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The World of Old-School RPG's is Entering Its Twilight


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Or at least it feels that way.

The BRP system is really the last system I plan to throw my money at. I have stated in another thread in the Gamer's Cavern regarding how deeply impacted I was at the fall of Warhammer RPG's. I actually bought into that line because I thought it was secure. Now I realize that pretty much any old school game is not secure.

Without miniatures, successful video game tie-ins (Baldur's Gate I and II were brilliant), computer support, and a successful MMORPG either in the works or out in the world, a game's longevity is severely impaired.

Games Workshop's failure to commit to anything outside of direct support for its core miniatures games (which are no doubt extremely lucrative) pretty much seals its fate in the RPG world. And it's an understandable perspective. Plus, it doesn't have an entertainment monster like Hasbro backing it and helping aim it at the vast numbers of kids out there. Without revenue-belching peripherals, many RPG's live with a very short life expectancy.

Except for BRP. BRP has been around nearly as long as D&D. Call of Cthulhu manages to keep chugging along thanks to a large number intensely devoted fans. Who are, no offense, aging. Myself included. I no longer care about all the scripted abilities, feats, talents, and doodads I can add to my character sheet. I don't care what level my character is. I don't even care about "winning." I want a story. I want a struggle. Games' systems are not going this direction. Oh, yes there's always White Wolf, but that angsty, uncertain, and dark struggle just doesn't appeal to me. If I want that, I'll go back to middle school and high school (which I'd much rather not).

BRP for me, is representative of the optimal game. It provides struggle. It doesn't focus on k3wl p0w3rz. Every action has possible severe consequences. When the dice are rolled, you care more about what the result is and "success" is so much sweeter, while "failure" is much more interesting than in other games I've played. It makes for an approachable narrative drama that is more epic than any game can attest to, in my opinion. And with the death (or deformity) of my favorite RPG's, I can use BRP to homebrew settings the way I remember them being when I played them as a kid.

But, how long will BRP last? Do you think it will survive another generation? I think I'm the youngest poster on this board, and I'm 25. Most people my age are more concerned with getting a house or an apartment, making car payments, getting a big TV and stereo system, finding a wife, and tacking down a job. And not playing old-school RPG's. MMORPG's, sure, but not old-school ones (Call of Cthulhu, Talislanta, etc). With a rapidly vanishing marketing niche, what place is there for these old (but fantastic) games?

Am I being negative? Am I overreacting?

Please give me your thoughts.

"Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal..."

- H.P. Lovecraft

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BRP is not the only one of the "old" RPGs that is still alive. Some are doing

quite well (Traveller), some are barely surviving (Empire of the Petal Throne),

some even almost returned from the grave (Star Frontiers). True, most of

the players of these games could hardly be called "Youngsters", but there

are also at least enough younger players to keep the games alive, I think.

Besides, from my experience many players stop playing at around the time

when they start their careers and found their families, but not a few of them

return to roleplaying a couple of years later, once they have settled into

their "adult lives", and remember their former hobby. Therefore there is a

certain "thinning out" in the age group in question, which is at least partial-

ly "repaired" in later / older age groups [sorry, my English is probably not

sufficient for this subject, but I hope one can guess what I mean ...].

So, I am not pessimistic at all. Like in art, music and many other fields at

least many of the really good "classics" have survived, and will most probab-

ly continue to do so. Moreover, some even start "growing" again, with Tra-

veller being a good example: Two new editions planned for this year.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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For some reason, in my weird little brain, Mongoose Games just doesn't count.

Mostly because it seems they rehash old games in new, shiny packaging. Mostly it seems to be shiny to hide the many printing and system errors they make.

But that's probably just me.

"Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal..."

- H.P. Lovecraft

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Well after TSR going under and being bought up by WotC, it is safe to relize to RPB is safe.

But they never have been. Virtually every RPG company out there has gone broke at one time or another, and RPGs were fading fast in the old days. In fact, faster than today, that's to things like PDFs, print of demand, and desktop publishing bring the operating costs down.

