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May 11, 2008 12:05 AM   Subscribe

Delta Green - be part of the conspiracy. The latest sourcebook for Delta Green, the cult modern day Call of Cthulhu setting, is being financed via fundable. If the target for funding is not met it’s release will be delayed... if it is released at all. A niche setting within a niche system in a hobby in decline, Delta Green is still intensely well loved by those who know about it, making them a good target for the ransom model. Will thinking outside the usual publishing business models save pen and paper RPGs?
posted by Artw (63 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I made a succesful library use roll when i read this post, then i lost 2d10 san, went nuts, and gahhhrhghaaarh aaaaaghh rathan ia i acthulhu fhthaghen ia
posted by vrakatar at 12:42 AM on May 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wait what? We're not yet writing RPG rules & campaign settings on wikis?
posted by jeffburdges at 12:56 AM on May 11, 2008


.....glagh gurrrrrrurt th eblacl goat of the woods and her thousaaaaaannd young oh craistssseh bkugh blug...
posted by vrakatar at 1:05 AM on May 11, 2008


The RPG world is really pushing the boundaries on publishing, from the ransom model, to wiki-based RPGs, successfully selling DRM free e-books and print-on-demand publications, and free/open content books.
posted by axon at 1:05 AM on May 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Will thinking outside the usual publishing business models save pen and paper RPGs?

No.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 1:40 AM on May 11, 2008


The Cthulhu mythos strikes me as really poor RPG material since, presumably, wouldn't every game end with your character going insane or being eaten by a slathering monster and being slowly digested for a million years or both?

It's not like Lovecraft was the king of the happy ending.
posted by Avenger at 2:55 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I recall being partial to Chill RPG in my youth, because the game system was less cumbersome and more versatile, and the endgame seemed a little more, shall we say, open-ended. You didn't HAVE to end up insane or dead. You probably were gonna eventually end up insane or dead, but you didn't have to end up insane or dead.

With CoC I recall often wondering why I showed up to game at all, if two hours into the session I'm just sitting there eating chips drinking beer and my PC has become an NPC but the rest of the gang didn't know it yet. Then to find out half of them were in the same boat. Pretty lame.

I mean, if you're insane, the GM is essentially playing you. If you're (un)dead, the GM is essentially playing you. The words might be coming out of your mouth, but he's taking you aside during breaks and telling you what to say when the time is right. Sounds amusing at first, but all things being equal, I'd much rather play Chill.

Well nowadays, all things being equal, I'd much rather play an online variant. It's a shame Urban Dead is so suck.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:38 AM on May 11, 2008


Chill is good. Over the Edge, Unknown Armies, Rüs, and other even more obscure RPGs are awesome. However, I've been in some well run CoC games where the PCs get to stay PCs for at least a few adventures. It doesn't always have to play like paranoia.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:33 AM on May 11, 2008


Not only no, but hell no.
I love Call of C'thulhu; it's been my primary RPG and game of enjoyment for over twenty years, but I refuse to support any new Delta Green books when I can't even buy the first and original Delta Green without paying an arm and a leg because they refuse to reprint it.
posted by willmize at 4:34 AM on May 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


avenger:
>The Cthulhu mythos strikes me as really poor RPG material since, presumably,
>wouldn't every game end with your character going insane or being eaten by
>a slathering monster and being slowly digested for a million years or both?

Delta Green addresses this flaw to an extent, from what I understand, in that it encourages a style of play that's a little less dependent on the players encountering the Big Bad and getting eaten/going mad. I know CoC games that have been running for years with an emphasis of battling cultists and running away when things get messy.

Funny timing to this FPP: I've dusted off my CoC rulebooks for the first time in 10 years with a view to getting a Delta Green campaign off the ground, with the initial focus being the horror that men do of their own accord. We live in a world where people fuck their daughters in a dungeon for 15 years: I don't think you necessarily need to confront Nyarlathotep to roll san any more.
posted by tim_in_oz at 4:37 AM on May 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


That being said, the last CoC game I was involved in set in modern times reached a dissappointingly anti-climactic ending when the monster got blown away by a 20mm vulcan gun mounted on a military jet. I think the GM was tired.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:40 AM on May 11, 2008


tim_in_oz, the best CoC GM I played with made a similar point once. He tried to start up a game where everyone played wehrmacht soldiers transferred to run a concentration camp. Not enough people were interested; perhaps part of escapism is knowing the horrors are pretend.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:44 AM on May 11, 2008


Avenger The Cthulhu mythos strikes me as really poor RPG material since, presumably, wouldn't every game end with your character going insane or being eaten by a slathering monster and being slowly digested for a million years or both?

