2012-03-15 : Monster Mania Con

Sales were awful!

It's hard for me to explain how enthusiastic I am about the con. I learned way more than I expected to learn. In every way it was a successful fact-finding expedition.

Some of you remember how hard it was back in 2002-2006 to get gamers to play our games, right? We developed a whole bunch of strategies and skills to accomplish it. Stuff like "demo your game at cons," "hook the GM and you've hooked the group," "don't be shy about controversy," "be a positive presence in rpg forums," and who even remembers how many others. Getting non-gamers to play our games is going to be every bit as hard again, plus way, way harder.

Here's an easy, superficial example. The covers of our games? At GenCon, they're arresting. They jump out at you and you can't stop looking at them. At Monster Mania Con, they were practically camouflaged; peoples' eyes slid right past them. If we want to sell to horror fans at horror cons, we'll need to create contrast, not blend in.

But that's just the visible tip of the iceberg. In our games, we rely so much on gamers' patience with counterproductive procedures of play. To reach an audience that hasn't been so primed, we're going to have to design games that are more fun, more immediately fun, and more evidently fun just by looking. We're going to have to design games that can compete, fun for fun, minute for minute, with non-rpgs. And we're going to have to do it inexpensively enough that an audience used to buying DVDs 3 for $20 will take a chance.

Holy crap, now THAT'S a challenge.

1. On 2012-03-15, Meserach said:

But not I hope an insurmountable one!

I am desperate to talk about the best ways, in a text and in marketing, to both explain and "sell" the idea of roleplaying to an audience that has never done it before and perhaps hasn't even heard of it.

Where I've needed to do this in the past (e.g. when explaining the game I wrote recently to my own dear mother) I have tended to try and draw on analogies, usually to improv theatre. I'd love to hear what strategies you tried at this con, and how well you felt they worked!


2. On 2012-03-15, Sam said:

Oh, man, you were at Monster-Mania?  I almost went to that.  Now I wish I had.


3. On 2012-03-15, Vincent said:

Meserach, I think that's a losing proposition! If you ask me, the best approach isn't to explain and sell roleplaying at all, it's to explain and sell the particular individual games.

For instance, Murderous Ghosts was easy to explain to people who didn't know what roleplaying was. "You're an explorer in an abandoned factory. You're the ghosts haunting the factory. If you escape, you win. If you murder her, you win." Nobody had any trouble with that at all. They were all perfectly comfortable with the idea of pretending to be these characters, unless we drew attention to the fact.

In the middle of day 1, we stopped asking people whether they were familiar with roleplaying, stopped using the word altogether. It was a misstep to bring it up.


4. On 2012-03-15, Vincent said:

If you think back to these 3 problems, what I'm talking about now is a little different. Most people who would enjoy a game never know it, because they never pick it up and play it. What I'm talking about now is somehow bridging that gulf.

Attention Ben Lehman! You know how I set aside the problem of closed-door performance? This is where it can come back in, and with it many other problems that I'm barely now learning about.


5. On 2012-03-15, Dominic said:

Hi Vincent,

I'm not sure I get what you mean by : "In our games, we rely so much on gamers' patience with counterproductive procedures of play."

Sorry to make you repeat if you explained it somewhere else.


6. On 2012-03-15, Vincent said:

I haven't really explained it elsewhere, no.

You know how character creation takes time, and is sometimes tricky and sometimes boring, and you have to just trust that it's going to be worth it later? That's something you've learned to have the patience for, but nongamers haven't.

Same goes for not just character creation but for many, many parts of our games. We readily subject ourselves as players to procedures of play that (a) don't pay off immediately, and (b) may never pay off after all.

As a designer, I know that all I have to do is design procedures of play that are more productive than, say, Shadowrun's, and they'll reach my audience. I know that if my game requires something particularly onerous, I can have the GM do it - GMs will put up with even more than regular gamers. This new audience, though? Stymie them for even just 20 seconds and I've lost them.


