Let me start by saying that a lot of people have some strong opinions about Wil Wheaton. I don’t care what those opinions are. I’m really just interested in talking about Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana, and what people are saying about it, and why you should care whether you care for Wil Wheaton or not.
If you don’t know, Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is the end result of an unlocked stretch goal from the crowdfunding campaign for Tabletop Season 3, which is a similar show but with a focus on board games rather than roleplaying games. With me so far?
One thing that I find interesting about the new show is that it isn’t just a show like Tabletop with some folks playing a roleplaying game instead of a board game. I mean, it’s mainly that, but what’s more interesting is the game they are playing. Rather than just sitting down and writing up a homebrew campaign for an existing game setting, Wheaton and whoever else is calling the shots over at Geek and Sundry made the decision to partner with Green Ronin Publishing and come up with something completely unique. The engine for Wheaton’s game is the AGE (Adventure Game Engine) system, which is the same engine that runs the Dragon Age roleplaying game, published by Green Ronin. Green Ronin plans to release a generic version of these rules at Gen-Con, called Fantasy AGE, and Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana will be made available as a setting source book for these rules at the same time.
This didn’t exactly come out of left field, since the Dragon Age RPG was featured on an episode of Tabletop and the game master was Chris Pramas, the designer of the game. Still, I doubt that many people suspected they were funding a web-series and the publishing of a whole new roleplaying game system and supplement. Of course, I don’t know what money actually went where, but these two things clearly didn’t happen independent of one another (UPDATE: Jump to the comments for a clarification from Nicole Lindroos, General Manager, Green Ronin Publishing). That doesn’t really matter to me anyway; at least, that isn’t the point of this article.
What is the point of this article? Oh yeah: the audience reception. Granted, this show was funded by a lot of people that wanted to see Wil Wheaton play a roleplaying game, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that these same people are now happy to watch a show wherein Wil Wheaton plays a roleplaying game. But still, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive from what I can tell, and there is something else happening – beyond the general praise – that’s noteworthy.
This is what I’m talking about:
This is just a handful of the tweets I found that expressed this sentiment. Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana, is bringing new people to roleplaying games, and that’s awesome. People are seeing this amazing hobby for the first time and wanting to be a part of it, which should make everyone who already enjoys roleplaying games ecstatic.
Major game designers should take note of this, too. Acquiring new players should be at the top of the “to do” list for every game company, and Titansgrave is showing us a way to do that. Of course, every game developer doesn’t have the budget to produce something like Titansgrave, but some do. A company like Wizards of the Coast certainly does, to name one. And yet, have you seen the actual play videos released by Wizards of the Coast? They literally couldn’t put any less time or money into their production values. Which is a shame, because devoting resources to producing high quality actual play videos could spark the imaginations of untold potential roleplaying gamers out there.
There is one more thing I wanted to mention. I think there is one other key ingredient besides time and money that accounts for the early success of Titansgrave: