Monday, June 25, 2018

The State of Fantasy RPGs, Part V--Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest

I mentioned in the last post that I played in a two hour Pathfinder 2nd Edition (hereafter, "P2") playtest at Origins, and I wanted to give my thoughts.  But first, I should say that I am, at best, a casual fan and player of Pathfinder 1st edition.  I have played Pathfinder probably a half-a-dozen total times, entirely in the context of Pathfinder Society.  I have never GMed Pathfinder.  I have also never played or GMed D&D 3.5, which is the direct predecessor of Pathfinder.  I recite all of this to say that I really have no emotional commitment to Pathfinder 1st Edition, and so I am approaching P2 mostly as its own game on its own terms.  Similarly, if you are looking for a deep dive into the Golarion lore consequences of making Goblins a core Ancestry (i.e. The Artist Formerly Known as "Race"), then I'm not your guy.

Second, I want to give a shout out to Luke Woods.  He's a local Pathfinder Society GM who happened to be the guy who ran the demo for us (Paizo, as usual, had a big operation, and it was a mix of locals, Society GMs from other places, and Paizo employees).  Because he's a local, I've played in a couple of games he has run, and he's an excellent GM and seems like an excellent dude.  He also spent some time after the game chatting with us about his thoughts on P2 with the perspective of running six two-hour demos in a day.  Whatever you think of organized play, the GMs who run games in those settings put in a ton of hard work in tough GMing conditions and deserve to be cheered, especially the good ones.  So, props to him.

Third, I'm going to focus on overall impressions as opposed to listing every mechanical element.  Paizo has done a series of blog posts about the various changes that is pretty comprehensive that you can go to for the deep dive, so instead I am going to focus on the things that jumped out at me from play.  Plus, we'll have the full playtest document in six weeks or so (which, after playing at Origins, I will be picking up, especially since it will be free), and I got the sense from Luke that some elements were still be worked out, so if you want more detail it makes sense to wait to get the actual product in hand.  This post is more about helping you figure out whether or not you are going to be interested in looking at that product in the first place.

OK, now on to my thoughts:

1.  It's Still Crunchy.  Reading the forums the day that P2 was announced, the #1 concern I saw was that Paizo was going to follow the current zeitgeist and dramatically pare down the volume of rules.  I can confidently tell you that this is not the direction they went with for P2.   It may end up being slightly less crunchy than it predecessor, but it is clearly going to be on the crunchier side of the spectrum for RPGs (especially newer RPGs), and it is clearly going to be crunchier than 5e.  And this makes all the sense in the world--they need to find a way to distinguish themselves from 5e, and "more options, more tactical, more mechanically engaging" is a very sensible way to do that, especially since that's where your fanbase is already located.

As some examples, there are a ton (at least 20, based on my quick count of the reference sheet) different status conditions.  That's a lot, especially for someone who routinely forgets to apply conditions to rolls (which I did in the climax of the demo, but upon reading the Paizo blog, it turns out the condition that I forgot to apply actually would have worn off by the time I forgot to apply it.  So, I accidentally did it right).  The character sheet, for a 1st level character, was two full pages of dense information.  We were using pre-gens, so it was hard to get a sense of character creation, but it certainly seemed like you will have lots of relatively small options that you can mix and match to make the character you want.

My sense is that this, in general terms, is what Pathfinder fans want--if they didn't, they probably would have ditched Pathfinder for 5e.  I'm more on the rules-light end of the spectrum, so P2 might be a bit crunchier than I would prefer.  But the point is that it seems they are not chasing 5e, but instead providing an alternative.  That's a good sign for the overall project, I think.

2.  The Death of the 5 Foot Step.  The biggest take-away I had from combat was there was a lot more movement.  Pathfinder combat (and, IME, 5e when using a grid) tends to be pretty static--the parties maneuver around in the beginning, but then the sides settle into a set battle line and trade blows until it's over.  In the demo, folks were moving around quite a bit even in the later stages of a fight.  Even my Paladin, which I was playing extra-tanky on purpose, was moving around quite a bit.

I think this mobility comes from two things.  First, they ditched the move action/standard action/full-round action taxonomy in favor of three actions per turn that you can use anyway you want, including 3 move actions.  Since you can move up to x3 your movement every turn, you can usually get to any spot that you want on the battlefield.  My experience is that if it takes more than a round to get to a spot, players tend to say "forget it," so being able to get to a spot in a round (even if you can't do anything when you get there) encourages players to get and stay moving.

