Tabletop roleplaying games face a multitude of barriers in any attempt to be taken seriously as an art form. The first of these barriers is reaching an audience wide enough that critics outside of the tabletop RPG community will argue their status. What We Can Learn from Video Games: Tabletop Roleplaying Games as Art discussed several approaches to expanding the medium to reach a larger audience. Here are four tabletop RPGs that have expanded the medium
Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game
Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game is set in the fictional worlds of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. Mechanics for the Amber DRPGs conflict resolution involves comparing four attributes –Safety, Strength, Endurance, Warfare–the highest attribute wins. Removing the randomness of dice rolls increased the level or roleplaying in the system, shifting focus away from conflict and towards what leads to those conflicts.
Prince Valiant: the Storytelling Game
Prince Valiant: the Storytelling Game was written by Greg Stafford as a game for novice players. Based upon the Prince Valiant comics and published in 1989 by Chaosium, its simple rules and art design also made it a game that was accessible to younger players. Significantly focused on the narrative aspects of roleplaying, Prince Valiant used only two attributes and a selection of skills that ranged from agilty to alchemy.. Differentiating itself from other narrative games Prince Valiant utilized these attributes and skills for both simple and complex resolution rules.
Dogs in the Vineyard
Dogs in the Vineyard is a narrative RPG that utilizes game mechanics to explore characters beliefs and desires when faced with questions of morality. Written by D Vincent Baker, the award-winning RPG places characters in an imagined frontier setting based (loosely) on the early years the LDS Church in the west. Mechanics for town creation helped create moral frameworks for characters to interact with, inserting a morality into the game that set the system apart.
Dread is a horror RPG that uses a simple mechanic that, when one considers the game’s theme, is exceedingly elegant. Winner of the 2006 Ennie Award for Innovation it is sometimes referred to as “the Jenga RPG.” Dread requires players to pull blocks from a Jenga tower as a form of action resolution. Mirroring the progression of horror films, the fear of players increases as the game progresses, eventially leading to the characters deaths.
These series of posts will discuss tabletop roleplaying games as a medium for artistic expression. The first article in the series can be found here: Why Roleplaying Games “Don’t Get No Respect” The second article in this series can be found here: What We Can Learn from Video Games: Tabletop Roleplaying Games as Art.