What have been the big innovations in RPGs?




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    What have been the big innovations in RPGs?

    Forked from the "The Next Innovation in Gaming?" thread:

    So what would you consider to be the big innovations in the RPG category? This could be systems, rules, formats, accessories, IPs, technologies etc. I will get is started but mine is not meant to be an exhaustive list.

    • D&D 3e and the OGL
    • PDF format and distribution via RPGNow/Drivethru RPG
    • Print on Demand
    • Pre-painted plastic miniatures
    • e-Character Creators (e-tools, PC Gen, D&Di etc)
    • Internet game tables (Fantasy Grounds, Game Table Online)
    • Online rules databases (d20srd.org, D&Di Compendium)
    • RPG based web communities (ENWorld etc)
    • Web based RPG resource services (Obsidian Portal, D&D Insider)


    So what else would you say are the big innovations that change RPGs going forward.
    Last edited by Scott_Rouse; Monday, 11th January, 2010 at 05:26 AM.
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    My vote is for the OGL. We got so many flavors of D&D that I'll never run out of 3E and 3.5 products. People got the chance to not only publish specialized niche products, but to push the rules and concepts of RPGs in ways that never quite happened before. It was truly a golden age.

  • #3
    Forge, especially the explication that system matters, i.e. that reward structures create the play experience, and the assertion/principle that game design should be highly focused.

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    Most game mechanics are variations on old tried and true systems. So the one that I think comes closest to actually being knew, and innovative, while still familiar, is the SIEGE engine by Troll Lord games.

    The Dragon Age mechanic may be pretty cool too, but I have yet to run a game, or play in one, so I don't know about it yet.

    The new Warhammer 3E is definitely innovative, but I haven't decided what I think about it yet.
    It is the spirit of the game, not the letter of the rules, which is important. NEVER hold to the letter written, nor allow some barracks room lawyer to force quotations from the rule book upon you, IF it goes against the obvious intent of the game. As you hew the line with respect to conformity to major systems and uniformity of play in general, also be certain the game is mastered by you and not by your players. Within the broad parameters give in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Volumes, YOU are creator and final arbiter. By ordering things as they should be, the game as a WHOLE first, your CAMPAIGN next, and your participants thereafter, you will be playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons as it was meant to be. May you find as much pleasure in so doing as the rest of us do.

    -1E DMG, page 230

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    First of all, I just saw the name of your blog, and laughed out loud.

    Second, my list of innovations (that I appreciate):

    So what would you consider to be the big innovations in the RPG category? This could be systems, rules, formats, accessories, IPs, technologies etc. I will get is started but mine is not meant to be an exhaustive list.

    • D&D 3e. Previous D&D editions were 'black box' games, where you couldn't see why things worked the way they did; they just did. Some other RPGs were 'anatomical,' in that you could create things from the inside out, but at least among the mainstream of those, they were pretty finicky and hard to just jump into.

      D&D 3e, though, was a class-based anatomical game, so it gave you enough pre-made stuff you could just start playing, but you could also see how all the parts under the hood worked.

      Was this good? No! It was more complicated than most GMs wanted, but it led to two great innovations. One, it got people interested in how the guts of a game system fit together, which spawned a lot of tinkering.

      Two, it led to the 4e innovation as a 'simple anatomy' game. It's sort of black boxish, because stuff just works, but there is rational design behind how it all balances.
    • The OGL. This spurred a lot of innovation as publishers both vanity and legit tried to make rules that worked the way they (and occasionally their customers) wanted.
    • Messageboard collaboration, PDF, and Print on Demand. I'm not talking just published products, but also things that started as fan-projects on the internet, and eventually got published (in print occasionally). Internet production made it less risky to be experimental, so we ended up with a few gems (and a lot of crap).

      Later, it let established publishers work with less overhead.
    • e-Character Creators (e-tools, PC Gen, D&Di etc). These I don't like, because I don't like my games to be so rules-complex that they require computers to handle. But they have allowed that style of game to become possible. I wonder if D&D 5e will make even better use of digital tools.
    • Internet game tables. I almost never use these, but again, internet experimentation is cheap, and once people who are noodling about in their spare time hit upon a design that is genuinely good, the concept can make the leap to the mainstream.

    Actually, I think the list is half innovation, half catalyst. There are all kinds of cool ideas, but what really spurs the creation of those ideas comes down to "getting more people experimenting." Making people more aware of how rules can interact made it easier to try variation. And getting people talking online, sharing online, being capitalistic and seeing what ideas were marketable (but online, where you don't need much capital to get started) let a lot of ideas interact and fight for superiority.

