Sunday, 2 October 2016

The return of the original RPG. Guest Post - Christian Ahlin

This guest post comes from Christian Ahlin, creator of the forthcoming pen and paper RPG, Triniton...

The return of the original RPG - why RPG's grew big in the 80's and why it inevitably will again

Let's imagine a time. A time without massive gaming consoles with thousands of streamed games, without social media and their Farm crush clash of GO. A time when children were asked to be home for supper, when VHS had just launched and when "game and watch" meant a pocket-sized game with the current time on it (if you had painstakingly put in the correct time and kept the batteries charged, that is).

This was a time when Dungeons & Dragons spread like wildfire. It wasn't a book. It wasn't a war-game. It was the magical baby of heroic fantasy adventures that a group of kids could take into their basement with some dice, pen and papers and journey as far as their imagination would take them.

Storytelling has been a central part of humanity ever since speech evolved around the cave campfire. There is this intrinsic value of conveying information that one can absorb and better themselves without having the actual experience. But pandora's box opened when the first cave dweller realized you could go beyond actual experience and tell a story that hadn't happened.

Fast forward back into the cellar. With rising tension from the cold war, having your hero venturing out and defeating the evil, being in control from the safety of your sofa was appealing, to say the least.

But the cold war ended. Pacman evolved into Mario kart and roleplaying by pen and paper gave way to Final Fantasy, MUDs, Ultima Online and Everquest.

Although a shrinking niche, the core promise of storytelling in roleplaying games still appealed, in contrast, the boxed experiences computer games offered and the hobby continued on, albeit just a shadow of itself.

Today, 20 years later, we have reached the top of the digital mountain and are finally taking a fresh breath of clarity. 
Reflecting upon that 
  • "social" media has 90% of the posted content unread, 
  • that the deteriorating mental health of our young strike twice as many since '89 
  • and "undefined stomach issues", especially young girls, has become so commonplace that a non diagnosis has become legitimized ("Irritable Bowel Syndrome" means "We don't have a frigging clue, but you are hurting for real").
And all this in a time when the whole world is getting safer, more educated, healthier and richer (if you look at the data and not the news).

The macro trends I see is 
  • more communication, albeit digital.
  • more sending than listening
  • increased polarization of issues and views
  • the total absence of boredom reduces reflection and agency of one's own happiness
  • less quality in the human interactions that takes place due to
  1. many focusing on their phones and other conversations than the one they have at hand
  2. the paradox of choice, making many believe you can "just get another friend", not committing to long term relationships
  3. the total and absolute personal catering (by businesses) of everything, raises expectations and denormalizes situations that aren't "perfect".
  4. the private media mostly enforcing the above values, rather than questioning them. Since their finances are bound to views and people prefer input that agrees with their current state, any questioning content weeds itself away.

And yes, by now you've probably guessed it, the solution to all these issues, improbable as it may sound... is role playing games.

Boiled down to the core, role playing games involve
  • getting together
  • listening
  • being listened to
  • creating an experience together
  • facing difficulty and overcoming it, together
Many are searching for "fun", but it's the feeling you get when experiencing those things listed above.

And although the new technology can be used in a positive way with
  • video chats, that enables meeting people you would otherwise never have a chance to
  • online forums, that helps you find real groups playing.
  • VR, that will enable shared experiences within a couple of years.
But my take on all this, is that to change the world, you must start at home, with your family and with your own/soon to be friends.
And the biggest lie is not having time, it's always a matter of priority, and now you know what's at stake.

So although I just created my first game, I took all this knowledge, mixed it up with the best stories I could muster and boiled it into a game that's aimed to be
  • Filled with guides. How to find players, How to play, How to lead/GM. So everybody should be able to join!
  • Simple rules included (but also compatible with FATE or DnD). Bonuses for cooperating. To further enable as many as possible to play.
  • "YouTube-generation-friendly" Tons(!) of artwork, paced encounters. Magazine feel. To meet the increased expectations of today.
  • Moral dilemmas, (ie. who should a fireman save first from a burning building?). To spur reflection and discussion.
  • Family friendly: No sex, drugs, swearing or depictions of violence. Not explicitly forbidden during play, but neither explicitly mentioned in text or rules. Since the children are our future, let's give them a place at the table.

It took me two and a half years to get this right, and I hope my daughters will be part of the new generation that carries the healthy values and behaviours into the technological future and makes it not only a better world, but one with happy, prospering people in it.

If you want to support me, head over to and get your copy, but the important thing is:

Let's play some roleplaying games!

Some sources:
(4.1) Cutting edge research in Sweden points out stress as a cause and tried stress relieving exercises using CBT with massive positive effects.