# I figured out why the TTRPG vs. MMORPG question bothers me. Am I out to lunch?

The problem with the question "What are the advantages of Tabletop Roleplaying Games over MMORPGS and CRPGs" is that it requires us to be two things as a community:

1. Experts on the advantages of table-top roleplaying games and their ilk.
2. Experts on the advantages of massively-multiplayer RPGs and their ilk.

Strictly-speaking, as a community we are (1) but not (2). We may have some individuals who are (2) as well, but the SE process relies on general community expertise to make the voting system work. Questions like this are naturally going to have up-voted answers that reflect our imbalance of expertise, at best. At worse such a question will have no answers that include expertise of the (2)nd kind and just make us look ignorant.†

So, am I out to lunch? If not, what should be done about questions like this?

†Remember that "Google is an interface" to SE sites. Do we really want questions like this defining us to MMORPG players who have an interest in traditional roleplaying and our site?

My question is being over-analyzed and the I don't see acknowledgment of the fact that I had several paragraphs explaining the question's background and the specific answer that I was looking for.

So pretend (or roleplay) that you are talking to somebody today and trying to convince them why they should play a tabletop game versus a MMORPG, CRPG, or other alternatives. Hopefully the answers will help others in recruiting and finding players for our games.

Some criticized me for not making a community wiki. But I did not set it up to build a library of possible answers I wanted people to think and come up with what they thought is their best answer and I award it accordingly. That was my choice for this question.

Part of this discussion revolves around the assertion that you have to be an expert in both MMORPG and RPG to answer this. I don't accept that assertion. MMORPG are part of geek culture and Tabletop Referees are aware of them even if they don't play them or never had play them. So an answer from a tabletop referee who had to deal with issue AND is NOT an expert in MMORPG is just as valuable as an answer as somebody who is an expert in both. And that person may have well had the better answer (as I judges) in the form of a more effective presentation.

My question is an example of something that is specific to the domain of roleplaying games. It not enough to learn the game, you need to organize and maintain a group of players in the face of competing interests for their entertainment time. So folks can be considered expert in this. Now I could have just made it more general but I chose to focus on what I felt to be tabletop's biggest "competitor" for entertainment time which is MMORPGs.

Given that I clearly stated the background of the question, and asked for a specific type of answer (i.e. roleplay that...) I feel the question should have not been closed. I am not going to reopen it myself as my vote has the moderator bat attached but those of you who agree certainly go ahead vote to reopen if you agree with my reply.

• Given this elucidation, I understand the question much better. It was not clear, though, that the core of your Q was for how to pitch TTRPGs to MMO/CRPG players—it appeared to ask what the objective advantages were. The bit about roleplaying a conversation seemed like an adjunct to the main thrust of the Q, not the core. In that light, I think a new Q such as "How to pitch TTRPGs to CRPG players" would be clearer and perfectly appropriate. My apologies for mischaracterising you intent, though I don't think the confusion was limited to me. – SevenSidedDie Sep 24 '10 at 4:24
• Or possibly, a rewrite and vote to reopen. – SevenSidedDie Sep 24 '10 at 4:32

I don't think we necessarily have to worry about the lack of experts on either side of the question (although it is tangentially related), as it was a lack of scope.

If we look at the accepted answer, this is what we ended up with as the "advantages" of RPGs over CRPGs:

1. More social interaction.
2. Good excuse to get together with friends.
3. Tabletop RPGs are generally more "open-ended" than MMOs; meaning there's more freedom of action for your character, and you're (hopefully) not stuck fighting the very same encounters over and over again.
4. More reliance on your own imagination, which leads to a more satisfying gaming experience.
5. NO MONTHLY FEES!!

As noted in the comments, someone who plays on an RP server in WoW gets the benefits of 1 through 4 even though they're playing an MMO/CRPG. If they're role playing in DDO, they get all five; if they're considering switching to a tabletop game of 4E the monthly fee is actually a disadvantage of the TABLETOP game, not the computer one.

Even if we assume that this list is a list of what differentiates CRPGs and tabletop games, advantages can often turn into disadvantages given the right situation. Items one and two locked me out of tabletop RPGs entirely a year or so ago. And items three and four are pretty easily debatable (the argument is between a free-form experience, versus one that's curated by an expert in the field... Prepublished module vs. homebrew campaign, if you will).

I think that with a tight scope ("I have a group of friends that want to start a group activity on the weekends. The group is something like [insert description here]. What are the advantages of starting an RPG vs. doing something in an MMO?"), we'd be more than qualified to answer this sort of question.

