Why Didn't Harry Potter Change the Game?

Fantasy is now much more mainstream, so it's easy to forget how influential the debut of the Harry Potter franchise was on the genre. And yet despite the blockbuster success of the franchise we never got an official Harry Potter tabletop role-playing game -- for Dungeons & Dragons or any other system.

harrypotter.jpg
[h=3]Yes, Harry Potter Was a Big Deal[/h]Author J.K. Rowling's tale of a young boy who would fulfill his destiny at a school for wizards sent shockwaves through the book publishing industry when it debuted. Kids started reading again, and adults read along with them. The numbers give a sense of scale to the enormous impact the Harry Potter series had on publishing, movies, and fantasy worlds in general.

To date, the book series has sold over 160 million copies, grossing $7.7 billion. The movies actually performed worse than the books, grossing $7.2 billion so far. It made Rowling a billionaire and the actor who played Potter, Daniel Radcliffe, a millionaire. In addition to the books and movies, the franchise generated $7.3 billion in games and toys. All told, the franchise is estimated to be valued at roughly $25 billion.

D&D and Harry Potter have quite a bit in common. They both systemize magical systems, categorize fantastical creatures, and gradually advance the characters' power throughout the series. And yet there was never a Harry Potter role-playing game. Why not?
[h=3]Harry Sneaks In[/h]There's are certainly benefits to being affiliated with the Harry Potter franchise. Universal Studios' Orlando theme park's attendance surged 30% when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010. A Harry Potter-branded tabletop RPG would like experience a similar sales bump from the name affiliation alone.

There were tabletop gaming attempts to ride the Potter fandom. Redhurst: Academy of Magic, written by Matt Forbeck, applied D20 rules to a Harry Potter-esque school setting, complete with a traitorous spy scribbling in the margins:
REDHURST ACADEMY OF MAGIC is a world of a traveling wizards' school. You are one of its students set to learn about the wonderful world of magic and explore the world under the tutelage of some of the finest arcane minds in the Known Realms. Redhurst is a magical wondrous place where the surreal and mundane share the same table, and the fantastic is in every step of the grounds, every brick of the walls, and every classroom.
There is a widely-spread rumor that J.K. Rowling was not interested in a role-playing game, which is sourced to Ryan Dancey, then VP at Wizards of the Coast:
I’m starting to see a lot of Harry Potter-related merchandise — a lot of it decidedly tacky — but one thing we’ll apparently never see is a Harry Potter role playing game. According to Wizards of the Coast’s Ryan Dancey, series author J.K. Rowling “has flatly stated that she’ll never approve a role playing game in any format.” That’s okay. People will just go on making their own Potter RPGs online.
Wizards of the Coast was undeterred and launched their own line of hardcover books inspired by Rowling's stories, including A Practical Guide to Wizardry:
How do you make a magic wand? Why does a wizard wear robes? What goes into a potion of invisibility? Arch Mage Lowadar invites you to join his school for talented young wizards and explore the magical world of wizardry. In this fully illustrated guide, readers will learn all about what it takes to become a great wizard--from the gear and magic items you need to the secrets of writing your own spells in the language of magic.
The book is a fascinating take on what might have been. It tweaks some elements of D&D (magic items are required to navigate the school and quite common, wands are a core implement for every wizard) and details other elements of spellcasting that have never been officially codified, including detailed descriptions of how verbal (actual phrases along with a pronunciation guide), somatic (drawings of wand gestures), and material components work.

