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What's the Next Great Leap Forward in RPG Mechanics?

My question wasn't whether they were boardgames (they're clearly 'story games'), but whether they might not be slipping through the cracks and not being counted as RPGs in the few rankings we see now and then...

So really pretty small compared to D&D or PF, but maybe nipping at the heels of Dragon Age or whatever's popping into the 5th-place slot of the IcV2 charts in a given quarter?

But, if there's a number of such games, they might collectively be a significant trend?

ICv2 numbers are pretty tiny because they are dead tree traditional retail only. And as I showed 1600 sales was probably enough for Evil Hat to make third (not fifth) place in a quarter. Apocalypse World 2e has been kickstarted to within 350 sales of the Numenera kickstarter - and I think it's going to spread much further because I suspect Vincent Baker isn't going to write 2e as if he were the Apocalypse's answer to Hunter S Thompson (which was deliberate to gain publicity for the game).

On the other hand John Wick has, by putting up 40 pdfs f0r $40 just pulled in 10,000 backers for Seventh Sea v2 and a million dollars. And ICv2 is going to utterly ignore that as well. These days ICv2 sales are basically "Games that don't go to Kickstarter and the odd extra rump".
 

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Tony Vargas

Legend
ICv2 numbers are pretty tiny because they are dead tree traditional retail only.
Nod. And Paizo sells a lot on their store, and 5e books are selling well on Amazon. I know. There's a lot of not-readily-compared things out there, that /might/ mean the valid comparisons we do have access to are meaningless. Or not.

But, even if a given game only moves a few thousand units, if it makes a splash, it could still be part of a trend. What happens at the margins can be quite significant. D&D is a big chunk of the market, but it's almost a given that it will be, whatever it does....
 

As stated, what is the next leap forward in RPG mechanics that will change the way we play?

So I think the problem with this question, is that it's actually two questions.

The first is: What are the innovations out there?
The second is: By what method will those innovations be brought into the mainstream?

The first is best answered simply by expanding your own horizons. I bought HeroWars when it came out in 2000, Dogs a few years later, Apocalypse World on release in 2010... so these aren't innovations in 2016. But they would be to anyone who hasn't ventured into that turf. There are others out there on the fringes, waiting to be discovered, be it Dust Devils, or Jeepform or some other branch that gaming can turn down.

In answer to the second question, I tend to think 'Who cares?' I've never constrained myself to popular games. A game of D&D has never been improved by being the 'market leader'. Runequest, Pendragon, Call of Cthulhu, WHFRP 1st ed - all far superior games, in my opinion. I have a little pamphlet game called Pirates I bought off Lulu as a print on demand. I doubt more than a couple of hundred people in the world have played it. So what? We had a blast with it. And it had some really innovative ideas, too. Maybe I'll dig it out....
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
In relation to the OSR conversation, I don't know that you can necessarily say that something isn't "innovative" just because it's based on existing properties / mechanics. . .
But that also brings up a point --- have we all just accepted the fact that trying to mesh or import competing types of resolution mechanics into different systems just creates chaos? For example, would anyone be willing to import a fantastic social resolution mechanic into D&D if, when using those mechanics, it abandoned the d20 and instead used a 3d6-roll-under* just for that subsystem? I think [MENTION=4937]Celebrim[/MENTION] brought this up earlier; we seem to be very tied to the notion of "unified mechanics" as somehow being the most elegant, or "user-friendly" way of developing systems.
I'm pretty sure that "innovative" has a new definition: the quality of being a new car with bells and whistles. At least, that's what the idiot box tells me.

If there's a trend to make RPGs simpler or more elegant, I'd say it's an effort to make them easier to adopt for new players. Video games, thanks to smart phones, are now available to play as soon as you can think, "gee, I'm bored." Playing a TRPG is nowhere near as easy. So a more complex game is leaps and bounds from getting people's attention.

Next factor, which I think I mentioned in an earlier post, is the GM dependency. If a game requires a GM, then it also depends on the GM's skill. Adding more systems into a game can make that game harder to GM (think grappling rules).

To answer your question: I haven't accepted that new systems = chaos. Just make sure they're not confusing, and it's even better if the PCs have access to those rules so they can help the GM if necessary.
 

delericho

Legend
If there's a trend to make RPGs simpler or more elegant, I'd say it's an effort to make them easier to adopt for new players. Video games, thanks to smart phones, are now available to play as soon as you can think, "gee, I'm bored." Playing a TRPG is nowhere near as easy. So a more complex game is leaps and bounds from getting people's attention.

Next factor, which I think I mentioned in an earlier post, is the GM dependency.

Putting those together, I wouldn't be surprised if the next trend (though it's not really an innovation in mechanics) is a move towards making the game quicker for the GM to pick up and run - either by making lots of bits of adventures available to drag and drop (need a thieves guild? Here it is!), or by jumping straight to no-prep adventures (see MCG's "Weird Discoveries" for an example).

I'm not sure there's anything games can do about the need for GM quality though.
 

Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
It's kind of hard to predict where the next great leap will come from: if we knew what it was, we'd be using it already!

That said, the "unity initiative" looks quite interesting. If it does indeed solve the issues of turn-based initiative systems, that could be a way forward.

