Wes Baker

#RPGaDAY2020 Day 2: Change

August 2nd, 2020

Today is day 2 of #RPGaDAY2020 and today the prompt is Change.

It feels like we’ve seen a lot of change to RPGs in the past couple of years. Where once D&D dominated the entire industry, now it’s still the major player, but things like Kickstarter mean that there are a huge number of smaller publishers filling niches that we never knew existed. We’re also seeing more safety tools and just general consideration for how people feel while playing the game. The idea of an adversarial GM is now more of a horror story than a reality for most players (though I’m sure it still exists in some isolated groups). We’re also seeing simpler systems that challenge old ideas: in Electric Bastionland (and Into the Odd) you don’t roll to see if you hit in combat, you just automatically hit and roll damage. If you think there’s some rule sacred to good RPGs, I can guarantee that someone somewhere has thought about stripping it out and seeing what the game is like without it.

The other kind of change that I think about is what happens as player characters gain more experience and here there’s a huge spectrum of options. You could play in a traditionally leveled RPG where you gain experience and move up in level as you gain experience. You get new abilities, hit harder and easier, get new spells, and so forth. Or you could play a game where there are no levels, but experience does mean you get better at doing things. Games like Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay come to mind here, you raise your skill scores and therefore have an easier time of rolling under that number (e.g. rolling a d100 under a 30 is harder than a 35). Then there’s a completely different school where change is all about what your character acquires or even the knowledge that the player acquires during play. All of these can work very well, depending on the group and the game.