Tuesday, May 05, 2009

BioWare and Green Ronin: Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together?

Two of my favorite game publishers, BioWare and Green Ronin, announced today that they have joined forces. In conjunction with BioWare's CRPG Dragon Age, Green Ronin will be publishing a pen-and-paper version of the game.

Traditionally, pen-and-paper ports of CRPGs have not been the big crossover hits everyone thinks they ought to be. This is because of a truth that RPG designers on both sides of that fence are finally waking up to: the circle of CRPG fans has only a little overlap with the PnPRPG crowd. They are not the same. CRPGs are best when they have a fairly tight focus and get certain core activities right, and then offer fun variations on that core. PnPRPGs offer impossibly expansive play and are limited in setting, tone, and activity only by the imaginations and tastes of the participants. I have, in the past, had a lot of luck convincing folks to try PnPRPGs by describing them as CRPGs without the annoying limitations.

For those of you who don't know them, BioWare has a reputation in the CRPG market that is very similar to Paizo's in pen-and-paper gaming. BioWare's games tend to enjoy excellent production values, detailed settings and characters, and to at least brush up against more “adult” themes. One of the players from my college game loves their stuff because they not only include romances for your PC, but usually give you choices as to who your character gets into a romantic relationship with. Like Paizo's Pathfinder adventures, BioWare's games tend to be a bit on the railroady side, but do give you lots of options, including “good” and “evil” paths or other meaningful philosophically motivated options and tangents either in or from the main storyline. In the past, BioWare has worked with licensed properties, including D&D (Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights) and Star Wars (Knights of the Old Republic). Dragon Age is an original setting BioWare developed in-house.

For their part, Green Ronin appears to be doing a number of interesting things. First, they're releasing the pen-and-paper game as a boxed game. If they mimic the size and shape of the computer game boxes, they could very well end up with something that looks very much like the little white box of old D&D. I think this is a great idea. A full game in a box is something the hobby has been needing for a while now, for various reasons. The other smart idea is to release the PnPRPG ahead of the CRPG. This means Green Ronin is likely to make a number of sales to the CRPG fans who just want a sneak-peak at the computer game. I don't expect many of them to convert over to pen-and-paper gaming, of course, but the sales should be very good for Green Ronin, and getting the boxes out into the public can only be good publicity for pen-and-paper gaming in general. Still, if you want to sell a PnPRPG to the CRPG crowd, at least making it look like a game instead of a text book is a huge step in the right direction.


Barking Alien said...

I was initially very intrigued and excited about the news that Green Ronin had acquired a new IP worth putting up a website countdown for. Many over at EN World and elsewhere speculated and names like Middle Earth, Star Trek, DC Comics, Marvel Comics and the like were bandied about.

Then end result is somewhat underwhelming. Not just because, as a PnP RPG fan, I'm just not that interested in a computer game IP that may or may not end up a hit (the game isn't even out yet).

I'm underwhelmed because with all the options available we get yet another medieval fantasy product. Another item that is probably, at best, a couple of cool ideas, some new monsters and magic that could be added to any of the dozens and dozens of fantasy games already available. Basically, if I did play the game and enjoy it, I could just add the various elements to my campaign using a little thing I call my imagination and the rules of whatever game I'm playing. If there are really big Ogres in Dragon Age (for example)do I really need the official stats for it as opposed to finding a similar beastie already in the game?

I'm sorry for the rant but I'm a little bummed to be honest. I love Green Ronin and I was hoping to see them add their magic to something new or something that would resonate with alot of people. Dragon Age just doesn't really do that as cool as it is.

Call me when Bioware and GR do Mass Effect. At least then we'll get Green Ronin SciFi.

Barking Alien

kelvingreen said...

I wonder if it'll be the same system? Baldur's Gate was 2e, Neverwinter Nights was 3e, and I've always had the feeling that they build their games as rulesets before they computerise them.

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous armours are still fashionable in the world of computer "roleplaying" games, I see.