We looked into different methods players use to visualize their game. Why is this important for TTRPG? Because game immersion is one of the most important reason why we invest in game visualization tools. From laminated physical map to digital tabletop, as players, we want to experience the game as we were actually there.
Games such as Dungeons and Dragons at its core is a game of pure imagination. Players reply on theatre of the mind narration. 2D images are sometimes used to set the mood of the scene. 2D top-view map is currently the most common way to visualize, because they are the easiest to use on Roll20 and also on a table with miniatures.
Though many are satisfied with the 2D maps, and there are many artists producing them, some found them not as flexible as dry erase boards, for example.
Many players displayed the wish of having a 3D map, but cannot afford the physical 3D environment or don't have time to build a digital one. So, when looking at the satisfaction rate for 3D maps, keep in mind the 1) small sample size of the category and 2) the struggles obtaining a 3D terrain.
The tools currently used can be broken down into the categories of real-time communication, whether in-person, or apart over Discord, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Roll20, etc.; a tool that facilitates game mechanics anything from a character sheet and dice, to software like Roll20, D&D Beyond or Discord Bots; and a map creation tool that is either low-tech (pen and paper, digital painting, image manipulation, improv tools), mid-tech (Roll20, Inkarnate, Fantasy Ground, Wonderdraft), or high-tech (TaleSpire, Tilt Five). Our TTRPG community is heavily supported by local and virtual communities as well.
Throughout history, real science and science fiction have always been intertwined with and influenced by each other. Science provides a guideline for fantasy, and fantasy gives inspiration to science. So what are the chances of our dream tech becoming reality? One could say it's very likely.
In general, players see TTRPGs in the future becoming more immersive with the aid of emerging tech such as AR, VR, AI, and holographic projection. There is both an expectation and fear of the blurring lines between video game RPGs and TTRPGs.
"10 [years]: dedicated even easier to use online tools geared towards specific systems. 25: VR tabletop where pieces can be moved by players (with haptic feedback), will feel like in-person games. 50: who knows. Full immersion first person playing of the adventure."
“2D maps becoming 3D as the standard, virtual reality options, holographic designs replacing plastic and cardboard constructions."
"Eventually, AIs were developed to replace or assist the Players and Game Master in handling mechanics or looking up rules. Perhaps one day the role of GM would even be fully carried out by an AI – though I don't think an AI would have the necessary imagination to develop an adapting RPG campaign for quite some time yet.”
"Unless holograms become a reality, I don't see any major change. We already have a TV set in tables, 3D printers, lighted decors and terrain, CGI, laptops and cells, online gaming. It's hard to tell what more we could have."
Are you willing to use AR/VR?
Top Reasons Why We Don't Want to Try AR or VR
Top Reasons why try AR/VR?
VR innovations in TTRPG
AR innovations in TTRPG
CartographR (2021) - Drag and drop element, seen via multiple devices in realtime.
AR headset and AR glasses might be the future if the cost can be reduced significantly.
There is a huge amount of qualitative data. Many of you wrote detailed notes and explanations on how COVID has impacted your game. COVID-19's impact on gaming is closely related to online play, which makes a player's experience during the pandemic depend on the player’s technology preferences and adaptability.
There are many contradictory statements when it comes to analyzing the impact of the pandemic on TTRPG. The results are very mixed.
There are many positive responses where players found ways to play again after not being able to do so:
"It motivated me to pick up a game after just watching from the sidelines for a long time"
"As several of us have little babies at home, now we are able to find the time to playing more easily than before. Also, people that are living further away or are traveling for work were unable to play with us often, which is now not an issue. So we can play with people that were unavailable before."
Many in-person games stopped playing temporarily or permanently.
"Most of my games have just moved to an online setup. However, games that started as in person did not transition well and usually stopped entirely. Games that started online are doing incredibly well"
People who are not essential workers got more time to play more frequently.
"Most of us had more free time so we were able to start up a second weekly campaign"
People who are or had group members who are essential workers got less time to play so they played less frequently.
"I have been working through the pandemic, so I don’t necessarily have more time to play."
"less playtime due to my friend being in essential services."
Some people found the benefits of online games, but many also seen lots of frustration with technical challenges, internet connection, or lack of flexibility.
"My DM has moved everything online, so we have more visuals and it is easier to run around the battle map."
"It has allowed for cool things we didn't do before: background music, private rolls only the player and dm know about, etc."
"Zoom has been working great, both for the kids' camps and playing with friends. I do all my running through Roll20 with the kids (so I can see their rolls, the cheating devils) and to set up battle maps and encounters. It works REALLY well"
"My preparation changed with detailed maps and it is way harder to be flexible with pcs destabilizing your plot."
"Playing online makes it much harder to engage in the natural flow of conversation. I've found that I'm much less invested in the session"
"Roleplay got harder because many social cues can't be conveyed in as much detail and variance as was possible in person. But combat improved significantly with the use of combat enhancing tools."
We found an increase in number of game masters. More players are picking up the game master roles during the pandemic. The biggest change is a shift to online play. In our next update, we will cover the ways players visualize their games.
Hello! Welcome to our second research result update! We have gathered a total of 1006 responses to the survey. In this newsletter, you will find a deep dive into the roleplay section of our survey.
We found that 61.3% of players believe roleplay is very important in their game, 31% believe it is fairly important.
In terms of communications styles through their characters, 75.7% of players narrate their characters in the first person. 67.5% of players do accents and voices for their characters.
