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Will Tabletop Roleplaying Survive?

Posted By John Arcadian On October 20, 2009 @ 12:41 am In Gaming Trends | 30 Comments

Gome Holodeck - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Holodeck2.jpg This wasn’t the article I intended to write today. I intended to write my long overdue Realms of Cthulu review, since I played Savage Worlds with Sean Preston and Sean Patrick Fannon at Con On The Cob and now feel familiar enough  with Savage Worlds to review it. But Martin’s article got me thinking, which is always a mixed blessing, and I got this one big question in my head: Is tabletop roleplaying going to survive in the digital age?

Roleplaying Is Relatively Young
When you think about our current concept of tabletop roleplaying games, the field isn’t that old. Board games like Senet have been around since the time of the Egyptians (3,500 BC according to Wikipedia). The modern concept of roleplaying games, not counting improv and theatre games, evolved in the late 1960s and hit the boom in the 1970s when Gygax and Arneson descended from the holy d20 and gifted us with the ability to roll crits. When we are talking about the field of gaming, roleplaying games are the baby on the block, still being under 50 years old.

Like Everything Else, The Digital Age Is Providing New Tools
Martin’s article is timely. It coincides with the release of Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center’s demo of D&D using the Microsoft Surface table.  Click that link if you haven’t seen this yet. You need to see it.  WotC’s D&D Insider and similar offerings, like the Dungeon Mastering Tools from Dungeonmastering.com, are providing more options to deal with a details heavy game. This parallels what is happening in many other sectors of the world. Life becomes more complex and evolution isn’t keeping up fast enough for mankind. It is an inevitable that our gaming, which has been limited to the world of the printed page and spoken word, will be changed by the technology of the day.

Is It Leaving Room For The Roleplaying Though?
I’m going to say something to stop some of the responses right now. As detailed and complex as any game can be, the roleplaying is something done by the players and not the rules. Any game can have roleplaying because the players do it. The question is, does the new wave of technological advancement encourage the roleplaying element? If a game system becomes so complex that you are required to use a computer to be able to viably play the game, are you going to have the mental space to focus on the social elements of the game?

Does the inclusion of the technological element free up some space so you can focus on the roleplaying or does it turn your mind in another direction and hinder it. The biggest thing I saw in the Microsoft Surface D&D Demo that scared the hell out of me was the use of the digital mini. Why? The slippery slope. For now it is just a mini. A few good animators and it becomes a digital enemy with its own set of animations. If you can click a button and have your character make a sword swing why bother describing it? Why bother attempting something that doesn’t fit into the computers purview? Why bother attempting something that isn’t explicitly explained in the rules that are printed out on the cards?

The chief complaint that I’ve heard from many many people about 4e is that it feels like a videogame. I’m definitely not against the inclusion of digital elements at the gaming table, I just wonder about the line where we realize we are just playing video games.

The Pendulum Swing
One thing that must be remembered is that the more complex and technical games get, the more people look to fill the void by going in the opposite direction. A village of moderates breeds more moderates, while a village of extremists breeds opposing extremists. Roleplaying games aren’t limited to one way of doing things. There is no one system to rule them all and in the darkness bind them. As far as some roleplaying swings in one direction, so to will it swing in the other direction. Communities like The Forge, Indie Press Revolution, Story Games, and a slew of independent designers will keep developing different types of games that don’t fit in with the prevailing wind. Venues like Drive Thru RPG and RPG Now, as well as the other sites run by OneBookShelf.com, provide a way for projects without the funding of the big boys to get out to the masses. A definite case of the digital pendulum swinging towards the side of roleplaying.

Will tabletop roleplaying survive? I don’t know. I think computer games will become more interactive, even to the point that they become holodeck-like scenarios. The element of roleplaying will still be present but different. It will certainly modify as technology changes. The only answer I can think of is that time will tell. We can see trends beginning to form, but without knowing what the next innovation is we can’t tell how things will play out. If procedurally generated animations are perfected and a player can describe her character actions only to have the game computer lovingly render them in digital glory, then roleplaying becomes something entirely new. There is no way to know for sure. What do you think? The answer to the question will be found in the discussions we have about roleplaying over the next generation of changes.

