I run a Star Wars Saga game weekly. One of the players cycled his character out for a new one, the new character being a corporate fixer who was going to do some corporate fixing in a session as sort of an introduction. He couldn’t it make it to this week’s game, and we didn’t want to run a session revolving around his character’s schtick without him, so instead we played Everyone Is John. That’s selling it short, though. We didn’t just play Everyone Is John. My group beat Everyone Is John.
Played September 17th, 2016
The party approaches Castle Naerytar with their new lizardfolk allies. The crumbling walls are surrounded by water, scalable by Robyn, the lizardfolk, and perhaps Arvensis, but all of the more heavily armored party members would have to leave their protection behind. Seeing no subtle route in, Thaemin and Cyanwrath agree that they’ve got a lizardfolk army so they may as well use it. Arvensis is not a fan of such an obvious route of attack, but he has no alternatives to suggest.
The Orr Group (those people what run Roll20) have released an industry report every quarter since Q3 2014, detailing what games have how many games and how many players according to their data. Unfortunately, there are some weaknesses in the ways they collect this data. Rather than run an Orwellian police state in which gamers are carefully monitored to ensure they are playing the game they claim they are, the Orr Group just gathers up the data on how many players have a system listed in their profile and how many games tagged with a certain system currently have at least one active player in them. This means the players metric is a list of people who say they would like to play a certain system, not the number of people who have actually played in such a game on Roll20.
The games number, on the other hand, uses the system tag from the LFG system. Players looking for a specific system in LFG search by tag, and the dropdown to select the system tag to attach to your game is a necessary part of LFG listing creation. This means it is safe to assume that a strong majority (I would posit at least 70% and likely 90%+) of Roll20 games have an accurate system tag attached to them. This is why the Orr Group uses games rather than players to rank their current most popular systems from any given quarter, it’s much more accurate. This method also has a drawback, however, because a game listing created at Roll20’s inception in September of 2012 and abandoned before the end of October is treated as an active game just the same as one that just started last month and is still ongoing, provided that at least one person wanders into the game during the quarter when the data is collected, even if it’s just the GM looking up what battle music he had in the jukebox. Since RPG campaigns have a half-life of something like 3-6 months but the games remain full of assets that their GMs may want to review or recycle for other games (which will require him to access the game, thus marking it as active even if he only comes in once every three months), an equally important measure of the game’s actual popularity is the change in percentage between quarters, which indicates how many new games are (or aren’t) being created.
At the time of writing of this paragraph, I haven’t yet seen what the results of the data are, and have only looked at the data from Q3 and Q4 2014, so I’m going to state in advance a couple of limitations in this data collection. The data covers roll20 users only, which means people who play primarily offline are not counted, and decisions made by the Orr Group regarding roll20 can affect the numbers in a way that won’t be representative of the market in general. The Orr Group runs YouTube videos and podcasts and in these they talk about some games and not others, and while I suspect the affect this has on the numbers is small, it is certainly going to be much greater on roll20 than in the market in general. That Lost Mines of Phandelver is now available on roll20 is likely to artificially inflate the prominence of 5e quite a bit for no other reason except greater availability, whereas in meatspace 5e D&D shares shelf space with 4e and Pathfinder, an effect we should take into account starting from Q2 2016 (the data for which hasn’t been released at the time of writing, but should be soon, and may be released while this is sitting in the queue).
EDIT FROM THE FUTURE: The data totally was released while this was sitting in the queue. I’m too lazy to extend my graphs for now, so I’ll run an update post sometime. Also, statistically speaking your favorite game is probably losing (nobody has a majority of players, only a plurality). Let’s all try to avoid the very tiresome and predictable flipping out over this.
I am intermittently reminded that there are people in this hobby who still don’t know that Hexographer is a thing. This is baffling to me, because it’s been around since 2009. This isn’t a lucky ten thousand thing either, because when people ask for help in making world maps I am very often the only one recommending Hexographer. It’s just, for some baffling reason, obscure. And that’s weird, because Hexographer is awesome.
Hexographer is a world map design program that allows you to make hex maps. There’s about four or five dozen different terrain hexes you can paint onto a map of virtually any size, you can add on rivers, borders, text, you can any of dozens of icons for cities, castles, or armies onto the map. I’ve made a dozen maps with Hexographer and there’s not yet one thing I’ve ever found myself wanting to do that I couldn’t, except to have more different types of city icons so that I could represent different nations or cultures at a glance. As it happens, that’s one of the promised features in Hexographer 2 which is slated to come out sometime in February, so that’s neat. I probably should’ve posted this like two weeks ago when their Kickstarter for Hexographer 2 was still ongoing. Oh, well.
Here’s an example of a small hexmap I made for a hexcrawl based on Thar to show you what this thing can do.
Played September 10th, 2016
Cyanwrath is briefly taken aside by Jamna Gleamsilver for a job offer from the Zhentarim, whom she’s been working for. She’s noticed that Robyn was curiously absent while everyone else was either in the crowd or in the fight, and has guessed that Cyanwrath was intentionally diverting the cult and the guards from the strongroom. Having seen both his combat prowess and his skill for subtlety, Jamna offers him a spot in her messed up extended family of spies, assassins, and extortionists. After mulling it over for a few minutes, he accepts.
Elves are dicks. I wrote an article about it and I stand by it – in nearly every D&D setting, elves have been somewhere between moderately and extremely dickish (Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance, two of the biggest D&D settings around, lean towards the extreme side). So, when I say that elven lifespans should be a huge deal and that middle-aged elves should logically have crazy-high character levels even if they’re bog standard elven guards or the local apothecary or whatever, that’s not because I’m an ardent supporter of the “misunderstanding Tolkien” school of worldbuilding, it’s because being able to live for a very long time is a huge advantage which is pretty thoroughly underestimated by D&D. I use elves as an example here, but dwarves are quite similar.