About 90% of my favorite RPGs are no longer in print. And it has been that way for close to 20 years. So I don't think games lines are any less secure now than 20-30 tears ago.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Yes, Atgxtg, but I'm young and, therefore, so very stupid. I have just now realized the tenuous grip on existence my hobby has after I got sick of mainstream MMORPG/Emo RPG's.

All the good ones go out of print so fast.

And that SUCKS.

"Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal..."

- H.P. Lovecraft

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@ Ars Mysteriorum:

Ah, well - I see your point. However, many of the early Chaosium products

have even been worse than average Mongoose products, including the first

edition of Runequest, and for me the more important point is the fact that

those old games are printed, packaged - and sold. In my opinion it is better

to have a subperfect edition of the game available than none at all.

@ Atgxtg:

On the other hand, dozens of the out-of-print-RPGs are now available again

as PDFs, and some of them even have managed to gather new communities

around them (see Star Frontiers), and have started a "second life" that is

in some cases even more vibrant than it was when they were in print.

Back then, it was often quite a problem to find another person who played

something like FTL: 2448 or Fringeworthy and wrote material for it, nowadays

the Internet makes it comparatively easy to make useful contacts that keep

even "fringe" games alive.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Yes, Atgxtg, but I'm young and, therefore, so very stupid. I have just now realized the tenuous grip on existence my hobby has after I got sick of mainstream MMORPG/Emo RPG's.

All the good ones go out of print so fast.

And that SUCKS.

Yes it does, but it isn't so bad as it looks. I found out in the mid 80s when the Bond RPG died out due to lisencing issues. My solution was to pick up a few extra copies to have on hand for backups.

It really doesn't matter much if a game is out of print if you like it and play it. It just means that there is no more support. At least officially. Now, thanks to the internet and desktop publishing, many RPGs get some excellent fan made support. For instance there is a "fake" From Russia With Love supplement for Bond and a few on-line Q Manual 2's. I did up a bunch of stuff for the game myself.

So it's not all black and darkness.

And recently a few RPGs have come back from the dead.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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@ Atgxtg:

On the other hand, dozens of the out-of-print-RPGs are now available again

as PDFs, and some of them even have managed to gather new communities

around them (see Star Frontiers), and have started a "second life" that is

in some cases even more vibrant than it was when they were in print.

Back then, it was often quite a problem to find another person who played

something like FTL: 2448 or Fringeworthy and wrote material for it, nowadays

the Internet makes it comparatively easy to make useful contacts that keep

even "fringe" games alive.

Oh yeah! Thanks to PDF's I was able to track down the one Flashing Blades supplement I didn't have. FGU, among others has returned from the grave thanks to PDFs. In the long run, I suspect just about every RPG that isn't tied to a lisenced setting will be brought back eventually. No reason not to.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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Begin Childish Whinery:

Fine. RPG's coming back from the dead? Would a Developer-Necromancer be kind enough to throw some Ju-ju powder at Warhammer? Even in zombie form, I can still love it. That's love man. Necrobibliophilia. Dead Book Love, baby.

And while they're at it, how about making a supreme system for Talislanta? Something capable of emulating the RIDICULOUS number of races and career-types that populate this game with minimal headache. And monsters in ONE section. And get rid of that stupid add/subtract modifier crap. It makes me cross-eyed.

End Childish Whinery.

You have a point. I just had been spoiled by the idea of constant supplement support by playing D&D. Even that game betrayed me with it's 4th Edition shenanigans. Sigh.

"Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal..."

- H.P. Lovecraft

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I think one of the things that has to be said about our hobby is that it is a niche market. It does have it's 'brand' big names that seem to sell and sell, but on the whole I feel that the market for tabletop roleplaying is a little smaller than it once was.

Tabletop RPGing was the kingdom of the geek in those fine bygone years of the eighty's, and yes I succumbed to going out with 'the lads', finding women and learning to play guitar, all of which were considered a little more social..... Or so it seemed, (by those 'less' geeky).

But now a few years on, RPGing is one of the pleasures I have in the week where I meet up with those 'old school' friends and we play and chat and reminisce about the passing of Jorune, Ringworld, etc.