About  John Arcadian

John Arcadian is the head of Silvervine Games, a freelance writer and art director, a website developer, a builder of sonic screwdrivers, and a purveyor of kilted mayhem. When he isn't out causing trouble in his kilt... Well, no, that is pretty much what he does when he isn't running RPGs or or trying to take over the world.




30 Comments (Open | Close)

30 Comments To "Will Tabletop Roleplaying Survive?"

#1 Comment By Sarlax On October 20, 2009 @ 2:16 am

I think the question is being begged here: “If a game system becomes so complex that you are required to use a computer to be able to viably play the game …” D&D isn’t such a game. It’s never been necessary to use a computer to play, and 4E is actually a simpler system than some previous versions. The D&D Insider model isn’t making gaming too complicated – it’s getting the system out of the way so people can just sit down and play.

I think that’s where things are going. Computers and other electronics make it so that, in time, we may not even need to know the system a game is using. We’ll just describe the kinds of characters we want and the mechanics will be worked out behind the scene.

In the meantime, computer gaming is going the other way, getting better at modeling human behavior and appearance. I think that, in time, the distinction between tabletop gaming and computer gaming will blur until the two are the same thing.

So the real question is, “Once electronics are doing all the heavy lifting for us, and we can have the same experience remotely as we can in person, will we still gather around the table?”

#2 Comment By theeo123 On October 20, 2009 @ 3:25 am

I’m not about to turn this into a D&D edition war. i want to be logical here, and look at a few things tho ugh. WOTC by it’s own admission is taking D&D back to it’s roots, the system is designed at it’s heart to be all about the dungeon crawl, try playing a completely political or diplomatic game with the 4E rules, it’s next to impossible.

that said, as stated above, role-playing shouldn’t be confined by he rules, but just like it’s possible to have good acting, and deep plots on baywatch, it probably wont because the setting doesn’t lend itself towards that end.

We also have to look at how gaming is different in a business sense. Less than a decade ago it was still very much a fringe/niche market. I don’t have any actual figures to quote, but, role-playing seems by far more socially acceptable, and wide spread than when I was a kid. Now it’s big business. big enough to draw the attention of companies like Hasbro, who want to make a profit from it. if you had approved them 15 years ago, with TSR on the table with a giant “for sale” sign ,they probably would have laughed you out of the office.

that being said, most RPG designers now ,are run by companies, with an interest in “the bottom line” not like it used to be, where a handful of gamers, got together, made a game, and then scrounged up the money to get a few copies published.

these companies, then have a vested interest in steering the game, in a way that makes them more profit, and sometimes the wants of the gamers, can fall to the wayside. if they can bring in two million new customer sales from the easy to please. no imagination, hack & Slash digital crowed. who cares about their two-hundred-thousand die hard, role-playing, in character old-school customers?

#3 Comment By LeighBarlow On October 20, 2009 @ 3:46 am

My vision, which I’ve preached to my group since long before MMOGs came into existence, is that it would be great to have a table that was a screen where the map and the characters appeared and a lot of the rules were dealt with by the computer. (If the table could be a holographic version rather than just a flat screen, then all the better.)

Having said that I play six hours of table top RPG each week and four hours of MMOG. Both are with the same group of people, the MMOG has voice and video chat while we play (Skype), and the same thing makes them equally as fun: social interaction.

It’s the same with board games. We play plenty of these on an ad hoc basis, and it wouldn’t make a great deal of difference if they were done on interactive (flat) whiteboards or with little wooden counters. (Although I’d be the first to admit that the retro feel of a well made wooden counter will probably always win out, but then I don’t like metal furniture and prefer floorboards to carpets. :) )

The technology only gets in the way of the roleplaying as much as you let it. There is a question of restriction (which the article touches on) and I do think this is one area where using high tech’ for table top RPGs could limit things. But then the world of computer software is full of user modifications and add-ons, so I’m sure this will be no different. (Anyone for the Rolemaster crit’ table pack? Download it now and see your character break an Orcs knee with his mace or lop off a finger with his rapier.)

