Tavis Allison over on The Mule Abides has written a post that sends sparks flying through my brain. I'm incredibly excited to see if this question could be answered, or at least if attempts at answering it would create a new avenue for the hobby.
Zak Smith has already kindly informed us that, thanks to Google+, we no longer have to worry about not having a game to play in. Twitter has also been explored as a home for RPGs, with apparent success. I believe these two examples go further to answer Tavis' challenge than the most well planned induction game of D&D could.
In the comments of Tavis' post, zhai2nan2 points out that the world of the 1970s was ready for D&D. A bunch of teenagers or adults could gather together without the distractions of smartphones, internet, a console in every home and practically any form of media on-demand. There's an argument for the worlds of elves and dragons having more appeal back then, too, but I think this is a secondary concern. The larger issue is how we socialise with our friends in 2011.
When I look at how I socialise with my non-gamer friends I see that social networks and technology are inescapable. If we're gathering to watch a film I'll get the invite through a message on my phone or Facebook. After a social event the photos are uploaded for all to comment and reminisce. When I want to play a new console game with friends there's as much chance we'll do it online as in the same room. I could go on, but you all know the end result. Socialising through technology has firmly rooted itself into the masses.
Can understanding how the people of 2011 socialise make RPGs appealing to our non-gamer friends?
I think so.
Over the next week or so I hope to hammer out a plan we can all put into action. A way we can use the social technology of 2011 to drag RPGs kicking and screaming from the 70s. Do I want to lay waste to all the traditions of our hobby that so many of us hold dear? Absolutely not. I want to play RPGs with people, not some chimera of collaborative fiction and Farmville. I want an experience comparable to what I think of as a traditional RPG. We already have play by post, by irc, by voice and even by video chat, but, as much as I love these forms, they exist as a round-the-table game lifted onto another social platform. If we're making this move to playing our RPGs online we should have a game that reflects this and understands the link between our online and offline socialising. That link is there, let's use it.
A point I can't stress enough is that I don't want to replace the traditional RPG. I want you to be able to "play D&D" with whatever comes out of this project. I want you to be able to do that with some work colleagues, old friends or even your family that never showed more than a passing interest before. As heretical as my idea might sound to traditionalists I want you to be able to run the Tomb of Horrors with this thing. The method may vary but I want that RPG feeling to remain.
I'll leave you hanging with lists of what I want from the end result of this project.
- To be able to launch a group of my non-gamer friends into an RPG without them having to read a single rulebook or gather in the same room.
- To have the game feel like a traditional RPG without the biggest obstacles to entry that non-gamers face. It's not a computer game, it's not a forum game, it's not a boardgame, it's an RPG that understands its roots but is thoroughly modern.
- To extend the "play time" of the RPG beyond the traditional all-nighter session around a table without removing that experience. I socialise with my friends 24/7 and the game should take advantage of that.
- Break down the separation between our online and offline gaming.
- To make a first-time gamer want to, and be able to, run their own game after one session as a player.
- To understand the traditional fantasy and scifi origins of RPGs while exploring the possibilities that are likely to hold more appeal in 2011. This does not necessitate moving away from fantasy and scifi, but will look at what those words mean today.