Why would a tragic (or tragicomic) subject make it poor RPG material? This is like asking "why would any actor ever want to play a victim in a film or TV series?" Because of the story. Because you are not your character. Because your character can lose, and suffer, and you can enjoy the story anyway.

Most people's experience with RPGs are based around computer games labelled as RPGs (which they really, really aren't) or early-teenage 'munchkin' D&D: "LOL I WANA PLAY A HALF-DRAGON HALF-DROW CHOATIC EVIL PALLADIN AND CAN I HAVE A GUN??? LOL" Their characters are either forced by the constraints of the system into being as optimized as possible, or forced by munchkin identity conflation into being as "powerful and important" as possible. A munchkin feels his character's pains as if they were his own, and cannot stand to lose or suffer. He must not only be powerful, he must be the most powerful. If an award or achievement exists in the world, the munchkin's character must have it.

The munchkin is not roleplaying to share a story with friends, he's roleplaying to escape his crappy life, in which he isn't at all important to anyone, and has virtually no power of any kind. And that's fine, that he wants to do that. We feel the same on occasion. But we wouldn't cast a person like that in a film as a victim, and we don't want him to play CoC with us either.

ZachsMind With CoC I recall often wondering why I showed up to game at all, if two hours into the session I'm just sitting there eating chips drinking beer and my PC has become an NPC but the rest of the gang didn't know it yet. Then to find out half of them were in the same boat. Pretty lame.

That'd be poor game design. If the GM's game design is good, he/she is no more "playing you" because you're insane, than he/she is "playing you" because he/she handed you a character sheet that says: "You are Bob J North, professor of archaeology. Three months ago, on a field trip to an ancient Aztec ruin, you discovered ..."

Your insanity constrains you in some fashion: if you have fear of heights, for instance, you roleplay that. If you have to step up onto a ladder, you clutch the sides and squeeze your eyes shut. If you have to cross a rope bridge, you might completely refuse and roll yourself into a ball until they carry you over or leave you behind for the gibbering, wrecked remnants of the catering crew (who seem oddly sewn together in a sack, yet move along at the ground with complete limb coordination, like one creature) to gather you up and make you one of them. Or you might see the greater horror behind, and gather your courage, and jump up onto the back of your arch-rival Winston Copperfield as he offers to carry you, and fire your pistol wildly at the thing behind. (And there's a moral choice for good ol' Winston, too.)

Now if your character's insanity renders him/her essentially unplayable, good game design should give you an opportunity to have a new character: Tun'thua, the hired guide, the last descendant of the tribe who first sealed up the Gatherer, called Quetoum Hari, beneath the stone pyramid.

Similarly, being Bob J North--just like being insane--constrains you in a variety of ways. There are things Bob can do, things he can't, things he will, and things he won't. None of these need necessarily detract from the player's enjoyment.

Now, there are situations where a GM might need a player to "play along" with something, including attempting to kill another player's character; CoC tends to lend itself to the construction of that kind of game. Players whose characters are killed have not necessarily "lost"; indeed, their fate is far better than the fate of those poor souls gathered up to rebuild the destroyed Elder God.

My point is that the player (and GM) wears two hats. One is as a participant, attempting to guide his/her character's actions--to play along, as though the character were a real being with real motivations, attempting, from the character's point of view, to "win" (ie, achieve his/her goals)--and one is as a spectator, to see what develops when these people are put together in this situation. In well-designed scenarios the GM has only a vague idea of how things might turn out, and adapts to the players' actions. He/she will put various ideas and things into the game initially; diagrams on the walls of the crypt that explain the meaning of the constellations, and how they relate to the Quetoum Hari; knowledge in the minds (ie, on the character sheets of) Bob and Winston and Tun'thua that can be put together into a ritual; an explanation--which the characters may well never know, but which is necessary for a coherent plot--of what is actually going on; various items to be found around the dig; and a moral dilemma for the characters to decide - which of them, if anyone, will voluntarily join Quetoum Hari, bearing the items, and send the awful thing back home before its appointed time? Or will they let it go back, to inflict untold horrors upon the larger world?

