1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. While the majority of active discourse on D20PRO has moved to our Discord Channels, this forum is still active and checked-in on regularly by our staff. However, for the very latest information, conversation and/or immediate support, please join us on Discord here: http://discord.gg/Ph38ckM
    Dismiss Notice

The Future of RPGs?

Discussion in 'Other Systems' started by ChrisRevocateur, Oct 27, 2011.

  1. ChrisRevocateur

    Jul 14, 2011
    Likes Received:
    I use quite a few computer programs and websites for my gaming these days, and the use of these utilities is growing. I want to talk for a minute about what I see changing in the realm of RPG's thanks to tools like these.

    So first I'll talk about the tools I use:

    This is what's called a "Virtual Tabletop" or VTT. There are a lot of them out there, each with different strengths and weaknesses. Some are free, some pay, some even subscription. Some are easy to use, some very complex. Some are rules agnostic (meaning you can play any game), some have numerous rules systems they support, and some are specific to one system. Some automate more rules, some less, and some have no rules automation at all. Some have voice (or even video) chat capabilities, while others only support text chat.

    Regardless of the differences, what all VTTs have in common is that they are a shared board or map with a chat function and the ability to roll dice in some way. That way you can connect with people over the internet from anywhere and play RPG's with them. Now the people you can game with is no longer limited to the meager selection in your local area of people that don't want to play the same game. Now, when you're sick, you don't have to miss the game for fear of getting everyone else sick.

    It's an amazing concept, and has uses outside of network play. It allows you in a face to face game the capablity of beautiful maps and custom miniatures, or automating rules to make things simpler, so you can concentrate on the story and roleplaying, rather than the rules. It can even make sharing secret notes with other players much less conspicuous, or showing players pictures of NPC's, monsters, or other beautiful handouts. All this without wasting paper. or spending tons of money on map (tiles), miniatures, or other physical props. Most even support on the fly tile mapping, allowing you to lay your dungeon out before your players as you go. All have some, at least rudimentary, fog of war, allowing you to hide or reveal the map as you like. As you can see, even the simplest of these is a powerful tool that can enhance games either over the internet or face to face.

    The VTT that I use is called d20Pro. It has heavy rules automation for any d20 based system, and since I'm a Pathfinder player for the most part, that's perfect for me. d20 is a pretty rules heavy system (though it doesn't touch systems such as GURPS or the Hero System), and being able to concentrate more on the game rather than the rules helps me out a lot with GMing, and allows me more thought to my character rather than his abilities when playing.

    A few other highlights of d20Pro, and some of the things that might be in the future point towards even more freedom in roleplaying thanks to technology. First off, you can import characters from DDI (for 4E) or Hero Lab (the character creator/manager I talk about later) (for 3.5/PF) directly into d20Pro. There has even been some talk on their forum (by users) of the idea of a direct link, allowing you to alter your character in one, and have it reflected in the other. The developers have seen this discussion and have said the possibility, though not any time soon, could be a possibility. Another future development (that is almost here, they're just finishing beta testing) is a marketplace, where you can buy adventures, or even whole campaigns, all set up for you in d20Pro. More on what this could mean later.

    Hero Lab
    There aren't many Character Creator programs out there, especially not ones that concentrate on anything other than D&D and/or d20 systems. Most of them are really buggy and rife with contradictions to the way the actual rules work. But at the top of this heap is Hero Lab. Hero Lab is a program that can handle pretty much any RPG system, as is demonstrated by the systems they already officially support: D&D 3.5/4E and Pathfinder, Mutants & Masterminds (2nd & 3rd edition), Shadowrun, nWoD, Call of Cthulu, Savage Worlds, and even Cortex (no longer available due to lisencing issues). It was even originally being developed for GURPS before SJG decided to do their character creator in house. Some of the user projects that have seen good development is the old West End Games Star Wars D6 game, and Star Wars SAGA edition (though neither are complete).

    Not only does Hero Lab support all these different systems, but it supports ALL the options, and calculates them correctly (though the 3.5 rules have problems). It's very complete in what it does. You don't just make a character with this, it's a full on rules integrated character sheet, with experience, loot, gear, magic items (with effects applied) etc. You can even apply the effects of conditions or spells to reflect your current abilities, bonuses, etc. accurately. You can deal with health and damage (even nonlethal), complex rules like two weapon fighting, even durations, and your spellbook and memorized spells. It even tracks in just as much detail your animal companions, mounts, cohorts, eidolons, etc. You can even put a whole party together in one portfolio, with all the mounts and cohorts, etc, and then import monsters on the fly for encounters, all with the ability to track all effects on them. All this, with every single item on display with an easy mouse hover or click away from the rules explaining EXACTLY what that ability/item/feat/skill does or means.

    It's not just for characters either. GM's can use it to make NPC's, or advance monsters. With the built in data editor you can even create monsters, add items, spells, abilities, classes, feats, house rules, etc. It even has an initiative tracker that is quite sophisticated, including flat-footed creatures, etc. It also includes an easy to use stat block tool that makes for simple posting of anything you've made in plain text, BBCode, Wiki text, HTML, etc. Meaning you can easily put the stats for your characters anywhere. It also, as stated before, can export anything you've made to d20Pro, as well as Fantasy Grounds II (another VTT).

