The Business of RPGs
The Role of Computers in RPGs
By Peter Kim
Associate Business Manager, Roleplaying Games

If we lived in the worlds of our characters, the game designing wizards here at Wizards of the Coast would use psionic abilities to know exactly what customers want, employ spellcasting powers to create perfect products overnight, and teleport the games directly to players who want them. But until "game designer" becomes a new prestige class (hey, we're working on it!), the process of planning, developing, marketing, and distributing roleplaying products remains a little more complicated. This regular feature offers insight into the business side of fun and games.

The future of Pen and Paper is here and now.

Here at the global RPG headquarters of Wizards of the Coast, we have planned and developed for the future of roleplaying. And what we see for the future is the increased use of computer aids to enhance your tabletop gaming experience -- but not a digital doppelganger impersonating your Dungeon Master.

Many consumers primarily want to play in a prefabricated campaign that requires little or no preparation on their part. One type of computer product that fulfills this wish is the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG), in which an efficient computer DM weaves the story, moderates the rolls, and presents the fantasy realm in rich graphics. MMORPGs are being refined and enhanced daily, and are multiplying like dice in a gamer's bag. Many believe these games are the natural state of evolution for RPGs: using computers and the Internet as a communications medium and arbiter for decisions, calculations, and statistical functions.

But the great advantages reaped by playing MMORPGs are countered by their limitations. There is no ability to quickly expand or upgrade the system to allow for rules expansions or source material implementations. Such changes instead become a lengthy process of coding and upgrading. The MMORPG is a great addition to the gaming experience but doesn't replace its core game, the tabletop RPG. The core game has always been about expressing your infinite choices and solving problems from new angles.

Our most enthusiastic consumers use available tools and examples to craft their own stories and worlds. Neverwinter Nights, for example, is a fantastic computer game product that gives you the power to DM. It allows you to create your own modules and implement your unique ideas. Set in the Forgotten Realms, meaning any module you create will have a distinctively Realms flavor, this game comes closest to allowing you to replicate your tabletop gaming experience. However, Neverwinter Nights is bound by the power and scope of its software. While still a powerful digital expression of the D&D game, its format limits your creative expression and negates the need to gather and interact with your team in person. Social interaction, we believe, is a core benefit of the tabletop game.

Tabletop RPGs have always encouraged players to use their imaginations and artistic skills. From creating your own campaign world to acting in character, RPGs are always best played using your own mind and feeding off of the energy created by your group. That statement might raise images of a horde of mindflayers, but it's true: A prime benefit of participating in RPGs is the experience you garner from playing with other gamers.

We hope to enrich your gaming experience by producing high-quality traditional RPG products and innovative aids. We believe the current RPG experience can be made more efficient and satisfying by using aids such as Master Tools to help you create and shape your own game. Fans of tabletop RPGs have also toiled long hours to create many useful shareware programs that track items, characters, and encounters. These are just the beginning of the vast accessories we believe will keep RPGs at the tabletop for years to come -- enabling you to forge new worlds with tools that help you map it out, stat out the inhabitants, and keep track of the spells and magic that bring them to life.

Did you catch the previous Business of RPGs article? Learn about the upcoming
live-action Forgotten Realms television series and other exciting projects!

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