Question of the Week: Tabletop Roleplaying

While I’ve finally caught up on outstanding writing obligations (with revisions and one very short story on the horizon), I haven’t quite managed to shake the virus that’s shaken me for the past couple of weeks. I’m not sure whether bugs are simply getting more virulent or, more likely, I’m just less resistant in my advancing decrepitude. In any event, I look forward to a summer full of concerts, yard work, a new writing project, and finally some regular tabletop gaming.

Despite writing for some of the heavy-hitters among the tabletop RPG industry, I’m petty indifferent to the edition wars/brand rivalry that fuels a certain segment of the audience. I like using miniatures, and I like combat as part of the game, and generally a system of medium complexity is my sweet spot. But what really makes a difference to me is that there are good published adventures available. Thus, Call of Cthulhu and Pathfinder often win out over other systems, because I have a vast library of their adventures. Various iterations of D&D are a close third.

With the imminent arrival of the new D&D, I’ve vacillated between excitement and ambivalence. Having owned, read, and played all previous editions-—not to mention having worked at TSR, Wizards, and Paizo during two and a half of them—you’d think picking up the newest rules would be a no-brainer. On the other hand, I have to consider the volume of storage space taken up with all the books I’ve hoarded over the past 37 years and whether it makes sense to add to them.

Sales have long indicated that Wizards (and other big RPG houses) make their money off hardcover rules. For a while, adventures were considered a necessary evil. Wizards relegated theirs to the Dungeon portion of their website. Around the same time, Paizo turned their experience with the print version of Dungeon Adventures into a $20 monthly Adventure Path series, not only saving their business but proving there’s not only a market for adventures but that a big market depends on a steady flow of new ones. Now I’m sure the hardcovers still outsell the APs by a bunch, but I don’t think they could reach the sales heights they have without steady tending of the audience through Pathfinder’s APs.

Today’s news that Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter are the writers of two large adventures for the new D&D tips me back toward excited. I’ll certain pick up The Hoard of the Dragon Queen. If that’s as good as I expect, Wizards will have hooked me back—not with a new system, but with the promise of new adventure. That’s why I play.

What draws you to a particular tabletop RPG? As I’ve said, for me it’s adventures, with some pull from the availability of miniatures, especially pre-painted plastic. I also love Paizo’s flip-maps and other tangible accessories. Are you more interested in the rules design? The setting? The authors? The art? Is there some other element that appeals most to you?

4 thoughts on “Question of the Week: Tabletop Roleplaying

  1. I am more respectful of premade adventures now than I used to be. When I was younger, I mocked them, because I had the time to really come up with my own stories and didn’t feel like I wanted to be boxed in by a premade story. My opinion is different now. I have less time and play almost exclusively online where PDF maps that you can just load on a screen is amazing.

    But I am still a systems guy. I want a system to brings what I want alive, but I am not a purist or stuck on only one system. 3.x is still my favorite D&D because it does what I want well. It is easy to creat complex and dynamic characters while still beating down doors, killing monsters, and taking their stuff. But my new favorite system is GUMSHOE – it’s so specialized, so light on rules, but does exactly what I want. I have never been able to run investigative games before. Now that’s all I want to run.

  2. I’m totally in agreement about adventures, Dave. It was already a foregone conclusion that I would pick up the new books- because that’s what I do- but I generally play a system when there’s support in the form of adventures. I think Paizo’s career-spanning Adventure Paths remain one of the biggest draws for me.

    Some members of my gaming group really enjoyed 4th edition, but eventually dropped in part because of the lack of adventure support. D&D Insider wasn’t enough for them. Wolfgang and Steve Winter working on this first adventure is amazing, and I hope that WotC gives us more (and hope that they allow third parties to as well).

    • I rather liked 4th Ed. up to around 6th level, where attrition takes command. That said, I feel the same way about most iterations of D&D, loving them up to somewhere between levels 6 and 11, then losing interest in doing so much paperwork.

      Weirdly, I have an aesthetic interest in mechanics, but that has never translated into how much I love the game. It’s all about the adventure and GM for me.

      • Pretty much every version of D&D I’ve played becomes less enjoyable after about level 6 or 7, if we get that high. I really enjoy the origin story of PCs where they start off on the cusp of heroes and then become those heroes.
        After that, kind of lose interest for me. Of course, I have always had a hard time keeping a campaign going for years. Have had a couple, but player conflicts, life conflicts, player geographic moves, etc just get in the way.

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