Anyone who's been paying attention to the RPG landscape over the past few years has no doubt noticed the trend for games to be easier to learn, and faster to play. I'd personally say this began with the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons' 5th Edition, but it's expanded with games like Fate, Apocalypse World (and the whole Powered By The Apocalypse stable), and even the horror one-shot system Dread all rising to prominence. Old School Roleplaying (OSR) games have also jumped back into popularity, and it seems every time I turn around there's a new game out there that bills itself as fast to play, easy to learn, and friendly to new and experienced roleplayers alike.
|Not to worry folks, minimal moving parts here!|
There are upsides to this trend, certainly. There are more people playing RPGs than perhaps at any other time in history. People who might feel overwhelmed by complicated games, or who don't have the time to dedicate to learning a complex system, can still get out some dice and play with their friends without doing a three-week correspondence course. It also means that more games are coming out, because with fewer mechanics to balance these games are a lot easier to produce.
Something this trend isn't good for, though, is me. Not just personally, but professionally.
It's Not Easy Rolling With The Market
Anyone who's been on this blog for a while knows that Pathfinder Classic is my game of choice, and the big reason for that is because the game has so many options for customization that you can support practically any idea. It's why I have nearly 58 entries on my Character Conversions page with builds for characters ranging from Gregor Clegane, to Killer Croc, to Captain America.
Part of that, as I've talked about in posts like Understanding The Difference Between Story Freedom and Mechanical Freedom, is that I like games that actually support the story I'm trying to tell with unique mechanics that are suited to my character and story. The difference between my just saying my 8-foot-tall human fighter with a maxed-out Strength score is descended from giants, and having an ability on my sheet that expressly states my giant blood means I qualify as a giant for the purposes of feats, magic items, spell effects, etc.
The other part, though, extends beyond what I personally like to play at my tables. Because while I love writing gaming guides, build recommendations, and going in-depth on mechanics, nobody needs a safari guide to walk across the manicured lawn of the local park.
|This is really more my environment.|
As an example, DND 5th Edition is a wildly more popular system right now than Pathfinder, but it doesn't really have a lot of mechanical freedom for your character. It's easier to play, but it has the hard structure you expect from an MMO that severely limits your options and customization. I took a good faith stab writing a 5th Edition character conversion guide for John Wick, but the response was... well, mixed, shall we say?
This isn't just about DND, though. As more and more gamers embrace games where the rules are broad, general, and simple, there's just less for me to work with when it comes to offering unique combinations. You can't make bricks without clay, and while I can talk about story, pacing, habits, etc., game mechanics have been the most consistently popular pieces I've put out. Some of them still have staying power... but it's less and less as the days go on. When you add in the fact that rules-light games take smaller teams to design, and they're more often done in-house, that means there's also a lot less work for freelancers like me.
That's why readers are much more likely to see flavor guides and supplements from me, like 100 NPCs You Might Meet at The Tavern, or the almost as popular 100 Merchants to Encounter. Because no matter how simple a game's rules are, random storefronts, taverns, characters, etc. to act as fill-ins will still sell even while mechanics-focused pieces will fall by the wayside.
Sales Drives My Pen
I'm talking about this on Monday because I've had several readers ask why I'm not doing more mechanics-focused projects or posts the way I used to. Whether it's expanding my conversion guides, or writing more modules like False Valor, The Curse of Sapphire Lake, or The Ghosts of Sorrow Marsh there's been a noted drop in my crunchier content.
At the end of the day, it's about return on the investment in energy that I put into my work. Because I would absolutely love to work on a big, crunchy module or campaign where I can put my knowledge to use... but at least at time of writing, those are the kinds of projects that get minimal hits and sales.
So if you see something I make that you really like, something that you want to see more of, please help boost the signal on it! Get a copy if you can, and share the link if you can't. Leave reviews, tell your friends, and spread the word. Because if creating more of that thing you like is going to put tacos on my plate and keep my landlord off my back, I promise you that is exactly the sort of thing I'm going to keep writing.
Also, for those who don't know, you can help support me and my efforts over on The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. That helps you send word directly to me, and every patron is much appreciated!
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That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. To stay on top of all my content and releases, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of the page!
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