Now, it would suck to be Bob, or Winston, or Tun'thua (and suck worse to be the catering crew, who pretty much die off-screen here). No-one's getting out unscathed; the characters will probably not be playable in any longer-term game. But there are levels of success to be achieved, and that's part of where the fun lies.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:46 AM on May 11, 2008 [12 favorites]


BrotherCaine: "It doesn't always have to play like paranoia."

God I hated Paranoia! What an annoying game! I learned with that game, if the GM gives you nine free lives per gaming session, that's because he's planning on killing you nine times per gaming session. I don't know about you, but dying's not my idea of fun role playing. Of course, D&D wasn't much better.

"What are you doing this round, Zach?"

I'm rotting in a Bag Of Holding until you guys can find an effin' cleric. That's what I'm doing. Pass the Oreos.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:19 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


What will save pen-and-paper RPGs is me being able to find other people willing to play them with me. That, frankly, cannot be done.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:19 AM on May 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


BrotherCaine He tried to start up a game where everyone played wehrmacht soldiers transferred to run a concentration camp. Not enough people were interested; perhaps part of escapism is knowing the horrors are pretend.

Just my opinion, but I think this disinterest may have more to do with being asked to play a person one doesn't want to empathize with even if one could, rather than the realistic vs fantastic horror element. I find this difficult from time to time as a GM, actually; but it's easier as a GM to play villains intending that they will get a horrible fate, than it is to do so as players. It's part of the psychology of the game, to some extent: the GM vicariously pushes forward wrongdoers for the players to vicariously punish. For the players to be pushing forward the wrongdoers, for the GM to vicariously punish, changes the dynamic.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:22 AM on May 11, 2008


AeschenKarnos: "Now, there are situations where a GM might need a player to "play along" with something, including attempting to kill another player's character..."

Well maybe that's the difference between Chill and CoC for me, or maybe it's just the different GMs I was playing under. The guy who GM'd Chill for me and my friends encouraged teamwork. He was an experienced and creative GM, and therefore my memories of that game system are fonder ones.

It was a different guy GMing CoC the few times I tried it, and his goal seemed to always be pitting the players against each other. I always presumed that was a fault of game design, but in hindsight, maybe it was the difference in GMing styles.

Either way, if a GM tells me I've lost my soul and now have to do the bidding of the lead villain, I can be standing there with my character sheet and reacting when he says it's my turn, but I'm no longer playing the character the way I wanna play it. Not that there's a win or lose to roleplaying games, but if you wanted to play a hero when you sat down and now you're secretly 'one of them,' that does kinda take the wind out of one's sails for the night.

"The munchkin is not roleplaying to share a story with friends, he's roleplaying to escape his crappy life, in which he isn't at all important to anyone, and has virtually no power of any kind."

What AeschenKarnos describes as 'munchkin' roleplayers, I used to call 'power players.' Rather than actually playing a role, they'd exploit the game system to the fullest extent in order to soup up their characters like they were hot rod sportscars. It's not that. I understand that in roleplaying not everyone can play the hero. Even so, there is a difference between wanting to unrealistically be better than anyone else in the game, and wanting to realistically roleplay your guy as you envisioned him to be. When some elder god comes along and swallows your soul, that kinda puts a damper on the evening.

It's one of the many things I have against Urban Dead: if I wanted to roleplay a zombie, I woulda rolled one up on the outset. I wanted to start the game off as a human, get comfortable with the game mechanics, then try to be something unhuman after I had my bearings. The game doesn't allow for that. Some power players come along, take advantage of your inexperience, and eat you. Granted, they're zombies. They're playing in character (yay for them), but it means your gaming experience is comparable to that of a scoop of melted ice cream falling from the cone.

What made City of Heroes so glamorous in comparison, is that everyone CAN be a hero. OR you can role up a villain if you want. In your own little microverse of play, you're the star of your show. All the other players you meet are supporting characters to your gaming experience, and you are a supporting character in their gaming experience. From their perspective, you're not as important as you think you are, but that doesn't adversely affect your gaming experience, where you think the comic book has your name on the cover.

