Looking Forward At The Year To Come In Tabletop RPGs
  • Looking Forward At The Year To Come In Tabletop RPGs



    I'm not one for looking back, so retrospectives of the year that was, or looks back at the best of the year, aren't for me. A lot of good and interesting games came out, and more than a few sad or bad things happened as well. It was a year that we will likely remember for a long time, in and out of our tabletop gaming worlds. Instead, let's take a little time and baselessly speculate about the year to come.

    What trends might we expect in gaming over the next year or so?

    The Rebirth Of Science Fantasy
    We all know that Starfinder is coming from Paizo Publishing. I think that, along with the upcoming Mutant Crawl Classics game from Goodman Games, we will see a wave of popularity of the science fantasy genre in role-playing games. Combine what will likely be two popular games with the fact that we are now going to see a new Star Wars movie every year (along with the new material coming for Fantasy Flight Games' lines of Star Wars role-playing games), and that means that a lot of people will be thinking about wanting to play science fantasy games.

    I lead with this because I think that it might end up being the biggest trend in RPGs for the coming year. We know, from past cycles, that game designers and publishers tend to think alike. They read a lot of the same books and watch a lot of the same movies, which means that they tend to get a lot of the same ideas around the same time as each other. We've seen a couple of versions of the Metamorphosis Alpha game come out over the last couple of years, which could have been the start of this trend. A new edition of Paranoia has been simmering in the cauldrons for a bit, after a Kickstarter project successfully funded, but it has been plagued with delays.

    I think that 2017 is going to be the year that we see a lot of designers and publishers putting the chocolate of science fiction tropes into the peanut butter of fantasy. Whether it is star-faring science fantasy, or post-apocalyptic science fantasy, we are going to see a lot of different flavors of these two tasty genres over the next year.

    I am looking forward to this trend. Goodman Games' Mutant Crawl Classics was one of the few Kickstarters that I backed this year. I enjoyed Gamma World as a kid, and when I got older works like the Max Max movies and Jack Kirby's psychedelic Kamandi comic were things that I eagerly consumed. I think that it is a psychological thing that post-apocalyptic media becomes popular when the world turns grim. We like to think that we can right the world when heroes stand up to the darkness, and that is one of the cornerstones of RPGs.

    I think that I am looking forward to Starfinder more than I was looking forward to Pathfinder. I was at the Gen Con when Pathfinder debuted. It was a madhouse. People were buying books as quickly as the Paizo Publishing people could stock their booth. Will Starfinder be as dramatic at its Gen Con as Pathfinder was? I don't know, but I think that it has the capacity to do so. Even if it isn't the top seller, it will be in the top two.

    But either way, we're going to see a rise in popularity for the genre among RPG publishers, and gamers. I hope that this will mean that we see a lot of new, weird gaming material over the next few years that isn't afraid to mashup two, or more, genres.

    The Upswing Of Horror
    It is a pretty well-documented fact that horror movies (and other forms of horror media) have an upswing during times of economic recession. Think back to the horror booms of the 70s and of the 90s. In fact it was the horror boom of the 90s that brought role-playing games the game changing Vampire: The Masquerade, as well as the Gnostic horror of Kult. Steve Jackson Games brought us the English language version of the French role-playing game In Nomine. Steve Jackson Games also brought out GURPS: Voodoo The Shadow War, by C.J. Carella (who has brought us a number of horror games and settings over the years), one of my favorite GURPS books of the Third Edition era.

    This was just the tip of the iceberg for horror gaming, as well. Old favorites like Chaosium's seminal horror game Call of Cthulhu saw new life breathed into it by third party publishers Pagan Publishing with Delta Green. The Delta Green setting tapped into a millennial zeitgeist not unlike that of the television show X-Files. It isn't coincidence that while Delta Green is currently in a new edition, the X-Files has also come back on the air.

    It isn't a surprise that Kult is coming back, with its blend of Clive Barker inspired body horror and a dark look at religion and the secrets of the universe. The new edition is Powered By The Apocalypse, instead of using its own system, but it still promises to be as unflinching and extreme as the game has ever been. There's a quickstart that has been released to backers of the successful Kickstarter, and I am looking forward to seeing where the new edition of the game takes us.

    Vampire: The Masquerade is on an upswing too. When video game developer Paradox Interactive announced in 2015 that they had acquired White Wolf Games, most of the talk of the acquisition revolved around bringing back the Vampire game. When Martin Ericsson was named the Lead Storyteller for White Wolf, there was plenty of Vampire talk. In fact he has shown some pictures of groups playing early playtests of the new edition on his Facebook. Will the new Vampire: The Masquerade come out this year? Maybe not, but it will definitely lead gaming news as more information comes out over the course of the new year. Let's hope that a new year brings us a new Vampire, but we'll see what happens.

