How could I salvage a tabletop RPG I'm hosting into something meaningful?

Hello guys, got kind of a strange question.

For a few months now I’ve been making and mastering a tabletop RPG with four friends of mine.

For a tabletop RPG I’ve been putting a lot more efforts into it that most usually would because it’s about a world and characters I’ve been building for years now with the dream of making something out of it at some point in my life (let’s call this my childhood dream). By “efforts” I mean drawing a lot (at least a lot more that I usually do), and composing a good amount of music and leitmotiv themes.

The thing is, the experience of playing together is great and I love seeing my world live through my players’ actions, but… how would I go about turning this relatively private experience into something more meaningful? How could I turn this into something more of a “professional experience”? I’m referring here to the course about entering the video game industry by Rick. When a session is over for example, or when a place have been visited and left, I’m happy with what I did but I often feel like apart from my four friends, all my efforts kind of turn to a waste. You know what I mean? I don’t know how to salvage any of it into something more meaningful. Would you think it would be interesting to “recreate” some scenes from our sessions, with the music and the visuals, to put in a portfolio of some sorts? Just for posterity?

Sometimes I would share some visuals, story bits or musics that I made for the game with my father, and he would usually tell me “It’s really awesome, you should really make something real out of it”. And while he doesn’t necessarily understands that making a real video game (the one dream he knows I’ve had since the begining) out of that would be god damn hard and risky at this point in my life, he got a point. I do feel like sometimes I’m wasting a lot of efforts into something that I can’t share with anyone else other than my friends. And while it certainly IS enough to keep me going (don’t get me wrong about that, I wouldn’t host this RPG otherwise!), I still look at my life goal of turning it into a real game someday and ask myself : “where do I go from there?..”

So TLDR: I host a tabletop RPG with my friends about a universe I worked on for quite some time. Since I was a child I’ve been dreaming hard of making something real out of it, a video game mainly. How would I go about salvaging this experience into something meaningful for the future, or even near-future?

I think every GM has tried to do this at some point, whether it’s through novelization or posting on forums, or writing a campaign setting, or making YouTube videos, there’s this effort to expand what you do as a shortcut in creating something new.

From my own experience as a GM, I think it’s a mistake.

Because when you do that, the activity, the mindset, the focus, the attitude, the priority… it becomes about the session, the world, the story. And it shouldn’t really be about that. Those are just tools to get you what you really want, and what you want is a great player experience. Nothing else should matter, and nothing should ever take away from that.

On the other hand, the activity of roleplaying is like a sandbox where you can test out different player ideals and fundamentals. What kind of rewards appeal to players? How does a players background effect how they approach a game? How much exposition is necessary to get them engaged? Does deep engagement lead to better gameplay? Do certain themes and imagery effect players the way you expect it to? What options will players think of toward solving challenges that you have not thought of?

If you are paying attention and you remain player-focussed and you don’t mind regarding your friends as little lab rats, then you can learn an enormous amount of helpful information that others merely have to speculate on. But you have to pay attention. And you have to actively work to make sure you are always focussed on the players’ enjoyment.

Later in your gamedev career, you may be looking for ways to get your ideas in front of people and get feedback on them, and RPGs can be a stealthy way of doing both. As useful as that may be, however, it can be far useful for putting you into a mindset of being a person that crafts experiences. And that’s going to be far more helpful toward your future games than a hundred pages of setting notes and story details.

In my case, it’s also one of my main socializing outlets away from work, family, writing, and even gamedev. I don’t want to pollute the well.

Rick talks a lot about Agile Development - the concept of making a simple prototype and then fleshing it out based on feedback you receive. If you use it properly, your RPG hobby can actually support this process, as described above.

But in terms of content, RPGs are probably the least Agile thing I can think of. For one thing, a large part of it is based on final presentation. You spend so much time making this thing to impress your friends and then, you don’t run through the adventure again after making improvements but instead scrap it and make something new. It’s practice in making content so it can seem creative, but it’s not Agile.

The very nature of RPG campaigns is that usually elements are added to the narrative and then fixed. I killed Lord Radoff and so now he’s dead. (Given how easy it is to resurrect in some RPGs, this might be a bad example.). But the point is this event happened. To keep the story and play experience consistent, we move on, and nothing really changes what happened (unless a new event does and we end up with Star Trek -like time paradoxes…)

The point is that at the end, all you have is a sequence of events and characters and narrative details whose only virtue is in it’s quantity (because generating it was relatively easy, especially with help) and that it’s narratively consistent (because each event follows from previous events). But you really don’t know of it’s any good until the end and you can’t (easily and quickly) use Agile methods to improve it.

Of course, there’s nothing saying you have to be Agile, but that’s the process taught in these courses and I think it’s just one more reason not to use RPG material, even for an CRPG.

I once tried to make my D&D game into a novel (long after it was finished) but I found the experience really limiting. In the end, I decided to scrap it and start a new one that was inspired by my game a little bit and had some of the same names, but had a whole other. Plot and different characters and such.

If you figure that “practice makes improvement”, it makes sense that each time you create something, you get better at it. Given that, it makes sense to focus on creating more stuff than to try to capitalize on the stuff you’ve created before.

Hello Anthony, thanks for taking the time to reply!

I’m not really sure what your point was (absolutely no offence at all, this was a great read)… Or rather, I understand your message, it’s interesting to reflect on, but I’m not sure if that really answers my concern.

It’s not really about capitalizing on this stuff I already made, but rather how could this stuff I made serve me in the future? Can I take some things out of it just for the sake of showcasing (among other things of course)? It’s not about salvaging everything from it, but rather what I can salvage from this. Is your opinion that I can’t really salvage much? Can’t I somehow keep bits and pieces? Some “I made this” and “I made that” to put somewhere on my personal portfolio? If so what could be interesting to keep?

I know that making an RPG campaign is pretty common and basic stuff, nothing spectacular on itself. But I was just wondering if since I worked hard on that I could somehow get some value out of that experience. I kind of got an idea of what I could probably do now that I say this.

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