I was thinking about this the other day and I came up with a few conclusions. Now understand, this isn’t based on any hard data. It’s just my gut instinct and probably some wild assumptions but it’s still good food for thought.
1. Rules: The number one thing that will a game or supplement popular is the rules. I’m really thinking about supplements and settings. An established set of rules already has a built in fan base. Chances are anything written for Pathfinder, the OSR, Savage Worlds, FATE and any other darling set of rules will be more popular than your average “innovative new game”. I know a lot of those new innovations are crap but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t gems out there that get overlooked.
2. Celebrity: Who likes or wrote the game. It’s that simple. Monte Cook’s Shopping List of The Forgotten Bazaar of Eternal Evil would be more popular than Random Guy’s Perfect Dungeon Challenge. Add to this, one of the cool people of the Internet says, “Hey, I like this game.” then there will be a flurry popularity around it.
3. Dressing: A lot of people like cool art and layout. But I think this the least important factor. I don’t think anyone buys a game because of the art but they might not buy it because of the art. And this isn’t just about art. It’s about the tone and setting of the game. Let’s face it. Fantasy is the real sweetheart of RPG’s. The safe Tolkienesque settings and style out pace anything that dares go outside those boundaries.
This isn’t about quality just general popularity. There’s plenty of great games out there that aren’t based around a popular system with lesser known creators and that don’t fit neatly into the safe fantasy zone. And to put it bluntly, that’s a good thing. That’s were the creativity really starts to shine. But like I said there’s some real stinkers out there too.
So here’s some fodder for discussion:
Am I just talking out of my ass and am totally clueless?
Tell me about about some cool games that don’t fall into one or more of the above categories. Enjoy and don’t flame, kids.