Ultimately the technology gives us the freedom to do what we want; as long as we don’t let ourselves become slaves to it. The choice is almost always in the hands of the community.

#4 Comment By Noumenon On October 20, 2009 @ 6:16 am

“If a game system becomes so complex that you are required to use a computer to be able to viably play the game …” D&D isn’t such a game. It’s never been necessary to use a computer to play

I took up D&D 3.5 two years ago, and my determination was that you did need a computer to play, or else do a ridiculous amount of calculation ahead of time. Quick, what’s the to-hit number of a werebadger Rgr4/Rog2 in hybrid form with Rapid Shot? Don’t forget concealment and the fact that sneak attack doesn’t apply over 30 feet away. Similarly, only a computer is really capable of keeping track of the duration, grapple check modifiers, and miscellaneous other rules for a spell like Evard’s Black Tentacles.

I made a valiant (and kind of enjoyable, from a system mastery perspective) attempt to precalculate the numbers on monster index cards, but eventually I concluded I was just trying to run a computer program in real time and the rules can’t have been meant for humans to follow. 4E was not much easier when I ran it.

#5 Comment By HappyFunNorm On October 20, 2009 @ 6:28 am

While I love arguing about how bad 4e is as much as the next guy, it’s not really the topic here :)

As far as moving to a more computerized version of the game? I’m not sure it’ll happen. At least for the groups I play in, we love the time to get together and play and don’t even, say, use our phones to roll dice. There’s a basic, tactile enjoyment to the game that can’t be digitized.

The only thing I can really imagine using computers for during a game would be managing the grid/map if you used one (we don’t tend to) and even then it seems like such a setup would be so expensive and large so as to be impractical for a lot of games. There’s no way we’re going to lug that setup to a con, or a game shop, or even a studen union somewhere to play.

No, there’s something nice about the simplicity a couple of books, paper, pencils and a Crown Royal bag full of dice that won’t likely be supplanted by a digital experience for a while.

#6 Comment By LesInk On October 20, 2009 @ 6:49 am

John,

To respond to your slippery slope comment, I think it is safe to say that when the digital monsters are used, that even then the animations that they use are not necessarily what the GM is going to want at any particular time. But like a sound effects CD or even props, adding a description to the icon’s movement provides more of a story to what’s going on and fills in the details. When a GM stops wanting to provide additonal information and just use the stock animations, that’s when we’ve lost the battle.

#7 Comment By brcarl On October 20, 2009 @ 6:57 am

I agree with other comments already posted that even if many, many aspects of gaming get computerized, there is an aspect of face-to-face interaction and the tactile feel of dice and minis that is very much part of the enjoyment I get from tabletop.

My recent perspective on this subject comes from trying to run a 4e game via play-by-post. I use the website’s built-in dice tags to generate rolls, a Google spreadsheet to track combat status, and a Photoshop-like program to update the battle map. It’s VERY involved and time-consuming. I would LOVE a system that automated this, freeing my time to concentrate on the story, the NPCs, and their interaction with the players. So I say, bring on the technology advances! They will only improve my enjoyment of tabletop RPGs.

#8 Comment By brcarl On October 20, 2009 @ 6:59 am

…I should clarify. (What happened to the feature where you could edit posts? :-P)

There are tabletop aspects of gaming that are fun for me (dice and minis) that if computerized would be a bummer. But for my games that are already online, the more automation, the better!

#9 Comment By ScottG On October 20, 2009 @ 7:23 am

We don’t HAVE to lose anything. As John mentioned in the article: roleplaying is something done by the players and not the rules. No matter how complex the rules, no matter how much or little computers are used/required, there is still always room for RP. I impatiently await the day when technology and roleplaying merge completely. (cf. Larry Niven’s “Dream Park.”)