It's a win win. I don't see how 'old fashioned' pre-computer RPGs can compete with that.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:50 AM on May 11, 2008


It seems relevant to mention that the munchkin/power player archetype is arguably the most classic tabletop RPG playing style, a natural consequence of the genre's wargaming heritage.

Not that it isn't as annoying as hell when only one person out of an otherwise cooperative group plays that antagonistically, but at least it has historical precedent.
posted by lumensimus at 7:13 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's a pity that Delta Green came out after my role playing days were over as it seems like it would have been the perfect game for me.

At the time I played them there was little else of entertainment about... especially during those long school holidays. I suspect that for most people there's just not the time nowadays especially with the crack-like lure of video games about.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:14 AM on May 11, 2008


Will thinking outside the usual publishing business models save pen and paper RPGs?

It already has. The top down business model for RPGs is currently dying on the vine, despite the efforts of WotC and others. Witness the current transformation of D&D into a tabletop WoW analog. Thanks, no.

However, gaming at the tabletop is doing just fine without help from the likes of Wizards of the Coast and White Wolf. There is a thriving cottage industry of publishers who are publishing their stuff as a side business and don't need to do much more than break even or make a little extra money to supplement their day job. There is more and better gaming material coming out now than there has ever been. The ease of publishing has eliminated the problem of gatekeepers and the buzz generated has reached a level where there's a solid community of indie game developers interacting with and supporting each other's efforts. There are currently more great games that have me excited to play than I have time to play.

And while it is true that the tabletop gamer demographic is aging, I know plenty of nerd spawn who are avid gamers themselves. It may have skipped a generation, but the health of the avocation is just fine.

If you're interested in checking some new stuff out, head on over to Indie Press Revolution [Disclaimer: The main owner of the site is a friend of mine].
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:26 AM on May 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks for this post, ArtW. John Tynes (one of the principal creators of DG) is a hero of mine. His Puppetland was a radical departure from the typical RPG style in many ways, and had a very engaging story to tell. But Tynes was always writing for a niche market within a niche market, and pretty much gave up a few years ago. I'm glad to see he's rethought his position.
posted by waraw at 7:28 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm quite excited about this as the Delta Green books are some of the best roleplaying books I own, stuffed full of ideas that really make CoC in the modern day work. The Hastur mythos and the adventure "Night Floors" are perfect gems of making modern day horror work.

I'm also excited about the Ransom method getting wider play, Greg Stolze has used it to provide suppliments to his excellent new game Reign. The rule book came out first via Lulu and all the supplements since have been ransomed. Which means once the ransom is paid they're free downloads.

Gregs able to support his work and make some money without having to have a company backing him and we still get the cool product, it's all good from where I'm standing.
posted by invisible_al at 7:29 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


As for Zachsmind's issues with Call of Cthulhu, definitely an issue with the Keeper running it. I've been running CoC for 25 years and my games do not devolve into a puppet show as described.

Now, CoC is HIGHLY dependent upon the Keeper as to how it will play out. I'm not actually a fan of the ruleset it sits upon because it makes a lot of the quality of play incumbent upon the Keeper and thus highly variable depending upon who you're playing with. I'm not alone either. Ken Hite recently published Trail of Cthulhu based on Robin D. Law's Gumshoe system as an alternative to Call of Cthulhu.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:33 AM on May 11, 2008


One of the best campaigns I ever played was a COC/Delta Green campaign that lasted about 2 and a half years. It was great. We had two gamemasters, each with their own agenda, who would take turns GMing 'episodes' as it were. Neither one knew everything that was going on, so it gave the game world this great air of unpredictability. (The entire campaign was largely centered on this weird timeloop that the entire universe was stuck in, basically repeated with small variations for trillions and trillions of years)

Yeah. Ultimately, both my characters in that game died. But both deaths were full of pathos and deeply significant.

Ironically, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the almost Ragnarokian doomed to failure flavor of the game, I wasn't a big fan when we started, as we were handed our characters, premade, but we had amnesia and had to 'remember' ourselves. But eventually, I came to love Landon Usher, rogue FBI agent. Imagine Fox Mulder crossed with Jack Bauer, but a little more unhinged.

