Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Reply Hazy, Try Again" the future of tabletop RPGs


One of the classic Magic 8 ball answers aptly describes looking at the future of tabletop roleplaying games.

Some Long term trends I feel to look at for tabletop roleplaying games


  1. The Internet and related technologies most importantly PDFs, Kickstarter and Print on Demand. Because of this tabletop RPGs and hybrid forms are increasing in numbers and diversity. 
  2. The maturing of virtual tabletop technology which free gamers from having to physically get together to play table-top rpgs.
  3. The rise of the tablet and other hand held computer devices. One game change is  a large cheap flexible screen that is touch sensitive and can be unfolded/rolled out on any flat area to provide a interactive playing surface. 
  4. The ongoing development of novel boardgames whose mechanics can be reused in the design of tabletop games. 
  5. The renaissance of older tabletop games and older editions.
  6. Social network sites. For example Google Plus is being used for a lot of tabletop gaming. 
  7. The increase in importance of corporate and personal reputation.
  8. The collapse of the tabletop mass market in favor of increase in niche markets for various games and genres.
  9. The release of older tabletop RPG material in PDF or Print.


The main problem in developing a sense of where tabletop rpgs are going is the increase in diversity. What is happening depends very much on what news you keep up with.

For example over 350 products have been released for various older editions of D&D between January 2010 and May 2012. I only know that because I follows the news and forums for older edition D&D. Somebody who follows Paizo releases will have a completely different view. Likewise for Wizards of the Coast, SJ Games, Green Ronin, etc.

We live in interesting times.

3 comments:

Tom Coenen said...

Advances in digital content and devices will certainly impact tabletop roleplaying games.
A virtual tabletop combined with a flexible screen would be great.

Personally, I'm not sure about the collapse of tabletop mass market.
The mass market could continue to exist with more options and modules for niche play.

Thanks for the article, I'm wondering where roleplaying games are headed.

Rusty said...

Nice list, Rob.

What ongoing impact do you see from online gaming?

It seems like there has been a culture shift, supported by technology, that has allowed game consumers to also be game producers (music, the news media, and other sectors has experienced similar shifts). What impact does this have on the future of table top rpgs?

Jorunkun said...

Good points, though I'd say the jury is still out on the collapse of the mass market - we'll have to see how DnD Next fares.

Game design as such has IMO been progressing tremendously in the past few years, partially in response to other changes you mentioned. As a result, there are now many kinds of games, played and consumed in a number of ways. I'd expect this market to consolidate again, eventually.