#10 Comment By rwenderlich On October 20, 2009 @ 7:38 am

A lot of great comments here. My opinion is anything that can be done to reduce the time-consuming and monotonous parts of the game (dice rolling, number crunching) can make combat go more quickly and highlight the more fun parts of the game (interesting decision making, character interactions and role playing). I think we’ll see more and more of the interaction of technology and role playing in the future, and am excited about the possibilities :]

#11 Comment By Scarecrow On October 20, 2009 @ 8:07 am

Will Tabletop Roleplaying survive?

Yes. As long as there are people who want to play it.
Tabletop Roleplaying isn’t dependent on any external forces to survive. Anyone who understands the concept of a roleplaying game (ie: anyone who has ever read a rulebook, much less played, much less GM’ed) can write a rudimentary rule system with a D6 and a notepad. Tabletop roleplaying will only die when there’s nobody left to care.

Video Games are killing/going to kill roleplaying games!

No, video games killed tabletop roleplaying years ago (early 90’s if memory serves). Tabletop Roleplaying has been a healthy cottage industry fuelled by online small-press publishers, for a number of years now and I can’t see that changing in the near future. What you see around you is as dead as tabletop roleplaying is going to get (until, as I mentioned previously, there’s nobody left to care).

I watched the MS Surface demo yesterday and was struck by how little it provided over traditional maps, minis and dice for literally about a thousand times the price. The potential is exciting and it looks freakin’ cool! ..but I’m not really seeing the point.

A virtual tabletop in 3D for the PC, would be very cool for online players, however. There are a number of VTs already available in 2D (my favourite being Screen Monkey), but I’d like something along the lines of the abandoned D&Di 4E VT but by an independent developer that was setting free and allowed custom content (ie, minis, maps and textures by third parties and home developers) so your campaign world is not restricted by WotC’s marketing department.

Crow

#12 Comment By vollmond On October 20, 2009 @ 8:58 am

Just yesterday my players (in Missouri) and I (in Maryland) were talking about how great full-VR will be. Then we’ll be able to sit around a virtual table with virtual dice and virtual pen and paper, instead of maptool+skype like we have now. :-)

#13 Comment By Kenn On October 20, 2009 @ 9:18 am

“Will Tabletop Roleplaying Survive?”

I think the question here is “Why wouldn’t it?”

Tools are tools, they come and go. So do fads. But how many of us still have their old gaming books. Or jars full of dice? Or graph paper?

Personally, I see 90% of the new tools vanishing within a year or so, just as they’ve always done in the past. Occasionally, I see a cool tool surviving (Campaign Cartographer, for example… IMHO Netbooks will be another) and becoming part of the Tabletop Gaming toolbox.

But still… have you ever found something that caused the same feeling as physically rolling a “Nat 20?” That visceral feel isn’t there when you do it digitally.

And having tried several ways of gathering for a game, I can say with some confidence that nothing is going to beat the feeling of gathering in a room, eating and drinking things extremely bad for us, laughing and cutting up, and most importantly… “connecting” socially… this is something that no technology is going to replace… and I have about 30 years of experience with the hobby.

It’s simple. The next time you want to game. Toss of the Teamspeak-Digi-VTable-Builder crap out the window and have a seat around the table, order some pizza and PLAY.

There’s nothing like it… trust me :)

#14 Comment By Will Hindmarch On October 20, 2009 @ 9:21 am

Short version, the hobby will survive. People can get an automated, animated sword-swing from any of a dozen MMORPGs, right now, and I think they demonstrate that people who want to play without describing their own actions already have a way out if they want it.

For me, as an example, a table that animates the sword-swing for me is something of a turn-off. I *want* to describe the action — it’s why I’m there. Since it’s why I’m there, I’m unlikely to let even an animated table get in my way. Maybe I just won’t buy the thing, or maybe I’ll just disregard the animated figures in favor of my own descriptions… but I’ll keep playing.

