Ben Riggs Interview on the Death of the Golden Age

shannonrampe

Villager
On January 3rd, Ben Riggs, TTRPG historian and author of Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons posted an article on social media that was later shared here on EN World in which he predicted the Golden Age of TTRPGs was dead. The article garnered a great deal of critical feedback.

I recently had the chance to interview Ben Riggs for the GM Cellar Blog. I'm pleased to share the first half of the interview:
https://www.gmcellar.com/blog/ben-riggs-and-the-death-of-the-golden-age-of-ttrpgs-part-1
UPDATE: Part 2 is now available as well: https://www.gmcellar.com/blog/ben-riggs-and-the-death-of-the-golden-age-of-ttrpgs-pt-2
Shannon Rampe: Ben, thank you so much for hopping on here with me today to talk about your book and to talk about the explosion that happened on the Internet after you posted a Facebook post on January 3rd in which you claimed that the Golden Age of tabletop role-playing games is dead.

Ben Riggs: Was it an explosion?

SR: It may have been a bit of an explosion.

BR: It's very odd to me because I posted it on Reddit, Facebook and Twitter and within minutes on Reddit…I had my Reddit account set up so I got an email every time someone commented. And it's just like BRRRRRRRR! I'm like, OK, something is going on here, but is it just because I have those email notifications coming in? Is this really that unusual?

But then it got to 600,000 views on Twitter and EN World reposted it and it was like, “here's what everyone else important in the industry has to say about what this guy said...”

Read Part 1 of the full interview here.
Read Part 2 of the full interview here.
 
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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I'm going to disagree with this, @shannonrampe:
it was clear that some people just really didn't know anything about you or about your work. If they had bothered to take 5 minutes to look, maybe they would have commented differently. But, whatever, that's what you're going to get on the Internet.
The fact that Ben wrote a well-regarded book does not immunize him from also having bad takes or being criticized for those bad takes.

And the fact that his immediate response is "well, you should read the second half of my take before criticizing the first" is something he should get less slack on, precisely because he is a professional writer.

When an insurance salesman goes off half-cocked and accidentally digs himself into a hole, he deserves some slack, because words aren't his bread and butter.

But Riggs knew he was writing something controversial and if he's bothered by people responding to it in a way he doesn't like, well, my dude, you're a writer. You are in the professional written communication business. It is not on the reader to make sure their take is the one you want it to be.
 
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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
He is also clearly not kidding about reading any of the criticism of his takes, because he continues to repeat some of the sillier stuff.
And man, it's just hard to imagine future MCDM RPG Kickstarters majorly topping that. To put it in perspective, I went and looked at Colville’s Kickstarter profits, and essentially the trend line was up for years, peaking with this one.

But I think that's your peak.
Ben, you know from your own work that the core book outsells the supplements and adventure. Yes, obviously, the MCDM RPG core book is their peak. That's an completely irrelevant data point to your argument that the OGL crisis marks the "end of the RPG golden age." This has been something the critics have made clear, often in the gentlest possible way.
 
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FitzTheRuke

Legend
Ben Riggs: It would be great, but I just don't know a ton of people who go from video games to role-playing games. I know a lot of role-players who play video games, but there just doesn't seem to be as firm of a path. Now I have no data to back that up.

Well, maybe you ought to look into that, then, Ben!

I can tell you as the owner of an FLGS that people certainly DO go from playing BG3 to buying D&D. I've had it happen many many times in the past few months. Thinking that they won't is like thinking that they won't go from Stranger Things to D&D, or from Critical Role to D&D. Obviously, in all three groups, it's a percentage of people and not everyone, but there's absolutely no reason to think that it's not going to happen.
 


I would agree with Riggs that D&D is a gateway that brings in new people to the TTRPG hobby. But I don't think that that function requires D&D to have a monopoly on the TRRPG hobby like it does now. The 5E player base fragmenting is something that is going to be invisible outside the TTRPG hobby. No one is going to say "Gee, I really liked BG 3, and was thinking of trying out D&D, but then I heard Koblold Press is coming out with their own game so nevermind."

Nor do I think D&D is inevitably the only starting point for getting into TTRPGs. If you believe Critical Role streaming D&D got people to play D&D, why would you assume Critical Role streaming Daggerheart wouldn't get people to play Daggerheart? If you believe Matt Coleville's D&D videos got people playing D&D then why would you assume Matt Coleville's videos couldn't get people playing the MCDM RPG? Riggs points out MC has 450K YouTube subscribers but only had 30K backers for the MCDM RPG - he argues that this show people don't want to branch out from 5E. But the MCDM RPG had more backers than Coleville's 5E kickstarters (Strongholds; Kingdoms & Warfare; Flee Mortals!). If anything this would suggest people are interested in different game systems if they have a good reason to try them out.
 




Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I can tell you as the owner of an FLGS that people certainly DO go from playing BG3 to buying D&D. I've had it happen many many times in the past few months. Thinking that they won't is like thinking that they won't go from Stranger Things to D&D, or from Critical Role to D&D. Obviously, in all three groups, it's a percentage of people and not everyone, but there's absolutely no reason to think that it's not going to happen.
You would of course see a broader section of the gaming community than do I, but anecdotally I'm not sure I can think of anyone who came to D&D via videogames. I can, however, think of some who went the other way.
 

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