7. On 2012-03-15, Meserach said:

Vincent: yes, you're right about that - you don;t need to sell "roleplaying" as an activity (howvever defined) you need to sell your specific game.

But uh, while this is true, it obscures another point: how do you sell the specific types of activity in your game to people unfamiliar with those activities?

Like, Murderous Ghosts is very much like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, or a board game; as such you have some perhaps more familiar referents to draw on when explaining what it it that you do, in the game.

But how about if your game is less like a board game? How do you sell activities like, uh, "inhabiting a character" or "playing to find out what happens"?


8. On 2012-03-15, Dominic said:

Thanks for the explanation !

Now, my question would be : Where does this patience come from ? Did we always have it in ourselves (like a gamer's predisposition) ? Or did we acquire it over time ? And if so, how ?

Because, I have a very low amount of patience for (most) video and board games. But, in the case of rpgs, I'm more than willing to invest the time. Also, I'm pretty sure that that patience wasn't some innate disposition. So, how come I became patient for rpgs and is there a way to replicate the process (and accelerate it) ?

I don't have answers, so sorry if I can't help you with your new challenge. ;)


9. On 2012-03-15, Carrie said:

An RPG that got counterproductive procedures of play down to 5% or less of the time playing/prepping would make me pick up playing RPGs.


10. On 2012-03-15, Carrie said:

0 being the ideal, but even other kinds of games don't do that. You have to learn the rules, set up the pieces, figure out the controls, or something, for all games.


11. On 2012-03-15, Bret said:

Carrie, I think Murderous Ghosts nailed that, and I think maybe Final Girl did too. Maybe! I hope!


12. On 2012-03-15, Vincent said:

If I were looking to expand the market for rpgs, Meserach and Dominic, those are exactly the questions I'd be asking. I'm not interested in that, though.

My approach isn't to bring nongamers over to roleplaying, but to take roleplaying over to nongamers. This means designing games that they'll already easily understand, that don't require me to explain and sell those weird activities. So while I remain committed to roleplaying for its creative and subversive value, for these games I have to jettison my attachment entirely to the subculture that surrounds it.

In other words, these games have to be perfectly comfortable with "but that's not a roleplaying game!"


13. On 2012-03-15, Ben Lehman said:

I find that roleplaying games, in the abstract, actually have a great deal of cultural pull and relevance: more than we'd been led to believe.

The successes Jake and I have had at anime cons have come from presenting role-playing as just another fan activity that one might do at a convention, along the lines of panels or cosplay. No one but RPG players comes to a con to buy books and, if they do, they don't want our books, they want the actual source material of the convention (horror novels, manga, artbooks, whatever).

But people at fan cons are hungry for activities and open to new experiences. For the first, this is simply because there isn't much to do at a con. For the second, cons are sort of a "festival time" where you might try things out that you're not used to, because—hey—it's a con.

So instead I think it's better to go "we're going to be doing a horror role-playing game in this room. Come check it out!" Just the same way I might do a Segway maze at GenCon, I think that people at a horror con might play Final Girl.


14. On 2012-03-15, Dominic said:

Vincent : You mean something like the Parsely games ?


15. On 2012-03-15, Vincent said:

Ben: That's really interesting. It might be an anime / horror crowd difference. You should have seen people's faces go dead when we used the word.


16. On 2012-03-15, Meserach said:


I am not looking to expand the market for RPGs necessarily! Like, I am not interested in ALL of the things associated with that term. But there are specific practices, like "inhabiting a character" and "collaborating to improvise a story", which I am interested in trying to sell to wider audience, in the context of games of my own design which might not otherwise be defined as RPGs, but DO include those specific activities.

If what you;re saying is something like "I think there is no way to sell inhabiting a character and/or collaborating to improvise a story to a non-RPG audience - if you want to reach them, you have to drop those weird activities from your game", then okay. (Although that conclusion does make me super sad!)

But is that what you believe, or not? Which specific activities that come under the umbrella of "roleplaying" are saleable, and which ones are just too kooky?

