RPGaDay2018 Day 8: How can we get more people playing?

I wrote an article about this for this month’s Fanzine at the weekend. This month’s fanzine is all about adventure writing and I was discussing three approaches.

The first is what I am dabbling with at the moment. Having every encounter multi statted for low, medium, high and very high level groups. That is what we did with the city of forgotten heroes. I also like relative encounters so the number encountered is based upon the number of heroes.

The second option is the traditional way of writing adventures of writing to a specific level and number of heroes. If one were to write a series of adventures this can work. If your party is not the right level right now then eventually they will reach the right level or if they are too high then one day you will start a new campaign.

The third way that I was discussing is writing for a fixed level, I picked 7th level as it gives a nice balance between competent PCs yet not too powerful. Every adventure is written for 7th level but it also comes with a selection of pregen characters.

The reasons I am suggesting this is because RM is incredibly hard to write for. There are just too many optional rules the shift the power level up or down that a stock NPC will either be totally out classed or will wipe the floor with the party. If each GM is having to rework the adventure anyway to make it work with their house rules then they are just as well off with a well fleshed out adventure concept as they are with a statted adventure. On the other hand if you had a collection of adventures with pregen characters any GM could run an introductory adventure for new players off the cuff. We all know that RM is really easy to play but using RAW character creation is a real chore. So starting everyone off with pregens means that new players get a good sense of what a rounded character looks like, what skills are useful and how stats and skills interact. This means that you end up with well informed new players when it does come to their turn to make characters.

Another nice thing about packaging pregen characters with adventures is that you get suitable PCs for the adventure. Think of a pirate based adventure and a normal PC group and half the party will have drowned in their platemail before the adventure is half way through. If the next adventure is all camels and desert ruins then knights and lances are still not really suitable.

I would like to see packaged adventures with both pregen characters, say eight or ten potential PCs along with a suitable adventure. This overcomes another ‘new player problem’. If you are not used to RM then rushing into combat and not parrying is a great way to end up dead. If there are spare pregens to hand then the unfortunate player can be reintroduced quickly and easily without having to go though the whole char gen process.

So my answer is that RM needs a culture of bundling pregen characters with EVERY adventure. It makes it easy to introduce new players, it sidesteps the house rule problems and it is justt as functional for experienced GMs as a fully statted adventure.

13 Replies to “RPGaDay2018 Day 8: How can we get more people playing?”

  1. I agree completely!

    Another benefit of the pregens is that it teaches players what some of the skills do — by that I mean, skills that they otherwise would not have taken are now there for use on their sheet, and they will naturally find out how it works. The great range of skills RM has is a big advantage it has over other systems, but players don’t always appreciate that when they just buy weapons, body development, perception, and spells.

      1. Peter, I do as well. He’s been gaming forever but whom I would consider still new to RM. We just had the party level up from Level 1 to Level 2 and he spent all his points on the core skills he currently had and picked up no new skills at all. HIs reasoning was sound for the type of PC he had. He’s a front line tank made out of stone with diamond paint. At level 2 he felt he should be focusing on what he is supposed to be good at. As he grows older, he’ll pick up the little things here and there to start rounding himself out. People don’t start to become well rounded until they’re older anyway. Kudos to him for playing true to the PC archetype.

  2. I think any complex game with multiple official options, never mind third party ones, is really difficult to write an adventure for. It doesn’t take much to unbalance a module once optional rules start coming in to play. I have no idea how a Pathfinder adventure path would handle the vast amount of optional material available. They do include pre-gens, which I agree is a good idea.

    1. I think it would be good to make pregens the norm for RMU. There is no standard so there are no bad habits yet for the new system.

  3. How do we get more players playing? I think we as gamers from way-back-when, are the pioneers of gaming. Way-back-when it had a tainted reputation with the nerds in the basement, the cult status, players killing themselves because their PC died… all those bad stories, the stigma that followed gaming around, is starting to fade away. I think if we, the pioneers, step out of our lives and experiences and look at gaming with today’s society and generation, we can see there is a change in how society views gaming and gamers. I think we can find ways to use the tools that are now at our disposal and bring more players into gaming.

