|My first Dragon Magazine.|
"To me, it's a print product less meaty than the average book that includes both regular features and one-off content, and which arrives in my mailbox on a regular basis."Brief lamentations about the demise of Dragon Magazine followed. A PDF just isn't the same, even if it's a coherent collected work. The news that Gygax Magazine will be offering a print edition subscription when it comes out on January 26th (a mere 9 days away) sparked some interest.
A few weeks back, Tenkar's Tavern published an article entitled When Did We Stop "Playing" Our RPG Books and Start "Collecting" Them? Gaming books have become less about utility and more about "gotta own 'em all"; less about making a book your own and more about treating books like objets d'art. Maybe the PDFs are there to print and use and throw away while the book remains wrapped in plastic on a high shelf, spine uncracked.
|See the whole thing|
This is a gorgeous example of a 14-year-old gamer's crowning achievement. Here's a module that expands an iconic series of adventures, with similar sensibilities and a catchy title, lovingly hand-crafted with a typewriter and freehand drawings as a totally usable homage to a beloved game. You can see the scars, the scribbled updates, the discolored bits of tape used to mount the graph paper maps to the plain white paper, and each mark tells you about an authentic experience in the creation process.
With desktop publishing so accessible nowadays, I fear we'll never see this level of incidental hand-craftedness again.
Welcome to the New (Digital) World
We're firmly in the Digital Age. If you don't offer a PDF version of your game, you're losing half your market out of the gate. People run RPGs in the ether for players scattered across the planet, through Hangouts or Skype. Your map exists as digital image files, eternally clean and ready for another group to charge into harm's way in the exact same scenario. Character sheets live on USB thumb drives or in the cloud, not in messy collections of paper stuffed into a file folder. Tablets become rulebooks, reference sheets, dice rollers, or character sheets just by tapping the screen.
|The future is disposable.|
Art by bigblankpaper.
Sure, I can carry around my entire gaming collection on a device no bigger than my thumbnail or access it online with nothing but my smartphone, but it feels very ... static. I don't get the depth of memory nor the sense of growth that I get with a paper character sheet or a series of maps or a module with notes scribbled in the margins. My game box nowadays is a folder in the cloud, filled with ones and zeros and ideas given an electronic half-reality. I can delete files and in my perception they never even existed. Persistent physical artifacts seem so 20th Century, quaint and rustic like rotary phones or angsty teen poetry with hearts dotting each "i".
How Will We Remember Digital Games?
I wonder how the remnants of today's digital tabletop games will be seen in the future's rear view mirror. Media files of recorded game sessions scurried away like the rare clips of silent Super 8 film showing teens gaming in the early '80s? Or perfectly preserved rulebook docs from a bygone era, raring to go with no idea they're painfully obsolete?
Memory fails with alarming regularity, and sometimes I need something physical to remind me of wonderful experiences. A digital character sheet shows a snapshot of the static time between sessions, not a chronicle of adventure and evolution told in a collection of dog-eared working papers.
|Digital media wears out|
so much faster than paper
or stone tablets.
We're more connected across the entire world through sight and sound in our digital gaming world, but I think we've lost depth of experience and persistence of memory by cutting out the other senses we use unconsciously in analog games. This may be the grognard in me talking, but I don't know if trading depth of experience for breadth of reach has been worth it.
Your mileage will vary wildly, and I hope you'll share your thoughts and experiences.