Over on Grognardia, Jim made me aware of an article on RPGs by Allen Varney of Paranoia fame. The article is concise, more useful as a conversation starter. It is both gloomy and upbeat. Allen mentions a lot of things, from 4e, to old school gaming, to Virtual Table top. Here are some things I think he missed.
Owning a kindle is simply a better way to read. In order to be of use for RPGs we need a version capable of handling a 8.5 by 11 screen with some color or great grayscale. Along with the price coming down. Preferably by half to the sub $150 range. I predict that within 5 to 8 years e book readers will start making major inroads into how we buy our books. When the first 8.5 by 11 reader gets under $300 we will be seeing them spread through our hobby.
Where your table-top is a touchscreen. I think that once this become affordable it will open up a whole new form of gaming. The prices is going have to be near console level in order for widespread adoption. In addition the platform needs to be open enough to allow marginal activities (like ours) the chance to develop applications for it. It's main use will battleboard presentation and automation of rules. A possible application will be tagged miniatures. Think Heroclix but with a RFID chip that the surface computer can use.
Virtual Tabletop Software
Allen talks about this. My feeling on VTT software is that this is going to become ever more important to hobby. It near faithfully replicates sitting around the time along with a few advantages (effective fog of war). It not better mind you but when your old group scattered across a continent it really helps.
This is one area that Wizards dropped the ball in their digital initiative. They can still recover. If they do and create a decent VTT with access to thousands of players it will be a game changer for the hobby. Especially if they open support to games other than 4e. The network effect will explode interest in playing RPGs and have a shot at attracting a slice of the MMORPG base. And sales of 4e would probably go up as well.
Note how all these technologies don't replace what we do in Tabletop. They are not like MMORPGs where the DM is replaced by the game engine . Instead they merge in with some advantages and extra bells and whistles.
I see table-top RPGs supporting two different but reinforcing paths. One will be through the internet, relying mostly on VTT software. The other will be using e-books and surface computers to bring more options to the home game.
P.S. The "do you use miniatures" battle will still rage on but now it will be do use a surface or not. Both sides will be using e-book though.
Note: My day job is head programmer of a company that make software for creating and unfolding 3D shapes for metal cutting machine as well as controlling the machine themselves.