Lack of community
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 April 2013, 3:34 am
My blog is in its 10th year, which as an unpaid effort is only sustainable by me writing about whatever interests me, and putting any potential audience second. Nevertheless I am aware of my readers, the feedback they give in comments and mails, and the blogosphere community discussions that occasionally evolve. If I write about MMORPGs that is. Whenever I write about pen & paper roleplaying, the echo is very notably weaker. There is less of a community for pen & paper games.

One reason for that is that there are less people interested in pen & paper games. Nobody knows the exact number, as you can play a pen & paper RPG with a photocopy of a book from 10 years ago, and not everybody at the table needs to actually buy anything. Estimates of the number of people playing D&D range from 5 million to 20 million. But even if you believe the higher number, you need to consider that on average people play a pen & paper RPG much less often than a MMORPG. You'd expect a MMORPG player to play his favorite game most days of the week, while an average pen & paper campaign happens maybe once per week.

A second factor is that the people who are interested in pen & paper RPGs tend to be more splintered into sub-groups than players of MMORPGs. There is more discussion between lets say somebody playing WoW and somebody playing EVE than there is discussion between somebody playing D&D 3.5 and somebody playing D&D 4th edition. And that is just the edition wars of Dungeons & Dragons, the splintering gets worse when you consider all the other pen & paper RPG systems out there. There is very little search for common denominators, and very much "if you play something else, you are doing it wrong" attitude, even more so than for computer games. Even the biggest community sites like or EN World have relatively few activity compared to or any official forum for a single game.

But the ultimate reason for the lack of community is that there is no common experience. Two groups of players playing the same adventure with the same set of rules will end up having two very different experiences. On the one side that is the force of pen & paper roleplaying, the infinite variety and freedom. The most linear pen & paper adventure has more freedom than the most sandboxy MMORPG. On the other side that is a weakness, because without a common experience there is not much of a community. The community in a pen & paper game is limited to the people sitting around the table, who *do* have a common experience of the game. But anything you can write about that is only of very limited relevance to anybody who wasn't there.

That might be bad for blogging, but the more artisanal game experience is in many ways superior to the mass-market experience of a MMORPG. It is a lot easier to tailor-make a game for a group of around 6 people than it is for hundreds of thousands, or even millions of players. A lot of the things that are constantly being decried as lacking in MMORPGs are very much present in pen & paper games. While the wider community might be lacking, the smaller community of the game table is a lot tighter. Blogging about my game table is more of an archive, a way to preserve a journal, than a publication of common interest.
Tobold's Blog

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