The last couple of subjects for the RPGaDay didn’t much interest me, and I was recovering from a 1200 mile weekend on the Triumph, so I didn’t post on them. This day’s question, however, is a good one: What innovation could benefit RPGs and their players most?

This obviously suggests “technology”, and I’ll address that first. Online platforms that allow players to connect across the world is the obvious one. We have Roll20, Google Hangouts, and other video conferencing platforms that allow folks to communicate and play together. Roll20 and Google Hangouts have added functionality — especially the former, which is specifically designed for use by RPG players — like dice apps, character sheet uploading, virtual tabletops, etc. This is all great for the players, and Roll20 looks to be growing quickly…I haven’t had a chance to use it, but I’m intrigued by it.

One of the reasons I haven’t jumped in is the same reason I’ve found this platforms of limited utility — normally, I have a group of two or three people on one end, and a player or two that can’t be at the table on the other. Video conferencing works best when everyone is on the computer and talking online…and while this allows people to connect across the world, it loses a certain bit of the personal touch of sitting together. When you have a bigger group on one side and a person on the other, it’s very difficult to get the logistics of the big room to work well — you need a camera and mic that can capture the entire table, and you need a screen positioned someplace where you can have the virtual player visible by those players. To be frank: it’s a pain in the ass.

The times I’ve tried Google Hangouts, it’s pretty stable for a short session, two to three hours, and with a limited number of people (I haven’t tried more than three.) Improvements in video conferencing due to better data bandwidth is the most obvious innovation in distance gaming (did I just coin a term? I hope so!) I think once Roll20 and other platforms also move away from the focus on fantasy gaming toward more generic maps and tokens, character sheets, etc. would be a close second. I don’t play D&D or Pathfinder, but a lot of people do, so that’s just supply and demand, I suppose.

But another point of “innovation” that might be very helpful would be in the field of book design. There’s been a steady move from the ’90s to today toward graphic intensive books: full color, glossy paper, massive tomes that cost a lot, are hard to read, and blow up your tablet when you try to use the pdf. I’d like to see a move (or a regression, if you like spending $60 for a coffee table book you’ll probably never play because you can’t read the damned rules…) toward simpler, cleaner layouts.