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is the ttrpg market swamped now? could you write a winner?

overgeeked

B/X Known World
CR is a lot of eyes. Matt Colville is banned from my youtube for doing a movie review pooping on Dune 2021 which still triggers me. The movie was my fav in a long time and to talk about how he didn't care for it... sacrilege to not support my beloved childhood book.
For anyone who hasn't seen Matt's review, he doesn't poop on it. He likes it fine. He's just not impressed. "Meh" is a fair summation of Matt's review. Matt has supported just about everything Dune related since he was a kid, too. He talks about his Dune fanboy bona fides regularly on his channel. He even wrote the first Dune RPG. Matt also has reviews of several other Dune products and Dune related videos on his channel. He's about the biggest fan of the franchise I've come across. And I'm a lifelong science fiction fan who's loved Dune for decades.
 

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Reynard

Legend
For anyone who hasn't seen Matt's review, he doesn't poop on it. He likes it fine. He's just not impressed. "Meh" is a fair summation of Matt's review. Matt has supported just about everything Dune related since he was a kid, too. He talks about his Dune fanboy bona fides regularly on his channel. He even wrote the first Dune RPG. Matt also has reviews of several other Dune products and Dune related videos on his channel. He's about the biggest fan of the franchise I've come across. And I'm a lifelong science fiction fan who's loved Dune for decades.
Also, the movie was just kind of meh.
 


It's a position I've heard for many decades now. I've heard a lot of people say that D&D is only popular because it's got a strong brand, but hear me out everyone; Maybe it's a strong brand because TSR and WotC have consistently put out good games for almost five decades now? I try not to be snooty about what I like and especially try to avoid telling other people they wouldn't recognize something good if it bit them on the bum at high noon in the town square. When I really think about it, a lot of what I like is just silly. I've got not room to cast aspersions.
yeah, it's a pretty ridiculous position. Every version of D&D, taken as an artifact of its time, was a good game. Was it the best game? Probably not (although OD&D might be able to claim that by nature of being first), but it was a good, playable game that many people enjoyed. By and large, the value of other games isn't being "better" so much as being "a game more like the one that I want to play"
 
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Retreater

Legend
Yes, I could write a decent game. However, wrangling art, layout, promotion, etc, is a skill set I don't have. That's as important as the quality of the writing and system design. I doubt it would be even a decent success (i.e. making back its money).
 

ruemere

Adventurer
Regarding writing an E&E game that would sell, here is a little rant based on my observations over the years:

(warning: rantish)

1. You need a distinct and appealing art style. This means hiring an artist with a vision, getting a professional to do proofing and layout. The game must look original and separate - here are a few recommended picks (focusing on just a few examples that I own - please don't hold it against me if you find your favorite item missing):
  • Broken Tales
  • Blade Runner
  • Orbital Blues
  • White Hack 3 (the art style is literally a basic LaTeX template, and yet it is so unbelievable easy on your eyes that it makes for a very cozy read)
  • Necrobiotic
  • Arc Doom
  • Troika | Electric Bastionland (can't believe I failed to include this)

2. The system must be serviceable. It may be super simple, it may be more elaborate, but the underlying concept must be simple, at least on paper. Only big brands can afford to be elaborate with impunity (Level Up/A5E).

2.1 Simple systems that are too simple or too casual will die. The system must be able to produce engagement that rewards its mastery. I know that some people people disagree with Monte Cook who said this originally, however... if you want your players to read some of your books, you should give them stuff to engage with the game on several levels.

2.2 Prior to any publishing campaign do your best to get other people to use your system. Chances are that there are things obvious to you, and not necessarily to others.

2.3 Too many indie games recently produced are all about a system, but not enough about a setting. Not enough setting content means that GMs will have to rely on tropes and stereotypes, and most GMs will at some point give up the game because of this.

3. The setting material is not about a number of new races, artifacts or monsters. It's about what the role of protagonists is, culture differences, mysteries, politics, economics and plots.

3.1 I cannot stress enough that the protagonists role must be addressed - are they adventurers? If so, what kind of work are expected the adventurers are to do? What do the NPCs are doing meanwhile?

3.2 If you are producing a derivative E&E setting, do remember that there is a glut of generic online content. Do try not to reproduce it.
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
'Well written' is no guarantee of anything. I wrote a Sci-Fi hack of Trophy Gold that is (IMO) 'better written' than a lot of 3rd party 5E stuff I've read, but that doesn't mean it's going to sell well (or at all, not that I've tried to sell it).
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
If I see a new fantasy RPG out there, the first thing that comes to my mind is "how close is it to D&D?". Because I already know D&D, spent years decades learning the rules and the lore that goes with it, and can easily teach it to anyone that wants to learn. Coincidentally, few newcomers will ask about any other system when they first start playing. So unless that new fantasy rpg has something different to offer, like a compelling mechanic or unique setting, it's going to be a hard sell to me.

Now let's look at something completely different. I love the Star Wars RPG by Fantasy Flight Games. The mechanics are truly innovative. The system focuses on the narrative and storytelling aspects of the game by encouraging improvisation and collaboration between the players and the GM. It took me time, practice, and commitment to really grasp how the system works best. To do that, I had to stop thinking like D&D.

So I did buy into a new system that wasn't D&D. But guess what? It's really hard to find players who share my enthusiasm and interest. It wasn't hard to teach. People picked it up easily enough. Everyone had some basic knowledge of Star Wars, enough to get immersed into any scene. But you don't get the hang of it in one session. Most people simply do not have the time or inclination to master a new system. Especially one that is intentionally designed to be more intuitive instead of perscriptive.

Well not to put to fine a point on it, but D&D is simpler. It doesn't innovate or have the best rules. But they are easy to grasp and flexible enough to allow a competent DM to find ways of doing more with less. It has options. And most importantly, it has a strong customer base that is pretty happy with it's even when they're arguing over silly things about it on the internet.
 

'Well written' is no guarantee of anything. I wrote a Sci-Fi hack of Trophy Gold that is (IMO) 'better written' than a lot of 3rd party 5E stuff I've read, but that doesn't mean it's going to sell well (or at all, not that I've tried to sell it).

Having written a technical book myself, I now have a deeper appreciation of how easy it is, when reading your own work, to miss seeing things that are unclear. It is really, really valuable to have a serious editor and/or copy-editor to evaluate your work and spot all those issues.

One of the reasons I tend to stick with major companies' products is that they do this, and the standard of writing is significantly better than works that are not edited. And for me, for a lot of products, I read to about page 3 and find enough annoyances that I'm not excited about continuing to read.

For me, if I see issues like the above in a document, I'll know it's not been edited and so if I go to buy another PDF from he same source, I'll significantly lower the amount of money I'm willing to pay.

Good writing buys you repeat customers.
 

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