Can It Grow?

Posted by on July 9, 2010

This month\’s RPG Blog Carnival over at Mad Brew Labs is on Growing the Hobby. I quote:

While I don\’t think the hobby is disappearing, by any means, I don\’t see it expanding by leaps & bounds either. I\’d personally like to see it grow, and I would like to hear what the RPG Blogosphere has to say.

\”Blogosphere.\” :shudder: I so hate that word. Ah well;  not their fault.

Can It Grow?


Not to be negative, but I honestly suspect that there\’s little room for growth in the RPG industry. And that\’s okay.

I originally wrote half a dozen long paragraphs describing each demographic\’s limited potential for RPG sales, then remembered that demographics are a terrible way of measuring anything these days.

So let\’s put it this way: What itch does an RPG scratch?

Players get the ability to live the life of a more interesting person, in a way that is deeply interactive and long-form.  GMs are able to create worlds and tell complex stories.

Quick, walk into a sports bar, and find me somebody who wants to put a lot of thought into crafting a long-form story.  Find me somebody who wants to give up one night a week to sit around with a bunch of friends and actively use their imagination.

Most folks just don\’t value that. Sure, they\’ll watch a fantasy movie — because they\’re watching it.

This is not a dig against \”mundanes.\” Most people just don\’t value the same things that geeks value.

How To Grow It?

I can think of a couple of things.

One: The vast majority of RPGs focus on geek settings. I challenge you to find an RPG setting or product that doesn\’t assume at least a fantastic or science fiction element.

(I always found it telling that the example shows in Primetime Adventures, which is about creating dramatic TV episodes, skews strongly towards SF/F shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

What if there was an RPG where you play a basketball star?  Or a private investigator?  Or a nurse in an ER?

Two: The systems have to be simpler and require fewer materials. There are only so many people in the world willing to go out and buy special dice for a game. (And since when was that considered an acceptable additional cost of playing a game? Board games don\’t assume this; they come with the dice, board, etc.)

Three: The games have to provide a stronger initial punch. Most folks don\’t want a multi-year commitment out of their game; they want Scattergories. Character creation (for most) is work with no obvious, direct reward.

Imagine an RPG that comes with two dozen vibrant, pre-generated characters and a dozen well-crafted, quick adventures. Want to play an adventure in an hour or two?  Grab a character and go.

I\’m sure there are others. How would you grow the hobby beyond the folks who already play it?

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