So, a few weeks back, I wrote about how the Fantasy genre has served as the gateway to tabletop roleplaying games for many of us who enjoy the game. However, in this day and age of social media, internet inundation, and video game mania, what’s a younger generation of gamer new to the hobby to do in order to truly get a taste of the wonderment that is the realm of pen and paper gaming? Why, start with a Modern Setting of course!
Wait, wait, wait! Didn’t I just lay out all the reasons why fantasy is the best setting, not even a month ago? Yes, yes I did. However, there is a method to my madness, seeing as I’m in the generation of tabletop gamers that grew up alongside video games. Those of us in Generation Y have in a way had the best of both worlds. We are old enough to remember tabletop gaming before PDF’s, Amazon.com, and Google. We’re also young enough to have grown up parallel to the advancement of video games, watching them mature as we have. However, the “32 going on 62″ curmudgeon on me is kinda pegging Modern RPG settings as the hope for the future.
When I think of Generation Z, the post-9/11 jaded internet generation that is fast becoming the prime demographic for gaming, I shudder to think of the veritable train wreck that (in my stubborn opinion) Dungeons & Dragons 4E is. While all nuance of tabletop fantasy has given way to the powergaming aspects of MMORPGs in an attempt to draw in the newest generation of gamers, I think that Modern Settings have the best chance of pulling a gaming bait-and-switch and bringing younger generations around to the true essence of gaming.
Accessibility – It should be fairly obvious when it comes to how easily accessible playing in a modern setting is. If you can find it in your house, neighborhood, or city, it’s pretty much going to be accessible to the players. Everything, from character concepts and equipment to locales and transportation, is immediately available, as well as how it works. Gone are the challenges of travel times over varied terrain as the world is crisscrossed with paved roads and highways, while Googling information on a smart phone or tablet is less a form of metagaming and more an aspect of whether you equipped your PC with 3G accessibility.
Ease of Play – While tabletop roleplaying is far more about telling a collective story, most of us are guilty of foregoing that aspect for some good old-fashioned action in our earlier days. When it comes to running a Modern Setting in the world as we know it, it can arguably be easier for a GM to interact and react with the decisions the PC make, at least initially, as we are all pretty familiar with the manner in which the world around us reacts. Case in point: The PC’s are tracking down a bad guy who runs into a busy local market. Suddenly, he takes a shot at the characters and combat is initiated. As we all know, guns start firing off in a public space, the cops are going to show up and if that happens, things are going to get a lot more complicated for the players. Generally speaking, our world operates within some pretty designated parameters, thus giving the Players and GM and solid framework to start off in. Granted, we are talking about an RPG, so it is highly recommended that framework not be confining, because if we wanted to play with a script, we’d stay at our computers.
Technology as an Easy Button – In my earlier article, I discussed the role of magic in Fantasy Settings as being a game changer. In a Modern Setting, technology is everywhere and it’s the norm. The characters need information? Google it. They need to get halfway around the world? Buy an airline ticket. The baddies are holed up in a fortress? Enough money and you can buy yourself a nuke. We live in an age of instant information, high-speed travel, and weapons of mass destruction… and so do the PCs. While overcoming obstacles and the ease at which that is accomplished lies in the hands of the GM and the Players, available technology can definitely make the going a lot smoother for the characters. While your old-school wizard may only get one or two chances to drop that 10d6 fireball, a couple thousand bucks can buy all the PCs in a Modern Setting each a grenade launcher… too bad the bad guys bought them off the black market too!
Again, these opinions are up for debate, as they very well should be! What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know, and check back next week as I tackle the topic of Sci-Fi Settings!