive guidelines that allow for flexibility and don't have players consulting the book during play unless they are looking for something awesome.

I've been thinking about this since I started running the Black Hack for a new group of players. They love it and might try playing on their own if I could give them a rule book that they could run a game with. But the Black Hack is 20 streamlined pages designed for an experienced GM. The player facing parts are exceptional but there is nothing in there for the new GM.

We have all the talent in the DIY RPG/OSR/Indy RPG publishing scene to make a game that is a tool for play, an instruction book for learning how and an inspiration for years of fun. What we have less of is people with the will and money to market such a thing outside the RPG scene.

As long as your game has some good layout and art (or at least doesn't have bad art) you can count on making enough sales to recover whatever you put into it. If the game is good, you get lucky, or you get the word out to the RPG scene you could make a tidy profit from it. That means there is no incentive for a small publisher to spend the effort or money necessary to push outside the existing market. One of the results of that is we have all kinds of games. Some of these games come from amazing risks that make great RPGs that push game design forward. Others are pretty terrible. Most are somewhere in the middle, but suit a niche and make a group of players happy by catering to their particular tastes. Another result is we creators stay inside the bubble and new players looking for way into the hobby that isn't D&D don't have the options that were available in the 1980s.

I guess that means I'd like to see a whole bunch of games published. Games aimed at new players and different genres. Games made by gamers for new gamers they don't know.