But the bigger factor is that they made attacks of opportunity a special ability, as opposed to something that everyone can do.  And a relatively rare special ability at that--as far as I could see, none of the monsters we fought could do attacks of opportunity, and I think only Valeros the Fighter could do so among the PCs.  I find that the presence of AofO create a psychological barrier that discourages movement, because the players feel like they have screwed up when they trigger an AofO (I know I do), and so they end up moving less to avoid that screw up.  Taking that away empowers players to flit in and out of melee range.

One class that will definitely be seeing more joy in P2 is the Rogue.  I wasn't playing the Rogue and I didn't have the character sheet in front of me, but it didn't seem like the Rogue's abilities were buffed.  Instead, the freedom of movement allowed the Rogue in our party to more consistently get into position to use those abilities.  My experience with Rogue enthusiasts (*cough* Jason *cough*) is that this is exactly what they are looking for.

3.  Shields and Other Equipment Stuff.  So, shields.  My Paladin had a shield.  Basically, you spend one of your three actions to raise your shield, and it stays raised until your next turn.  In addition to bumping up your AC, your shield absorbs the first melee or missile weapon attack against you.  If the attack does damage equal to or greater the shield's hardness (5, in my case), it gets a "dent"; if it takes damage equal to twice the toughness, it takes two dents (I think).  With two dents, it's broken and no longer effective.

This mechanic is great, particularly because it "felt" good.  The fact you had to spend an action to raise a shield made using your shield was a tactical decision that had real trade-offs (one less attack or one less move action), but it was powerful enough to be worth doing.  But it was also the idea that you were actually doing something to block attacks with your shield, without creating a set of cumbersome parry mechanics.  It felt the way using a shield should feel, something that no previous edition of D&D or its derivatives have done.  Extremely well done.

On the equipment front, it seems like they are leaning into individual mechanics for individual weapons, to make a long sword play differently from a spear which plays differently from a dagger.  For example, if you want to multi-attack, the 2nd attack is normally at -5 and the third at -10.  But, if you have a rapier, it's -4 and -8, respectively.  I think that is going to be done via a "tag" system, where each weapon has one or more tags that carry with them the specific properties.  I really need to dig into the rulebook to have a full sense on this system, but Luke seemed particularly excited about it from what he has seen.

4.  No More "Roll for Initiative".  The most genuinely innovative idea that I saw in the playtest was that they have done away with initiative and the initiative roll.  Instead, during "exploration mode" (i.e. the out-of-combat adventuring period), you roll skill checks based on what you are doing during that mode.  So, if you are just generally looking around, you roll Perception; if you are sneaking around, it's Stealth; if you are follow tracks, it's Tracking (or whatever the tracking skill is), etc.  If you do run into a fight, the result on that roll carries over into the fight as your initiative.

Conceptually, this sounds awesome.  One of the things Luke mentioned, and we saw at least the promise of this in our very straight forward demo adventure, is that it allows for encounters that blur the lines between combat and non-combat.  Once the GM says "roll initiative," there is usually a Pavlovian response from both the players and GM that "it's fight time now."  But here, because there is not that clean break, exploration mode can flow into encounter mode (i.e. the fight) more fluidly.  I predict that this will encourage more role-playing and non-combat solutions.  That's great.

Here, though, I need to see it fully described and fleshed out in the rulebook.  I presume the rule is that initiative is determined by the last skill check you attempted--if you were looking around at the beginning of the travel and then started following some tracks, then your Tracking roll and not your Perception roll would control--but I could see how that could get kind of messy in play.  Also, it seems to me that it has the potential of encouraging players to spam their best skill at all times, no matter how appropriate it is narratively (Rogue player: "I'm moving stealthily." GM: "Uh, you have an audience with the king and you are trying to hide?"  Rogue player:  "Yes, exactly.").  So, I can see a bunch of ways where this basically great idea could really fall apart in play, so I am optimistic but reserving judgment until seeing the rule book.