Most players are satisfied with their roleplay. Those who are not very satisfied want to improve on character accent and voices, avoiding meta-gaming, and being comfortable acting out a different personality.
We also looked into the therapeutic role of TTRPG and roleplaying as a performance art form and as a moral guideline.
Importance of Roleplay in TTRPG
The majority of Tabletop RPG players believe roleplay is very important to their game. We have been told that, after all, it is in the name of the game.
How do players roleplay?
75.7% of players narrate what the character does in the first person and do unique accents and voices. Players also switch between first-person and third-person frequently.
"When I talk to other characters in my group, I talk in character. When I talk to my DM, I sometimes talk in the third person."
Those who only narrate in the third person are most likely to be NOT satisfied with their game.
"Not very satisfied, I want to role-play in the first person but I don't feel very confident"
"No, not satisfied. My GM is not very skilled at role-playing or supporting player RP that I find interesting."
"Mostly satisfied. I'd like to transition to doing character voices with 3rd person narration, but it's hard with a group that doesn't also do it."
Those who are more engaged in roleplay report the most satisfaction in their gameplay.
RPG as Therapeutic Treatment
Last week, we looked into why people are interested in roleplaying in their games and we found these are the top three reasons:
We decided to dive a little deeper into the therapeutic aspect of roleplay: 54 survey participants mentioned the therapeutic aspects of roleplay. Tabletop Roleplaying games are cooperative, improvisational, structured, and free form interactive stories.
Studies show that RPGs have a positive effect on adolescent therapy. One may think the last person you would want to introduce to fantasy play is someone suffering from various dissociative disorders—someone unable to separate their fantasies from reality. However, contrary to that expectation, studies show when fantasy is structured and properly managed, the participants benefited significantly by actually improving their ability to differentiate between reality and dissociative events, as well as develop their ability to relate to others and self more effectively. The structure of the rules provides a vehicle for how one is to fantasize.
"The feelings this patient expressed in therapy were all threatening to him initially. The game provided a vehicle for the safe emergence of feeling within the context of organizing rules. As he first expressed them in a displaced way and got used to them in fantasy, he could feel safe with his feelings and begin to direct them more directly to another person. Slowly this man has been able to emerge from his isolation. He has developed self-esteem, made friends..."(Blackmon, 2008)
TTRPG as Performing Art
In one of our recent interviews, an experienced DM told us:
"It used to be a more combat-based game, people did roleplay, but it was mostly telling DMs what actions they wanted to accomplish. Now the expectation of roleplay has changed. People want performance theatre!"
Due to the success of shows such as Critical Role, where talented voice actors and actresses made Dungeons and Dragons an unforgettable performance, many players have felt that the expectation of roleplay has changed.
"Roleplaying ( when it is good ) provides the most lasting memories. I still have fond memories of people that don't exist decades later and what they said and did because of the roleplaying talents of my friends."
Do you feel that your game is a performance for players to remember?
For those who are interested, you can read more about TTRPG as a performing art with Mackay's book: The fantasy role-playing game: A new performing art.
TTRPGs as Moral Guidelines
In any game, a game master must establish a set of world views to guide the player's actions. For example, we can think of the following guideline in a typical TTRPG,
In a short discussion with a colleague, I was asked, "do you think we can use TTRPG to teach moral philosophy?"
What's your take on this?
Hello! Welcome to our first research result update blog! We have gathered a total of 1006 responses to the survey. In this newsletter, you will find basic demographics of survey participants, three pillars of gameplay, top ten TTRPG games, and changes in online play since last year. Our following newsletters will explore roleplay, the impacts of COVID-19, and the technology of RPG players in more detail.
We found that there is a slight increase in female players (from 30% to 38%). A lot more people identified as both player and game master than last year (36% increase). We had survey participants from 48 countries with 70% from North America, 22% from Europe, 5% from Oceania, 1.4% from Asia, and less than 1% from South America and Africa.
The ratio of interests in Roleplay:Exploration:Combat is about 7:2:1. We found that Roleplay is the most important aspect for TTRPG player across all age groups, with younger groups more likely to value it than older age groups. We delved into why people are interested in the pillar they chose and tabulated the most mentioned reasons.
We tracked changes in active online play, comparing last year’s data to this year’s. We found that 41.7% of the players who play online now had never tried an online session before COVID-19. The TTRPG community shows great adaptability and willingness to transition to new ways of play.
About the players
While the vast majority of our responses are from young professionals, people of all ages can appreciate TTRPGs as seen by the wide range of ages in our responses.
We had a 5% increase of female players compared to last year and also 36% more people identified as being both player and game master.
We also see a significant increase of game masters compared to players.
Three Pillars of TTRPG
Roleplay is an important aspect for TTRPG player across all age groups, with younger groups more likely to value it than older age groups. When we asked why they are interested in the choice. Here are the top three reasons for each category:
Types of Games
Top Game Challenges
Some quotes from players:
"For me, it's always been being able to fully commit to the actions of a character, specifically when their morals or demeanor differ from mine or when I know that their response isn't something that would be productive yet is something that they would do."
"Visualizing a complex area or battle without a map"
"Ensuring all players can engage fully, regardless of ability level (we have older and newer players in our current group)"
"Balancing good rule-following and "the rule of cool", because while the rules are there for a reason and fantastic, it's also nice to give players a break and let them play out something badass for themselves (forever DM here)"