Monday, 17 August 2015

#RPGaDay 2015: Day 17 - You're in a crowded market...

Prompt: Favourite fantasy RPG
This is what happens when Fantasy Flight make an RPG. I hear good things,
but seriously: "Forget paper, pencil, dice and friends; I need a wagon!"

No surprises on this response for those who followed my #rpgaday entries last year. I remain a huge fan of WFRP, despite the immensely problematic issue of the rules. 2nd edition, which I dearly loved, was still insanely overcomplicated, while 3rd edition manages the complications with a system of intuitive cards and counters, but requires, therefore, a lot of cards and counters to play, in addition to its own special dice. I don't think there is a version in print at the moment, but between the second edition ruleset and first edition setting material, I still love it to bits.

-

Fantasy is surely both the easiest and the hardest genre to set an RPG in. On the one hand, it is in many ways still the go-to genre for roleplaying as a whole (SF is really giving it a run for its money, but getting on for half of all horror games are really just Gothic or urban fantasy with fangs and open shirt-fronts.) On the other, while that means there is a much larger market than for other genres, that market is equally or even more so the most crowded. From my essentially dilettante viewpoint, I would say that both the dominance and the overcrowding of the fantasy RPG market are in decline, with SF and contemporary material on the rise, but as long as there is D&D roleplaying will remain in the domain of fantasy.

What this means for Johnny Aspiring Gamewriter is that while fantasy RPGs are a little more likely to be well received (and not least because SF fandom tends to be significantly more compartmentalised,) it's much harder to stand out from the crowd. You need to tick the boxes, but think outside them, and that's increasingly difficult to do. What if the orcs were heroes? It's been done. Elves are bastards? So done. All the characters are trees...? Probably done*. It's not enough to slap together a post-Tolkien Euro-setting and put some numbers on it, because there are literally dozens of those around.

WFRP succeeded by having a grittier setting with an emphasis on a more concrete role for adventurers (the career system, which in its fullest application basically involved characters looking for employers on a semi-regular basis although as early teen players we didn't really think about that,) more restricted magic and a culture more in keeping with the European Renaissance than traditional fantasy kingdoms. Later editions pushed a higher fantasy aesthetic by increasing the bond with the wargame and making different nations into much more obvious hat cultures instead of flavours of money-grubbing rogues, but I always liked the original.

Of course, now they've blown up the Warhammer World in favour of the Age of Sigmar, cyclical time, fantasy Space Marines and Threx Skullbrand the Bloodsecrator of Khorne. I guess it stands out at least; I can't think of much else that has bloodsecrators in it**.

As ever - well, until the end of the month - come back tomorrow for more from #rpgaday, and in the meantime, check out the hashtag.

* Note to self - write an RPG in which all the characters are trees.
** Exploitable niche or not, I won't be the man to answer the call for more bloodsecrators.