Bottom line--I am much, much more interested in P2 then I was before Origins.  The full playtest document comes out at Gencon in early August, and then they are going to have a year of a public playtest, with a full set of playtest scenarios (spanning all character levels, and apparently designed to really "stress test" the system) before the final version is released.  After what I saw, I'd like to participate.  I might even be convinced to run it with the right group, which would be my first foray into GMing Pathfinder.  It very well may end up not being something that I'm going to want to play long term, but what I saw makes me very willing to give it a shot.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

My Origins After-Action Report

I have the good fortune of having a big games convention right in my hometown--Origins Game Fair, commonly known simply as "Origins."  I've been going for the last few years since I got back into the hobby.  This year, I ended up going in the evenings on the weekdays plus a full day on Saturday (I wanted to do a full day on Friday, but various work commitments got in the way.  Next year).  With the convention over, I wanted to give my thoughts on the convention and what I played.

1.  The convention itself.  Origins might be the perfect size for a convention.  It is, by all metrics, a big convention--one of the top five every year.  But it is not nearly as big and chaotic as Gencon, which is a couple orders of magnitude bigger.  I've been to Gencon twice, and it is so large as to be kind of exhausting.  Origins is much more manageable, but yet has a wide variety of events and experiences such that you get the "big con" feeling.  In the last two years, it has had a very Wizards of the Coast/5e presence and focus, but Paizo brought out the full show (including the Pathfinder 2nd Edition demo--more on that in a bit and in a subsequent post), as well as a number of small and medium-sized publishers with a presence (not to mention all of the board game and miniatures folks).

The one major problem, and this has been an issue for the last couple of years, is that the registration system is bad and unreliable, leading to a number of system crashes.  I wasn't focused on 5e particularly (I tend to use cons to play things I wouldn't/can't play in other contexts), but those events were weirdly not available to register for when I logged on the first day to register, freezing out lots of people from the D&D Open and other big name events.  Plus, the system apparently doesn't let even the event organizers see how many people are signed up for the event, which prevents people putting on multiple events from organizing themselves more efficiently.

They really need to fix this.  There is no reason why it should be like this.

2.  GMs not showing up.  While I am in complaint mode, I was really excited to play a Midgard event that was (or at least, appeared to be) sponsored by Kobold Press.  Cool, Midgard is awesome, Kobold Press is awesome.  So, 9 am on Saturday rolls around, and no GM.  Turns out, according to the people in the room, that he hadn't been there for any of the prior scheduled sessions as well.

This is extremely uncool, and really screws up people's cons.  If you volunteer to GM, you need to be there.  And if someone can't make it for true emergency reasons, the folks organizing the event need to work to find someone, or at least tell people that the event is cancelled ahead of time.  Kobold Press did not, as far as I could tell, have a presence at Origins, making it hard for them to react when someone didn't show up.  I get that, but I feel like if they are sponsoring events they should have a contact person at the event to be able to respond to situations like this.  Don't make people scramble at the time of the event.

Enough about the event.  On to the games.

3.  Torg: Eternity (GMing 2 4 hour sessions).  This was my GMing turn, running Torg under the auspices of the Ulisses Spiele's (technically I guess, Ulisses North America is the official name) demo team.  The groups were smaller than I was hoping, I think in large measure because of the time slot (4 pm, which is sort of in-between sessions--next year, if UNA wants to run demos, I'm going to push for mornings and evenings only).  But I feel like they went well, especially the second session.

One of the things that came across running Torg in a convention setting is that Torg is an easy system to teach noobs.  Torg is not exactly "rules light," but I think the rules are mostly intuitive, and that makes it easier to pick up on the fly.  My worry with Torg is that the card play would cause too much task loading on new players, but people took to the cards quickly.

Anyway, it was fun.  Torg is great.  Go play more Torg.

4.  Pathfinder 2nd Edition (2 hour demo).  I've got a separate post coming in a bit that goes through my thoughts on the demo.  My basic take is that I am far more interested in Pathfinder 2nd Editon than I was prior to the demo.

5.  Starfinder short adventures (2 1-hour sessions).  This was my biggest surprise.  I signed up for the first of these sessions simply because it was the only thing that looked remotely interesting in the time slot I had after I ran Torg, so expectations were decidedly modest.  I went from minimally interested to slotting in a second session and buying the book.

The critics will say that it is Pathfinder in space, and it is impossible to ignore the family resemblance, which is why I was initially lukewarm on the game.  But two things jumped out at me and, to my surprise, grabbed my attention.  First, while I would have to dig in to see exactly why this is so, it does seem to be simpler and move faster than Pathfinder.  No one will mistake it for Numenera or a PbtA game, but combat moved quickly, there were not 40 skills to juggle, and class abilities were straight forward.