Ultimately, though, after one whole campaign in that universe, our group decided not to revisit it. Once through the ringer was enough. There's only so much trauma and tragedy that a simple role-player can take.
posted by geekhorde at 8:15 AM on May 11, 2008


And the only thing that will save roleplaying as far as I'm concerned, at least in my household, is when my son is old enough to hold and throw some dice without trying to eat them.
posted by geekhorde at 8:17 AM on May 11, 2008


geekhorde, it's never too early.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:31 AM on May 11, 2008


GeekHorde, I'd recommend Steve Jackson's TOON, and very large six siders. You're welcome.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:36 AM on May 11, 2008


Oh. For the rest of you. Toon is GREAT for we adults too, although for some it's best if you *ahem* lubricate the cerebral cortex beforehand. My preference is Guinness but to each his poison.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:38 AM on May 11, 2008


Tabletop gaming is not a hobby in decline and does not need saving.
posted by smackwich at 10:09 AM on May 11, 2008


I'm a former CoC Keeper, and a current open source advocate. Role playing games are one aspect of the publishing industry that's very amenable to open sourcing. I ran my CoC games pretty close to the rulebooks, but my friends and I spent a lot of time making up extensions to other games or porting dice systems from one environment to another. If the world wide web had been around like it is today when we were playing games, we could've put it all on wikis.

Running an RPG demands too much effort on the part of the players for the publishers to stay in control.
posted by Loudmax at 10:12 AM on May 11, 2008


God I hated Paranoia! What an annoying game! I learned with that game, if the GM gives you nine free lives per gaming session, that's because he's planning on killing you nine times per gaming session. I don't know about you, but dying's not my idea of fun role playing.

Did you have the premise of the game explained to you, or did you just go into the game cold? 'Cause if you don't understand Paranoia, I can imagine the game being very, very frustrating to someone who's used to D&D, Vampire, and the like.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:21 AM on May 11, 2008


What will save pen-and-paper RPGs is me being able to find other people willing to play them with me. That, frankly, cannot be done.

If you're willing to DM/GM, you shouldn't have any problems. Wander into your local gaming shop and check out the bulletin board. I bet there are groups ages 14-40 (though not usually in one group) looking for someone to run their game, and tons of single players looking for same.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:00 AM on May 11, 2008


And source material is just inspiration. That's why, of the published adventures, Vault of the Drow was so much fun. Every time a different DM gets ahold of it, the experience is completely different (because it's basically a shell of a setting, rather than detailing what's behind every door).

On a Joseph Conrad kick, I ran a very successful, (and very depressing) Heart of Darkness/Keep on the Borderlands for kicks. It's what you do with it that counts.

That being said, given that paper and pen RPG's are all about imagination, Lovecraft makes great source material. But of course not for hack'n'slash.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:08 AM on May 11, 2008


This is definitely Long Tail territory. I know that some board and wargame publishers have a p500 pre-ordering system for their games so they only print when they know they'll break even. Then, when a game is successful, they run out immediately and everyone has to wait six months for more copies to be printed up.
posted by mecran01 at 11:11 AM on May 11, 2008


Willmize: Delta Green has been reprinted. You can get it for 30 bucks. Hardcover with d20 and BRP dual stats.
posted by clockworkjoe at 11:16 AM on May 11, 2008


What's actually difficult is finding a Vampire group that is not into LARPing.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:16 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


It sounds like I may have to find some old copies of Delta Green and lift some bits. Trail of Cthulhu is on my hit list, too.

I just bought a bunch of the CoC stuff and have been going over it. It's clear that, should we want to keep the same characters around for a bit, I'll have to steer the players away from combat and more towards investigation, that I'll have to avoid throwing anything but a fairly wimpy critter at them, and, if I don't want their brains to burn out like a shitpaper moth in a klieg light, I'll have to tweak some of the rules ever so slightly.

It's difficult to work in deep, detailed character-based roleplay for more than a few sessions if you know that yet another character you've created will be sneezing out chunks of his brain from glimpsing the incomprehensibly white shadow caused by the intersection of an indifferent sixth-dimensional entity's numerous pseudopods whipping across our comparatively flat and mundane spacetime. I get the feeling that the players who are really up for that are self-mutilating drama majors busy playing Malkavians in Vampire: The Masquerade, anyway.

