For many years Arcon has used å system where games are marked with Easy, Medium and Hard difficulty. Easy is described as requiring no knowledge of the rules, Medium as former knowledge of the rules is recommended, and Hard requires knowledge with the rules. Previously, they have also included a mention that people new to the could win at Easy, but shouldn't expect it in a Medium game. In addition, some games are marked with a symbol to indicate there will be a rules explanation at the beginning of the game for new players.
I've never been too fond of this system. In my opinion, it's not really all that useful for RPGs. They originate from Arcons board game roots, especially evident with the mention of winning prospects. Most RPGs are fairly simple to play, at least with pre-generated characters. The usual assumption for most gamers when sitting down with an RPG they've never played, is that the GM will tell them what and when to roll something and they can just get on with the role-playing. For RPGs, overall role-playing experience is generally more important than familiarity with a specific rules-set.
In addition, these markings don't really tell anything about what kind of game it is. Is it an atmospheric game focused on deep role-playing, or a humorous dungeon-stomp? This is something which would be extremely useful information when browsing the program deciding what to play.
With this in mind, I'm proposing a new set of tags to be applied to RPGs on the program pages. I'm envisioning these both on the details page of the game, but also besides the names of the game in the overview. I'm formally going to present my suggestion on the next Programming Work-Group meeting in a week or so time, but I wanted to air my proposal and hopefully get some feedback before then. I proposing the following new tags, any comments and suggestions are welcomed.
- Entry Level – This game is especially suited for players with little or no previous roleplaying experience. Suggested icon: A baby-rattle, a d6, etc.
- Familiarity Required – This game has difficult rules and/or a requires good familiarity with the setting. Not recommended for players unfamiliar with the game/setting. Suggested icon: A stack of books, a d20, etc.
These two icons replace the Easy/Medium/Hard icons. They're mostly redefined meanings of the earlier markers, but to me these feels more right. They assume that in general, general role-playing experience is more important than familiarity with a specific rules-set. The "Entry Level" tag signals that a game is a good pick for someone with little RPG experience. The "Experience Required" marker signals an exception from the normal assumption, and the player should be familiar with the game.
Note that these two tags shouldn't be mutually exclusive. A game might use a rules light system accessible to new players, but base the setting on a popular TV-show and assume the players are familiar with it.
In addition to the two above, I suggest the tags should be expanded to include the following:
- Action – This game focuses on Action; Combat, Chases, Jumping from roof to roof, etc. Problems are generally solved by characters doing stuff and putting themselves in harms way. Suggested icon: Crossed sword, An explosion, etc.
- Social – This game focuses on Social Interaction. Problems are generally solved by role-playing and interacting with NPCs on a social level. Intrigue and relationships are likely to be important. Suggested icon: A speech-bubble, etc.
- Problem solving – The game focuses on solving problems, riddles, investigating clues, etc. Problems are generally solved by the players finding the solution to a problem. Suggested icon: Magnifying glass, puzzle piece, etc.
- Atmosphere – The game has a focus on immersion and atmosphere. Players are expected to stay in-character, and meta gaming is discouraged. Suggested icon: Tragedy Theater Mask, Hamlet skull, etc.
- Humor – This game has a focus on humor and comedy. The Rule of Funny applies, and other aspects of the game is less important if it interferes with a good joke. Suggested icon: Comedy Theater Mask, etc.
- 16+ – This game handles mature subjects, and is only open for players at least 16 years of age. Suggested icon: A stylized 16+ icon. I'm very uncertain about this one. I'm unsure about it's effect, and necessity, but some organizers have been clamoring for something like this for years, so I'm including it for completeness.
So that's my suggestion. I'd love any feedback, suggestions to other tags, etc. Lots of credit goes to the Regncon program-book, which has been an inspiration for this proposal.