    1) An outsider would see me, an adult, a Lt. in the fire dept., family man, running gaming sessions for his children, having a fun family game night, bonding over a common interest, creating family time. As the pioneers, it was just kids playing these games because their parents had never heard of D&D or RPGs. That was the start of it all.

    2) Gaming consoles and video games have brought the adventure, medieval theme, espionage, classic war, futuristic wars, strange and alien races, etc. into the mainstream. Having the ability to play those themes with a storyline bound only by a GM’s imagination is appealing. Connecting online with video games and consoles that hit millions of people every second of every day gives us a common ground: The love of gaming and of interacting with other people. Nearly every game that is out now has an online-multiplayer component and a very easy jumping off point. “Hey this slay-the-dragon game is great. Have you ever done the RPG called Rolemaster?”

    3) The younger-middle-aged people getting together to bond over game night. I think of the movie Game Night which I watched last month. It’s a bigger thing than I thought. I thought only I did game night with adult friends once in a while. But it seems like it’s a real “thing.” People getting together to do something OTHER than online gaming. People who don’t want to go out bowling and movies are too expensive (I took two of my kids to the movies and missed the matinee. It cost me nearly $75 with tickets, 3 drinks, 1 medium popcorn!!!)

    4) Internet! Yes, internet! Technology! Look at how easy it is to see what is available. Look at those of us who use tech to run PBP and online sessions for our games. One of my friends uses Skype to connect with people from all over to run the games. Click on Amazon and look up roleplaying games. RPGNow is amazing. The volume of what is available it tremendous and there is an appeal to people looking for something new or…. looking for the one game that fills the desire to be a zombie hinter, vampire, vampire hunter, wizard, cold war spy, cartoon character, Han Solo, you name it, there is a game for it. And it is so accessible and affordable. I love RPGNow. I have to force myself to stay away from it because I keep hitting PayPal for all these $1 – $5 charges. My wife is starting to question my self-control.

    1. Game night is definitely a ‘thing’ with millenials.

      With my other ‘reviewer’ blogging hat on I can tell you that Rolemaster is most definitely ‘retro’ in its style and that could be used as a plus in its marketing. Springboarding off of the success of TV series like Stranger Things are games like Tales from the Loop which are constructed around the idea of playing an adolescent and the presumption is that the characters will run away from the fearsome foe, so much so that there are no combat rules as we would understand them.


      It also has the most awesome trailer! https://youtu.be/Gn6ifkbE_WI

    2. I have gone totally berserk with PDFs (and other digital content). According to my RPGNow library, I have 2,482 entries (sure, there are quite a few free and PWYW supplements and more than a few cheap bundles) plus probably a least another 500 on the Open Gaming Store (more bundles) and maybe a couple of dozen from Paizo.

      On the plus side, many of these are business expenses 🙂 There are advantages to publishing stuff!

        1. I’ve ended up buying huge (several hundred PDFs) limited time bundles for less than $30 on more than one occasion. I just can’t see to turn those down!

          1. I tend to pick them up on a ‘need basis’. When I was thinking of starting the fanzine I downloaded a range of other fanzines to see what was the current norm.

            I quite like to download quickstart versions of games as I think you can get a good feel for how a game plays from what the publisher wants you to see as your first impression.

            1. Theoretically, mine is a “need” basis. I like seeing what other publishers and authors are doing, plus if there’s a potential to publish for the system I like taking a look at it as well.

              One thing I like about the quickstarts is that they tend to be free! An easy way to get a look at a system.

              That reminds me, I should pick up the Expanse quickstart.

              1. I have been picking up public playtest documents recently. It gives a cool insight into how other companies get feedback on new versions of games and get their games play tested. The Eclipse Phase second edition is the best play test I ever saw.

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