For RPGs, storytelling will win

Role-playing games were initially an offshoot of wargames. What made them different was first a question of scale, moving down from military units to single combatants, and then a question of intent, aiming to play out scenarios with more ambiguity than a classic side versus side battle scenario. As soon as the RPG medium began spreading out from its origin, many people other than wargamers saw the promise that these games held. Science fiction and fantasy fans flocked to RPGs, driven by the promise of new stories and new paracosms that could be created with the games. They were the largest influx into the hobby until the Basic D&D Red Box completely opened the floodgates in 1981.

Now, at the beginning of 2023, the influence of the RPG is seen a little differently. Sure, we’re still over here with our books and dice, but over the last fifty years or so RPGs carved a path through interactive media, permanently changing the board game, wargame, and video game hobbies. In the same way, these hobbies, no younger than the RPG at their youngest, have changed the RPG. The world of games, in a broad sense, is different, and that means the RPG fits into that world differently. With the constant growth and innovation happening across the tabletop games industry and across entertainment, it’s clear that the differentiator in RPGs is story.

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