If I was to categorise them as SALEABLE and TOO KOOKY, I might start to make a list like this:

* rolling dice
* reading out narration from a book
* following instructions about what to do next
* using a randomiser to discover what discrete action happens next (like, which page to I turn to?)
* attempting to optimise performance according to win/loss metrics

* acting in character via speech patterns
* acting in character via gesture and/or facial expression
* thinking in character
* dressing up in character
* creating a narrative that makes an artistic statement
* improvising character dialogue
* improvising fictional events without explicit instructions that say exactly what happens next

...and so on.

But I think (or rather, I hope!) that maybe some of those "too kooky" things might actually be saleable with the right marketing, framing and explanation.


17. On 2012-03-15, Alex F said:

From my point of view, I think no single item on either list is too much for a hypothetical non gamer.

I mean, I've run improv with adult and younger first timers and they will do all kinds of wacky stuff, given the procedures are unambiguous and aligned. Talk like a character, act like a character... These are things that people pull out as party games instead of charades. In my opinion, they don't present a general social barrier (different strokes for different folks, match.)

In my view, the trickiness is the framing of the activity and the combination of procedures called for.

Eg I say something that my character would, need to check permission that's ok, use a randomiser, update one or more documents, interpret it and act it out, *could* be a dire combo, where we're into the rpg patience arena. Or maybe that's fine! But I suspect with rare exceptions that what's at issue isn't a single feature but interlocking combos.

And while I think about it, a solution may also lie in thinking about combos, virtuous ones where steps reinforce, reward and make even easier to repeat the steps around them.


18. On 2012-03-15, Chris Chinn said:

"You should have seen people's faces go dead when we used the word."

It's not just fighting against not having counterproductive procedures yourself- it's fighting against every other game (and the game culture) which has made all those counterproductive procedures the expectation of that word.


19. On 2012-03-15, Bret said:

I think there is some, man I don't know the right words. Nerd hostility? I find the horror movie culture to have a bit of machoness in it. We like movies with blood! And boobs! And violence! Raaarrrgh! Get your D&D out of here, nerds! We definitely did not run into that (with the exception of one girl who asked Eppy "Do I *look* like I play roleplaying games?") but I think the general sentiment you run into with most nonroleplayer folks is totally present here in a way that it might not be in communities that are more likely to self-identify as "nerdy" (anime fans, video gamers, etc.)


20. On 2012-03-15, Ben Lehman said:

Yeah, I think it's a generational difference. Anime fans are younger, and thus more likely to associate the game with video games or online chat play, both of which are generally more satisfying experiences and thus less likely to recoil.

The point about "hey it's a con let me try out a new thing" still stands, though. Maybe just call it a "game" but I think people would be willing to try it given the chance.

Do a panel! You could totally run Murderous Ghosts with a roomful of people.



21. On 2012-03-15, Ben Lehman said:

x-posted with Bret.

Oh I did not know about the nerd hostility. That's weird. I guess I just expect that, in the modern day with the internet and everything, everyone loves nerds.

I wonder why that isn't in this community?


22. On 2012-03-15, Paul Czege said:

The "explain and sell weird activities" and pricing issues were very present at STAPLE the two years Danielle and I did it. Attendees will take a risk on a $2 or $3 comic, especially if they have a fun conversation with you, but they won't take a risk on a $17 RPG book. They expect a $30-$40 spend to result in a stuffed backpack.


23. On 2012-03-15, Paul Czege said:

I think one solution is The Drifter's Escape. A book of mostly fiction that also includes a game.


24. On 2012-03-15, Ewen Cluney said:

Last year I did booths at two different cons, and the difference was pretty much night and day.

Kin-Yoobi Con is a very, very small anime con (maybe 200 people total) in Hayward, CA, and I went with copies of Maid RPG and some stuff from my webcomic. We sold 5 copies of Maid RPG, which was pretty damn good considering that that was 1 copy sold per 40 attendees.