But the big thing was that the setting grabbed me.  It's weird science fantasy, with all sorts of brand new races (I was playing a Kasatha, basically a four-armed, grey skinned Conehead).  The central point of the campaign is a giant space station a la Babylon 5 or Deep Space Nine or the Citadel from Mass Effect.  You have sort-of clerics and sort-of sorcerers and the sort-of monk that I was playing, but also gadget based characters and other sci-fi archetypes.  It's nothing close to hard sci-fi--no one will mistake this for Traveller--but it was interesting and fun and it kind of hooked me.  Honestly, the best comparison I can think of is Guardians of the Galaxy, the RPG.

As I said, I went from no interest to looking around for a Starfinder Society game.  I will probably do a Starfinder review in a week or so.

6.  The Dark Eye (2 hour demo).  The Dark Eye is #1 German fantasy RPG, with a 30+ year history and deep lore.  It's published by the Ulisses Spiele folks.  I own the book and have done a read-through, but had never played until Origins.  My basic take is that there is a reason that national stereotypes exist, as this game is very German.  My character sheet was six pages in length, not including a four page cheat sheet providing the descriptions of special abilities and spells.   The skills systems is completely logical--all tasks engage multiple attributes, and so each skill check consists of three sequential attribute checks, which can be manipulated with skill points, and then any left over skill points determine levels of success.  Each successful attack always a dodge or parry roll to try to avoid the blow.  Many spells seemed to take multiple rounds to cast.  And so on.

Now, the world seems very cool--like Midgard, its inspirations are (surprise, surprise) very German and central European.  And it has been a living campaign world since the 80s, with ongoing events that change things up.  The Ulisses Spiele folks want me to run some demos and I want to help out my crew.  But, I mean, a six page character sheet.  That seems like a big ask for a demo situation.

7.  Numenera 2nd Edition (4 hour session).  Also a sneak peak at a 2nd edition (though, Numenera 2nd edition is supposed to be 100% compatible with 1st edition), also really encouraging.  The new stuff, in the form of three new types (i.e. classes) are an explorer type, a tinkerer type, and a face type, fills out the world and adds new dimensions to play.  That's needed, because my #1 problem with Numenera is that it throws a torrent of weird and unique ideas at players and GMs, but doesn't give them a good sense of what to do with all of that stuff.  It seems like they are leaning into a settlement and base-building dimension to play--all the players are set in a town, and they go out and get stuff to help the town grow and prosper.  I like that, though we only saw glimpses of it in the convention adventure.

The bottom line is that Numenera is a great game--it's a breeze to run in the moment to moment, it's easy and fun to play, and the quality of the material you get from Monte Cook Games is uniformly strong.  Great GM, too (whose name, embarrassingly, I can't remember).

8.  Adventurer's League [5e] (2 hour session).  I have not had good experiences with Adventurers' League. A couple times I have had bad GMs.  This time, I had a great GM, but I felt like the adventure was pretty meh, and my fellow players were pretty meh as well.   I don't know what else to say--people love Adventurers' League, and I'm not suggesting they are making it up, but my experiences have not been good.

9.  War of the Cross [boardgame] (dealer's area demo).  New from the 7th Sea folks.  It's basically Diplomacy, with individual faction powers and changing objectives like Twilight Imperium.  Yes please. They will be Kickstarting soon, and I will be backing.

10.  The Ninth World [boardgame] (dealer's area demo).  I bought this game, which is set in the world of Numenera.  It's similar to those "adventure card games" such as the Pathfinder one, in that you play a character that has abilities, complete quests or gather equipment in the form of cards, etc.  One thing I really liked about this game is that it can be played both in a cooperative mode and in a competitive mode, without radically changing the gameplay involved.  I think it will be accessible to people who are not tabletop RPG players or already engaged with Numenera.  It's also beautiful as a physical artifact. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The State of Fantasy RPGs, Part IV--Why World of Warcraft Matters

In a couple of places in the last few posts, I have made the claim that the shift toward more story-based and narrative focused games in the tabletop RPG space is not just because of the popularity of Critical Role or the design features of Dungeons and Dragons, 5th Edition, but reflects a broader, more structural change in the tabletop RPG hobby.  And, I think that change has to do with the ubiquity of video games, and more specifically the existence of MMOs like World of Warcraft or The Elder Scrolls Online (for purposes of this post "World of Warcraft" is going to be used as a stand-in for all fantasy MMOs, because everything that applies to World of Warcraft for purposes of this discussion applies to those other MMOs as well).  Those games fill a space and provide a play experience that originally was filled by tabletop RPGs, but video games do it better.  As a result, tabletop has drifted toward experiences of play that MMOs can't recreate.