    Fantasy And The DIY Groundswell
    Between retroclones like Swords & Wizardry having a very successful Kickstarter for a new printing, and the fantasy RPG DIY movement seeing the achievements of adventures and settings like Mike Evan's visceral Hubris for the Dungeon Crawl Classics game or Zak Smith's Maze of The Blue Medusa, there has been a groundswell of creativity in the fantasy gaming small press over the last year. Admittedly, this is the culmination of years of work before this year, however I think that not only was this the year that the DIY movement really broke but also when it showed that there could be more to what was once known just as an old school revival than rehashing the games that we all played as children. The old games could be used as the basis for new forms of creativity, and doing more than just what was being done 30 or 40 years ago.

    I think that this will be a trend that we will see more of in the new year as well, with creators like Jason Sholtis and Chris Kutalik lead small press publishing houses like The Hydra Collective in bold new directions for fantasy role-playing.

    What about D&D, the father of role-playing games? I think that it will keep on keeping on. Wizards of the Coast plays things pretty close to the vest when it comes to what is on the horizon for the game, but I think that we will see some interesting new adventures for Dungeons & Dragons, and maybe we'll get to see some published character options, outside of the material that they put out on their website. Much like comic book sales have been on an upswing because of industry starter DC Comics seeing sales increases, so does the RPG industry get better when D&D does better.

    Fantasy is always one of the most active segments of tabletop role-playing games, so with games like D&D and Pathfinder doing well in the market, that means that we will see a rise in fantasy games from other publishers as well. John Wick's 7th Sea, which had the most successful tabletop RPG Kickstarter ever, will roll out more material funded by the project in the new year. We will likely see the newest take on Runequest coming this year from the revitalized Chaosium this year, as well, or at least more information about its launch (most possibly through a Kickstarter).

    A popular saying in business is that "a rising tide lifts all ships." As fantasy is the leader in tabletop RPGs, as we see more fantasy games, and supplements, coming out, that will lead to us seeing even more fantasy games and supplements coming out.

    The Rise And Fall Of Kickstarter
    Pundits and prognosticators like to show that they know what they are talking about, that they are the foremost experts. Each year we see more people say that each year will be when the bubble bursts for RPG Kickstarters. I admit it, I have said it as well. Everything is cyclic, and sooner or later the wheel has to turn back around to the bottom of the cycle again. Will this year be the year for RPG Kickstarters to burst?

    I don't think that is going to be the case. I think that we still have the space for a role-playing game to outperform even the records set by 7th Sea. I think that it will be a perfect storm of timing and property that will make a staggering amount of money for someone on Kickstarter. If I was a gambling man, I would put my money on the RPG property that could do this to be Vampire: The Masquerade's new edition. I don't know that the game is going to be launched via a Kickstarter project, after all Paradox Interactive has pretty deep pockets by tabletop gaming standards, but if there would be any game that could be capable of making millions on Kickstarter, I would say that it would be Vampire. Will it happen? Time will tell.

    Regardless, I think that it is going to be a busy year in tabletop RPGs, regardless of what happens in the world outside of gaming. I think that the highs are going to be high, and the lows are going to be pretty low. 2017 probably won't always be a pretty year, but it will be another one to remember when we get to this point in another year.
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    Comments 27 Comments
    1. Desh-Rae-Halra's Avatar
      Desh-Rae-Halra -
      What about L5R that was acquired by Fantasy Flight? Could that possibly debut at Gencon?
    1. Zaran's Avatar
      Zaran -
      Quote Originally Posted by Desh-Rae-Halra View Post
      What about L5R that was acquired by Fantasy Flight? Could that possibly debut at Gencon?
      I doubt it. FFG hasn't seemed to want to pursue the RPG version of that. I think their Star Wars RPG sales are no where near their sales for the X-Wing or Star Wars card games and that will translate to focus on similar games for L5R. Hopefully I will be proved wrong but they have been very tight lipped about a possible RPG.

      I'm not even sure I would want them to produce a RPG version. I am really happy with the system AEG created. I don't think FFG can make a better one.
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      This is a piece about upcoming trends, not individual releases.
    1. Desh-Rae-Halra's Avatar
      Desh-Rae-Halra -
      Ok, well to shoehorn it into trends, lets talk about Fantasy Flight Games.
      Their trend with Warhammer 40k was to build different product lines with Top Notch production values and art. As I understand it, they lost/are losing/not renewing that license

      Same approach with Star Wars: They made 3 separate books that can all work together, plus a lot of other supplements and materials. With the ongoing movies, I hope they retain this license

      End of the World: They made 4 out of that. Will it continue? Does it have staying power or will it seem more like a gimmick?