Then I did a booth at the Alternative Press Expo (APE) in San Francisco. I brought Maid RPG and my webcomic stuff again, and Ben brought a bunch of Cel*Style games. We sold a smattering of webcomic and Cel*Style stuff, but zero copies of Maid RPG, and took in less money total than at Kin-Yoobi Con. APE is a great event for indie comics and artsy stuff, but it was frustrating in that the more we had to explain what an RPG is, the less likely they were to buy any. (On the plus side, I did meet a few Maid RPG fans.)

I had left Kin-Yoobi Con thinking that anime fans were more into stuff with characters they already know (as evidenced by how well that kind of thing sells in the Artists Alley) while the APE crowd would want more original stuff, except that stuff like the "Doctor Mew" prints (with Doctor Who drawn as cats) were selling like hotcakes at APE. On the other hand, anime fans were definitely a minority at APE.

Of the two I definitely do feel more inclined to give selling RPGs to anime fans another try, and I may end up doing just that some time this year.


25. On 2012-03-15, Paul Czege said:

I've been to SPACE. I would bet APE, SPX, and SPACE have a very similar attendee demographic. You have to explain what an RPG is, they're mostly comics fans, and they're not interested in taking a risk on something that seems so expensive compared to the indie comics.

STAPLE, in Austin, has a somewhat different demographic. It's more about an appreciation for independent creativity than about comics specifically. Except you still have to explain what an RPG is, and they still aren't expecting the price point. But I think something like The Drifter's Escape, that they can recognize as consumable fiction plus a game, at a price point comparative to a self published novel, would work.


26. On 2012-03-16, Josh W said:

Interesting thing about the covers; look distinctly like a horror thing in an rpg setting, look distinctly like an rpg in a horror setting?

Not sure how you'd give the visual signal of "obviously an rpg" though...

Also wondering, did anyone actually watch horror movies/read horror novels/comics as main activities at the con? Or was it more like pub talk after a film?
I can just imagine a sort of "people don't sit down to eat in supermarkets" effect when trying to demo stuff.


27. On 2012-03-16, Paul T. said:

From the anecdotal perspective, I have a "storytelling game" (a narrative story game with no character-play or "roleplaying") which I occasionally mention to people like coworkers or family friends.

The response is almost always positive and full of curiosity. However, I'm very careful not to use the "roleplaying" word or to reference something like D&D (which is accurate in this scenario, since my game doesn't involve any typical RPG elements, and no one roleplays characters).

Almost everyone responds positively, as I said. However, very few people follow through. I have not yet had a single person play the game without me present, although many people have asked for a copy of the rules. They'll play the game with me, and usually enjoy it and want to play again, but I've never yet had a single case of a person taking the game and playing it without me.

My game, for reference, is moderate-to-simple rules-wise and plays out over 1 1/2 - 2 hours on the first try (with people who've never played it before). I find that the vast majority of the time I see people begin to lose patience with the game after an hour or hour and a half.


28. On 2012-03-16, David Berg said:

Vincent, it seems to me that Murderous Ghosts is by far the least patience-testing and noob-befuddling of the Monster Mania games.  Did it sell the best?


29. On 2012-03-16, Moreno said:

Maybe is a cultural think (we Italians are a very theatrical people), but I didn't had to explain "how to act in character" to any new player, EVER.

Nobody explained it to me, too: but when you play a single character, using his abilities to doing imaginary activities... how are you going to explain what he say to other characters?

Sometimes you can use a description ("he ask him the way to the dungeon"), but a lot of time simply talking in character is easier and more natural. So is using the "I" instead of using "my character"

It's simply natural, everybody does it. (or, at least, I think is natural and not cultural: but it's true that I have seen American players surprised by the amount of role-playing is usual here even for a dungeon crawl)

Maybe this is another reason why anime fan comvention are more receptive: they are already more open to the idea of "acting out" imaginary characters...