    This has a VTT as one of its main selling points, but I don't really care about that, that's nothing new in the game anymore (except the built in browser based video chat support). What really excites me about this tool is the social network part of it. It's facebook, for gamers! You have your Player Profile, which is linked to all of your Character Profiles. Your Player Profile also links to any games you're running or playing, and your character profiles link to the games that they are in. Your character profiles also link to character sheets for those characters. When you make a game, you can let other people search it and register to join your game, complete with prospective character (or not). Each page, personal, character, and game has a blog, and public and private notes. There are comment features on all of the pages, as well as the blogs. They even use the game/character registration system to run digital gamcing conventions! But one of the coolest features of Infrno, at least for me, and again pointing towards the eventual future of RPGs, is the fact that you can, when creating a game, you can connect d20Pro to your game. This allows players with d20Pro to just click on the button on your game page, and it will launch d20Pro and connect them to your game for them.

    Pathfinder Reference Document and d20pfsrd.com
    Now instead of having to look a rule up in a book, you can just search a site. You can also copy/paste it to help end rules arguments, or to fill out the abilities on your character sheet.

    Realm Works
    This tool actually isn't out yet, so I don't use it, but this is one of the tools I'm most excited about, I've even put off paying for another similar service that I can get now in favor of waiting until these much better tools come out. It also represents another branch of what I see as the future of RPGs, and that's why I'm talking about it here. Realm Works is to campaigns and adventures what Hero Lab is to characters, a tool to easily and quickly, but still completely and correctly, put together, change, and manage a storyline with maps, npc's, flowcharts, etc. all linked together. Also, all instances of characters or creatures can link directly to their Hero Lab portfolio. GM's can share this information is some way online that I don't quite understand. Honestly, with all the different tools that could help a GM out, I can see this utility going a million different places, and like Hero Lab grew into the comprehensive character program it is now, I'm sure Realm Works will become the comprehensive campaign management software.

    Then there's the technology that is fueling pretty much every single one of these other technologies. PDFs and other forms of e-books or electronic media. Now the books that aren't provided free on the internet can fit on your hard drive, and can be just a double click away from reference, and with how most gaming PDFs these days are gettting extensive bookmarking and cross-linking, looking things up has never been easier. Also, with official PDFs, you can use programs to strip all the images out of them, giving you the handouts from the adventure, the NPC and monster pictures to use as minis or to show to players, maps with or without text and markers (DM and player maps). You can copy/paste boxed text into chats for ease of descriptions.

    What's it all mean?

    Does it mean that, with all this rules automation and character managers that tell you if your character isn't valid, that people aren't gonna have to know the rules? No. People still won't be able to make characters that actually do what they want them to, or are maybe even viable, without knowing the rules, and neither will they know what all they can do. Besides, there will always be corner cases, and places where a GM is gonna have to make a call.

    Does it mean that RPGs and video games are going to become even more alike, and thus just making things more like WoW? One could argue that, but I don't think so. With the ability to dismiss any ruling that the software makes, it still remains a human game. Besides, a computer game still can't account for you doing things outside of the "rules." A GM can, whether he's in front of you, or in front of a computer screen halfway across the world.

    What will it do?

    I think that we will see more integration between VTTs, character managers, campaign managers, and social networks. I think at some point, you're gonna have Realm Works maps that link to d20Pro combat encounters. You're gonna have d20Pro character sheets that link directly with Hero Lab portfolios. You're gonna see Infrno character profiles that link to Hero Lab portfolios instead of character sheets. You're gonna see Hero Lab portfolios and d20Pro campaign and Realm Works files that you can access from anywhere. You'll be able to play, or even GM, regardless of where you are, and have all your characters, notes, and campaign work open to you everywhere, without having to lug around a notebook and numerous heavy books, and have it all be better organized than you could do physically.

    You're gonna see everything integrate to the point where you may still have to know the rules, but you're never gonna have to worry about whether they're being enforced, or if a calculation was incorrect, or if you wrote a specific thing down on your character sheet.

    You're gonna see a random encounter table from Realm Works make a roll, come up with white dragon, and automatically open in your d20Pro program an appropriate encounter map with the dragon already on it, and you're gonna see d20Pro award experience to the character's Hero Lab profile after an encounter is finished.

    You're gonna see that the 6'3" 215 lb. football player can play the little sneaky halfling, and his size won't destroy your sense of disbelief, because he's not physically there for you to see.

    You're gonna see games where player knowledge is no longer the kind of problem it has been in the past, because you'll be able to split the party, and actually not have them know what the other half is doing, because they can't see or hear them, and to do this, you don't have to pick everything up and move it to another room, then walk back and forth between the two to be able to GM for both sides.

    Basically, I see all these tools not only making games easier to play, but deepening the cooperative storytelling aspect of RPG's, as the barriers that RPG's had to it; nuanced rules that you have to pay close attention to to make sure they're being implemented correctly, metagaming knowledge, and the physical disconnect between a player and the type of character they're playing, are stripped away by this new technology.

    So not only will you be able to find a quick 3 hour pick up game while you're waiting at the greyhound bus station, but the stories that you tell with your games will only get better and better.

    Honestly, I'm so excited to see what these new technologies will actually be able to do. What do you guys think?
  2. ChrisRevocateur

    Jul 14, 2011
    Likes Received:
    One thing I forgot to mention is that with the rules automation, testing out the balance of a rules system is actually going to be fully possible. So many people say this or that ability or whatever is broken, but they're usually not running it right. Rules automation will take that out, and we will be able to see what really works and doesn't.

Share This Page