      L5R: They have acquired the license, but so far no announcements. That seems a bit strange, as you can look on their product page and see every single future release and what stage it is in. Absolutely no mention of L5R, in terms of card games, board games, etc. What might they be planning?

      I would love to see FFG do their own version of L5R, just for the production values and art alone. I would be up for a new system as well (even if it meant that I had to buy a set of game-specific dice).

      Do you think we could see an L5R game in the vein of Relic?
    1. Tyranthraxus's Avatar
      Tyranthraxus -
      I want to single out Starfinder.

      I understand that a lot of people have faith that this will be big, but I honestly dont think so.

      THere hasnt been a REALLY successful Scifi rpg since Star Wars many years ago. And Starfinder isnt exactly true Scifi. Its more Dragonstar in its elements.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tyranthraxus View Post
      THere hasnt been a REALLY successful Scifi rpg since Star Wars many years ago.
      Apart from the current Star Wars RPG from FFG, which is extremely successful and has remained consistently in the top 3 RPGs since 2012? What, pray, is your personal metric of success?
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      That said, for those looking for science fantasy, you can't go wrong combining OLD and NEW from WOIN.
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      For those saying that there aren't successful SF games, I would also point out that Traveller 5 made nearly $300K on Kickstarter, and was the top grossing RPG Kickstarter for a while.
    1. Oakfist's Avatar
      Oakfist -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      That said, for those looking for science fantasy, you can't go wrong combining OLD and NEW from WOIN.
      Is there one corner of this site where OLD and NEW isn't plugged? Please knock it off. People who come to this site know what these are and where to get them. It's getting a little silly at this point.
    1. Oakfist's Avatar
      Oakfist -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      Apart from the current Star Wars RPG from FFG, which is extremely successful and has remained consistently in the top 3 RPGs since 2012? What, pray, is your personal metric of success?
      Looking at Roll20's figures, all Star Wars games played on the platform don't even eclipse 3%. In earlier years, while we don't have data, it seemed like Star Wars RPGs were more prevalent than they are today.
    1. TrippyHippy's Avatar
      TrippyHippy -
      The 'sci-fi RPGs aren't successful' meme seems to do it's rounds from time to time, but frankly Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who and Traveller are some of the best known brands in gaming so I've never understood why. All have relatively fresh recent editions that are out or due to come out (thank you, Modiphius RE Star Trek) and there are a kaleidoscope of other excellent, and successful sci-fi games of various levels of qualification (Shadowrun, anyone?) that make the genre very well represented, and I guess it would be remiss to not mention N.E.W.. I've no doubt that the fantasy genre overall sells more, but then again it does tend to have the 800lb gorilla that is D&D weighting it's success. What superhero RPG sells more than Star Wars, if you want to make a fair comparison?

      It's interesting what you say about Vampire: The Masquerade. For my money, it remains one of the major RPGs of all time, and I am on the radar having filled out my marketing survey from White Wolf recently. The only things I've heard about it is that they aim to make a slimmer volume than the 20th Anniversary style, and that they are trying to be a bit more international in it's appeal ("One World of Darkness"). I'm not sure that White Wolf will want to do a Kickstarter campaign - some titles are too big in my view, and if they have financial backing already then why bother with the stress? - but I don't rule it out.

      My feeling is that the game will have at least a couple more years of development before we see it anyway. The Onyx Path will probably get round to finishing the 20th Anniversary releases of Changeling and Wraith next year at least, which ought to tie in well with a brand new cycle of releases. I'm also looking forward to seeing Scion and the Trinity Continuum.

      Other than that, lets look forward to a new edition of Conan, Chaosium's RuneQuest (and maybe Stormbringer if we are lucky), Deadlands 20th in print, Unknown Armies and Kult. Oh, and whatever actual brand new game we haven't predicted.
    1. Variss's Avatar
      Variss -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oakfist View Post
      Looking at Roll20's figures, all Star Wars games played on the platform don't even eclipse 3%. In earlier years, while we don't have data, it seemed like Star Wars RPGs were more prevalent than they are today.
      Leveraging that assessment on the Roll20 metrics, rather than on the sales of the game (preferably from a distributor point of view for accuracy) may indicate a failing of the medium, not the game. FFG's take on Star Wars requires a mechanic that is not easily implemented on Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds. The traditional contested rolls of most systems is replaced with a varying single dice formula with significant ability for both player and GM to alter the die roll before it is executed. Even with the publicly available FFG dice scripts, and the necessary paid subscription levels to Roll20 to support it, the nuance that can be done at the table (destiny flips, abilities adding or removing hindrance, player-to-player advantage adjustments, etc.) is difficult to do well. It has always seemed to me, with significant GM running of the FFG system, that it is best served face-to-face.
    1. Plane Sailing's Avatar
      Plane Sailing -
      When considering rise and fall of Kickstarter's, I think there may be a danger in being dazzled by the huge rpg Kickstarter's and overlooking the immense benefits it gives to small and tiny publishers and will probably continue to do so.

