My first experience with D&D occurred over my Christmas break when I was in 5th grade. This time of year always brings to mind RPGs and all the fun times I’ve had playing games with friends and family. With the spirit of the new year fresh in my mind, I wanted to look forward. Rather than focusing on resolutions that I will abandon at 12:01am on January 1st, I thought I would send out through the Interwebz my wishes for 2011.
7. I hope more game stores embrace RPGs.
Most game stores support card games and wargaming/skirmish games with dedicated game nights to draw people to the stores. However, many fewer stores make a concerted effort to draw RPG players by offering dedicated nights for D&D and other RPGs. Even though WotC’s D&D Encounters program has gone a long way to get stores to understand that players are interested in RPGs—and are willing to spend money to support the stores and the game on RPG products—many stores still do not understand or want to commit the time to such an undertaking. While there might be some truth to the assertion that RPG pricing models makes it less profitable to sell those products than decks or minis, there is still money to be made. RPGs are as much a social game as those other games, and unless game stores act as a focal point for meeting new players and trying new games, it will be hard for the hobby and the industry to grow.
6. I wish a movie that captured the spirit of D&D would be a big success.
Despite being a geek since I could walk, I was never much of a comic-book fan. However, the recent success of so many comic-based movies has obviously changed the motion picture landscape. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t an “Archie in 3D” movie in the works, with the obligatory “Jughead vs. Jason” sequel to follow. With comic and graphic novels getting so much mainstream love, I wish someone, somewhere could tap into the same vein that makes RPGs so great and turn that into a movie. Obviously the Lord of the Rings trilogy was great filmmaking, and did capture some of the spirit that informs fantasy RPGs. The first part of the two-part The Hobbit motion picture won’t be released for at least another couple of years. Somewhere in the next year I would love to see a D&D-driven movie that wasn’t more of an embarrassment than a draw. How about a Dark Sun movie that captured the feel of that world and game? A Ravenloft movie that wasn’t just another vampire flick? Are there any recent or upcoming movies I am forgetting that would fit the bill?
5. I want the RPG division of WotC to have a great year, both creatively and financially.
Wizards of the Coast is the “big fish in the small pond” of the RPG world, and because of its position it gets a lot of unfair and surprisingly vitriolic criticism—in addition to some that is deserved. Regardless of opinions about the organization and its products, it is hard to deny that as in the leader in the industry, it is in the position to be the guiding force of the industry. Many smaller companies and their employees make their livings in offering their products and services to those customers whom WotC has courted and brought into the RPG seas. Let’s face it: the better WotC does, the better the RPG industry as a whole does. And this doesn’t just confine itself to financial benefits. The whole d20 industry, which has earned a great many people and companies their successes, came directly from the minds and hearts of WotC designers.
4. I wish lots of small-shop RPG companies would have incredible successes.
As with my above point, success in the industry can move benefits upward as well as downward. Anyone following the blogs and thoughts of the movers and shakers at WotC know that they are rabid consumers of all sorts of games, and the good innovations at other companies will find their way into WotC’s products in some form or another. Innovations are often derided because they mean change. However, innovations mean variations and choices. Variations lead to evolution, and if there is any industry that could use some evolution, it is the RPG industry. What kinds of innovations would y’all like to see in the new year?
3. I hope we get a highly functional, yet easy to use, virtual tabletop application.
I still believe that, in the long run, the RPG industry is dying a slow death. Obviously that death will not be immediate, and there may be upward blips. However, when looked at in terms of a financial industry, I don’t see the RPG industry headed anywhere but down—especially when compared to other competing entertainment media. That said, I think the availability of a high-quality, easy-to-use online virtual tabletops may at least slow, if not reverse, that trend. The one main complaint aimed at MMO RPGs is that the intelligence that runs the game is incapable to making decisions like a live person could. A virtual tabletop that has all the bells and whistles and functionality that players are used to, with the added benefit of a live DM running the game, could answer the criticisms of the MMO RPG players, not to mention solve the problem of finding like-minded players for a game. And if it ever took off, there would be the potential for supplementary products to support and enhance online play.
2. Like any RPG freelancer, I always hope for new challenges in the new year.
With a family, a decent career that I enjoy, and too many other interests, I have no illusions about ever becoming a full-time employee or freelancer in the RPG industry. However, there is still that part of me who cannot always look forward to working with creative and brilliant people on new projects. For anyone with that creative impulse—be it designing whole worlds and game systems or throwing together a game for friends—I don’t have to explain how intense and mind-blowing the feeling is when you are in the throes of the creative process. Sports players know that feeling when you are “in the zone,” when you are almost unaware of the effort yet performing at your best. The zone of the creative process is like that, but even more freeing and intoxicating. I wish everyone with the desire to create something—anything, really—can at least a couple times in their life reach that point.
1. I hope everyone who wants to play an RPG can find a game that suits them, and a group that suits them.
If someone went to the gym with a tennis racquet and got into a double tennis game, then spent the entire time complaining that he hated tennis because it was not a game where you took a large curved stick and knocked a puck into a net while on ice, you would think that maybe he was crazy for not playing hockey. However, much of the complaining and criticism I hear surrounding the RPG industry is a terribly similar argument. There are countless different games out there, and even many different ways to play each individual game. If you are having trouble finding the game you like, leave comments on this column, and maybe someone can point you to a good game. If you are having trouble finding a group or GM that fits your gaming style, hopefully a nearby game store or an online gaming site can help.
Best wishes to all in the coming New Year!