rpg

Itch.io and the changing landscape of tabletop rpg community

There are a few different things going on right now in the tabletop roleplaying game (ttrpg) space that are disrupting the community and the market at the moment. So what’s going on?

  1. Google + is going away.

    For those of you late to the scene, google plus became an unofficial area for the ttrpg community (OSR, D&D, etc) awhile ago. Now that Google is eliminating the service, the entire community is being uprooted. Attempts to re-locate that space have been unsuccessful so far.

  2. Creators are getting fleeced.

    This may be my own perspective on the issue, but popular online ttrpg markets (DMsGuild, DriveThruRPG, Roll20) have been taking bigger cuts of creator revenue than I personally think are warranted. DMsGuild takes half of creator earnings and forces exclusivity with content. DriveThru takes 35% (for non-exclusivity). Many of these marketplaces have failed to innovate or update following creator demand (DriveThru is especially notorious for its outdated structure and sorting).

  3. Itch.io is considering more services for ttrpgs.

    After some important Twitter discussion between @swordpeddler (ttrpg creator) and @moonscript (itch dev), Itch.io is soliciting ideas to improve their categorization of physical/tabletop games. It has also lead to discussion of additional support and features for ttrpg on itch (https://itch.io/t/384953/physical-games-classification-project). This has been a conversation brewing with myself and other creatives for months now, so I’m excited to see it gain traction.

  4. New creators will continue to find it increasingly difficult to break into the market in a meaningful way.

    The resurgence of popularity in Dungeons and Dragons (5E) has created a market boom for ttrpg content over the last five or so years. As marketplaces continue to fill up with loads and loads of submitted content, new creators are having more difficulty sticking out from the crowd. Considering the changing market, I strongly suggest honing your social media and branding skills as a content creator. If you can’t build a following, you’re going to find it very difficult (See my post on tips for ttrpg creators).

Everything I’ve mentioned is creating tension in the ttrpg community. So what does that mean? It means we can expect some major changes coming this year (2019). I personally think if Itch.io follows through with their restructuring to support ttrpg content, we’ll see creators rushing to use that site. Itch already has some inherent advantages with profit sharing (creator chooses the amount) and with a broad creator toolset (email, analytics, product forums). This places them at a distinct advantage over other marketplaces, especially if they can cater to the ttrpg market.

The real question will be if there is a worthy successor to the Google + communities. On the off chance that itch.io makes dedicated forums for ttrpgs, it could be the next hot spot. Discord continues to gather steam. Will there be something that connects both artists and players like Google+? We’ll have to wait until the dust settles to find out.

As part of the community, you have the power to shape where we all congregate. Engage in conversations with others, try different services, and see what you like best. I look forward to seeing how the year shapes up.

Zeshio

Making TTRPG Plots Flexible For Different Alignments

This blog is going to be a little more relaxed than my last couple of blog posts. I wanted to share some of my ideas about how creators (and GMs!) can make flexible plots for different alignments. This is something I’m trying to work into my “The Evil Party: A Primer” PDF for the community, but it’s also really important for those campaigns that have more of a moral gray zone to them.

As a creator or a GM, it can be easy to fall into certain assumptions when making an story or plot for adventurers. An NPC might ask the party to “save Timmy from danger!” As the story teller, we’re assuming the players want to save Timmy. *Spoiler alert: If Timmy is annoying, they don’t.*

At first glance, the easiest way to combat this as a DM is to allow different paths of action in your story.

  • The party saves Timmy

  • The party doesn’t save Timmy

That kind of works, and allows for at least some branching narrative, but it’s not exactly the most satisfying. You could further flesh out the options based on the party’s intent:

  • The party wanted to save Timmy but failed

  • The party doesn’t want to save Timmy so they didn’t

  • The party wanted to save Timmy and succeeded

  • The party didn’t want to save Timmy but they did

Some of these options get a little silly, but it can help explore some of the narrative outcomes. Now that you’ve allowed adventurers to roleplay a bit and come up with their decision, the story can evolve naturally around those choices. For example, the NPCs might approach the players differently, or share certain things based on their actions (We all thought Timmy was a jerk too)!

As a creator or DM, it’s important to realize the adventure may not go the way you intended. And you know what, that’s entirely OK! Be flexible enough that you can handle different narrative paths. The DM’s inability to be flexible with the narrative leads to railroading (which means you’re forcing players down your version of the story with no input from them). I’ve never heard of a player that enjoys railroading.

To summarize, it’s important to understand plots can have different outcomes.

The next part we need to discuss is the hook- this is how we pull adventurers in and tell them there’s a problem that needs solving. If you’re planning an adventure with non-heroic characters, the hook is the area where creators boff up the most. The underlying issue is most hooks are only provided in a heroic adventurer way:

  • The mayor needs help solving a crime!

  • The orcs are killing the townsfolk!

  • My chickens have escaped! Bring them back to me!

You might not see it at first, but each of these hooks is biased towards the adventuring party committing positive actions. Well, if your party tends to be more neutral or evil aligned, these hooks aren’t really going to be satisfying.

Currently, my best way of solving this issue (and opening up neutral and evil party gameplay), is again, to provide different choices for the adventuring party upon introducing the problem. Give them a choice of what sub-quest they want to follow.

  • The mayor needs help solving a crime! After talking to the mayor, you’re approached by another council member who is fed up with the mayor’s ineptitude and wants your help in replacing him!

  • The orcs regularly attack a town. Late at night a message is slipped under your door to meet an orc envoy. You learn the town has been stealing orc babies!

  • The villager’s chickens have escaped. You can capture them, or someone offers you a higher price to bring them the chickens! (Maybe they’re a competitor). OR! There’s a different quest where you need to feed a monster, and so now you can conveniently use the free roaming chickens to feed it!

As you can see, the main focus is to provide diverging moral options to the players, even when introducing the plot hooks. This is great because it gives different types of parties different options. It also makes the adventure more alignment agnostic, and thus, more replayable. The trick is working in the different options so they look seemless to the adventurer.

Those are my current thoughts, let me know if you found any of this interesting! I’ve been digging into neutral and evil party alignments and exploring what strong adventures look like for these types of characters, so I will have plenty more to share down the road!

Until the next adventure!

Zeshio