Much more than horror fans, at least. (correct me if there is something similar to cosplay for horror fan, I don't know any)


30. On 2012-03-16, Matthijs said:

So here's a question that's been gnawing at me for some time about this subject.

If you/we want to make RPGs that appeal to non-gamers, and you/we are willing to make them into something people won't call an RPG...

...what exactly are you/we doing? Just making games, right?

What's the point of thinking about them as RPGs anymore?

(I'm not asking rhetorically; I'm trying to grasp some point that I think I may be missing.)


31. On 2012-03-15, Gregor Vuga said:

Packaging might be one thing to think about.

"What's this book?"
"It's a game."
"But it's a book?"

The bigger companies that can afford it totally need to do more boxed sets. Not only as collectible items for the big fans, but stuff that go on the shelves of big stores, right next to Monopoly and Parcheesi. Something that's identifiable as a game.

The big bulky tomes of heyday are something for the hardcores and there's nothing wrong with that, but if you want to bring the hobby to the people you need a different physical object to sell (except to a minority).

(Also, lots of hobbyists/salesmen are terrible at selling RPGs to people. More than once I had the chance to observe a clueless person asking what they would need to play and the vendor started a tirade about which dozen supplements they should totally buy, I could literally see the customer shrinking.)


32. On 2012-03-16, Jay Loomis said:

Something to remember, as one tries to bring roleplaying to non-gamers, is that games of any sort (except for video-games, which are more or less mainstream now) are not widely culturally accepted for adults in our (US) society. It was *revolutionary* in the '80s when Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary gained popularity for adults—the idea of "normal" adults playing games without children was weird. Catan and the wave of Euro games that followed it in the '90s did a little to change that, but there is still a huge chasm out there in the culture between playing, say, Ticket to Ride and playing something even remotely like a roleplaying game.

Which is just to say, there's a lot of work to be done. Even games with minimal counterproductive procedures of play are likely to be looked at askance.

I would think that there is lots to be learned by way of strategy from hobby boardgame companies. How is, say, Rio Grande Games trying to get non-gamer adults to try playing fun, well-crafted boardgames? Once you leave the realm of the micro-niche of roleplaying gamers, you have a larger (though still niche) pool to explore.


33. On 2012-03-16, Simon R said:

@Vincent Once you'd got the pitch right and you'd persuaded them to try it how did the non-roleplayers take to the game?

I'm going to try your approach with a fiction writers' group soon, possibly using Montsegur or Steve's Threepenny Touch. I won't mention roleplaying.

I've always wanted to publish a game which smuggles in roleplaying in an acceptable form, without talking about the game's roots. I think it needs to have the appearance of a card or board game (cards, tokens, even a board) and a very simple rule set, plus a victory condition.


34. On 2012-03-16, Julia said:

I played my first role-playing game in 2006. I didn't play as a kid or a teenager, I probably don't fit the gamer stereotype, and I didn't really consider myself a gamer until fairly recently. At that point I'd written a few table top RPGs and larps, sold some games, run some larps, and been to a few conventions. I intentionally don't write games for gamers or larpers. I write for the love of and to share that love of a particular topic or form of expression that moves me. I don't necessarily write for a genre, but I do keep genre in mind, especially if the subject is a derivative of it. My general pitch of my roleplaying games to people who don't embrace the gamer label is that rpgs are a form of collaborative storytelling. I do say "this is a roleplaying game." Why take it completely away from its very useful context? If and when D&D comes up I say, "Yeah, it's something like that, but instead of elves and orcs, this time we're going to tell stories about [Japanese demons, cannibals in Western Massachusetts, etc.]." Sometimes I mention that I've only played D&D three times, which is true. I don't dis role-playing games, but I do place emphasis on the fact that RPGs are a form of collaborative storytelling and are more socially engaging and intellectually stimulating than TV.