    In a way, it makes me a bit sad that WotC sort of closed up shop on digital competition when they started 4e. With 3e, D&D was a 'book game,' and even if a lot of tinkering went on online, nothing was stopping you from printing out some new 3rd party rulebook or fan supplement and slipping it into your GM folder.

    4e has really become a 'computer-assisted game,' and the way WotC designed their web tools has made it hard to integrate whatever innovations people come up with. I might have some cool ideas for retooling character classes, but I am forced to choose between using the Character Builder, or using my house rules.

    I dunno, maybe for 4e we'll just end up with people innovating less on the rules front, and more on the "adventure design" and "world building" front.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squizzle View Post
    Forge, especially the explication that system matters, i.e. that reward structures create the play experience, and the assertion/principle that game design should be highly focused.
    Is there perchance a quick link I might read that goes over the basics of this idea? It got me thinking about how I motivate players in my games.

    For instance, I want to run a campaign that encourages discovering the world. I was considering ditching XP, and instead granting access to new skills when the PCs encounter people who have those skills and take the time to learn them.

    Contrast that to my normal style. I usually run campaigns with a narrow-wide-narrow plot structure. Start in place X, do whatever you want to deal with a foe, then go to place Y to defeat that foe. I never used encounter-based XP, and just gave the PCs levels whenever I felt they'd accomplished something toward their goals. I never felt like I had to encourage them to do anything, because they bought into the world and did what their characters wanted, so I'm not sure if there was a reward structure.

    I'd like to read more thoughts on this topic.
    Ryan "RangerWickett" Nock
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    The most cinematic adventure path for 4th Edition and Pathfinder.

    Now available - Admiral o' the High Seas, and ZEITGEIST adventure eight, Diaspora! For Pathfinder and D&D 4e.

  • #7
    Strictly from a design standpoint:

    - Skill systems
    - Dice pools
    - Action/Drama Points
    - Narrative control / true storytelling systems*

    * Which I would argue aren't actually roleplaying games, but since the Storyteller system from White Wolf is actually a roleplaying game and not a storytelling game, I suspect the distinction will never be unmuddied.

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    Point-build chargen. - I'd rather play the character I want rather than settle for whatever I randomly generated. Also, no more BS claims of 'I rolled this, no lie' when confronted with a sheet full of 18s.

    Disadvantages - Now a one-armed fighter is not autogimped, it's just better at different things than a regular fighter. Allows for/encourages a broader spectrum of character types.

    Classless game systems - No more hardwired class structures. Want to make a spellslinger with more HP than an average fighter, sure. Want to make a skillmonkey with no backstab and clerical healing, sure. Anything goes as long as you have the points to build it.

    Freeform magic or power systems - Rock on. Anything goes as long as you can fit it into whatever system exists. Some systems will let you sacrifice versatility for power, reliability for flexibility or this for that. Way cool.

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    I'll go with some games I think were innovative and continue to influence design.

    Ars Magica - Spell design and style influences many games today. Troupe style of play never seems to have caught on.

    GURPS - point builds - no, they weren't first, but I think they were most influential

    Deadlands - flavor components (using poker cards and ships), bennies, etc.

    d20 (3.0) - unified mechanic - again, they weren't first, but it was highly influential

    I think these games were innovative and influential. They not only did something new, but were influential enough to affect game design. There are many examples of innovative designs that did not really catch on - I would put Millenium's End in that category and many, many others.

    D&D 4e may be one of those games. I don't have perspective on it yet. They certainly are headed down the path of more technology integration.

    World of Warcraft is probably the true innovation in RPGs these days. The next generation will have found memories of raids the way I reflect fondly on The Keep on the Borderlands.

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    I could be wrong, but I suspect Traveller was the first RPG with a 'lifepath' system inbuilt. Might've had a few other firsts as well; can't remember exactly.

    Pendragon is often, I believe, overlooked or underestimated in terms of how it's influenced the tabletop roleplaying game hobby.

    Likewise, Amber Diceless.

    Huh, and CoC of course. SAN!

    edit --- hmm, what was the first RPG with die types as stats, I wonder, because that is sure as hell a popular mechanic nowadays. . .

    edit2 --- ooh, I got one, I got one! which RPG had *templates* first, eh? GURPS, perhaps? well, whichever one it was, that's a huge, hobby-shakin' innovation.
    Last edited by Aus_Snow; Monday, 11th January, 2010 at 08:08 AM.

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