Tabletop MMORPG

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Tabletop MMORPG

Postby DJGamer » 17 Nov 2011, 20:32

I often have really big and ambitious ideas that occur to me, and this is one of them. Please note that I'm using the term "tabletop" to refer to games also often reference to as "pen and paper RPGs", for instance Dungeons and Dragons. I think the thing that initially inspired this idea was listening to some of TheSpoonyOne's "Counter Monkey" stories.


One of the biggest challenges for "tabletop" RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons is being able to get a group of people to regularly come together and play. Sometimes it’s a matter of people's schedules not lining up the right way and sometimes it’s a matter of travel distance, or some combination of both factors. With the internet a new way of playing these kinds of games has become available and special tools for managing online campaigns have even become available. Now all you need to do is find a group of people with a fair amount of free time from around the world (who speak the same language, obviously) and you can play a tabletop RPG online without much difficulty.

Now granted my knowledge and experience with these kinds of RPGs is somewhat limited. For a brief time in high school I'd joined an RPG club and bought the Player's and DM's Handbooks for D&D 3E and the sourcebook for ShadowRun 3E (which we never played, though I got a fair amount of enjoyment out of just reading about the setting). I still have those books but I've never really tried to get back into the scene, though I still have a slight interest in it.

So since I don't keep up with "the scene", I really have no idea whether this sort of thing may be already going on somewhere already but I thought I'd share my ideas for it anyway. The idea is to construct a tabletop RPG from the ground up with online play in mind from the beginning. This means creating an application that will assist both GMs and players, keeping track of all the stats, calculating dice rolls (with an option to use actual dice if you prefer) and providing some basic visual representations of dungeons, towns and the like. The online component would also include a community-driven website where you can look for other players or GMs and store your character sheets, campaigns and other important information. Additionally the setting of the game itself can be guided to some extent by the community-allowing for the formation of player-run guilds and the like, as well as the potential to actually do some things that will have a radical impact.

The players' characters would be stored online and will be updated live during playthroughs if the application is being used. It can also be updated after a playthrough if the group decides not to use the software or doesn't have a computer with internet access available at the time. Updating their characters accurately is done on a sort of honor system but the GM always has the option to double-check.

There's also a potential for "events" that occur at certain points, some of which would build up to a larger event involving nearly the entire community. This could prove difficult to organize but it could be split across multiple days with different groups of players signing up for each day. At the end of the event, all the major things would be compiled in some way to create a guide to what "actually happened" in-universe. The event itself would be set up in such a way that most players' actions won’t need to be "retconned" for the sake of continuity but it’s always a possibility and that would be established from the offset.

The game could also be played as easily offline or as a combination. For example a fair number of players are able to attend the game at an actual location but a few are not but are still able to play online (perhaps their work schedule doesn't given them enough time to get there or perhaps they live too far away period). All the GM needs is a computer (preferably a laptop for obvious reasons) with the software on it and it will allow the online players to play along with the offline ones. The software can also be used to keep track of an entirely offline playthrough, just to input the final results of that playthrough or the online component can even be ignored altogether in favor of an entirely independent campaign.

A "substitution" feature could also be implemented for player's that can't attend a particular play session. The ways of handling this would be built-in to the game's rules more-or-less though of course they'd be mainly suggestions. Basically, the player can either have a friend temporarily take over their character or they can put their character under the control of the GM, which may be more ideal if the player and GM can speak with each other in advance.

The way this would work is that the GM would give a basic walkthrough of the quest and the possible outcomes-this works better if the group has been playing together for a while and is familiar with each other’s playing styles obviously. The player tells the GM what their character would do in each possible scenario and the GM takes notes (ideally no dice rolls should be made until the actual playthrough). There is a chance that this player will tell one or more of the other players about the scenario, but it should be made clear that this is not allowed and that there will be consequences if the GM suspects anything. The player is basically handing full control of their character over to the GM for the playthrough, and though they are supposed to "stick to the script", following the notes they've taken and only improvising when an unforeseen scenario comes up, they can also deviate if they think that player has cheated-though ideally the GM would present the "consequence" in a more realistic fashion. Basically it's a matter of trust on both sides-the player trusts the GM to handle their character properly and the GM trusts the player not to reveal anything to the other players. Having a friend temporarily take over your character would be another option, however you'd have much less direct control obviously. You'd also need to REALLY trust them.

I haven't actually been able to get into MMOs that much, mostly due to the subscription fees and/or microtransaction systems. Ideally, an online tabletop RPG would be entirely free-to-play once you purchase the game (the logic being that if this were a traditional tabletop RPG you'd be able to do the same). There might be extra subscription based service such as for instance regular pre-set quests for GMs. The only element of the application that might contain 3D graphics may be a character generator (though it could as easily be based on 2D elements).

The overall concept is to take the classic tabletop RPG experience and expand it into a larger universe that can involve multiple groups of players all interacting with each other in the same basic setting. It would allow for a greater level of interactivity than is available in a regular MMO as those are limited by needing to design, animate and program the things the player is able to do. While some design and programing would be involved in this as well the limits are much closer to the imagination because the game itself is powered by the imaginations of the players and GMs. The very tricky part would be keeping track of everything, but for the most part individual campaigns would be handled by themselves and the MMO component would be focused primarily on guilds and major events.

I think there may be some other ideas I've had and I'll probably post them as I think about them.

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Re: Tabletop MMORPG

Postby dirnae » 18 Nov 2011, 12:54

Haven't read it all yet, but IIRC this is initially what Neverwinter Nights sought to do, bring tabletop-ish RPGs to a digital format. Though I assume you're suggesting something that stays truer to the format.
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Re: Tabletop MMORPG

Postby Worsas » 18 Nov 2011, 13:43

Funny, I wanted to start such a topic myself over at our Skyrim-forums.

I believe this is referring to a text-based rpg played in a group led by a gamemaster, similar to a forum-rpg but with inbuilt-mechanisms to automatize such things as combat and dice-rolls deciding the outcome of actions. And a gamemaster who prepares content for the others.

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Re: Tabletop MMORPG

Postby Worsas » 19 Nov 2011, 12:45

At home we have been pursuing a particular kind of table-top-rpg mostly based only on imagination, improvisation and a sound knowledge of the gameworld.

I (The Gamemaster) brainstorm and take basic notes about possible events, people, places etc. that might show up in the course of the today playthrough.

The game starts. I describe the initial situation (you wake up, you are standing in front of...., you are sitting together at...) and give a more or less thorough description of the environment which is mostly based on the notes I made in advance and the way I imagine the place at that very moment.

And then the players are free to do whatever they want and whatever results is 95% result of imagination, the first thing that comes to my mind. But I always also aim to incorporate things planned beforehand and make the players run into the events I planned for them.

I have to say that the players often make decisions at some point that turn the whole plot upside down and force me to change plans. If for example the event I developed assumes that the group stays in the town they currently are in another night but they suddenly decide to make their way north, the event cannot happen.

For that reason, I never make overly detailled plans. I merely gather ideas and think of a way to establish an overall-plot beyond the arbitrary game going on and a few more sophisticated things that are hard to improvise within the game but can be strewn in in between.

From what I can tell we had a great time with this mode of playing.

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