After five years I think I sell as many copies of Steal Away Jordan to teachers, history professors, and people with a general interest in Southern US History and literature as I do to the gaming community. Whether or not it was an accurate message, I kinda picked up that the (stereo-)typical gamer did not want to engage with the subject matter, even if the game itself was fun. Someone once called it an "educational" game. In context of the discussion it meant the game had less entertainment value for a gamer, and was more of a teaching tool. While I disagree with that assessment, I'll concede it has that capability. And of all the misconceptions about the game, that one is not so bad.?Steal Away Jordan is?now on the syllabus of an Afro Am studies class. It's also part of an art exhibit on gaming. Again, I didn't write SAJ with gamers in mind (really I wrote it to challenge myself), but I did write it on the assumption that gamers like to play interesting, compelling stories. Lesson learned: people like interesting, compelling stories and many are willing to access these stories in innovative forms like RPGs.

I work in a co-working center. Basically it's a big shared office of mostly freelancers. We have a few editors, a photographer, a voice actress, a German translator/interpreter, a small farmers advocacy non profit, a couple of social media and marketing people, a web hosting cooperative, a fashion designer, a comic book artist, a book illustrator, and more. A few of them are rpg players and a there's a couple of cosplayers/anime fans. Back in February I invited anyone who had ever picked up one of the RPGs on my desk and asked about it to come play in a couple of larps (full disclosure: one of the larps was mine, and the invitees had heard a LOT about this project from me). Four people (out of the 6 or 7 I invited) showed up. One was not a gamer, nor was he particularly devoted to the subject matter of my larp. What he was interested in was meeting new people, doing something creative with others, and trying something fun. Yesterday the non gamer I just mentioned and I played Murderous Ghosts at lunch. He loved it. He wanted to play because after having a great time at the larp where he got the chance to do something creative with people, he wanted to do more. The subject matter in both instances was appealing, but the activity was much more appealing to him.

I think it's exciting to reach out to other communities and subcultures with RPGs (and larps, though tabletop games are more portable and require less play space). In doing so I hope people get new players, customers, and fans. I hope that this trend also moves beyond marketing and writing to a genre and into marketing and writing RPGs that offer interesting ways of engaging people in general, that game designers really look at what their designs share with other forms of expression like short fiction, poetry, and improvisational theater, as games like Drifters Escape, Game Poems, and the larp Metropolis do.?Then you aren't bound to a genre and you do share creative space and a huge diverse market with literature, theatre, poetry, etc.


35. On 2012-03-16, Frank T said:

So, Vincent, what's the kind of game, fun for fun, minute for minute, that you would be aiming at?


36. On 2012-03-16, Meguey said:

Something I find very interesting is how *full* of gaming and role-playing the US was up until the industrial revolution, maybe even to the Great Depression of the 1930s. *Everyone* played games. Card games and parlour games and charades and forfeits and on and on and on. Somewhere along the way, we got "too busy" doing "important work" - or too exhausted from same - to play with our friends. Bridge and chess and other highly structured games survived in the adult sphere, and everything else was either pushed down to 'kiddie stuff' or laid aside. I see the still-unfolding interest in games of all kinds as a return to what we all once knew - playing games together is fun!


37. On 2012-03-16, Bret said:

@Josh W "Also wondering, did anyone actually watch horror movies/read horror novels/comics as main activities at the con? Or was it more like pub talk after a film?"

They show movies at the convention, but I'm not sure that they're particularly well attended. People are there for two big reasons it seems like:

1) Attend panels and get autographs from horror movie actors/directors
2) Buy horror movies/posters/shirts/etc.


38. On 2012-03-16, Jay Loomis said:

@Meguey—Yeah, it's fascinating and I don't really understand it. We go through phases. Like in the '20s everyone played Mah Jong, and in the mid-century Bridge was really popular. Even now, we're at the tail end of the Poker resurgence. But all of htose examples are well within safe adult game territory. Card games (I include Mah Jong in that designation becuase it's essentially a card game played with really thick cards) are pretty safe, but only in traditonal forms: trick-taking, meld-forming, or hand constructing—and only with abstract cards.

