By now you have probably seen a certain blog post from erstwhile WOTC and TSR employee Steve Winter (if you haven't skip over here). Reading his perceptive remarks about how near-impossible it is to maintain a rpg company with a full staff given the cycle both fans and companies are locked into, I kept nodding my head absently.
And then I hit this comment:
“The game, the one fans love so much that they bought 100,000 copies and clamored for more—odds are high that it was self-contained. That's the way RPGs are packaged. If an RPG isn't complete as-is, then you can't really play it, and fans won't love it and clamor for more.”
I couldn't finish the rest of the post without the same dogged question pushing itself into my brain pan: do we actually need a rpg industry? Do we really need commercially published rules, adventures, settings, supplements at all anymore?
When it comes to new, smaller cutting-edge games, I am sure one could still make the case for “yes” and not sound like your flying on auto-pilot. But for the Game--let's be clear we are talking about the Big Kahuna, D&D, in all it's iterations, clones, and heart-breaking spinoffs—I can't help but feel it is time for it to just wither and die as a (failing) money mill.
I don't frame that as a melancholic set of questions looking backward wistfully, but more of a paradigm shift. There is a dawning thought in my head that DIY rpg hobbyists most likely don't need to shell out a single dollar to have a rich and robustly creative life with this Game.
Sure, there will likely always be the small-scale projects we do want to see succeed and financially support—for me almost always a labor of love of a single or small group of people less than interested in making serious money—but I can't help but think that the activity that is most vital to me is the grassroots community and cultural ferment. It's in the actual play and the achingly-creative (and often freely given) amateur worldbuilding that follows behind it. I read Huge Ruined Pile, From the Sorcerer's Skull, Hereticwerks, Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque or the many other comparable blogs and damn it if I can't help think that the content there rivals and often surpasses many of the best larger commercial projects.
Is it time for the Game's "second soul" to take charge?