Harry Potter and the Bag of Dice

So, last month was free RPG day. We all got cool games but how many new gamers did it bring into the hobby.

Two weeks ago was the premier of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince. How many potential table top roleplayers waited in line to see it at midnight and how many free RPGs did we get to them that night. If you are concerned about bringing new, young blood into the hobby you should treat that as more than a rhetorical question.

I mostly ignored the back and forth over James Mishner’s “The industry is dead” post. Probably because I don’t read RPG Pundit thus missed the flames getting lit. However, I did catch some of the brush fires around it, most notably Trollsmyth’s musings on it. He had a valid point I hear a lot that no one address:

Because there is a huge number of kids out there reading, writing, and yes, even roleplaying right now. A sizable groundswell of interest in fantastical fiction and play that crosses gender lines has risen up in the Harry Potter generation, the likes of which have probably never been seen before. But you’ll notice I mention nothing about games. Regular readers know what I’m talking about: fanfic and free-form roleplay. It’s easy to laugh and dismiss this sort of thing (just as RPGs were laughed at and dismissed in my youth, when they weren’t being blamed for suicide and devil worship), but here are a bunch of kids so desperate for roleplay that they have built websites and software and communities to facilitate their play. They’ve done it all on their own. Why on their own? Why didn’t they take advantage of the 30+ years of RPGs that were available? Probably because they were never invited to.

So, again, I ask, why are we trading free RPGs with each other once a year in a comic book store, where most potential table top roleplayers already are playing tabletop and not out there giving free quickstarts and game out to the Harry Potter kids.

We have two more chances in roughly two years with the Harry Potter franchise. Wouldn’t it be great to see every theater with a midnight showing giving out a Harry Potter goody bag sponsored by local gamers. Along with the branded products it could include a version of the S&W quickstart with a more Harry Potter like adventure. Maybe a GORE quickstart (or CARE for Classic Alternative Roleplaying Engine) aimed at the same crowd with 2-3 adventures. Maybe a “welcome to tabletop adventures” website linked to with additional free and pay products building on those materials.

A crazy marketing nightmare? Maybe. It also might be an idea to help the hobby grew a new generation.

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