To touch on what may be a raw nerve. I think that the reason for it's continued faltering market when "geek has become the new cool", (10,000,000 subscribers for WoW), is that tabletopping requires something that is so difficult for people that have a busy and hectic lifestyle. It requires time. It's an effort to get a few people round a table these days, more so if you've got a family or other commitments to look after.

It takes time to learn a system. It takes a little time to find which one of your friends is most suited to GMing. It takes time to write/read up scenarios. A worthwhile campaign takes time.

Look at the alternatives and no wonder they're wining the battle for our geek time. Magic, the Gathering and other CCGs. (Tragic, the Saddening or geek-bridge as I call it). Games learned very quickly and reliant on plugging cash into blisterpacks.

WoW and other MMORPG's. Very little effort put into what is effectively power gaming for magic items with P.C.s instead of dice.

RPG/Adventure computer games. Again very little effort to play a console/PC adventure.

Isn't that why our hobby, (and hence market) is not stable. Just not enough people that are willing to sit round a table and throw dice and tell stories?

Though I say buy an RPG if you can, I would suggest that you find those games that you enjoyed of yester-year that are out of print (such as Ringworld for me), download their sorry-ass and keep them alive for yourself.

Either that or write a sourcebook for BRP and see if you can get the license. :)

Ken.

125/420

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Begin Childish Whinery:

Fine. RPG's coming back from the dead? Would a Developer-Necromancer be kind enough to throw some Ju-ju powder at Warhammer? Even in zombie form, I can still love it. That's love man. Necrobibliophilia. Dead Book Love, baby.

And while they're at it, how about making a supreme system for Talislanta? Something capable of emulating the RIDICULOUS number of races and career-types that populate this game with minimal headache. And monsters in ONE section. And get rid of that stupid add/subtract modifier crap. It makes me cross-eyed.

End Childish Whinery.

You have a point. I just had been spoiled by the idea of constant supplement support by playing D&D. Even that game betrayed me with it's 4th Edition shenanigans. Sigh.

I worked my magic, but I'm a little low on POW right now. So don't expect to see results for about two years.

Hey, just look at BRP. For all practical purposes this line has been dead for decades. CoC wasn't doing to bad, but RQ, various editions of SB, Pendragon, and all the other games were long gone. A good chunk of the people here are RQ players and that game was dead a long time. Some would say it still is.

Now all are back in some form. I'll admit that I don't like the MRQ line, but it does keep the name on the shelf and thus alive. Pendragon still rocks.

You still in shell shock. We all go through it the first time we see an RPG that we like go up in a puff of smoke. I felt a pang a few months back when FASA went belly up, and I haven't bought anything from them since their Star Trek line died off in the 80s. You'll get used to it. You still have what you have bought already, and can still run to you heart's content.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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I worked my magic, but I'm a little low on POW right now. So don't expect to see results for about two years.

Two years?! I said Necromancy. Not Necroeunuchcy. Pah! Two years indeed.

Hey, just look at BRP. For all practical purposes this line has been dead for decades. CoC wasn't doing to bad, but RQ, various editions of SB, Pendragon, and all the other games were long gone. A good chunk of the people here are RQ players and that game was dead a long time. Some would say it still is.

Now all are back in some form. I'll admit that I don't like the MRQ line, but it does keep the name on the shelf and thus alive. Pendragon still rocks.

Someday I'd like to try Runequest. I'm still trying to wrap my head around Man-Ducks with Death Magic... but I get your point.

You still in shell shock. We all go through it the first time we see an RPG that we like go up in a puff of smoke. I felt a pang a few months back when FASA went belly up, and I haven't bought anything from them since their Star Trek line died off in the 80s. You'll get used to it. You still have what you have bought already, and can still run to you heart's content.

Of COURSE I'm in shock. I was betrayed by two games in short order (D&D 4e and Warhammer). As far as the books I have... well... that would be every single book Black Industries has printed to this date. Because I'm bat$h!t crazy and I convinced myself for about 1 week that money is candy that also grows freely from cracks in the pavement and couch cushions.

