OnRampJam TTRPGs for folks who have never played a TTRPG before

A game jam all about creating games that show case RPGs to folks who have never played and are interested. Short games (10 -30 minutes), really like a demo. What are the parts of an RPG that you want to show off.

I think this is a great concept for a game jam. No matter whether I actually make a submission or not, I’ll definitely be thinking about what my game would look like and I’ll definitely be interested in seeing all the submissions.

Starts in 3 days for 2 weeks (8/19/2019 - 9/2/2019).

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I’ve seen this done - folks running games for their grandparents or for kids for the first time. The funny thing I noticed was the desire to “Play D&D” - the genre expectation of fantasy has been so ingrained with the idea of roleplaying that especially with something rules light I think it’s always a safe bet.

I totally get why that’s frustrating - and I don’t enjoy the most vanilla of Gygaxian fantasy very much, but I feel like the expectations of people coming into TTRPGS having only absorbed the idea from culture at large almost has to follow that path. It’s not that you can’t run a game about spies, or vampires, or cowboys, or whatever else - it’s just that it won’t be seen as a TTRPG by an audience without prior experience - it’ll be make-believe or a complex board-game depending on the accoutrements.

Really I’m not sure how I feel about this, but it’s raises the issue of the ‘intro adventure’ to the nth degree.

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I think it’s mostly a branding issue rather than any cultural failure to expand people’s horizons. DnD was the first one, and it’s still one of the biggest. If I walk into any old Barnes and Noble, I can get DnD, I can get Pathfinder, I can maybe get Shadowrun, but I’m not gonna see Fiasco, or Burning Wheel, or anything not made by a big company that can afford advertising and big publishing deals. The ttrpg environment is in a weird phase right now; it’s been riding high on the tabletop industry exploding in the past few years, but it’s still a niche market. There are thousands of options right now, but the audience (in cultural terms) is still tiny.

I think if you wanted to make a big effort to pull people in who have never even thought about ttrpgs before, you’re going to need something like kitchen-sink fantasy or kitchen-sink adjacent. I think you could easily subvert expectations by selling an adventure fantasy rpg and then make all the rules about character drama instead of fighting, but it would be bold to try selling an “intro to rpgs” that is a different genre. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that, hell, it would be amazing if a new rpg exploded onto the scene as both an intro to rpgs and something distinctly not DnD, because I think changing the public perception of ttrpgs is something that’s going to have to happen externally onto pop culture as oppose to waiting for it to catch up (how many Critical Role level shows plays something other than DnD?)

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I made a submission for this because it’s a thing I was already thinking about.

“Save Summer” is a simple game about teenage lifeguards trying to save their beloved community pool from being closed by an evil health club that wants to turn it into a parking lot. https://wastelandofenchantment.itch.io/save-summer

It’s not the most original game I’ve ever made but I think fulfilling the goals of the jam requires stripping RPGs down to their most basic forms, not pushing design to the bleeding edge.

I did think that it made sense to ditch fantasy (and sci-fi and other common genres) here. I figured a setting more grounded in everyday experiences that everyone had personally had was more approachable.

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The Jam has concluded. It’s fun to look over what people have submitted. I’m very tickled by Per My Last Email, the game of office hi-jinx.

My own submission: Secret Science Sewer Siblings. It’s a game that attempts to mix some features from Powered by the Apocalypse and Lasers & Feelings into a perfect first RPG. Plus, it’s about being a mutated teenage ninja sewer critter rescuing your mentor from the forces of evil.

I’m really happy @yoshi highlighted this game jam here because it’s how I found it. Participating was a fun chance to decide what part of the “on ramp” process I wanted to highlight. I ended up in a similar place as Bohnoff, specifically:

I went and researched most popular TV shows, saw the Office, and decided to make a game around that concept with the hope that getting people who normally wouldn’t play a ttrpg would be intrigued enough to try it. Funnily enough, I mentioned it to some co-workers today and they all wanted to play, so we’re going to try and run a “first rpg” experience tomorrow. Playing an “Office” rpg with coworkers will be…interesting.

My favorite part of the entire jam was reading the submissions. There are 20 total and they are all 1-2 pages, so it’s pretty quick to read the collection. In some ways the collection feels like an art exhibit of its own around the idea of: What Is a TTRPG?

Everyone went in such different directions with the idea, it makes for a great overview.

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This was a ton of fun, my first jam, and the first of my designs ever to be released to people I don’t play with regularly.

My entry, “But What Will We Do About the Monsters?”, took some elements from an old design and melded them with a resolution system clearly stolen from BitD.

I tried to provide assistance with anything that would snag new players and keep things from proceeding.

Any feedback would be welcome.