Random RPG Thoughts #1: The Long Tail

Seeing the plethora of OSR products, role playing zines, role playing games and both forae and blogs I wondered. Many products are free, a good number are good, a nice amount of them is inspiring, and there may even be nuggets in the less appealing product lines. There is enough to use in play for at least twelve lifetimes. I'm not going to play all this stuff. And who is? A few people for each supplement?

Is that worth all the hard work writing game stuff? Apart from that it might be fun to do?

There aren't many professionals out there who can make a living writing stuff for games. There is Pathfinder allright, but personally I think that's not the market I belong to. To play Pathfinder to me it seems you must be a human calculator with little else to do than amassing Paizo products. Sorry. There's a lot of good Pathfinder stuff I'm sure. But I'm past that sort of game - I just envy their very good artwork.

Theatrix or Amber? I never played them, but was always intrigued by the idea that you could go for story without dice or dungeon. Traveller I loved as an idea, Call of Cthulhu I play with my own ruleset now and then. And yes I play my own Dark Dungeon 2nd ed, for about twenty years now.

I'm also not yearning to play Hackmaster, for example, which is way to voluminous to me, like an Encyclopedia. There's many games like that. OSR? Yes, I appreciate the movement. Much so. But I'm not intending to get back to the mindless dungeon. Doodling maps, okay. Grinning at new monsters, yes. But playing a search and loot straight out? It has become like playing World of Warcraft without computer.

Which brings me back to my point. D&D sure hit a nerve when it first came out. But eventually the computer took over for this kind of game. With EQ, WoW, and so on. No live game master necessary. These computer games have the market now, once belonging to TSR.

But... there are other types of game. Ones you cannot play on computer. Ones you do need face to face vibes for. Ones with intelligent storylines. Ones with personal creativity and imagination - instead of just mindless blasting and marveling at impressive CGI. Ones closer to acting perhaps, or historic simulation. Or just games to play in your own head.

My question is, is there any real market for these games to be found? Apart from the dwindling number of gamers who once knew what it was like to play D&D? Is there a way to entice the huge group of Harry Potter fans to enjoy what we are enjoying?

Or are we forever confined to producing a plethora of products for a group of nostalgic men (and a few women) who live far away and apart? A group we can only reach through the long tail of the internet?

PS Because I'm doing the september short adventure challenge, I decided to postpone Ammersfurt adventures for a month. So you'll see the rest of the Ammersfurt series resuming in october, probably running until december.

PPS I decided that Saturday would be my day of for the september challenge. Next adventure will be tomorrow.


  1. The computer has never been able to take over the type of tabletop RPG I like. The computer does combat really well but only handles non-combat stuff the programmers thought to (and had the time and budget to) program in. It's the non-combat stuff -- the ability to have my character do anything because there is a GM who can handle it (by making up game on the spot if needed) -- that interests me.

    I've tried computer RPGs since the SSI God Box stuff and have seldom had the interest to play one for more than 3-4 hours -- let alone top completion. On the otherhand, I've devoted a 4+ hours a week to tabletop RPGs since 1975. Computer RPGs are a long way from replacing tabletop RPGs for me (and MMORPGs are even more combat-oriented and therefore seem even more boring than CRPGs to me).

    I will continue to produce free RPG material as long as I'm interested in RPGs. I don't care if it is a mass success or if only a few dozen people are interested. As they require more effort to play and don't come with fancy graphics, they are unlikely to ever be as popular as CRPGs and MMORPGs.

  2. @Randall: I did play some computer games in my time, but currently I experience the same thing as you do - I cannot really be gripped by computer adventure.

    Actually, I think you're making an interesting observation here. You say CRPGs and MMORPGrsrsrs require LESS effort to play, but to players like us it actually requires MORE effort than a tabletop RPG!

    So, who knows there are zillions of people out there who would also love playing this sort of stuff? (Not that I'd want to GM for each and every one of them).