"Gentlemen! You may have noticed that your character sheets are oddly-colored, strange-smelling, and somewhat greasy to the touch. That's because they are printed on flash paper, and when it's time, I'll just flick a match at you and *FOOM* you'll reach to tear the next prepared character sheet off of the pad to the left, next to the pretzels. Now, as you turn to face the cultists, entirely too late ..."
posted by adipocere at 11:26 AM on May 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, just do yourself a favour and huck the CoC game mechanics out completely and replace with your fave from another game, or a hybrid that emphasizes the elements you want in play. That system is beyond what a bit of tweaking will fix.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:32 AM on May 11, 2008


My tabletop gaming days are behind me, but the Delta Green sourcebooks are the finest RPG materials I've ever seen. This is pretty cool.
posted by the_bone at 12:26 PM on May 11, 2008


Pope Guilty: "Did you have the premise of the game explained to you, or did you just go into the game cold?"

In answer to your question I think I'd have to say, yes.

If memory serves (and this was back when it came out in 1985 so I'm showing my age here) the extent of my indoctrination prior to game play was this... "Remember the movie Logan's Run? It's kinda like that."

I died more often than Wile E. Coyote that night.

o.0
posted by ZachsMind at 1:29 PM on May 11, 2008



Will thinking outside the usual publishing business models save pen and paper RPGs?



It already has. The top down business model for RPGs is currently dying on the vine, despite the efforts of WotC and others. Witness the current transformation of D&D into a tabletop WoW analog. Thanks, no. However, gaming at the tabletop is doing just fine without help from the likes of Wizards of the Coast and White Wolf.


Translation: "I have a limited idea about how RPGs are bought and sold, but I sure like to read hobbyist bullshit on the web!"

No. The downturn of the RPG industry comes from one source: Tabletop RPGs are less popular. Alternative publishing models do not do shit to prevent this. They are ways to squeeze more cash out of a declining market. And incidentally, as a publisher on IPR, Ill tell you that IPR is not "alternative. In fact, they just changed their business slightly to get rid of the parts that made them less competitive than other distributors -- because IPR's fulfillment aspect makes it a part of the traditional model. Manufacturer/distro/store is how that works.

There is a thriving cottage industry of publishers who are publishing their stuff as a side business and don't need to do much more than break even or make a little extra money to supplement their day job.

Translation: "If you lower expectations and dont pretend to run a business, your threshold for success increases." No shit, Sherlock. You can also call myself a successful aviator by limiting my efforts of balsa wood gliders, but why the fuck should anybody who flies a real plane take you seriously?


There is more and better gaming material coming out now than there has ever been. The ease of publishing has eliminated the problem of gatekeepers and the buzz generated has reached a level where there's a solid community of indie game developers interacting with and supporting each other's efforts. There are currently more great games that have me excited to play than I have time to play.


Translation: "We all buy each other's stuff in an incestuous circle and take credit for the 1 to 2 exceptions per year, even if they happened outside our community (Witness Burning Wheel, Reign and now, Delta Green)." Newsflash: Art students who sympathy buy each other's paintings for spare change no not count themselves successful artists.


And while it is true that the tabletop gamer demographic is aging, I know plenty of nerd spawn who are avid gamers themselves. It may have skipped a generation, but the health of the avocation is just fine.


Denial, thy name is anecdote.

If you're interested in checking some new stuff out, head on over to Indie Press Revolution.

That's decent advice. There are good games there. But the "revolution" is marketspeak. You want a revolution? The RPG industry should stop pressuring creatives to accept shit pay. This is one part of the Bad Old Mainstream that the indies have had no hesitation about accepting. To me, that makes this talk of change as a worthwhile endevour bullshit. Theyre terrible giving credit where credit is due and pay shit for art. In this industry, The Man is the one paying fairly. White Wolf and WotC pay real pro rates for writing and art. The small press pays with pennies and handshakes, and if theres a breakout success are happy to wank over their financial success, without sharing that with the art, layout and editing services that got shortchanged when their project was powered by indie rhetoric.
posted by mobunited at 1:31 PM on May 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


You know what I was just thinking might be a fun pen-and-paper RPG? Grand Theft Auto.