Hell, even Chess, one of the older board games still actively played, is only accepted as an adult game for nerds and brainiacs.


39. On 2012-03-17, Amphiprison said:

Ooh!  Game history!  Story time!

People had plenty of time in the Twenties, so had lots of opportunities to play games- due to wealth before the Depression, and due to unemployment after.  Once World War II hit, the US didn't feel like playing games so much- other stuff to do, less raw materials (and less Workers due to Bullets and Going Abroad To Shoot Them!) available to make games.

Once all those vets came home, they kinda needed something to occupy their time so they didn't dwell on their past experiences and become all shell-shocked.  And there were a *lot* of vets- enough to come home and make enough babies to saddle us with the Baby Boomer generation.  Boom, like the sound a Bomb makes in Wartime, or the sound of 70 million retirees slamming into the Social Security system.

Anyway.  Some vets generally did the sort of things they did before.  Others generally did Wargaming (which spawned RPGs) and Historical Re-Enactment (which arguably had something to do with LARPing).  Some others did Hobbies, which are like Games but not so much.  Hobbyists and Gamers have a lot in common because both are historically Time-Intensive Leisure Activities that lend themselves to an obsessive level of interest.

But anyhow. TV is easier, cheaper, and minute by minute offered more entertainment to people than bridge or Monopoly or whatever.  Only recently are US game designers rolling up their sleeves and making games that are fun enough to compete with the Magical Sound And Picture Box.  (German game designers, who had far more free time on their hands due to a Completely Borked Postwar Economy, have been working hard on games for quite some time, just not the kind where you pretend to be an Elf.)

On the downside, the economy is kinda circling the bowl.  On the upside, that means people have more free time, and ever since people found out that letting the Magic Box raise your kids makes them Weird and Hyper, games suddenly seem like a great idea!  People are even figuring out that games where you Settle Islands and Trade Nicely With Others are probably better for kids (and more fun to play with kids) than games where you Give Headshots to Aliens or Drive Everyone Else Bankrupt.

If you think people like playing Games now, just you wait till the 2.3 million folks who are just getting back from War in Iraq and Afghanistan make some babies!  It doesn't sound as cool as 70 Million Babies, until you figure that the declining US birth rate is going to skew those numbers around quite a bit.  You want a readymade audience, prep some games for those kids...


40. On 2012-03-17, Leftahead said:

I imagine it can't hurt that of everything you've done, Murderous Ghosts looks the most like something a Horror genre fan might pick up to take a closer look at with zero knowledge of what's in the box. Those fans are almost certainly most consuming DVDs and licensed merch at those shows, and MG has an evocative cover and a form-factor that they know. Getting past that barrier lets you get to that great elevator pitch.

While the content of Drifter's Escape might possibly appeal, I fear there's nothing about its design that's going to get a horror fan to ever notice it. Certainly at the shop, we need to really work to get anyone to ask about it.

As far as bringing games to people who might be interested in them, there's the same thing going on at Comic cons; there is some inter-fandom sneering now and then, but for the most part people love a chance to DO something interesting. GAMA, the hobby game industry trade association, has just started running hobby game demos at some of the Wizard shows and they seem to be really well received; nt sure how much of that content is RPG-related, but that certainly also seems like a transmission vector that's worth keeping an eye on.

-Jim C.


41. On 2012-03-17, David Shockley said:

@Meserach - I'm not sure anyone needs to be sold on the idea of 'inhabiting a character'. If you give people a game where its remotely appropriate, some of them will fall into doing so pretty naturally. The idea of that as a special value that needs to be taught and continually engaged in is, I believe, an outcome of conflicts internal to our subculture about the 'right way' to play.

People do this with even simple stuff, like Mass Effect. It's a pretty natural thing, if you are playing a character.

I also suspect, that pushing the issue is a risk with new players. Because then people can't just relax and play, they have to worry about whether or not they are holding the right mindset.

(I do not intend this post as an attack. Also, I might be completely wrong, or not know what you are talking about)


42. On 2012-03-19, Rafu said:

My answer to Matthijs: it's stealth rpg design, dude!