David F. Chapman recently pitched a Harry Potter RPG to Warner Bros. It didn't get as far as he hoped:
I originally wrote most of the above posts a couple of years ago, shortly after we'd started talking to Warner Bros. about the possibility of doing a game, and only getting so far (it wasn't something they were considering at the time). Since then, the thoughts of a Harry Potter RPG have always been lingering in my mind. However, recently (and hence the new post) there was the announcement on Pottermore that Warner Bros. Interactive had launched a new gaming division called Portkey Games. A new division whose only purpose is to develop mobile and console games in the Wizarding World.
The promise of a RPG-like world will be realized this year.
[h=3]A Mobile "RPG"[/h]Potter fans will finally get a role-playing game in the form of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, a mobile RPG developed by Jam City in partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment's Portkey Games:
In “Hogwarts Mystery,” players progress through their years at Hogwarts, participating in the magical classes and activities Potterheads have come to love, including Defence Against the Dark Arts, Potions, and Duelling Club. The game is actually set in the 1980s — before Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and friends have matriculated at the wizarding academy — although according to WB and Jam City, Albus Dumbledore and most of the iconic Hogwarts professors will appear in the game.
Given the enormous amount of enthusiasm and homebrewed role-playing games available on the Internet, it seems Rowling is finally coming around to the idea of approving a role-playing game in SOME formats. But even if there never is an official RPG, the franchise's influence is felt in the spread of Potter fandom, who are surely part of the renewed interested in D&D.
 
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

mikelaff

Explorer
LOL What!?

I literally guffawed when I read that.

s'cool. I literally guffawed when I saw you had guffawed. Stuff's contagious, eh?

Anyway, with all the guffawing out of the way- the last time (that I know of) that WOTC tried to study the Table Top RPG hobby and published findings - 20ish years ago - one of the conclusions they came up with was :


3. Adventure Gaming is an adult hobby
More than half the market for hobby games is older than 19. There is a substantial 'dip' in incidence of play from 16-18. This lends credence to the theory that most people are introduced to hobby gaming before high-school and play quite a bit, then leave the hobby until they reach college, and during college they return to the hobby in significant numbers.

It may also indicate that the existing group of players is aging and not being refreshed by younger players at the same rate as in previous years.

if you've got more recent/better data than that - I would sincerely love to know about it.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
s'cool. I literally guffawed when I saw you had guffawed. Stuff's contagious, eh?

Anyway, with all the guffawing out of the way- the last time (that I know of) that WOTC tried to study the Table Top RPG hobby and published findings - 20ish years ago - one of the conclusions they came up with was :




if you've got more recent/better data than that - I would sincerely love to know about it.

I’m pretty sure that mearls or Crawford has spoken on this in the last few years. The hobby was wildly different 20 years ago. Data from then on demographics is almost entirely useless now.

Also, the thing you post as evidence contradicts you. YA and family market demographics *include preteens/middle schoolers*, who played a lot of dnd according to that data set.

So, yah, you made an absurd statement.
 

pedr

Explorer
I have never seen Harry Potter as a good fit for a traditional TTRPG. What would work better would be adapting LARP rules to the Potter universe. Maybe the system from White Wolf or some other system I have not tried. Much more flexible and everyone can dress up in their Hogwarts gear and run around with their wands. Something like this could be made as lethal or non-lethal as desired.

The premium residential LARP experiences of College of Wizardry in Poland and New World Magischola in the US show how this can work. From the accounts I’ve read they’re well-designed and make use of the expectations and techniques of (character interaction, not boffer) LARP to create something very Potterish. I doubt they’ll ever be officially licensed, but they fill the niche.

Regarding tabletop, it seems that tabletop game design has developed since HP came out - a licensed game based on any edition of D&D would have struggled, I think - as noted it would have emphasised elements downplayed in the books and created a play experience which would struggle to emulate the HP approach to story. With licensed games today having access to a wide range of game design approaches which make emulating a style easier, I think it’s more likely that a Potter RPG could work. But it’d be aimed at a sub-market of those interested in RPGs, so the challenge would be marketing it to people with no experience of tabletop RPGs - a risk, and a limit on the projected revenue. Add to that the issue that an RPG needs to contain far more information than has been created by the author, at least in outline (apparently much of the delay in the Infinity RPG was the licensor struggling to decide which parts of future expected developments could go into the RPG without restricting its flexibility in future minis releases/metaplot development) and it becomes rational to rule out something recognisable as a tabletop RPG. A narrative board game could work though - I haven’t played TIME Stories and similar games but it might be a good model.

