A not so cheery Role

A not so cheery Role Call #8this week
Is roleplaying a dying hobby?
I’m a pessimist at heart, and by experience. Things that I hope will go right inevitably fall apart, by tragedy or my design, cosmic or otherwise. So my feelings about such matters are usually discolored by such emotions and it takes real effort to be objective. Forgive any unwarranted bias, heretofore.
I really have to do a post today about a tangential issue: Is Speculative fiction dying? since many of the same principles apply.
Let’s face it. Gamers are not a common lot. Gaming is a creative activity which requires work. There is something to it, though, the exercise of imagination, one might say it is old as Man, to imagine, to dream of different places and being there, doing different things. As Arref points out there was roleplaying long before Gygax.
With that said, however, role playing games in their current form were in a decline until the revision of Dungeons and Dragons into their “D20” aspect, and its clear a lot of games are melding into that format. It might be that this second renaissance is doomed to be short lived, since the number of new gamers is steadily falling. The people roleplaying now, by and large, have been doing so for some time. Its not absolute, of course, as witness Arref’s experience, as linked above.
Why?
Greater Competition from various sources. Its a much more diverse world than when I was 12. (Following the Golden Age philosophy, it seems to work for RPGs as well as SF). When I was 12, the compeitition for my creativity wasn’t as intense as it was today. Cable had just started (and I didn’t have it). Computers were primitive and the Atari 2600 was still a pretty new idea. There was no blistering barrage of cable television shows, advanced consoles of a thousand stripes, collectible card games on the Pokemon or Magic model…it was easy for me to fall into SF, and into roleplaying.
I’m not sure that a hypothetical version of me, aged 12, would necessarily follow that path today. I would like to think I would, but its certainly harder to find the “signal” of roleplaying amongst the “noise” of other entertainments. This is not to say that I don’t watch television or play computer games…I do both. But would I have been hooked on roleplaying today? I am not sure. And the “graying” of roleplayers as a general rule is an indication of that, I think.
That said, however, as a general rule, roleplaying will never die. Its forms might change, its medium might be altered, but the general exercise of the imagination will live on as long as humans are not soulless automatons. However, pen and paper “Tabletop” roleplaying. Yes, I think its in a decline. It may go out entirely, only to be “resurrected” someday in a new form, in a new medium. The consolidation of a lot of RPG stuff into D20 is not a good sign–just as the loss of biodiversity in an area is a sign of ecological trouble. The quantity of RPG stuff may even increase for a while, but if they are all branches of the same root system, its not healthy at all–it suggests a basic lack of support for other ideas.

Game Wish 36: Supplements Today’s

Game Wish 36: Supplements
Today’s WISH is not about game systems, but about supplements:
What do you think about supplements to game systems? Do you like the additional material, or are you just annoyed about spending the money for the additional rules? Name up to three supplements you’ve really enjoyed, and describe why you liked them.

Unlike, say, Arref, I do have to say that I AM a supplement junkie. I love to browse them, read them for the pleasure of it, and mine them for content for games, sometimes far removed from the game that the supplement is actually for. I consider it a purchase on the level and expense of a trade paperback book…I don’t feel compelled to get the supplement, but I like to do it on my own terms.
GURPS is the King of Supplements, their books are almost explicitly designed for importing into other games. I feel disappointed that the one Arref highlighted in his own missive, Places of Mystery, is now out of print. But I have a nice selection of them, as well as supplements for other games.
Three that have been useful and I have particularly enjoyed?
1. Spherewalker, for Everway.
It’s an encyclopedia, a concordance of people, places and things in the Everway universe and I recommended it to a couple of people before it sank out of sight with the Everway game. The entries are in themselves often short vignettes, the thing reads a lot like The Dictionary of the Khazars than an RPG supplement. There are powers, NPCs, artifacts and locations to be mined from it, one noteworthy instance is that I developed Unity Sorcery from the entry of the same name.
2. In Nomine: Revelations III: The Marches
A supplement for In Nomine, I’ve stolen ideas from this book for ideas on how to handle the Dreamlands in Strange Bedfellows. For this same reason, I am very interested in the recently released Ethereal Player’s Guide. My Dreamlands have a lot of sui generis landmarks and ideas, but given their nature and their capacity for eclecticism, books like this are good for nuggets of information for me.
3. GURPS Atlantis
One of the best GURPS books I have read, the book takes a long look at Atlantis, providing a variety of takes and methods to insert Atlantis into a game, ranging from secret cabal descendants to high fantasy Bronze Age Athens-Atlantis wars. Its enormously entertaining, and its informed some of my vision of Rebmans and “Thera” in Strange Bedfellows.