Tabletop Roleplaying Game Expectations in 2021
The year winds to a close and reflecting on time passed naturally comes to mind. Later this week you’ll see Nerdarchists Dave and Ted’s thoughts on 2020 and Nerdarchy’s highlights from the year. I’m also looking ahead to 2021. For a lifelong nerd and now full time nerdy content director focused on tabletop roleplaying games I spend a lot of time thinking about the hobby professionally and personally. When I look ahead to the future of the TTRPG industry what I see is tinted with shades of what I hope emerges along with what I can assume is a reasonably informed view. So let’s get into it.
More digital tools and resources for TTRPG players
I’m not going to bury the lead here and instead launch with what I expectantly hope is to No. 1 development for TTRPGs in 2021. I want more digital resources. Not PDF versions of print products. Not e-reader friendly material. Just straight up content designed specifically with digital use in mind.
I’ll point to D&D Beyond as a major step forward for my thinking. When the unequivocally premier digital toolset for any TTRPG — in this case fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons — first announced the whole Nerdarchy crew was all about it and this has only increased in the last few years. We’re extremely proud to count them among our sponsors and there’s no doubt we use and interact with DDB more than any other TTRPG resource including the physical 5E D&D books themselves. It’s not even close.
And I want more!
The folks at Fandom behind DDB not only provide the best digital tools in the biz for any TTRPG at the moment they also acquired their own game in the form of Cortex Prime. I’ve been super excited about this game for some time because of a few factors. For starters Cortex Prime is the generic RPG system to end all generic RPG systems in the sense the game prompts players to create and customize their own games using the components provided in the rules.
Let me state this again. When you play Cortex Prime you create your own unique game tailored to the experience your group seeks to achieve. This blows my mind.
Now factor in a couple of other things like the DDB developers under the same umbrella and the fact it’s owned by Fandom and I expect Cortex Prime to emerge as a powerhouse in the TTRPG industry. In case you’re not familiar Fandom is the company behind all those wikis you wind up on from Wookiepedia to pretty much any other intellectual property you can think of. Imagine all those millions of IP fans for whatever visiting their favorite wiki and seeing a banner indicating they can not only consume content about their favorite shows, movies, books or whatever but now also create and play their own unique RPG evoking the very thing they enjoy the most. This is a stunningly phenomenal way for a TTRPG to reach new customers who don’t already play funny shaped dice games.
At the time of this writing Cortex Prime’s digital offerings consist basically of the core rules. I poked around the site quite a bit and if I’m honest I do not see much more than this, which is disappointing. I trust the development team to wow me with digital tools at some point in the future but frankly it was underwhelming to see so little right now. As far as I can tell there isn’t even a digital character file yet. To be fair my expectations a few months ago were a website launch will completely integrated digital tools. As it stands I’m holding off until there’s robust development in this area. I 100% strongly desire to engage with this game but I want to see tools to let me drop mechanical modules into a digital bucket with some sort of walkthrough interface to create my own unique games.
Broad strokes TTRPG desires
Basically what I want — and expect to develop in the TTRPG industry — are digital first games and products. Traditionally TTRPGs begin life as print products and obviously as technology developed there’s digital support like PDFs, apps, software and so forth to make players’ lives easier. I’m looking forward to a true game changer though.
Give me a game designed digitally first. I want a rulebook created with digital users in mind from the get go. Since I’m sharing my own personal tastes let’s go a step further and make this hypothetical game optimized for tablet use. To me this translates into a few particular features:
- Landscape Layout. My Kindle Fire 10 sits nicely in it’s case propped up in landscape orientation. Design a rulebook with this in mind. Taking it even further make sure each screen is a complete piece of content. I don’t care if it’s character creation guidelines, rules, creature statistics or an adventure. Keep pertinent information on single pages.
- Dynamic. Bookmarks, hyperlinks and internal links ought to be integrated and operate smoothly. Make them open in new tabs so I don’t lose my place. When future products release make them seamlessly coordinate with the content I’ve already got.
- Supportive. Develop and include content management tools or partner with someone who can provide them for the game. Include integrated areas where users can enter their own data including images. Provide easy to use tools for creating tooltips and links to game content. Make content users can drag and drop into personalized buckets.
- Virtual Space. It’s my pie in the sky scenario so let’s give this theoretically ideal TTRPG it’s own integrated conferencing application like Zoom, too. If you’re into terrain and tokens a virtual tabletop would fit here as well but personally I don’t care about any of that stuff and in fact at this point it takes away from games for me. So virtual meeting application: yes. VTT: no. It’s my fantasy trip!
Essentially what I most desire is a fully digital game system with everything I need to run and play games accessible smoothly from my tablet. I don’t want to cobble together my own data management through handwritten notes, Google docs and the game content itself. There’s tons of awesome resources out there now like Campfire Technologies and the like and that’s great. I’m lazy so give me a robust and comprehensive TTRPG with all the bells and whistles in the same place.
It’s worth noting one of the new games of 2020 — Burn Bryte by James Introcaso — is a big step in this direction. The game is designed with Roll20 integration, which you can read more about here. Burn Bryte looks pretty close to what I’m looking for and who knows, with James soon to begin full time work as line developer for MCDM perhaps they’ll develop a new game checking all the boxes for me.
Other TTRPG expectations and predictions for 2021
Other than the amazing digital resources I’ve described, which I greatly hope emerge in 2021, I don’t have much prognosticating to share. There’s new content for existing games as well as whole new games ahead just like always.
I suspect the TTRPG hobby’s growth will continue. People from every walk of life discover these games and awesome experiences all the time. This is terrific! More people to play with, more people to run games and more people to find a new outlet for their creativity are all wonderful things.
On the homefront here at Nerdarchy we’ll follow the trend of growth as our own company continues moving forward. We’ve got a lot of irons in lots of fires and they all continuously trend upwards. I wouldn’t mind seeing the rate of growth increase but nevertheless there is forward movement and this is good. After we deliver every last thing from Out of the Box we’ll hit the ground running for a new Kickstarter. We’ve got two in the pipeline right now but we want to make sure our very first one is completely fulfilled first.
Heading into 2021 I expect to play a lot more games. We plan to expand our Tuesday night team games with other live play sessions on a regular basis specifically to spotlight new games, indie games or simply games we haven’t played yet but want to try. A lot of changes took place in 2020 and I’m quite proud of them.
- Nerdarchy the Newsletter experienced tremendous growth. Our weekly missive got a fresh new look at more streamlined content delivered right to your inbox each week. You also get $9.99 in store credit and a free gift when you sign up.
- Nerdarchy the Patreon hovered around the same number of supporters all year. There was a bump in growth early in 2020 and it pretty much stayed the same. But we revised the support levels, revamped our monthly rewards and added several new rewards plus new ways to engage the community. I’d certainly love to see this grow more in 2021 so let me just point you over here.
- Nerdarchy Live became our second YouTube channel! We put all our longform and live video content there including our live game plays and Live Chat Revivified.
- I’m wrapping up my first full year as Nerdarchy Content Director. Dreams do come true! I get to help shape and steer content development for a couple of nerds who I volunteered to write a couple of website posts for several years ago. Look at me now — a professional nerd. I will do my very best to provide excellent, useful content for RPG players and help the company I love grow to untold heights. I’m in it for the gold watch y’all.
What sorts of developments to you expect to see for the TTRPG industry in 2021? Did I win you over with my passionate desire for a digital first game? Share your thoughts and expectations in the comments below and of course as always stay nerdy!