More broadly, I’ve often thought that there is a lot of Harry Potter roleplay - but it takes place in text-based interactive fanfic spaces of the kind which were becoming available to teenagers at around the time the books became popular - and many of the participants, at least at the time, probably didn’t know that tabletop RPGs with dice etc even existed. Developing Pottermore to tap into that kind of play/writing was smart!
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
[citation needed]

I love it. Obviously most people aren’t going to go digging through the past few years of tweets, interviews, livestreams, and articles to find an exact quote, so you focus entirely on that instead of even acknowledging the rest of the post. It’s a tried and true forum tactic, though a pretty lame one.
 


Age of Fable

First Post
I love it. Obviously most people aren’t going to go digging through the past few years of tweets, interviews, livestreams, and articles to find an exact quote, so you focus entirely on that instead of even acknowledging the rest of the post. It’s a tried and true forum tactic, though a pretty lame one.

I remember you admitting that you're a big bum bum poo head. Asking for proof makes you a troll.
 


Age of Fable

First Post
I literally guffawed at the absurdity of your response. This proves me to be your intellectual superior, and leaves you aghast and humiliated.
 



doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Aaaaanyway, now I wanna play Gauntlet. Y’all remember that game?

But seriously, I think HP hasn’t had a more obvious impact on DnD simply because DnD hasn’t tried to do modern magic in a long time, but also because HP style modern magic is just harder to do than Dresden style, or Shadowrun style, modern magic.

And because many DnD players would want to play a muggle, just like people play mundane fighters and rogues no matter how magical a world you present to them.

But I do think that HP has had a huge effect on the hobby, and on DnD, in a lot of subtle ways. I know a lot more people that have figured out magical sports in their games, and who want their casters to be able to do HP spell type stuff. I’ve seen a lot of character concepts that remind me of things from the series, as well. But also, I’ve seen more of a focus on creating a sense of wonder at the table since HP got super mainstream popular.
 

mikelaff

Explorer
I’m pretty sure that mearls or Crawford has spoken on this in the last few years. The hobby was wildly different 20 years ago. Data from then on demographics is almost entirely useless now.
Yeah - you'd actually need to back the mearls and crawford thing up with at least one link.

So, you disagree but you don't have any data to back up your position.
That's fine.
The plural of anecdote isn't data - but you're certainly allowed to have your feelings. I certainly won't fault anyone for having their opinion. You don't get to pretend your opinion is factual without backing it up somehow.

Also, the thing you post as evidence contradicts you. YA and family market demographics *include preteens/middle schoolers*, who played a lot of dnd according to that data set.

So, yah, you made an absurd statement.

We might have different definitions of absurd. I think you're conflating "I disagree but I can't back up that disagreement at all" with "that's absurd." Maybe you didn't read my initial post before responding? Or maybe you didn't read the link thoroughly?

I don't really have an axe to grind here - but you might check the link again. I've bolded some of the important bits.

Here's the relevant conclusion again:
3. Adventure Gaming is an adult hobby
More than half the market for hobby games is older than 19. There is a substantial 'dip' in incidence of play from 16-18. This lends credence to the theory that most people are introduced to hobby gaming before high-school and play quite a bit, then leave the hobby until they reach college, and during college they return to the hobby in significant numbers.

It may also indicate that the existing group of players is aging and not being refreshed by younger players at the same rate as in previous years.

EDIT: Ah shoot - I didn't realize things had already gotten so guffawey and flamey in here. I'm out.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah - you'd actually need to back the mearls and crawford thing up with at least one link.

So, you disagree but you don't have any data to back up your position.
That's fine.
The plural of anecdote isn't data - but you're certainly allowed to have your feelings. I certainly won't fault anyone for having their opinion. You don't get to pretend your opinion is factual without backing it up somehow.



We might have different definitions of absurd. I think you're conflating "I disagree but I can't back up that disagreement at all" with "that's absurd." Maybe you didn't read my initial post before responding? Or maybe you didn't read the link thoroughly?

I don't really have an axe to grind here - but you might check the link again. I've bolded some of the important bits.

Here's the relevant conclusion again:


EDIT: Ah shoot - I didn't realize things had already gotten so guffawey and flamey in here. I'm out.

The industry is different now han it was ten years ago, much less 20. We all know that, the PHB sales numbers show it, the sales of new 5e supplements shows it, the viewership of things like aquisitions inc and critical role show it. I don’t need to dig through 5 years of tweets and such to find a quote, it’s obviously true.