#15 Comment By John Arcadian On October 20, 2009 @ 9:28 am

I unfortunately do not have time to respond to all the wonderful and excellent comments, but do want to say that it was never my intent to pick on D&D as requiring a computer or have an edition war. Gurps character creation is so much more complex and would definitely benefit from digitized aspects. I also see so many incredible and wonderful uses of things like the virtual table. I’d love to do projector maps myself, if I had the space to set them up.

Keep up the discussion. There is some incredible stuff being said, but there is a lot more to be said on the topic.

@Sarlax – “So the real question is, “Once electronics are doing all the heavy lifting for us, and we can have the same experience remotely as we can in person, will we still gather around the table?””

That is a good question. I wonder if we will need to. If I can VR in to a holodeck, or emulate that feel of having my players around me, I think that aspect of socialness might be satisfied for me. Whenever we have to remote anyone into our current games we print a picture of the person and paste it on the chair he or she would be sitting in. It helps us interact with them like they were there.

@theeo123 – “that being said, most RPG designers now ,are run by companies, with an interest in “the bottom line” not like it used to be, where a handful of gamers, got together, made a game, and then scrounged up the money to get a few copies published.”

I’m not sure that I would agree with the most in your sentence there. The concept over all is right on for the companies that are owned by big names, but most games I know of are by people doing the work themselves. The bigger a company, the more revenue it needs to produce. Steve Jackson games is comparatively huge and focuses on things that can turn a profit (like board games, dice games, munchkin, etc.), but I definitely don’t think their #1 concern is the bottom line, except in that they want to be producing games tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, etc.

@Noumenon – I’ve seen the best run D&D games use tokens to represent all the various status effects and bonuses. They remind me so much of small bits of object oriented programming language that are calculated when a program is compiled.

@LesInk – Very true. I’m a big advocate of using pictures and sounds to bring players 3/4 of the way to the image in your head. Animations add 1 extra step, in that the motion they provide grabs another part of the players’ perception. Now instead of each player imagining the running gallop and jump of the wolf with it’s teeth flashing and drool spilling, will they settle for seeing it walk forward and swipe it’s claw? I’ve seen a lot of crunch heavy games where the numbers become so complex that the GM drops right out of descriptive mode and never gets back into it in the other non-combat sections of the game. I know I’ve done it many times myself.

@rwenderlich – Yes. Anything that can reduce those math elements can definitely free up room for other things. That is a great boon that I would welcome. The beauty of roleplaying games to me though, is the fact that the GM can just say: “Meh, this is the way I want it to go, screw the rules.” I don’t want to see that silently swept away because the computer can’t handle what the GM wants to do. I would hate to see the cashier GM calling up tech support to see how to enter in an exemption to a certain rule.

@vollmond – You bring up a good point. In some ways we are already at the surface level of technology, with or without the fancy table. Distance is a problem in a lot of ways. I wouldn’t use maptool, great program that it is, unless I couldn’t get gamers at the table.

If you have full-vr, then why sit around the table. Why not stand in the holodeck and deck yourselves out. I’m not a huge larper, but I would admit this would be awesome, even with all the numbers and combat bonuses floating around my head, and me calling out “Attack monster 4, flaming strike, +2 mod.” and then the computer does the math and I get to make some awesome swing. Far far far off yes, but it will be awesome when it gets here.

#16 Comment By John Arcadian On October 20, 2009 @ 9:37 am

@Kenn – Very true. Tools are tools. Most all of the best sessions I’ve run have been improv, or without my full gear kit. Scrap paper and sharpies make the non-gridded maps. Dice are rolled and coins are used as minis. The description becomes the key point of immersion. I usually run a system that doesn’t require the heavy mathplay, so that helps.

@Will Hindmarch – The hobby will definitely survive. I wonder how it will change though. I love where many of the recent changes in gaming style have taken the industry, and I think a lot of changes are yet to come. However, the people who sit down and play roleplaying games aren’t the same people who get sucked into mmorpgs because of the crunch.

