Do we want one dominant game, and why?

Do we want one popular role-playing game to dominate the market?

  • Yes

    Votes: 50 26.5%
  • No

    Votes: 113 59.8%
  • I like fences

    Votes: 26 13.8%

Nifft

Penguin Herder
A basic assumption of posts like these always seem to be that there is a self-evident need for "one game to rule them all", one dominant system that most gamers know.
I prefer submissive games, that are more easily bent to serve my will.

More seriously, RPGs benefit greatly from network effects, so it's not unexpected that there will always be one with the lion's share of players: having more players is itself a strong selling point.

Cheers, -- N
 

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renau1g

First Post
I only play D&D & I don't want it to be just the only one, after all a monopoly will breed complacency and with that leads to mediocrity and that would suck. Without Paizo et all nipping at Wizards heels I'm sure it would be less pressure on them to put out a great product (IMO). After all, if designers are anything like most people they perform best under pressure.
 

renau1g

First Post
I prefer submissive games, that are more easily bent to serve my will.

So instead of the current published rules, when will we see Nifft's Game System out there to ruin the minds of the children...oh gods won't somebody think of the children ;)
 

Nifft

Penguin Herder
So instead of the current published rules, when will we see Nifft's Game System out there to ruin the minds of the children...oh gods won't somebody think of the children ;)
Nifft's Universal Drama Environment will have an option to dress up as a catholic school girl, but we suspect the nurse supplement will prove more popular.

Cheers, -- N
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I remember back in the '90s, when Vampire: The Masquerade was pulling in a lot of people who'd never played D&D and weren't particularly interested in elves and dwarves and dungeon crawls. I don't think it's a coincidence that V:tM's rise came at the same time as TSR's death spiral.

Yes, but the point is that if D&D hadn't been there to begin with, V:tM and the other White Wolf games probably would have flopped.

The "Big Boy, Little Friends" model works, but it breeds dependence. To survive and thrive, the Little Friends must tailor their designs to the types of people who were attracted to the Big Boy in the first place.

Strong dependence only shows up if your potential market's desires are extremely narrow. Otherwise, this is only true in a broad sense. White Wolf is a "little friend" - their offering there is still recognizably a role playing game, but mechanically and thematically quite different.

You don't always have to copy the Big Boy to take advantage of its existence. You can get just as much, probably more, mileage out of using the Big Boy as a contrast. "We are not D&D," is a valid marketing point for the little friends, and they can and should use that. It keeps the Big Boy on his toes.

But is that enough to grow and sustain what has long been a desperately niche hobby?

It has done so for decades, so the model is pretty well-tested. And, I think it is required going forward. Why? Because the resources of a Big Boy are required to help drive RPGs into the technological future.

As others have recently noted around here, D&D is not primarily in competition with other RPGs. The question WotC wants answered is not, "Will this customer buy D&D instead of Mousegard?" The question is, "Will this person play a tabletop RPG instead of playing with their Wii, or instead of going to the new 3D Movie?" RPGs are primarily in competition with all the other forms of entertainment out there first, and with each other only a distant second.

To compete effectively in the long run, just publishing a few new source books will not be enough. The hobby needs its network externalities (places like EN World, f'rex) maintained, and new technologies developed and adopted. Those efforts require greater resources and market presence than tiny game publishers can manage. Together, the little guys need a Big Boy to do this for them. They'll repay the favor in creative juices.

Or is "Big Boy, Little Friends" the only workable answer despite its shortcomings? I don't know.

This is the worst model ever! Except for all the others....

You speak as if this same ecology doesn't exist in pretty much every other area of human endeavor. It is the model that naturally develops given the nature of our economic system, and the nature of humans, who you have to sell to.

Is it perfect and 100% stable? No. But neither are ecologies. Life isn't 100% perfect and stable. Life is flux and adaptation. You need a mix of sizes and strengths to maintain balance through turbulence.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Strong dependence only shows up if your potential market's desires are extremely narrow. Otherwise, this is only true in a broad sense. White Wolf is a "little friend" - their offering there is still recognizably a role playing game, but mechanically and thematically quite different.

You don't always have to copy the Big Boy to take advantage of its existence. You can get just as much, probably more, mileage out of using the Big Boy as a contrast. "We are not D&D," is a valid marketing point for the little friends, and they can and should use that. It keeps the Big Boy on his toes.

My point is, if the Little Friends are relying on the Big Boy to do the heavy lifting of bringing in new gamers, they ignore their own potential to bring in new gamers. In this model, anybody who has never played D&D, and isn't interested in playing D&D, is automatically excluded from the market--even if they might like some of the other RPGs out there.

And that's incredibly limiting, because D&D is, at heart, the trappings of 1970s-era pulp fantasy grafted onto a tabletop wargame. Through all of its incarnations, it's never really done much to change that; I'm not sure it can, or should. But I suspect there are an awful lot of folks out there who might enjoy "playing pretend," but aren't much into 1970s-era pulp fantasy or tabletop wargaming.

It has done so for decades, so the model is pretty well-tested.

Actually I was talking about an alternative approach there. Clearly the Big Boy/Little Friend approach works; the question is whether something else could work better.

You speak as if this same ecology doesn't exist in pretty much every other area of human endeavor. It is the model that naturally develops given the nature of our economic system, and the nature of humans, who you have to sell to.

No, it's really not. Most industries are dominated by a handful of giants and a bunch of little folks around the edges. The giants compete with one another and that competition drives innovation. Now and then a giant falls, or a little guy grows into a new giant, but the industry goes on.