The two main points of contention here are:

A) Is data from 20 years ago conclusive as to the state of The industry today? (For nearly all industries the answer is no, btw)

2) Are kids and families playing DnD in large enough numbers to make books targeted at them worth making?

2a) Is the youth player base being refreshed by older players introducing kids to dnd?

Look up the success of No Thank You, Evil. Or Dungeon! Or read up on all the myriad sea of articles about kids playing dnd at school, conventions, etc in the last few years.

If your only evidence is an article on the state of the rpg market 20 years ago, when the people raising kids now were in high school or just out of high school, you aren’t going to have a great picture of what is happening in games right now.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
The industry is different now han it was ten years ago, much less 20. We all know that, the PHB sales numbers show it, the sales of new 5e supplements shows it, the viewership of things like aquisitions inc and critical role show it. I don’t need to dig through 5 years of tweets and such to find a quote, it’s obviously true.

The two main points of contention here are:

A) Is data from 20 years ago conclusive as to the state of The industry today? (For nearly all industries the answer is no, btw)

2) Are kids and families playing DnD in large enough numbers to make books targeted at them worth making?

2a) Is the youth player base being refreshed by older players introducing kids to dnd?

Look up the success of No Thank You, Evil. Or Dungeon! Or read up on all the myriad sea of articles about kids playing dnd at school, conventions, etc in the last few years.

If your only evidence is an article on the state of the rpg market 20 years ago, when the people raising kids now were in high school or just out of high school, you aren’t going to have a great picture of what is happening in games right now.

All that may be, but if you're going to say that Mearls or Crawford had something to say about, it's not ridiculous to ask for a reference. If you're gonna put words in their mouths and make that call out to authority, you should be able to point to your source if someone asks.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
All that may be, but if you're going to say that Mearls or Crawford had something to say about, it's not ridiculous to ask for a reference. If you're gonna put words in their mouths and make that call out to authority, you should be able to point to your source if someone asks.

LOL “I’m pretty sure X or Y has spoken on this sometime in the last few years” isn’t putting words in anyone’s mouth, or calling out to authority (you mean appeal to authority, right?). It’s literally just a statement that I vaguely remember them speaking on the subject at some point. I didn’t say, “Mearls said in in interview that more kids are playing than ever.” Or any such thing.

edit: further, unless I referenced a specific statement, there is no reasonable expectation for me to sift through years of statements on every topic imaginable, across a dozen platforms/venues, to find a specific quote. I’m not your* research assistant.

*general you
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
LOL “I’m pretty sure X or Y has spoken on this sometime in the last few years” isn’t putting words in anyone’s mouth, or calling out to authority (you mean appeal to authority, right?). It’s literally just a statement that I vaguely remember them speaking on the subject at some point. I didn’t say, “Mearls said in in interview that more kids are playing than ever.” Or any such thing.

edit: further, unless I referenced a specific statement, there is no reasonable expectation for me to sift through years of statements on every topic imaginable, across a dozen platforms/venues, to find a specific quote. I’m not your* research assistant.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, otherwise you’re just another internet crank with no credibility. And yes, you essential are putting words in their mouths if you’re attributing something to them.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, otherwise you’re just another internet crank with no credibility. And yes, you essential are putting words in their mouths if you’re attributing something to them.

Who cares?
 


S

Sunseeker

Guest
People might want to see the comments for themselves, particularly since doctorvaguewolf wasn't being too specific.

Yes, I get that. His comment was that he was "pretty sure" they spoke on the subject. He didn't claim it to be absolute fact. He said he was "pretty sure".

You can dismiss his claim, if you like, I doubt it will help the discussion at this point. But demanding he prove his claim is clearly pointless.

Further, the suggestion that the hobby/industry is different now than it was 20 years ago is not something that requires scientific proof. It is something any one of us can see with our own eyes.

Lastly, this is a forum, not a debate group. He's under no more obligation to back up his points than you are yours. If you feel his points require backup, you're welcome to your opinion, but that's all it is. Which goes back to my point #2: you've already called him on it, now move on.
 

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