I also mentioned in the comments that I think the question would have been fine as a "fun" CW question (as long as it stuck to good-natured ribbing, and stayed a little way above pure flaming), or as a "how do I recruit MMO players to tabletops?" kind of question.

• A MMO of any type does not get you #3, but this isn't the thread to discuss the particulars of that question. – mxyzplk Sep 18 '10 at 23:55
• @mxyzplk Yes they can given a good enough community. Although the encounters are generally social encounters (balls, meetings, parties, etc.). Likewise, combat encounters can be modified through roleplaying. – AceCalhoon Sep 19 '10 at 17:02
• And when you get into the "old school" MMOs like MUSHes and MUDs, the world can change quickly in response to the players… Hence my point about lack of experts on the other side: we don't know what we don't know. I know enough of them to know how little I know, and I know much more than most of the askers and answerers. – SevenSidedDie Sep 19 '10 at 23:40
• @SevenSidedDie I think we know enough about CRPGs to answer reasonable questions comparing them to tabletop RPGs. I've played a few in my time, and you clearly have as well. The StackExchange format should allow good answers to float to the top without issue. The problem is, I think this wasn't a reasonable question. – AceCalhoon Sep 20 '10 at 13:00

I don't really have a problem with the question, though it could be reworded to be less antagonistic (focus on unique differentiators of RPGs vs "what makes them better than" computer games). I think the question of RPG advocacy is on topic and "What are the distinctive fun bits/advantages playing an RPG has over crpgs, ccgs, board games, etc." is a good area of inquiry. I don't think we need to worry about "Oh but we're not experts in card games too!" Any more than a question about where dwarves came from for D&D is off topic because "we're not experts in anglo-saxon myth! That's a question for anglosaxonmyth.stackexchange.com!"

It's reasonable to assume some people know about both, and that they will provide good answers which can be voted on. If someone answers "they're better because I hear CRPGs make you sterile but I've never played one" then of course that's a bad answer.

I think we need to lighten up on closing questions that "might have bad answers." That's what voting on answers is for, NOT closing questions.

• I still think it's not that it might have bad answers, but that we will be bad voters. We are biased for RPGs/against CRPGs, and the voting system will emphasise that bias, not eliminate it. If there were as many common misconceptions among RPGers about card games as there are misconceptions among RPGers about the value of CRPGs, then yeah, there'd be a problem with questions about card games. (For a parallel, ask "which is better, XBox or PS3?" on an XBox forum!) – SevenSidedDie Sep 19 '10 at 23:44
• But in the end that's all navel-gazing and not something we need to action on. There's "reasons to use UNIX" or similar on other SEs and that is a perfect parallel to this question. – mxyzplk Sep 20 '10 at 1:18
• @mxyzplk "Reasons to use Unix" is fundamentally different in that UNIX is directly competing with other operating systems. You use UNIX INSTEAD OF some other operating system (even if you dual boot, UNIX is still replacing some amount of your OS interaction). Very few people play RPGs instead of MMOs/CRPGs... It would be silly for me to swap the time I spend on CRPGs to time I spend on TTRPGs or vice versa. The two are fundamentally different creatures. – AceCalhoon Sep 20 '10 at 13:08
• "Reasons to use UNIX" is also a much less argumentative phrasing for the question. I would have had no problem with a "Reasons to play TTRPGs" question, even if the answers mentioned monthly fees or similar. – AceCalhoon Sep 20 '10 at 13:18
• @AceCalhoon no, they are exactly equivalent. If I have X computers, I make some of them Windows and some UNIX. If I have X hours in my day, I spend some of them roleplaying and some doing other pastimes. They are exclusive or not based strictly on what's going on in your mind. – mxyzplk Sep 21 '10 at 1:05
• @mxyzplk By that definition you could also ask "What are some advantages of TTRPGs over eating at McDonalds?" since they're both ways of spending time. RPGs are a social event requiring schedule juggling with multiple known people. CRPGs are typically more ad hoc. If it's 10 o'clock on a week night, only one of the two really works. You COULD say that some CRPG behaviors (like raiding, or in-depth role playing) compete directly with TTRPGs in the "social event" category... But that's a very small subset of CRPGs, and one with different characteristics from the main. – AceCalhoon Sep 21 '10 at 2:19
• You can make arguments that they don't compete, but they do. First of all, they are in a cluster of related "geek activities" that compete for the same dollars from the same groups of people. Secondly, though of course you can't spend every second of your free time roleplaying because of the group requirement, <i>every single gamer I know</i> has to balance the time they spend doing RPG and related stuff (including haunting stack exchanges) versus their WoW time and boardgame time and card game time. It's how life works. – mxyzplk Sep 21 '10 at 2:25
• @mxyzplk I think the point AceCalhoon is making is that merely competing for time doesn't make two things comparable by the same metre stick. You're saying it's apples and apples, he's saying it's apple cobbler and apple pies. Superficially-similar, not interchangeable, not directly comparable. Also, nearly impossible to compare objectively. You might as well ask, "What's the advantage of using Perl over Python?" (and then run for your life). – SevenSidedDie Sep 21 '10 at 4:34
• I understand the point he's making, it's just wrong. And stackoverflow.com/questions/150043/python-v-perl – mxyzplk Sep 21 '10 at 5:02
• PERL and Python are much more closely related. Not only are they both programming languages, they are both interpreted scripting languages. If PERL were erased from the universe, it would be reasonable to use Python to replace it (and vice versa). If CRPGs were erased from the universe, it would not generally be possible to replace them with TTRPGs. Likewise, if TTRPGs were to be erased, it would not be reasonable to replace them with CRPGs. (excluding border cases like play-by-post and raids) – AceCalhoon Sep 21 '10 at 14:43
• (also note that Python v PERL is a much fairer phrasing for the question than "what are the advantages of one thing over another?") – AceCalhoon Sep 21 '10 at 14:44
• I know, how about we let people ask some reasonably useful question on the site without crapping all over them? Community consensus will come out of the normal process. I am kinda out of patience with wanting to meta-define every single kind of legitimate question. If people think a given question violates the clear set list of reasons to close, vote it. Otherwise, don't. – mxyzplk Sep 21 '10 at 17:11
• @mxyzplk Agreed. All I really wanted was for the darn thing to be marked CW, since it was looking for a list :-P – AceCalhoon Sep 21 '10 at 18:44