Yeah... I was surprised FASA bit it. I was also suprised how quickly their licenses went back into distribution. I wish GW wasn't so snare-drummed about Warhammer...

As far as running it, you're right. Bit I don't run games often. I READ them far more than I ever run them. Game books for me are superior to novels, and I eat them up with a spoon. No more happy books makes me Mr. Killstabbydeathkins.

"Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal..."

- H.P. Lovecraft

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I'm 20 years old. I GM for a group ranging in age from 19 to 22. All of them have become fervent fans of BRP, and some have even begun proselytizing for the system.

Thank you for these good news, it was a pleasure to read this - keep going !

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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I'm 20 years old. I GM for a group ranging in age from 19 to 22. All of them have become fervent fans of BRP, and some have even begun proselytizing for the system.

Then the Seven Gods of Gaming (D'i Twunn Ti, D'i T'Wellvv, D'i Pur Sen Taj, D'i Taenn, D'i Ayt, D'i Sykks, and D'i Fo Irr) have provided a generous bounty in a new youthful and splendiferous generation of gamers, blessed with wisdom beyond their years.

May the power of the Critical Success be with you all.

"Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal..."

- H.P. Lovecraft

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It's good that we got some newer players in their 20s, but what we really need to snag to keep the hobby alive is the 8-11 year olds. These are the folks being lured away by collectible card and electronic games. We need a new generation of imagination junkies.

The original gamers were readers. They could handle a 300-400 page rulebook because their love for RPGs was fuelled by their love of the fictional genre a particular game was based on. Our potential crop of younger players don't necessarily have that foundation, and there are a lot more competitors for their time and money.

I ran into role-playing late in high school, then kept it up during and after college. Today's card and miniatures games could possibly lead to role-playing, if a kid is willing to read like I was and become the referee for his friends. But the easier and more seductive route is to sign up for Runescape at the local public library's computer bays. My first attempt to introduce my kids to role-playing, using Teenagers From Outer Space, was a failure. My son said he didn't like "imagination games." On the other hand, my kids like more miniatures oriented games such as Monster Island or Hero Clix. A second attempt with toys as props using the Buck Rogers High Adventure Cliffhangers game was more successful.

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Stuff about kids.

I can say I would rather have high schoolers and university targeted for this kind of game. Mostly because I have to play it too and kids like the k3wl p0w4z I hate.

"Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal..."

- H.P. Lovecraft

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Over here you could run into lots of trouble if you would try to introduce

8 - 11 year olds to a game which includes any kind of semi-realistic com-

bat. If you would openly target an age group under 14 years you could

well run afoul of the child protection laws.

We recently had a discussion about this subject on a forum over here, and

we agreed that the best age to introduce youngsters to roleplaying games

would be somewhere between 14 and 16 years of age.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Child protection laws, huh? What kind of games are you guys playing, anyhow? :eek:

I cut my role-playing teeth on tactical board games such as Metagaming's Melee and Wizard, in which the loser "died" in supposedly grisly ways when his sword-weilding character ran out of hit points. Traveller combat could be pretty lethal as well. All those nasty laser rifle holes. Champions (the 3rd edition box said it was for ages 8 and up) combat was less fatal but quite violent, with fists and energy blasts flying. And Toon, well, if you've seen any of the old Warner Brothers or MGM shorts, you know how brutal those can be. Yet I played and enjoyed all these games with my younger siblings with few qualms from my parents, who would have freaked if we'd been playing a fantasy game that included pretend magic.

Of course any such "recruiting" group would require parent knowledge, approval, and possibly supervision. That'd be true whether the kids were 8 or 16. At local game shops, parents routinely come with their children to watch them play whatever it is, Pokemon or Hero Clix or whatever. In a role-playing situation, you'd have an age appropriate storyline and theme. All my games are G- or PG-rated anyway, regardless of age group.

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Well, we are still suffering from a very aggressive "killer games" debate after

a school "massacre" and some incidents, and many politicians (including some

important ones) demanded that all games where one plays to kill another hu-

man should be declared illegal, not only certain computer games.