      I was only able to publish my own science fantasy RPG last year thanks to kickstarter, and I'm tremendously grateful to the backers who made it possible. 5k doesn't sound like much compared to those big fish, but it made all the difference to me!

      If 2017 is going to be the year for Science Fantasy, I hope that it means that some additional people might give my game a look - so I hope nobody minds a little plug for Starguild:Space Opera Noir. Not a link, just a name to google

      Cheers
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oakfist View Post
      Is there one corner of this site where OLD and NEW isn't plugged? Please knock it off. People who come to this site know what these are and where to get them. It's getting a little silly at this point.
      There are roughly 5,000,000 posts on this site where it is not mentioned, including thousands of new posts every day. I very rarely mention it outside of the relevant forum. It is, however, relevant to this conversation.


      Sent from my iPhone using EN World mobile app
    1. dm4hire's Avatar
      dm4hire -
      Need to add Alternity and Star Trek to the list of pending list of sci-fi. Alternity will work better for sci-fantasy though a GM could easily have Star Fleet send the ship to check on a medieval era planer or have a hologram malfunction that kills a few red shirts while simulating a fantasy themed program.
    1. jayoungr's Avatar
      jayoungr -
      If Science Fantasy becomes The Thing, maybe that will encourage Wizards to consider giving Eberron some new love?
    1. dm4hire's Avatar
      dm4hire -
      Quote Originally Posted by jayoungr View Post
      If Science Fantasy becomes The Thing, maybe that will encourage Wizards to consider giving Eberron some new love?
      I don't really see Eberron as Sci-Fantasy. It's more steampunk, which tends to still fall into fantasy. However, it would be nice to see DragonStar make a return. Not sure if Fantasy Flight Games would release it again under 5e or make it a new system if they did; either would be nice though if it came back. I think 5e could handle it better than 3e did.
    1. jayoungr's Avatar
      jayoungr -
      Quote Originally Posted by dm4hire View Post
      I don't really see Eberron as Sci-Fantasy. It's more steampunk, which tends to still fall into fantasy.
      I agree, but it's the closest thing Wizards has to a Sci-Fantasy setting that's reasonably popular. There's Spelljammer, but I don't see that making a comeback before Eberron does.
    1. Kettlebriar -
      i already played StarFinder years ago...it was called DRAGONSTAR for those of you who do not want to wait on Paizo.
    1. aramis erak's Avatar
      aramis erak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Helton View Post
      For those saying that there aren't successful SF games, I would also point out that Traveller 5 made nearly $300K on Kickstarter, and was the top grossing RPG Kickstarter for a while.
      Not to be cynical, but, T5's still not actually fully fulfilled... Sure, everyone got a book or PDF... but Marc's still working on the actual, final, playable version, and the player's book is still at least a year off. (Because Marc's not going to do the Player's Book until he finishes T5.1.)

      There's plenty of room in the industry for Sci-Fi. Mongoose is doing alright (not top 5, but still top 20) with Their version. Dr Who sells well enough, too. And, as Morrus notes, FFG SW is top 3. (And they just surrendered a license for a Space Fantasy line of games....) Not to mention, if one breaks out FFG star Wars into its component lines, they're each still top 10...

      As for L5R... I fully expect we'll see something announced more for Gen Con. Last I saw on their page, they were planning on an LCG as the lead game, and a reset of the timeline... and for other, linked games. They did, I'll note, buy the whole property (source: AEG's announcement on the sale), not just the CCG and trademarks.

      And I found this on the FFG L5R page:
      In addition to the new incarnation of the Legend of the Five Rings CCG as a LCG, we are excited to explore new possiblities for Legend of the Five Rings in the roleplaying space. At the current time, we don't have many details about this, but we will reveal more as the details become clear.

      I would hardly be surprised if they made an L5R edition using their SW engine. But it's not like they don't own 4 other engines to pick from...

      I expect Modiphius will do rather well with STA, no matter how good or bad the game itself is, as it will grab a lot of casual gamers, too, not unlike Star Wars. And the alpha draft is rough around the edges, but plays well with the right players.
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