If that's your opinion (and I'm not saying you're wrong) then that's what the close vote is for.

The community has to decide by close and reopen voting what is "on topic" and what is "off topic".

The same goes for what is too subjective and argumentative. As a mod team we closed some questions that were obviously contentious when we first started, but now we really want the community (those with 500 or more rep to be specific) to do most of the voting.
Obviously if something is spam/offensive or otherwise egregious, flag it and we'll get to it right away.

• I think folks need to realize that there aren't that many people who can vote to close. And so if 3-4 votes to close exist the mod has to step in to vote as well otherwise its going to linger. Like the question in question (sorry couldn't resist) is. – anon186 Sep 18 '10 at 11:30
• Whoops, didn't see it only needed a 5th. Feel free to flag it for Moderator Attention if it gets to that point. I did cast the final vote to close. – C. Ross Sep 18 '10 at 12:33
• 34 people can vote to close; only 4 of those are moderators. So you need 20% of the people who can vote to agree with you, which isn't too bad. – Bryant Sep 18 '10 at 13:42
• I'm more interested in using the question as an example of (what I see as) the underlying problem. The question itself will take care of itself, but it's a chance to clarify the community's view on such "half-expert" questions. – SevenSidedDie Sep 18 '10 at 16:19
• While the community works understand also we are just starting out and our community is not currently representative of the larger gaming community. We need to make ourselves aware so that that we don't bias the site to cater to the interests of a specific group. The biggest so far is the people with experience with Stack Overflow and try to universally apply the mix of question types of that site here. RPG needs to have it own mix of question types as I stated in another post. – RS Conley Sep 23 '10 at 14:00

I didn't object to the question enough to cast the last vote, but it's a moving target. MMO is a medium through which roleplay can be presented, not a genre. And what about text-based MUDs -- AmberMUSH, PernMUSH, etc? Do those count as MMOs, insofar as they have all the relevant characteristics? How about Second Life? There's a lot of roleplay in Second Life.

• I don't object to it in that it's off topic, more that it's argumentative. There is a portion of the community that loves MMOs and a portion that hates MMOs, and you're asking why one is better than the other. It'd be akin to asking why Python is better than Perl. – C. Ross Sep 19 '10 at 13:06
• There are plenty of places on the web to argue. I firmly believe for SE to be different it needs to be objective, and that question just wanted to be an argument. – anon186 Sep 20 '10 at 0:19
• I count MUDs and their cousins as platforms for roleplaying. I've seen stellar roleplaying in MUDs and MMOs, and I've seen an abysmal lack thereof in table-top RPGs. And vice versa. – SevenSidedDie Sep 21 '10 at 4:38
• @SevenSidedDie -- exactly. – Bryant Sep 21 '10 at 13:31