So I’ve been playing D&D…
… and it’s been tons of fun. My DM has been gracious enough to allow me to make my character an Owl-Tengu, which isn’t even a creature in the game!
Coming to the aid of small towns, temples, and dryads while beating up kobolds, bandits and orcs have been a (n eldritch) blast!
All of the wondrous fun is being run by the DM (Dungeon Master) and the rules set up in the D&D 5E handbook. Rulebook, good planning, and on-the-go imagination to craft a tapestry of worlds, encounters, monsters and dynamic plot to guide you and your friends to glory!
What if there was no DM?
Or… I suppose I actually mean…
What if the DM was automatic? A program that generated all of your experiences on the fly? Is such a thing possible? Currently… it hasn’t been done.
Yes, there are video-game RPGs.
Yes, there are fantasy video games with deep story lore and good progression.
And yes, there have been community driven MMO’s that build community and teamwork much in the way D&D and Pathfinder and other tabletop RPG’s do.
There is not yet a video game approximation of the “Dungeon & Dragons Experience”.
That is to say…
There is no digital experience that mimics the feel of adventuring, camaraderie, character building and growth that comes from sitting down with a bunch of nerds while one of you assumes the position of “BIG NERD” and plays God (with caveats).
And this comes down to the role a Game Master (the aforementioned “BIG NERD”) plays in the RPG experience. The GM does a lot. Picks out (or makes) modules, helps all the players with their characters, describes and sets a tone for the adventure, and a lot more. All of this culminates in one big job which makes the DM’s position indispensable.
A Game Master Dynanimcally Curates A Role-Playing Experience.
And that is why Role-playing games have persisted and grown since the 80’s in spite of the advent of wonderful video game RPG experiences.
There are people who defeinitely design, test, research and curate the experience for their players, but they don’t respond dynamically to the player’s actions. Everything is done beforehand and whatever is programmed in only changes with patches or updates that don’t respond to individuals but every person playing regardless of experience.
It isn’t inconceivable that individual curation wouldn’t be possible. Developers (especially independent ones) have been toying with procedural generation. Successes like Spelunky (Derek Yu)and — eventually — No Man’s Sky ( Hello Games) prove that with good planning and design-sense the possibilities of generations can literally create entire universes.
The problem here is that there hasn’t been a game that’s implemented a system that adequately:
helps and encourages roleplaying (discourages meta-gaming)
builds dynamic interactions based on player feedback
creates scenarios based on previous progressions
can amend decisions and calculations already made to better the experience
be able to throw out any of its pre-prescribed rules to make an experience better
exhibits a burgeoning imagination
Some of these are doable if difficult but most of these are so vague (while necessary) that you don’t even know where a developer would start.
Personally, I’m not sure if a game like this will or could ever exist. If it did I’d definitely play it.
In the meantime, I don’t mind casting spells as my Owl-Tengu.