This revived an older debate about "war toys" (plastic guns and thelike), and

meanwhile both sides of the debate are well "entrenched" and quite willing to

ignore any facts - and certain news from the US of A do not exactly improve

the situation, as you may guess.

Therefore roleplaying supporters over here at least currently do well to stay

away from children ...

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Sounds like a typical stupid knee-jerk reaction. Where I live, a frew years ago it was discovered that this guy murdered his pregnant wife. So this movement sprang up to ammend the law so that killing a pregnant woman is now two counts of murder. One for the woman and another for the unborn baby.

Not that it actually makes a difference. Anyone who is willing to murder his wife isn't going to let the number of counts stop him. Nor does it make a difference when he gets sentenced. While you can be sentenced to serve multiple life sentences, no one has actually done so.

But somehow people felt like they had done something about the matter and somehow made the world a safer place for expecting mothers.

Violence existed long before we had games, but blaming the games gives people something that they can do to feel better about themselves, and is certainly much easier than looking at the situation, and possibly end up blaming themselves.

Like those cases when school kids go on a shooting spree. A teenager has an AK-47 and two UZi in his room and enough ammo to take down a herd of charging elephants, but somehow Mom and Dad never noticed any of it. Of course they hadn't talked to him or spent any time with him in two years, but it's much easier to find someone else to blame that to actually admit that they are, no were, lousy parents.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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... many politicians (including some

important ones) demanded that all games where one plays to kill another human should be declared illegal, not only certain computer games.

This revived an older debate about "war toys" (plastic guns and the like)...

Would they also ban Lego? About the first thing kids (well, boys) make with the stuff is guns or swords...

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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Well, after another killing spree by youngsters even Chess and Lego might

come under some suspicion ...

When the whole nonsense started, they were talking about "Counterstrike"

and "Doom", but then Germany's most influential tabloid added "Final Fanta-

sy" to the list, and the law officially proposed finally included all games whe-

re the player used "cruelty" on, or killed, "humans or human-like creatures"

- which would make for a very, very long list, I think.

The current government has promised to ban all "killer games", and although

the discussion currently has died down somewhat, this promise still stands,

and no one knows where they would draw the line after another bloody in-

cident with kids.

Most experts on child psychology etc. told the politicians that such a law

would be utterly stupid, but our politicians are not exactly famous for liste-

ning to experts ...

But see for yourself how it started:

German gov't considers jail time for gamers - Xbox 360 News at GameSpot

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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RPGs have always come and gone. Only the players really care.

Look at RuneQuest - it was King in the early Eighties, then died a death, was kept alive on the internet and then rose again.

People can still support a game through discussion forums and websites, publishing scenarios and background settings. They won't make any money out of it, but that's not important to gamers/fans, only to game publishers.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Far from it. I think what you are seeing mostly is the demise of poor business models, rather than games. Two games I love disappeared for all intensive purposes for several years, however the online community and some dedicated fans kept it alive, and some actually decided they could do more. Redbrick Limited the publisher for Earthdawn and Fading Suns started as fans, and were motivated enough to push forward and not only reproduce old product, but introduce new high quality product. Their business plan from what I have been able to discern is conservative, realistic, and above all involves very low overhead. Now how does that relate to BRP?

Simply I always loved RQ (not big on Glorantha though), Chthulhu, Nephilim (wish I could have gotten a game going), Elric, and just about anything Chaosium put out. It pleases me to see that BRP is finally moving into the future. The fact is that the old way of doing business in the industry is in fact dead, or in its death throes because it is not profitable. It has moved towards an open system (or rather reasonable licensing), and access to making product for the game has expanded outside the "secret masters". This has also helped to spread risk, increase the number of enthusiasts (promoters who have taken some risk), and will ensure continued play and product.

I guess what I am trying to say is prepare to see more traditional publishers to suffer and fall, and expect those who adapt to this new marketplace to grow. In other words don't worry about your favorite game it won't disappear its just evolving.

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