Towards a mainstream game

August 27, 2013

My friend Dave picked up the new Star Wars game.  We ended up talking a bit about licenses and the value of them.  He’s a big WOW player, and pointed out that the Star Wars MMO actually had enough crowd draw that WOW saw something like 11 million subscribers disappear when it opened.   …On basis of Star Wars name alone.

So, why hasn’t Star Wars really kicked open the tabletop rpg market?

Well, we looked at the new game, and while there’s a lot of neat stuff in it, the problem is that it’s a traditional rpg, rather than a mainstream one.

What do I mean?  Let’s say you’ve NEVER played a tabletop rpg before and these are the things you face:

1. $50+ price tag

2. 400 pages (including: 2-3 paragraphs describing what backpack is, or a club… you know, because you needed that described to you…)

3. Funky dice. (Yes, this new version uses specialized polys, but lets just remember outside of D6s everything is funky dice to non-roleplayers)

4. Special ability trees to navigate

5. Point buy system

These are all very traditional to roleplaying games.  Gamers expect this, this makes a classic sort of game.  This is also exactly what makes for hurdles and barriers to non-roleplayers.

Consider a different sort of game:

1. Pregens of all the major Star Wars characters

2. Rules are short.  Can be taught/learned in 5 minutes.

2. D6s or classic playing cards, elements most people are familiar with

3. Immediate prepackaged scenarios.  Play can happen with less than 10 minutes of GM prep, if that.

4. Rules are general, not specific to situations, so a GM might say, “That’s a Hard check, roll X” and not “Well, let’s look up the swimming rules and the encumbrance rules, and…”

The fact is, Star Wars fandom does tend towards willingness to put in some geek effort, it just says a lot that tabletop rpgs are still too demanding in terms of play requirements to even get them to fully buy in on it.

One could, for example, reskin Lady Blackbird rules along these lines and easily get this kind of set up.

I’m thinking more and more about the value of 1 hour games, of bringing in new roleplayers, and the hurdles we seem to embrace are around demanding so much work to play.

Anyway, will probably do some design around that when I finally finish chemo therapy and get my full brain power back.

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