By the by, I couldn’t get the link to cause a trackback to your review of the surface demo from the link I posted in the article.

http://gameplaywright.net/?p=1000

#17 Comment By callin On October 20, 2009 @ 10:20 am

No. Tabletop will not die. Technology will not make it obsolete. Technology has been escalting in the tabletop industry for years…100 sided die, excel spreadsheets, character sheets. You mention the fear of the slide into oblivion with the use of animated minis. Back in the day people cried that miniatures ruined role-playing and took away imagination.
Technology is an aid to tabletop rpgs. Anything beyond that and you enter a completely new arena. While there are crossovers with computer games they are still distinct no matter how the lines may become blurred.

my blog- http://bigballofnofun.blogspot.com/

#18 Comment By Tyson J. Hayes On October 20, 2009 @ 11:12 am

Tabletop won’t die any time soon. Sales for games like 4e suggest to me that the industry is still going strong. Now we’ll likely never see the insurgence of popularity like we did years ago, but their will always be people that need the escapism that video games can’t provide.

Personally I believe that game companies will just develop better tools for people to use, with netbooks being cheap and smaller I see more people bringing them to the table to help manage their games better.

A wiki for example is a great place to put campagin notes, or email a great way to interact outside the table for side adventures. Especially when playing in a modern/futuristic settings. I’ve played games where we did a lot of side character interactions outside of the table.

Technology isn’t going to kill it, it’ll only enhance it.

#19 Comment By Nojo On October 20, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

I like to see those smiling faces looking back at me when I GM or play. And I want to be able to ask whoever just got up to get me a beer.
Tabletop gaming is a type of directed socializing. And a good one for people like me.
I play computer games as well, and enjoy them. I like my WoW friends, but that’s not the same.

#20 Comment By Rafe On October 20, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

Technology will never trump tabletop RPGs because technology will never be able to replicate imagination… especially not the separate imaginations that comprise a group.

I enjoy both WoW and tabletop RPGs, and play them both for different reasons. I can’t ever see those two things merging into The One Thing. They will always remain distinct, even if by a small margin.

I like electronic tools for prep and character creation, but technology during actual games isn’t something I enjoy. It clutters the experience. I’m so glad to be away from d20 and battlemats. Only things I need for Burning Wheel are d6s; a pencil; and a few sheets of paper, one of which has the characters Beliefs, Instincts and Traits on it. For Dogs In the Vineyard, it’s about the same.

4e introduced the need for so many damn props and tools and widgets and tracking tokens and cards and coloured markers. Oi.

#21 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On October 20, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

Just wait ’till someone starts using these Wii hacks. Cool and cheap!

Seriously, The End Is NOT Nigh. Computers have a loooong way to go to replace a group of friends sitting around, slinging dice, and having fun. Maybe someday, when the plot driven door is resolved, we can revisit this scenario. (Yeah, that’s actually some of my unintentional trolling in the comments.)

Besides, these things lose their luster after a while. About the twentieth time you see an effect, it’s not nearly as cool as the first time you saw it.

#22 Comment By LeighBarlow On October 21, 2009 @ 3:54 am

As an addition to my own comments and in reply to what a few other people have said, I do think that the same social interaction can be achieved whether the players are all sat around the same table or at the various ends of a conference call. The reason people think there’s a difference is because they generally don’t know the people they are on conference calls with as well as they know those who sit around the table.

I conference call with exactly the same group of people I sit around a table with and the banter, seriousness, even the “These biscuits are great.” “Damn, stop making me want to eat biscuits.” all happens in both situations.

If table top roleplaying was to move in this direction I can honestly say that people’s fears that the lack of physical proximity would not detract from the experience would not come true.

#23 Comment By Rafe On October 21, 2009 @ 12:12 pm

I do think that the same social interaction can be achieved whether the players are all sat around the same table or at the various ends of a conference call.

I’m afraid I totally disagree. The dynamic is different. I’ve played via Skype and play-by-post with the same group I’ve played at the table with for years, and it isn’t the same as being physically gathered together, feeding off each other’s energy, seeing the evil GM grin and groaning, sharing a knowing smile with another players, watching so-and-so shake their die for 15 seconds before rolling, etc. That table dynamic just doesn’t exist in the same way in video conference or conference call format.

