Shared Beliefs and RPG Popularity

ahoggyaTons of people play Dungeons and Dragons or some variant of it, but not too many play Empire of the Petal Throne or Skyrealms of Jorune. Well, ok, EPT was hideously complex, had creepy pictures of fat priests and semi-nude ladies that looked like they were from the 1940s, and tended to kill characters very quickly, but Jorune was really imaginative and fun. Nevertheless, neither stuck around, mostly I think because they were too unusual for most people to get into. D&D took a lot of things that were popular at the time and put them all in one package. It mixed Robert E. Howard’s fighters (the rolls to bend bars and lift gates were a big clue there!) with Fritz Leiber’s thieves, Michael Moorcock’s intelligent swords with high egos (Stormbringer), Jack Vance’s magic system, and most importantly, the multiracial setting of Tolkien’s Middle Earth (elves, dwarves, orcs and hobbits). The game was successful because it put what everybody liked into one package. EPT was just M.A.R. Barker’s personal fantasy. D&D was generic fantasy, something that everybody could share because the roots of the idea were so obvious. When introducing players, you just said, ‘Ok, you’ve read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, right? Well, you can be an elf, a dwarf, a human, a hobbit, or even a halfbreed orc. What could be easier?

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About lostdelights

An old gamer flying his freak flag, I've been playing table-top role-playing games since 1978. I've been building my own system (Journeyman) since 1981.
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