Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dancey Wraps it up All Purdy-like

Mr. Dancey has finished his series of blog posts detailing a plan to revitalize the RPG industry. His final post was basically a review and summary. Obviously, he remembered the wise words of high school English teachers everywhere: tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, then tell 'em what you have to tell 'em, and finally, tell 'em what you told 'em.

It's definitely worth a read, especially if you haven't been following along. I had no idea what he was thinking at the beginning (which is obvious from this post), but now that's he's laid it all out, I'm mixed. Overall, I think he's got some very good ideas, but I'm at a loss as to how to implement all the points in a coherent package.

I think a lot of folks threw themselves off the rails when he mentioned "Storytelling Games". The name, honestly, isn't as important as the rebranding. To most folks not into RPGs, "roleplaying games" means "D&D". Hell, to many folks in the hobby, it still means "D&D" or all the many games like it, including "GURPS", "Shadowrun", "WHFRP", etc. Renaming the style would be a powerful marketing tool that would both get people to look at the game who might otherwise recoil at the "roleplaying" moniker, and get roleplayers to approach the game with an open mind as to how it should be played. This is vital as Mr. Dancey is intent on skewering a few sacred cows along the way.

The main area of conflict that I'm struggling with is the intersection between player-influenced and altered environments and shared worlds maintained by the "service provider" STG company. But maybe I'm overthinking things. After all, LARPs do a lot of this all the time, don't they?

And now that I think about it, you do see similar activities across the web, but most are rather free-form. We've all seen the RPG "taverns", chat-boards and IRC channels where people get together and free-form stories. Perhaps we should see this as some crossbreed between MUSH and RPG?

Maybe. I don't think that's the direction Mr. Dancey was thinking. Again, we run into the same issues. If everyone can affect the world at whim, then most of those effects will be ignored and then do we really have a shared, persistent world? What sort of utility must the service provider offer in order to earn the money of the players? WotC is hoping a combination of online DM tools, periodical content, and virtual gaming table will do it for them. But at the end of the day, the only thing you really need to play D&D is a few rulebooks, some dice, and your imagination. How do you shift the focus of RPGs from the small, insular, table of friends to the wider community?

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