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RPGGeek: The Most Useful Tool You’re Not Using

This past week, I finished entering and rating my entire RPG collection on RPGGeek [1], something I’ve been putting off for two years. I first posted about RPGG — which is part of Geekdo [2], the umbrella site that also includes BoardGameGeek [3] and VideoGameGeek [4] — almost exactly two years ago: Geekdo.com: Pure, Distilled Awesome [5].

RPGG is an amazing tool, and one that many GMs — and gamers in general — could benefit from using. It hasn’t yet gained the traction within the RPG community that I think it deserves.

So why aren’t more gamers using it? And why did it take me so long to really start using it myself?

RPGG is powerful

Since 2009, RPGG has gone on to be nominated for an ENnie for Best Website and has grown by leaps and bounds. Many, many RPGs I couldn’t find in the database in 2009 are now in there, and a lot of the site’s other corners have been filled out.

At its heart, RPGG is a database, the infrastructure around it, and the community around that. Like BGG, it’s one of the friendliest and most welcoming communities on the web, well-moderated and generally populated by nice, intelligent folks.

It’s no overstatement to say that BoardGameGeek changed my boardgaming life. I own, play, and enjoy more boardgames now than ever before, and not just by a little, by a lot. For me, BGG has been an eye- and door-opener in the same way that getting my first iPod rekindled and expanded my love of music. RPGGeek has already started changing my gaming life, and I expect it to keep doing so.

The real ultimate power: Rating your collection

Unfortunately for me, RPGG’s birth coincided with having Lark and starting work on Eureka, and the prospect of entering and then rating my substantial RPG collection was just too daunting.

So after getting a solid start, I put it off for two years.

Now that it’s done, I can attest to the power of rating RPGs. Nothing focuses my opinions and clarifies my tastes quite like rating things.

When I rated my whole music library, I figured out what I really liked and started seeking out music that was more directly to my tastes. I listen to a lot more music now, and I like what I listen to more.

When I rated my boardgames, both owned and played, I figured out what I really liked and started buying and playing much better games, and having more fun playing them. Why play bad games?

When I rated my RPGs, including actual books, game lines, and games played (more on this in a minute), I figured out what I really liked — and I fully expect to spend more time playing the games that are right for me now that it’s all there in cold, hard numbers.

Here are a couple of links to what I’ve rated so you can get a feel for how this looks on the actual site: every RPG I’ve ever played [6] and every gaming product I own [7] (except magazines — I haven’t done those yet). You can click on “Rating” to sort by ascending/descending, if you like.

RPG Items and RPGs: A smart division

The key to the RPGG database is that it’s divided into types, the two biggest of which are RPG Items and RPGs (there are also useful types like Setting, Family, and others).

RPG Items are products (physical or digital). You can rate RPG Items whether you’ve played them or not — everyone feels differently about that. I rate all of mine, because unlike boardgames it’s not hard to tell whether an RPG will be good or not just by reading it. Ratings are a journey, not a destination; they’re supposed to change over time.

RPGs are the games themselves, only to be rated if you’ve played them. I’ve rated over 575 RPG Items, but only about 60 RPGs. Even if I’ve only played a game once, I rated it; that’s a less nuanced rating than the one for a game I’ve played for years, but still useful.

Rating items is interesting, and made some surprising things clear to me — like the fact that although D&D 4e books with lots of crunch are well-written and -designed, by and large I hate that design; they got low ratings.

But it’s the RPGs that really shine a light on your tastes. The system is set up for rating games based on how well they suit your personal tastes and how much you want to play them, and it’s a harsh mistress. Games I spent years playing but in retrospect really didn’t enjoy got low ratings despite the nostalgia; games I’ve only played a few times that hit all my hot buttons got high ratings.

If you’ve read D&D Is Like a Crazy Ex I Keep Going Back To [8], you know that I have a problem when it comes to playing games I’m not really enjoying without fully realizing what I’m doing. Rating my collection will go a long way towards solving that problem.

Really digging into RPGG is work — but rewarding work

And really, that’s a lot like GMing itself: It’s work, but by and large you love it anyway.

Sure, you can sign up for a free account and just hang out in the forums and take advantage of the tools the site offers, but to really get the most out of RPGG you need to rate your games.

The site itself, despite being very well documented and having tools to help you navigate it, can also be intimidating — it’s incredibly information-dense. All that information is a large part of why it’s so awesome, but it also steepens the learning curve a bit.

A personal recommendation

Head over to RPGG [1] and sign up for an account. It’s free, and also gets you access to BGG and VGG (I love BGG, but don’t use VGG).

Then search for and add to your collection every RPG you’ve ever played (which you do by marking them as “owned”), and rate them all. Write a comment if you like; I find that helpful, and I love reading others’ comments.

If that doesn’t reveal something about your tastes that you didn’t already know, or crystallize your opinion about a game or two, maybe RPGG isn’t for you. But if it does — and I think it well — then you’re down the rabbit hole, and I suspect you’ll get a lot out of the site.

There’s more to love about RPGG than just the ratings — like I said, it’s a great community, and there are many other tools there, as well — but it’s the ratings that provide me with the most concrete return on my time investment.

A side note

I was selected to be RPGG’s Geek of the Week this week, the 83rd since the site’s inception — which was the impetus for getting my whole collection cataloged and rated.

If you’d like to drop by and ask me questions about being a huge dork, I’d love to hear from you [9].

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "RPGGeek: The Most Useful Tool You’re Not Using"

#1 Comment By rabalias On August 11, 2011 @ 2:30 am

I love rpggeek (and bggeek) but I must admit to not using most of the functionality. But, apart from clarifying the reasons why you like gaming, and therefore what kind of games you like, are there any other benefits? I’m pretty clear on my own reasons for gaming etc, but wonder if there are other things I might get from the site. Guess I’d better go and investigate…

#2 Comment By Volcarthe On August 11, 2011 @ 7:46 am

Tried it a bit and after using the collectorz software, I’m annoyed at manually typing in every single book.

