Ryan Dancey was the brand manager of Dungeons & Dragon during the 3.0 era. He moved on since then but from time to time posts his thoughts on roleplaying games. I am paraphrasing here, but in recent years he has grown to feel that focus of current RPGs is wrong. That it too much wargaming. And that it needs to be more of a collaborative game where the groups creates a story. That the main issue is that wargaming audience of D&D has gone away and along with other groups and RPGs need to change to adapt to the new market.
It is a nuanced view and one that doesn't preclude many of the traditional mechanics we like. You need to read his posts to get a full picture of what he is talking about.
And he misses the point.
The key to a successful RPG campaign is a great referee. That always been roleplaying game Achilles heel. If the referee doesn't do his job the campaign and group will fall apart. In the 30 years I been playing roleplaying games I seen many solutions to try to "fix" this. There the quest for the perfect set of mechanics. I consider D&D 4e to be the epitomize of this. This the quest to have a simple set of rules Risus and Microlite are good examples of this. There are quest to make RPGs more of collaborative story creation game.
And for 30 years these efforts including Ryan Dancey's miss the point.
In my opinion the fundamental rule of RPGs is this.
The player will describe or act out the actions of his character to the referee who will then proceed to inform the player and/or the group of the results.
This is what sets RPGs as a game apart from other types of games. Change this you may have a fun game but it is not an RPG anymore.
Like any creative endeavor you can't manufacture greatness. Either a person has it or doesn't. But you can teach anybody who has the interest how be a good referee. How to maximize the chances that a campaign is fun and compelling to play.
The leaders of the hobby and industry should focus on this rather taking solace in the quest for the perfect set of mechanics.
This is why I continue to write on sandbox campaigns and how to manage them. It not THE technique but I think it is a useful one as well as being one that I can hopefully teach well. Many of you reading this have developed other useful techniques. By continuing to share and learn we will make roleplaying games a lasting hobby and industry.
TSR Founders Day Memo 1980
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