Erik Tenkar (of Tenkar’s Tavern) and Louis Porter Jr both recently shared their opinions on Free RPG Day. While many people are happy that the event exists and that free adventures are made available to Tabletop Roleplaying Game gamers, it is starting to become evident that the goal of the day is not being achieved. The original goal of the day was to open the Tabletop Roleplaying Games hobby to new players, what Free RPG Day has arguably become is a “thank you” to existing Tabletop Roleplaying Game players.
Erik’s article on the subject was a lament of the situation and a call out to the Tenkar’s Tavern community for fix ideas. It prompted me to think about what would actually grow our hobby through Free RPG Day. Here are the three steps that I think would lead to Free RPG Day actually achieving the goal it was made to achieve – bringing in new Tabletop Roleplaying Game players.
- Step 1 – Build a new Free Tabletop Roleplaying Games that will be given to new players digitally one month prior to Free RPG Day. This is important because if the name of the event is Free RPG Day, then a Free RPG should actually be delivered for people on or before that day. One of the sharp edges of Free RPG Day has been going to the Friendly Local Gaming Store and seeing what is put out on the table and by and large seeing a lot of Free RPG Adventures, not Free RPGs. This Free Tabletop Roleplaying Game that will be provided to new players should meet the following criteria; 50 to 150 pages, full color every page, great art + great rules + great design + great writing.
- Step 2 – Ensure that the new Free Tabletop Roleplaying Game that is given to new players is actually accessible to new players. This means that the new Free Tabletop Roleplaying Game needs to be built around delivering a campaign for players that is three, five or seven sessions maximum. No more than seven sessions. Each of those sessions that the new Free Tabletop Roleplaying Game is built to play should be designed from the gate to be 90 to 120 minutes long. What I am saying is the new Free Tabletop Roleplaying Game must kill the old habits of most Tabletop Roleplaying Games – Habit 1 = Campaigns run for an unspecified number of sessions and Habit 2 = Each session is 4 to 6 hours long. Campaigns that run for an unspecified number of sessions with sessions that are 4 to 6 hours long is what is killing our hobby. Really think about what introducing a new player to Tabletop Roleplaying Games really means. It means saying, “Hey, would you like to play a game with me that you will commit to now, that has no specified ending and every time we do play that game it will take 4 to 6 hours to do it”. That is a HUGE ask, understandably scary to new players. Few other hobbies ask this much of participants. Is is it any wonder our hobby struggles to bring in new players? These old habits of our hobby need to die or our hobby will die.
- Step 3 – Existing players should latch onto the the new Free Tabletop Roleplaying Game that is given to new players one month prior to Free RPG Day and be prepared to start a three session campaign with 2 to 4 new players, with the first session being on Free RPG Day. These sessions should happen in 1) a Friendly Local Game Store or 2) existing players’ homes or 3) community centers or 4) church gymnasiums or 5) online Google Hangouts or 6) local libraries or 7) any other free public space that a two hour, 5 person table activity will fit. The existing players will then need to ensure that they have a space for the remaining two session in the story arc. (This is because one shots are inherently bad examples of what happens in an actual Tabletop Roleplaying Games campaign.)
Granted, these three steps are daunting. No one person and no one company could achieve this. But the Tabletop Roleplaying Games community (players, artists, writers, designers, enthusiasts, industry companies and associated companies) working together could absolutely could achieve this for 2017 or 2018.