Especially without any option to say “I own all of this set” and have it auto-fill.

I just don’t know if I need yet another location that has all my listings. Especially not one that judges me for what games I like to play (and that’s exactly what the average rating is doing)

#3 Comment By nolandda On August 11, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

The site design is abysmal. The part where you are intended to interact with the site (by marking a game as owned and rating it) is shoved way down at the bottom in a little sliver of text. Assuming you ever find it, it isn’t even clear you have found the right thing since all it says is: “record information”.

Assuming you go through the work of entering your info into RPGGeek it doesn’t even reward you with recommendations of things you might like.

Mostly it seems like a tool for collectors and obsessive/compulsive organizers.

#4 Comment By Martin Ralya On August 11, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

Tough crowd! 😉

[10] – I also enjoy the reviews, occasionally the session reports, the forums, and the images. Every product gets its own wiki page and dedicated forum, and while the site isn’t yet nearly as comprehensive as BGG (which has been around for ~11 years), those pages will increase in usefulness the more the site gets used.

[11] – Yep, entering stuff — especially a lot of stuff — can be a pain. Hell, it took me so long I took a two-year break. 😉

I’ve never used the software you mentioned, but a more automated system would certainly be nifty.

[12] – You can set the order that the “panes” on each item page appear in, so for example you could stick the pane where you mark ownership/other info right up at the top. You can also mark a product owned from the search interface (after searching for it, of course).

There’s an automatic recommendation system built into BGG, too, but I almost never use it. It requires a fair amount of data on your part to get it to spit out results — IE, enough ratings to form a picture of your tastes. I’ve never used it on RPGG.

As for the visual design, I hear you. It doesn’t offend me nearly as much as it offends you, but I totally get why it’s not for everyone.

#5 Comment By Volcarthe On August 11, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

If you’re -just- looking for a database, and want to spend the money on a bar code scanner, the collectorz series is decent.
they have a program each for books, video games, movies, music, comics, mp3s, and (apparently) photos.

the database checks against amazon.com and some other sites to make sure what you have is correct.

The GameGeek site has more options and connectivity, but it would be nice if they allowed a data upload for listing.

#6 Comment By Martin Ralya On August 11, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

[13] – Interesting. I have a :cueCat, or however the fuck you spell it, which I bought from LibraryThing when I last tried to catalog my entire book collection. (So, yeah: I like to catalog things…)

Sometimes the automation was nice, and sometimes it found a hundred copies of the book and I had to decide how much I cared about choosing the right one.

The interactivity and the community are a big part of why I like Geekdo; I’d miss that if I was just nerding out over my database in private. 😉

#7 Comment By Volcarthe On August 11, 2011 @ 9:54 pm

Entirely understandable. But I think I’m coming at it from another angle: I have a list of my stuff, and I have awesome places to nerd out like gnome stew (and now Google+) so I, personally, don’t know if I’d use the database on GameGeek terribly often. that and my database is partly for insurance purposes (since i have thousands of dollars in entertainment media and can’t remember what half of them are).

#8 Comment By eryops On August 12, 2011 @ 12:10 am

One of the big dividing issues with RPGGeek moreso than BGG is the lumping and splitting. In your post, you seem to be a fan of the family/rpg/rpg item, but when you start to get into using the system, it gets really frustrating. For instance, I believe at one point I posted something on a WFRP2 thread, but then wasn’t able to find it later, as I was looking at two of the categories not realizing there was yet another layer where the message was hiding.

I’m also quite militant about logging my plays on BGG. But on RPGGeek, I find it’s more difficult: Do I put a “Game Played” under the system or item? It’s more layering than I want.

The forums are quite cumbersome – part of that owing to the fracturing of items, RPGs, and families each having their own places to put threads. I find myself going in once every couple of months and commenting on stuff that interests me, but either they get buried too quickly (and I have no clue where it was originally, so I can’t find it), or there is no other traffic to answer my questions or not enough interest to keep a conversation going, so then I lapse again.

I put in quite a few hours getting rpg items put into the system, so I don’t want to come off as someone who checked it out and didn’t like it. I *wanted* to like it. I tried hard to promote it on other sites, but in the end, it wasn’t what I was looking for. I haven’t put my entire collection up there yet as RPGs don’t get played as much as board games, and definitely not as quickly. Plus I feel weird adding games that I only own in .pdf, but that’s just me.

#9 Comment By Gilvanblight On August 12, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

I also love RPGGeek. One of the amazing things is an article index of nearly all rpg magazines. Looking for that article of White Dward that had the rules for Elf Wardancers for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay – it’s there. They are adding about 1000-5000 articles a day and as of about two weeks ago became the largest article index on the web.

I find things like the Game of the Week and various reviews have introduced me to more new systems than any other source.

Perhaps an article on how best to use the geek would be useful. How to subscribe to games and threads. How to use the quickbar. Where to go to rate your collection (aka use RPG Item not RPG).

#10 Comment By hets On August 13, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

I love RPGGeek and I use it almost on a daily basis, but mostly as a kind of IMDB for roleplaying games. I haven’t even registered and I find it incredibly useful, now I’m really tempted to make an account and actually start rating the games I own/played.

#11 Comment By KnightErrantJR On August 15, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

I have to admit, I may not be very bright, but I’m completely lost trying to figure out how to use the site. I’m sure it’s got lots of great information, and I’m sure I’m just missing something, but right now, I’m kind of lost.

#12 Pingback By MartinRalya.com & Yore | tremulus after two campaigns On May 5, 2016 @ 1:32 am

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