Let's unpack that a bit.  I would venture to say that the vast majority of people who play tabletop RPGs also play video games to some degree.  And the vast majority of people who play either of those two forms of games have a limited budget in terms of both disposable income and free time.  So, at least on a conceptual level, a hour spend playing a video game is an hour you could instead be playing a tabletop RPG, and visa versa.  Video games and tabletop RPGs are, in that sense, substitute goods.  That's not to say they are the same, or that there is no reason to prefer one over the other, but that to the extent you spend more time and money playing one, you are likely to spend less time and money playing the other.

In an absolute sense, all video games are substitutes for tabletop RPGs, as it would be seen as a faux pas to be playing Fortnite or Minecraft while you are in the midst of a climatic battle in 5e or Pathfinder, so you have to pick one or the other.  But, in a much more specific way, games like Skyrim and the Witcher series are a more direct substitute, as it allows me to play a character in a fantasy world that kills monsters, collects gold and other loot, interacts with NPCs, completes quests, explores new areas, etc.  In other words, playing Skyrim allows you to do many of the the kinds of things that you do in most tabletop RPGs, so it makes sense that if you can't or don't want to play D&D, you might play Skyrim instead.  But an even closer substitute is an MMO like World of Warcraft, because World of Warcraft lets you do all of the stuff you can do in Skyrim but also allows you to interact with other players.  So MMOs also allow you to get some component of the social dimension of tabletop RPGs, alongside the loot and quests and what have you.

If it is the case that World of Warcraft and D&D are substitute goods, why would someone pick one over the other?  To answer that question, the place to start is to look at what each of them bring to the table that the other does not.  Approaching it from the WoW side, the biggest thing that you get with a video game is the visuals.  Instead of having to imagine your character, the monsters, the terrain, and all the rest, you get to see all of that, often in beautifully rendered detail.  There is a definite benefit and joy to imagining things yourself, but the visual representation has definite advantages, especially in complex situations like combat.  Second, MMOs provide better options for a solo experience.  You can make a character and go on quests without having anyone to play with.  Plus, keep in mind that when WoW came out in 2004, there was no such thing as Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds--if you wanted to play a tabletop RPG, then you had to gather together people physically in the same spot.  If you were in an area or circumstance where you didn't have people around you to play with, you basically couldn't play a tabletop game, whereas with MMOs you could meet people through the game and get that social interaction that way.  Finally, the resolution of mechanical actions in video game is faster, as the programming is able to calculate hits and damage, and translate that into game action, at a speed that no tabletop game (no matter how simple) can do.  As a result, actions in MMOs, especially combat, moves much, much faster than even the most streamlined tabletop RPG.

With that in mind, consider a classic form of tabletop RPG scenario--the mega-dungeon.  In its classic form, it is a big, set-piece series of primarily combat and loot-oriented encounters, with large groups of players approaching it in a primarily tactical way.  In other words, precisely the thing that WoW is best at recreating in its high-concept raids.  A WoW raid gives you all of your combat and loot-oriented tactical mega-dungeon goodness, except everything moves much faster and you get to watch the thing unfold in real time.  I understand how others could disagree with this, but I think MMOs provide a better experience for playing those kinds of games than tabletop RPGs do.  And, in an environment where MMOs and tabletop RPGs are substitute goods, some significant segment of people are going to migrate from the tabletop to the computer or console.

In light of this, there are basically two choices.  One is to try to splice elements of the MMO experience into the tabletop experience, essentially co-opting the advantages of the MMO for the tabletop.  In his excellent video on 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, Matt Colville makes the point that many of the design decisions behind that edition make much more sense when you realize that the original plan was for the game to ship with a dedicated virtual tabletop platform.  People complain that "4e was trying to be an MMO," and that is true in the sense that the designers were thinking about how to take the things that MMOs provide that the tabletop experience does not and integrate them into the play experience (as opposed to the way that phrase is usually deployed, which is to accuse the designers of 4e of "selling out" and mindlessly copying WoW).