Also, on the topic of diceless GMing and the WFRP3e/FF-SW dice pool system: I'm not a fan of either, to put it mildly.

Unity's initiative system is not new at all... it's been available for at least five years in Apocalypse World. Probably longer in some of the Cortex Plus games out there. And then there's Amber, without any dice at all so initiative is obviously story centric and not dice based.

Unity is not innovative here.
 

Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
Re-roll (or 'roll twice, take the higher') mechanics and consolidating modifiers was nothing new, so it didn't take that long, just took that long to be featured centrally in D&D.

D&D is the first and best-known and best-selling RPGs - and, in part for those reason, one of the slowest to change and must reluctant to innovate.
But, when it finally finds the ruts of a passing bandwagon, everyone jumps on.

For years now, the biggest trends have been backwards-looking. OSR, for the biggest, most obvious instance. Popular games from the 80s and 90s keep getting resurrected by Kickstarters.

I don't know what the next great leap forward might be, but the current leap has been backwards. Or, as the R-for-Renaissance take on OSR implies, moving forward by looking to the past, if we want a positive spin.

But, maybe it'll be a technology. On-line play is becoming more common (though MUDs had been around since the days of BBSs), MMOs have been huge. The TT aspect may fall by the wayside once a technology comes along that captures more of the experience.

One of the slowest to change yes because when there is a huge change to it a lot of D&D fans form rebellions against any major changes... see demise of 4e as proof of that.

---

This question of this thread, is this a question pertaining to just D&D, or rpgs as a whole? If it's just pertaining to D&D then it might take years for a new innovation to take hold. Yes D&D is extremely slow to change.

If it's a question about the rpgs as a whole, then there have been a metric ton of innovations the last ten years, and we can even look at them not so much as real innovations but just codifications and game mechanisms that focus on specific things the designer is focusing on in the games.

Fate games, Cortex Plus games, Apocalypse World Engine games, Demon Hunters that blends Fae Accelerated with Cortex Plus, Blades in the Dark coming out this year, Tenra Bansho Zero and it's design focus on shorter campaigns vs longer the traditional longer campaigns ideology, FFG Star Wars and how it's use of dice give players more tools for narrating things with a mechanical system that vastly supports narrative growth within the story the players are telling, Cypher System games, the upcoming Phoenix: Dawn Command, the upcoming Sentinels of the Multiverse supers rpg, 7th Sea 2nd edition, etc...

We have a ton of games available that do some amazing things that D&D just can't do based on how the game is designed (talking latest incarnation here). Each of the ones listed here provide the players explicit tools that allow them to push the narrative in ways while having a game system mechanism that supports them with explicit rules that tell the GM "Here is the rule for this to work."
 

I think Umbran said something to this effect earlier in the thread, but I think the hobby doesn't move forward so much as people have different problems at the table and different games attempt to address those problems in their own way. But not every solution is something that is going to gain widespread adoption because a lot of these answers, while they might solve problem X, usually have a downside (like making Y harder or not paying enough attention to it). It is sort of like how not every guitarist uses drop D tuning. D&D is a somewhat of a special case because it has to appeal to the broadest range of play styles possible (which is one reason I think we saw them roll back some of the innovations 4E introduced). But there is definitely no lack of innovation if you know where to look.
 

nomotog

Explorer
The word innovation isn't the best, Like bedrockgames says it's less moving forward and more moving around.

That said, I think fail forward systems will be the new hotness for a time. They are just better at supporting a narrative. The overall trend seems to be moving to more narrative games rather then more game games. The idea is that we are here for a good story not to score points of complete a level.

One neat trick I want to talk about relates to DMMike and delericho's about about RPGs being hard to run. Love and labyrinths divides the game up into two parts. One you have the standard dungeon craw you play every few weeks with one the players acting as DM, but in between you have the roleplay and social half of the game plays out asymmetric in blogs/form threads/ texts. I kind of think that might become more of a thing in other games.
 

The word innovation isn't the best, Like bedrockgames says it's less moving forward and more moving around.

That said, I think fail forward systems will be the new hotness for a time. They are just better at supporting a narrative. The overall trend seems to be moving to more narrative games rather then more game games. The idea is that we are here for a good story not to score points of complete a level.

One neat trick I want to talk about relates to DMMike and delericho's about about RPGs being hard to run. Love and labyrinths divides the game up into two parts. One you have the standard dungeon craw you play every few weeks with one the players acting as DM, but in between you have the roleplay and social half of the game plays out asymmetric in blogs/form threads/ texts. I kind of think that might become more of a thing in other games.

I am not sure narrative is a trend so much as a now established niche like the OSR or other sections of gaming. I think going back to at least when I started playing (in the mid-80s) there was always this thesis and anti-thesis thing going on, where for a while something like Dungeon Crawls get a lot of attention, then there is backlash and heavy RP-Story type adventures get attention, then there is a backlash and we get a 'back to the dungeon' vibe. At least where D&D is concerned this always seemed to be the case. The present moment, the zeitgeist seems to be more a la carte (pick the style and approach, or happy medium of approaches, that works for your group).
 

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