More precisely, I think it's about deconstructing the (thick and multi-layered) "rpg" construct to focus on the parts of it we personally believe to have value - while leaving the (subjectively) non-valuable parts aside. Then it's about packaging those valuable parts in such a way that we can reach out to people, that people embrace them.

I would certainly prefer to reclaim vocabulary such as "rpg" for myself and my work while doing the above, mind you... but I sure have to get rid of the subcultural baggage of "being gamers" if I hope to achieve anything: if renouncing a word or three is what it takes, I'm cool with that.


43. On 2012-03-19, Chris Chinn said:

This weekend our normal game day got canceled because our GM was burned out from the workweek.  So instead, we played boardgames.

Someone invited one of their friends, and wanted them to experience a bit of roleplaying.  So I ran a very light Burning Wheel game, where we played out the downfall of a kingdom in Warring States Japan, within in an hour.

It was both shorter than the boardgames we played that night (D&D Wrath of Ashardalon, Settlers of Catan: Cities & Knights), and, though those were fun games, probably the most fun of the bunch.

That said, cutting the game to it's most sparse, was easy.  Figuring out if there's a way I can "teach" or proceduralize the techniques and skills necessary to keep the focus of each scene and conflict to the most interesting bits... that's tough.

Light, quick, sparse rules? We can do that.  The hard part is that so much of our games currently rely on the judgment and skill of the people playing to make interesting, fun, active scenes and conflict.


44. On 2012-03-29, Hans said:

"The hard part is that so much of our games currently rely on the judgment and skill of the people playing to make interesting, fun, active scenes and conflict."

But isn't that part of roleplaying? It's a skill that can be built and enjoyed, right?

I mean, if someone comes along and designs a game that doesn't require me to use or reward me for using these skills I've built up in the last few years, that's great! I'll do my best not to posture or play identity politics.

I'm not saying it can't be done, or shouldn't be, but is it cutting out something that's fundamental to roleplaying? Maybe, maybe not.


45. On 2012-04-01, Joel said:

"But isn't that part of roleplaying? It's a skill that can be built and enjoyed, right?

I mean, if someone comes along and designs a game that doesn't require me to use or reward me for using these skills I've built up in the last few years, that's great! I'll do my best not to posture or play identity politics.

I'm not saying it can't be done, or shouldn't be, but is it cutting out something that's fundamental to roleplaying? Maybe, maybe not."

One thing about any skill/discipline/artform/methodology is that the pioneers have it hardest. New people coming in are able to piggyback on existing groundwork without even realizing they're doing so, and reach greater heights quicker. We see this a lot with Language Hunters: the game we're playing now is vastly different from the game I first encountered 3 or so years ago, and the constant refinement means that newbies can come in and get up to speed much quicker than I did when I first started, and I in turn reached my level with a lot more speed and ease than Willem did as he developed the system.

It can seem unfair that someone can "get there" with a skill without the massive effort that early practitioners had to put in, circumventing endless hours of hashing out best practices. But that's the way it works. The effort it took to wring Story Now play, for instance, out of AD&D was put to shame by Dogs in the Vineyard and Primetime Adventures, and they in turn are shown up by the next generation of purpose-built Story Now engines, which will in turn be shown up by the next. And it's not that DitV or PTA are bad rulesets with nothing to offer, far from it! But as we develop the communication tools to put players o the same page quicker and more fluently, all the skills that you and I had to develop to run and play a game like Dogs or PTA effectively are baked right into a newer text—just like those games had skills baked into THEIR texts that hadn't been effectively articulated before—to the point that story gaming newbies can jump in and take for granted that they acquire those skills effortlessly and immediately.

Now, this is semi-hypothetical; obviously the games that will engage the audiences we're talking about here haven't been (fully) developed yet. But I think they can be, and probably will be. And still contain the fundamentals of roleplaying., at least as Vincent's stated them.


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