As we now know, a combination of unforeseeable bad luck/tragedy (the original lead designer of the online tools committed a murder-suicide just after the launch of 4e) and a perhaps over-optimistic timeline made the virtual tabletop component of 4e vaporware, leaving a game that was in some meaningful sense incomplete.  But someone is going to go back to the well and try this again in the near future, perhaps with an even greater focus on the visuals.  I am really interested to see how the game master mode in Divinity 2: Original Sin grows and evolves over time, because that might reflect the ultimate end-point for some of the concepts they tried to roll out for 4e.   Imagine a game platform that allowed for both pre-scripted, WoW-style content and game master generated content that a single character could seamlessly transition between.  And, because the rules mechanics where the same in the computer game and on the table, you could then port your character to a home game sitting around a table.  Isn't that, in some sense, the ultimate version of something like Pathfinder Society? [and why isn't Paizo exploring that path as opposed to whatever the heck Pathfinder Online is?]

That would be very cool, but it doesn't exist right now.  So, the alternative is to push the tabletop experience toward those things that you can't get via video games, even MMOs.  Tabletop RPGs can't compete on visuals, and they can't compete on combat speed, but they have a human DM or GM who can change and swap out story elements on the fly, manage character and interpersonal interactions, and otherwise bring all of the story and narrative parts of the game.  MMOs can't do any of those things.  Think about how crude the dialogue options are in something like Skyrim or the Bioware RPGs as compared to the kinds of dialogue that you get in a normal tabletop game session.  No video game can have the player decide, 7th Sea style, what sort of quest he or she wants their character to complete and have the system whip it up out of the ether.  Video games are necessarily constrained by their systems and their need to design elements (or at least the mechanisms that generate the elements) in advance, while the tabletop experience can transcend those limitations.

Because of this, it makes sense that people who are looking for something different from MMO-style experiences are going to be drawn to tabletop RPGs that are oriented toward story and narrative, because that's the thing they weren't getting from the MMO experience.  I have been struck, in my totally informal survey of Youtube channels of people new to tabletop RPGs evangelizing for the form, how many of them say "I was big into WoW, and then I found Critical Role and was inspired by the storytelling to try tabletop RPGs."  Narrative and story is where tabletop RPGs have a comparative advantage over video games, and so pushing in that direction is the way to showcase the things that the form does better than its alternatives.  I can do something that looks a lot like the Temple of Elemental Evil on a computer screen, but I can't recreate anything like a session of Monsterhearts in the same way.

It follows then, as video games get better (better visuals, more complicated quest structures, better online and collaborative functionality), it makes more and more sense for RPGs to push toward the place of its comparative advantage.  It's not surprising that mega-dungeon style play was more popular in the early days of the hobby, as that was before you had robust substitutes on the video game front.  A game like Ultima I, with very basic visuals and constraints on story complexity imposed by storage limitations, is an inferior substitute to playing D&D, even if all you are looking for out of either of them is killing monsters and taking their stuff.  As video games get better, they make a stronger case as a substitute for tabletop play; as video games make a better case as a substitute, tabletop is encouraged to push into places where the video game is not a substitute, i.e. narrative and character-focused play.  I think this is what we are seeing in the tabletop RPG space right now.

This does not mean that playing a dungeon crawl on a tabletop is Badwrongfun and everyone should take up a narrative style or they are Doing It Wrong.  But some of the folks who are rather vocal in their disdain for narratively-focused play tend to present the trend in that direction in almost conspiratorial terms--nefarious outside elements intruding on the original truth of tabletop RPGs and imposing alien ideas and concepts.  That's nonsense--people aren't moving from mega-dungeons to character stories because they have some secret agenda, but because they think they can get the mega-dungeon experience better by booting up a computer.  There are clear "market forces" at play, and not simply in terms of tabletop game designers wanting to make products that sell (though, that, too).  "Do what you are good at" is always a solid piece of advice, and narrative and story is what tabletop RPGs are best at, especially when you take into account the alternative vehicles for some of the other modes of play.

Once again, the moment you buy tabletop RPG books is the moment get to play however you want forever.  I'm not interested in triumphalism or gate keeping.  The point is not that old-school play is not fun; the point is that many people find they can get that same fun in a more accessible form by turning on a computer.  Instead, they are coming to the tabletop RPG space looking for something different, something the computer can't provide.  And the tabletop RPG space is providing that, and will likely be focused on providing that more and more as time goes on.  The move toward a more narrative style is a natural and I think an inevitable product of people thinking about the kinds of things tabletop RPGs do best, especially when compared to alternatives.