On one hand, I make video games for various platforms. If you click “Digital Gaming”, you’ll be swept off to a page with a finished mobile game and an early sneak peek into a new game in development.
On the other hand, I have spent several years working on a tabletop pen-and-paper roleplaying game and most of my life developing settings for it (and for novels and movies and…). If you click “Tabletop Gaming”, you’ll find yourself in a page offering a free download of the first supplement for Skills & Talents (my RPG system), an awesome illustration (for a future game book, likely the Player’s Handbook), and some jibba jabba about Kickstarter and such.
Why A Tabletop RPG?
Seven years ago, I was so fed up with the milquetoast tabletop RPG offerings from the big companies and felt slogged down by the seemingly endless deluge of clones and “unofficial” add-ons for the big companies’ offerings that I stopped playing. More accurately, game nights dried up and I was left without any satisfying choices.
Sure, millions of people still play, but when I started, there were multiple touring conventions and friends who were into “mainstream stuff” would show up to games and join groups. The tone of the games was more “fairytale psychedelic” or “morally ambiguous surreal” than the “depressed elves powergamed to the max” which seems to reign today. The vibe was “Frank Frazetta meets Weird Tales meets Tolkien or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and it was a fun mix.
But I think that pining for “ye goold olde days” is a huge, boring mistake and I didn’t want to set out to re-capture or re-tread old, worn-out magic. But I also felt that the big guys’ current systems were broken and almost annoying to play (but there was no other choice that was getting people excited) and the direction was far removed from the fresh excitement that this hobby started with in the 1970’s which seemed to blossom in the 1980’s.
So I made it my mission to create a system that was fundamentally recognizeable as a pen-and-paper RPG, strip down some of the dynamics to make it more fun-focused, and inject new mechanics that didn’t annoy. On top of that, I had to refine the settings I had been working on so that the system could have visuals and points of reference that feel real.
And the math has to work.
While I worked on Skills & Talents, the big guys’ latest iterations of their systems seem to continue being mediocre (at best) and the aesthetics of the hobby have diminished to the point that, despite “Geekdom” firmly enthrenching itself into the mainsteam (and indeed, leading and defining much of it), most people are completely turned off by what’s left of fantasy roleplaying. The type of person who would have played their hearts out in years past were trying it out, starry-eyed and hopeful, and collectively going “Ugh.”
This great hobby has been destroying itself.
So, like a hero of legend, I am feverishly putting my Player’s Handbook together, not just to amuse and entertain the millions of people who would absolutely LOVE playing a kickass new traditional pen-and-paper tabletop RPG, but to rescue the hobby from its own drawn-out suicide attempt.
To that end, I am spending a considerable amount of time putting together a great — accessible — game system AND redefining the aesthetic and overall vibe associated with the hobby itself. Playing this kind of game can be a vivid, exhilarating experience, with a group of interested, inspired people diving deep into their imaginations collectively, playing a beautiful game of “pretend”.
And young people today are increasingly looking to step away from their machines and enjoy “analogue” fun. They were born into a digital age, so it’s not a novelty. Tabletop roleplaying, for the new entries into adulthood, is entirely novel. And I sincerely believe that this hobby can be life-enriching and positive. Transformative, even.
To that end, I have written a very long “Introduction” post. If you’ve made it this far, please do check out the Tabletop section of the site and download the ebooklet. Get excited, because this is going to be a big deal. And by coming on board this early, you get the rare opportunity to get in on the ground level before it blows up.
A Small Correction
In the opening sentence of this blog post, I say “We”, but I mean “I”. I make games.
But I kind of mean “We”.
I can’t make games without people like you playing.
So… Thank you for reading this post to the end.
-Robert Nathan Davis