Of course, nothing could ever replicate the genuine gut-busting hilarity of getting Niko and Little Jacob completely drunk, giving greasy looks to passersby, tripping over one another, and calling out for cabs: "Mister man!...Yellow car!...Taaaa-xi!...Gnaah!" There's just no dice roll for that kind of happy.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:05 PM on May 11, 2008


Nice dinosaur-speak there mobunited. I don't measure success economically but by the quality of the games I play, and by that metric the past 7 years have been a golden age. I'm indifferent to the big companies that are sinking, since they've got a track record that's pretty piss poor as far as putting out quality games that I enjoy playing. I don't see RPGs as being a viable market for business, but it's just fine for hobbyists to self-publish in.
posted by ursus_comiter at 3:22 PM on May 11, 2008


You know what I was just thinking might be a fun pen-and-paper RPG? Grand Theft Auto.

Greg Costikyan did that: it's called Violence: The Roleplaying Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed. Third link in the "Some of the More Interesting Things Here" list.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:25 PM on May 11, 2008


Ooh!
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:36 PM on May 11, 2008


I don't measure success economically but by the quality of the games I play

That's fine for a gamer, but useless to the gaming industry.

And turgid dahlia, Violence is one of the flat-out funniest things Greg Costikyan has ever written, and he's made a history of writing funny shit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:08 PM on May 11, 2008


I played a little of CoC, but I was more of a GURPS Horror fan. This thread has me combing over the Steve Jackson site and thinking about buying a sourcebook. They were just fun to read.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:27 PM on May 11, 2008


The major-market RPGs are certainly taking a downturn, but as the man once said, "that is not dead which can eternal lie". In the meantime, I don't much care whether or not the market falls apart; I've always seen gaming as a hobbyists playground, and as a hobbyist I have far more resources available to me today than any gamer at another point in gaming history could ever hope to claim.

As for the ultimate fate of the industry, things were looking pretty bad for a while before White Wolf gave the roleplaying world a much-needed shot in the arm in the early 90s. It could happen again. The resurrection of the industry may be coming. In strange aeons, even death may die.

Either way, I'm happy.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:29 PM on May 11, 2008


I always wished someone would come up with Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy the Role Playing Game. I tried making one from scratch about fifteen years ago. I even had it's own unique gaming system. There's only one guy who coulda been the GM of that game. And he's dead.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:46 PM on May 11, 2008


Sure it's useless for the gaming industry. So what? I don't believe that gaming is viable as an industry. I'd go so far as to say that economic success is counterproductive to the production of quality games, although it is really good at producing endless splat books.
posted by ursus_comiter at 9:06 PM on May 11, 2008


I'll bite.
If any Mefite's starting a tabletop RPG in New York City this summer, and would be alright with an interested but entirely unexperienced player blundering in and tripping on things- someone who literally understands the barest facts about tabletop gaming, i.e. you roll a die and have stats, but would promise to bring beer- well...
I'd be interested.
posted by 235w103 at 9:07 PM on May 11, 2008


I always wished someone would come up with Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy the Role Playing Game.

That would be all kinds of awesome. . .

*thinks*

So, the premise would be the search for the ultimate question/answer, of course. . . which could be reinvented by the GM each game. . .

Character types? Hitchhiker, Ape-Descendant, er. . . various Genuine People Personalities prototype androids. . .

Lot's of fun game mechanics for the Guide, Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic, Infinite Improbability Drive, Babelfish, Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses etc. . .

There's gold in them thar hills. . .

Holy crap. There is one.
posted by flotson at 9:29 PM on May 11, 2008


Nice dinosaur-speak there mobunited. I don't measure success economically but by the quality of the games I play, and by that metric the past 7 years have been a golden age. I'm indifferent to the big companies that are sinking, since they've got a track record that's pretty piss poor as far as putting out quality games that I enjoy playing. I don't see RPGs as being a viable market for business, but it's just fine for hobbyists to self-publish in.