#24 Comment By BryanB On October 21, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

Tabletop will be around as long as people like to meet up, eat snacks, roll dice, and move minis.

Tech might enhance all of these things though.

The only way I see tabletop going away is if virtual gaming becomes as free-form as tabletop rpg can be and people can still get together to do it. The social aspects of gaming can not be understated.

#25 Comment By HVL On October 21, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

You know, I have lots of friends who are warcraft or Lord of the rings online fiends. They love it and play it to the ground but the thing they love the most is getting together and throwing dice. Hell when I think about the amount of ‘dice stories’ we have, I don’t imagine they’ll ever dissapear. Be it the differing styles of dice throwing (fear the Needham backhand!) or specific dice rules (the red dice of always rolls 20, The big black d8 of death). There’s somthing about this and minis too. If you have a charcter mini that you’ve painted yourself, it’s Yours. Captial Y. A compi model isn’t the same. It’s that feeling when the DM puts a giant monster down on the table that you won;t get on a screen.
I don’t know, maybe we’re old school. I’m still remebering the days when we couldn’t afford all the models we wanted and had to use beer cans to represent big monsters. We still hand fun. Tools are just tools, the game is in our heads.

#26 Comment By Robert On October 21, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

Movies have not made books obsolete. Like movies, technology is providing alternative gaming experiences, but the tabletop experience—like books—still provides a different experience with its own advantages. Like digital books, technology can also be used to enhance the tabletop experience, but the essential elements remain the same.

Online poker has not made poker night with actual paper cards and plastic chips extinct. This, I think, is more apt than most other analogies. At least for me. I’ve always thought that role-playing games serve exactly the same role in the lives of me and my friends as poker does for other people.

My son still turns off the Wii and asks me to play marbles with him.

I see no reason for tabletop role-playing games (as a hobby) not to survive.

#27 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On October 22, 2009 @ 8:31 am

Here’s an interesting tidbit for you:

There’s currently a system in development called ORS (omnificient Roleplaying System)
http://www.dreamborn.com/ors_p.html

ORS, as I understand it, is a computer app designed with object-oriented design, to be a cross-breed between an MMO, a hyper-mathmatical rules-crunch system, and a traditional RPG. It allows the GM to set up their adventures using a giant box of pre-set items, locations, adversaries, etc… or modify or make their own to use, and handles the math intensive crunch via hand-held electronic devices. Instead of dice, minitures, etc… each player uses their electronic device to input actions (including the option to input non-standard actions for GM adjucation, an option that no REAL computer game can match) but all the role-playing is handled by the players without the roll-playing getting in the way.

If that sounds interesting to anyone, feel free to follow that link above. It’s still in development and is looking for contributors.

#28 Comment By Lord Inar On October 27, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

@Rafe – I wholeheartedly agree with two of your points.

I’m all about using the computer to the hilt outside of the game. Heck, I’m sure that if I played Risus, I’d still make up a Filemaker database to create and store characters.

During the game, though, nothing of the sort. Sort of like the instant replay in sports. Once the game actually gets started, that visceral, face-to-face, you make mistakes and live with them attitude is what prevails.

As to virtual interactions being the same as face-to-face, well, let’s just say I’ve been to more than my fair share of virtual meetings for work, many lasting all day, and I can assure you, there is never the level of engagement or “sense of the meeting” that leads to a satisfying outcome from such meetings. Sometimes they are out of necessity, but I see the diminishing returns very quickly after about 1 hour.

#29 Pingback By Bad Ass Gaming (July RPG Blog Carnival) | Nevermet Press On July 5, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

[…] new kids on the block in technology. It might have been cool to have the RPG blogging community go to town on their latest technophile object du jour. Heck, we might have even learned something in the […]

#30 Pingback By The Future of the RPG Industry | Nevermet Press On October 10, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

[…] sitting around a table gaming together. John Arcadian, over at Gnomestew.com, wrote recently “Will Tabletop Roleplaying Survive?” where he comments on the impending effects of technology on tabletop roleplaying, and how […]


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