Catching Up With Dead Trees: Modernizing the Digital RPG

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‘Traditional’ games, particularly RPGs, have lapped digital games in terms of mechanics, sophistication, and even ease and approachability. I’d like to partake in a workgroup that considers the kinds of player agency, resolution systems, and expression systems that have emerged in the traditional games space, and forge ideas about which systems can be imported into digital games (and how), or what new systems we can invent that take inspiration from these innovations.

Some examples of what I’m talking about:

Games using the ‘Fate’ engine deliberately offer players moments of narrative control as a meta-mechanic, ensuring player buy in, and offers the player bribes to willingly, even eagerly, accept ‘bad events’ with promises of future dramatic payoff.

Games using the ‘Powered by the Apocalypse’ engine promote tight and expressive themes by encapsulating¬† a complete player narrative arc into a¬† ‘playbook’, and offer mechanics based on ‘moves’ that permit extreme player expression within a coherent mechanical framework.

Within the realm of ‘classic heroic fantasy’, the fifth edition of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, and the second edition of ‘Pathfinder’ show two very different visions of how the classic RPG experience can be shaped (tight scaling versus variable tiered scaling; expressive action economies, etc. etc.) while still being similar enough in their underlying rules that a player that knows one can effortlessly learn the other.