Ah, so you hate the tastes of most other gamers and actually hope things change to *deprive* them of the stuff they want to use. In that case, why should anybody give a shit about your "metric?" Theres nothing wrong with self-publishing, using the ransom model or anything else but man, it sure is fucked up to wish ill upon an entire industry because of your small-minded, selfish perspective.
posted by mobunited at 11:14 PM on May 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is it the tastes of gamers that determines what they buy, or the amount of marketing dollars behind the games? Most of the Role Players I've known don't exactly survey the field and select the 'best' game, they grab whatever their friends are playing, whether they like the game mechanics and setting or not.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:25 PM on May 11, 2008


Hell it's one thing to invite someone out for a game of tennis. Another to say: "Hey, let's go play this game I've heard of using modified rackets, three balls and half a court." If you've already been playing tennis with this guy forever, then he'll give it one try. One.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:25 AM on May 12, 2008


Paper RPGs need to die. Why do I say that, you ask? Because I have stepped on way too many fucking four-sided dice to not be bitter.
posted by illiad at 9:39 AM on May 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Looks like we got noticed.
posted by Artw at 12:06 PM on May 12, 2008


Tabletop gaming is not a hobby in decline and does not need saving.

True. But tabletop RP gaming is a hobby in decline. And it does not need saving.

The RPG industry should stop pressuring creatives to accept shit pay.

I worked in game retail for years and am now a professional writer and editor. Pay rates in the genre game industry are about one-tenth what I get in the real world, and I'm a hack. There were a couple of locals who got published when I was working the shop. The guy who wrote GURPS Something got $1200 for a 128-page book. The guy who wrote than ten-page article in Dragon got $200. That guy who wrote those sourcebooks for Jovian Chronicles got comp copies and cover credit. And so on. Not even worth my time to read the writer's guidelines at those rates.

At $20K, the creators of this new Delta Green book will make a living wage even after expenses. I applaud that. It won't last, sadly.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 5:10 PM on May 12, 2008


People have been predicting the death of TT RPGs for longer than I've been playing, and I see nothing behind it but bitterness and pessimism. It's just more doom calling without any definable evidence. Game companies will come and go, games will come and go out of print, and artsy-fartsy niche games won't be the savior, as they tend not to offer what most gamers (and proto-gamers) want most of the time, in my experience, and I doubt there will even be some huge, all-important game that will bring gaming into the mainstream and save it forever. Just companies putting out games, one way or another. Even if the industry becomes significantly smaller, games will still be made, and played, it will just look more like the late 70's-early 80's, IMO, product-wise, (notwithstanding the fad it was at the time).

I still have fun gaming, and bringing in new gamers to play with me, from everything to AD&D 1rst ed. to Twilight 2000 to Shadowrun 4th to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Hackmaster, and most of these games are from "dead" lines or hell, even dead companies, some pretty big ones too, and most from before I first started gaming. No problem playing them, even finding them, and no more problem than usual in getting people to play them. A hobby in decline? My right anus.
posted by Snyder at 1:15 AM on May 13, 2008


As much as I like Delta Green (bunches, I have original printings of DG and Countdown and now I want to run a game) and even considering that I pledged to buy this book, I really don't see this becoming a model for how RPGs will go forward. Call of Cthulhu has tremendous gamer goodwill (because it's a fun game to play, and many gamers enjoy the Lovecraft) and Delta Green has an excellent reputation as a series of supplements, so the success of a DG effort is tangential to the idea of reshaping the industry.

The problem with the gaming industry is, once you have a complete set of rules, you pretty much have everything you'll ever need. Everything else is just other ways to do it. Most gamers probably use less than 80% of what they buy; those who use more, do so because they buy less and squeeze more utility out of what they do purchase. While there is a good deal of RPG material out there that is excellent (case in point, Delta Green), very little of it is necessary. The industry response has been to cater to collectors, who are often but not always the same as the players, releasing reams of supplements that sometimes blatantly are meant to be read rather than played.

What the RPG hobby needs to do is to rethink the extent to which we need the industry. If you could do things that actually attract and keep gamers without referring them to inaccessible stacks of poorly written books, you wouldn't really need the industry in the first place — which I think would be better for the hobby. The industry has not been useful since the '80s and '90s when the mass appeal of D&D and Vampire were attracting new gamers in large quantities.
posted by graymouser at 6:58 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mysteria Matris - a free Mexican set scenario for 1920s CoC by Dennis Detweiller (Delta Green).

Oh, and it looks like if you were thinking of buying in to you should probably do it now... under 30 left.
posted by Artw at 9:53 PM on May 19, 2008


Dang, I wish I'd spotted this for the FPP.
posted by Artw at 9:59 PM on May 19, 2008


Target reached
posted by Artw at 11:04 AM on May 20, 2008


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