The "Big Boy, Little Friends" model is different--you've got one giant with no competition within the industry, and which holds the entire industry on its shoulders. If the giant falls, the whole industry goes with it. But the giant has no rivals its own size, to keep it sharp and competitive. It's not a healthy arrangement. Look what happened with TSR; the giant was collapsing under its own weight, and only the intervention of an external force (Wizards of the Coast, flush with cash from M:tG) saved the situation.

That said, it may well be that there's only room for one giant in this industry, and one giant is better than none at all.
 
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Bluenose

Adventurer
Yes, well, that will be a notable point when someone makes that suggestion, and not before.

GURPS claims to be universal. :)

More relevantly, there was a time early in the D20 OGL life cycle where all sorts of games were beign converted to use a variant of the D20 rules, sometimes at the expense of the original line. Traveller, World of Darkness, 7th Sea, Legend of Five Rings - they all had a D20 variant. I don't think that was particularly good for the original games, and to be honest I don't think most of the ones I mentioned worked well. Possibly because the writers didn't go far enough in altering the basic mechanics, which is where I think M&M shone in that the creators realised how superhero games deviated from the standard paradigm of D20, and where it could use them.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
My point is, if the Little Friends are relying on the Big Boy to do the heavy lifting of bringing in new gamers, they ignore their own potential to bring in new gamers.

No, I don't think they do, because their potential in that regard is, on the scale of things, minimal. Bringing in new gamers is, in essence, marketing, and that costs money. Big money. And the small producers have problems just getting product out the door, much less setting up effective marketing campaigns.

I wouldn't compare to White Wolf - they came to power in a different age, going to the market in 1991. That's before Amazon.com, before online retail and the downslide of the local bookstore.

In this model, anybody who has never played D&D, and isn't interested in playing D&D, is automatically excluded from the market--even if they might like some of the other RPGs out there.

I don't think they are at all excluded. As far as I can see, the primary route into RPGs is not through the producers of the material, but through other gamers. This is why we need the Big Boy.

The Big Boy exists, and has a large mass of players. We have a network (EN World is part of this network). We talk. We talk about things other than D&D - other games. We get together, and play other games, even though we are also D&D players. When we go home, we introduce other people we know to these non-D&D games.

Thus, the little guys ride on the coattails of the Big Boy, and can get into the market *without* a marketing budget.

No, it's really not. Most industries are dominated by a handful of giants and a bunch of little folks around the edges.

Most things you call an "industry" are also orders of magnitude larger than tabletop roleplaying. As you cut the size of the market, you cut the size of the ecosystem, and the number of Big Boys you can have, and how big even they can be. It should not be surprising that our ecology is small.

If, somehow, the market grew to ten times its current size, it could support (and I expect would naturally develop) other big players. But we are not D&D wizards who can cast Wish to produce that. We must work with what we have, for the moment, in terms of market size.

The "Big Boy, Little Friends" model is different--you've got one giant with no competition within the industry, and which holds the entire industry on its shoulders.

It is the same thing, on a smaller scale.

I repeat - for our purposes, the RPG companies are not primarily in competition with each other. They are in competition with mainstream entertainment. It is that external competition that keeps the Big Boy on its toes, not competition with the smaller producers.
 

Aust Diamondew

First Post
So yes, I want a dominant game, as only such an entity will prepare the fertile ground on which new roleplayers and roleplaying games are grown.

Do you think D&D is a good entry level game?

Its fantasy setting and tropes are certainly familiar to many who have played computer RPGs or who have read fantasy literature. But I've always felt d&d to be too rules heavy/clunky/non-intuitive to be a truly good entry level game (the editions I have played, 2nd-4th, suffered from at least one of these problems).
I also think the setting of D&D limits its appeal as a good game for drawing in new players.

In the past I've tried to introduce people to the hobby through d&d and couple times through Shadowrun (with mixed results).

If I were to try again today I think a system like Savage Worlds might be better. The rules are less crunchy for one thing, but Savage Worlds has another advantage:
It has no particular setting, but its genre/theme is very pulp, which I think makes it more accessible (unlike other 'universal' game systems such as GURPs or d20).
 

Dausuul

Legend
It is the same thing, on a smaller scale.

I repeat - for our purposes, the RPG companies are not primarily in competition with each other. They are in competition with mainstream entertainment. It is that external competition that keeps the Big Boy on its toes, not competition with the smaller producers.

But external competition is fundamentally different in a couple of ways.

First, with internal competition, when one player comes up with an innovation, the others can quickly adopt it. That doesn't work nearly so well when your competitors are external; WotC has tried to borrow ideas from MMOs, for instance, but the results have been mixed at best. MMOs are fundamentally different from tabletop RPGs.

Second, when there is internal competition, natural selection can take its course without destroying the industry. A company that fails to compete declines and gets bought out, often by a more successful competitor. Its resources are then put to better use. Or it gets liquidated and competitors take over its share of the market.

But if the company that makes D&D is unable to compete, well... even if it does find a buyer, where is the buyer going to find the expertise to rebuild the brand? And if it gets liquidated, who's going to step up and take over? We were lucky in 1997 that Wizards of the Coast, originally an RPG company, had recently created Magic and was in the middle of its meteoric rise. What are the odds of something similar happening if WotC stumbles?

As I said, one giant is better than no giant, but two or more giants would be far healthier than just one.
 
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