Rather late here is the 3rd day of #RPGaDay with the question: how do you find out about new RPGs?
I don’t have a central hub for information about new RPGs. I’ve tried to be more aware of the ENnies these last couple of years (I was going to try and read and review as many of the ENnie nominees as I had access to this year but it didn’t work out like that), I keep an eye on cool RPG Kickstarters, my nerd friends know the kind of stuff I like and point me in the right direction, and I am on several G+ groups for systems I enjoy. The biggest access point for new and indie RPGs has been Bundle of Holding, as it has brought my attention to so many games I never would have heard of otherwise. I should probably check news sites like EN World for RPG news more regularly, but they are often basic news bulletins with little analysis, and focus on a lot of lines I have no context for or interest in. Even the Chronicles of Darkness often gets short shrift. I also pick up Tabletop Gaming when I remember to – they’ve only recently moved into the world of RPGs as they were originally more board games and wargames, but they’re the closest to a mainstream publication that is system-neutral right now.
Coverage and Accessibility
When I went to Dragonmeet in 2016, I attended a panel on indie RPGs which included an excellent newsletter analysing the trends in the indie RPG scene, crunching some numbers on Kickstarters and highlighting releases for the next year. This is exactly the kind of thing I want to see, but even more than this, I would like to see more system-neutral and movement-neutral (as far as possible) coverage of RPGs. People from any one school of thought in RPGs tend to write and talk about their area with authority, but also assume that listeners will have the same focused interest and level of knowledge.
For instance, coverage of a new supplement for a line from a major publisher tends to assume familiarity with the context – a supplement for Vampire: The Masquerade might assume you understand the basic concept of vampire (beyond “you play a vampire”) and the lengthy and complicated publishing history of the World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness. At the other extreme, the indie games community risks becoming ever more obscure, glibly referencing games unfamiliar to people who are not deeply embedded in the community. At the indie games Dragonmeet panel, there was some gentle ribbing of one of the panellists for using the example of a game that wasn’t even published yet and existed on someone’s Google Drive – it was declared the most indie thing ever.
But can anyone ever be system neutral, or movement neutral? I consider myself poised between mainstream and indie gaming, with a tendency towards story games but a healthy respect for robust and adaptable gameplay mechanics, so I can cover a lot of ideological ground there, but even so, I am not personally into the Old School Revival as a movement because I would rather innovate with new methods of narrative negotiation than try to reinvigorate nostalgic properties. For similar reasons, I am not a fan of GURPs, Classic World of Darkness or Call of Cthulhu’s system.
I would love it if there was a website or a magazine that provided coverage of all of the hobby, the weird obscure Kickstarters and the big bold releases from the major writers and publishers, and the latest supplements for the epic lines from Wizards of the Coast, Pelgrane Press, Cubicle 7 and John Wick Presents. With an understanding of how to make that coverage accessible, and an acknowledgement that our small corner of this hobby isn’t going to be everyone else’s preference. EN World is getting closer, but is still pitched as D&D and Pathfinder first and foremost – but it also doing RPGaDay this year. They’ve even recently opened up to external submissions of content, though admittedly I found their wordcount limits a little short for more in-depth coverage. But it’s still progress, and has definitely shown a diversifying of the systems they comment on.
After all, by providing a wider range of coverage, we can highlight lesser known independent games, shine lights into the niches of our hobby that are often neglected, fondly remember the old systems that have gone out of print and provide a basis for discussion and debate. One of the strengths of the RPG community is that creators are often active in inviting and responding to fan questions, and that someone, no matter their background, can self-publish an RPG that becomes popular enough to be a significant work in the development of the form. Let’s make sure it stays that way.