ENWorld’s Hot Roleplaying Games – October 2014

So, for a while after my last ENWorld-related post, not much of interest has been happening with ENWorld’s chart of hot RPGs beyond D&D 5th Edition‘s score getting more and more outrageous over time – I swear I saw it hit over 2000 a while back – but on my latest check-in I’ve seen some downright interesting developments which made me think maybe it’s time we did another one of these.

As usual, remember that RPGs are scored on the chart based on what’s being actively discussed on as wide a pool of internet fora and blogs as they can find RSS feeds for. It isn’t tracking sales, and it isn’t even tracking popularity (because conceivably a game could get onto the chart if there were a sufficiently virulent negative reaction to it). Note that I’m presenting here the scores assigned to each game, not the percentages (which can tend to obscure whether there’s been a recent explosion of RPG discussion – as there has been for 5E – or whether things are comparatively quiet on the RPG talkosphere).

RANK	GAME					SCORE
1	D&D 5th Edition				1432
2	D&D 3rd Edition/3.5			 196
3	FATE					 170
4	Old School Revival (OSR)		 136
5	Pathfinder RPG				 102
6	Savage Worlds				  98
7	World of Darkness			  90
8	D&D 4th Edition				  89
9	Call of Cthulhu				  71
10	OD&D					  68
11	Traveller				  64
12	AD&D 2nd Edition			  62
12	Dungeon World				  62
14	Shadowrun				  57
15	13th Age				  51
16	Dread					  50
17	GURPS					  49
18	Dungeon Crawl Classics			  44
19	The Strange				  36
20	Mutants & Masterminds/DC Adventures	  30
21	Star Wars: Edge of the Empire		  29
22	Warhammer 40K				  26
22	Numenera				  26
24	RIFTS					  25
24	Feng Shui				  25
26	Castles & Crusades			  23
27	ICONS					  22
28	Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space	  19
28	Apocalypse World			  19
30	Stars Without Number			  16
30	Star Trek				  16
32	Firefly					  15
32	Dragon Age				  15
34	AD&D 1st Edition			  13
35	DC Heroes				  12
35	d20 Modern				  12
37	BESM					  11
37	Warhammer FRP				  11
37	Deadlands				  11
40	Gumshoe					  10
40	Earthdawn				  10
40	The One Ring				  10
43	Star Wars (SAGA/d20)			   8
43	Eclipse Phase				   8
45	HERO System / Champions			   7
45	Iron Kingdoms				   7
47	Exalted					   5
47	Gamma World				   5
49	Marvel Heroic Roleplaying		   4
50	Hackmaster				   3
50	Colonial Gothic				   3
50	A Song of Ice & Fire			   3
50	CORTEX System				   3
50	Ars Magica				   3
50	All Flesh Must Be Eaten			   3
56	Fading Suns				   2
56	Mutant Chronicles			   2
56	Aberrant				   2
56	Other Superhero RPGs			   2
56	d20 Future				   2
61	Star Wars (d6)				   1
61	Marvel SAGA				   1
61	Smallville				   1
61	True20					   1
61	Brave New World				   1
61	TMNT					   1
67	Rotted Capes				   0
67	Alternity				   0
67	Silver Age Sentinels			   0
67	Villians & Vigilantes			   0
67	Golden Heroes / Squadron UK		   0
67	Hobomancer				   0
67	Chainmail				   0
67	Paranoia				   0
67	Runequest				   0
67	Ashen Stars				   0
67	Godlike / Wild Talents / NEMESIS	   0
67	Marvel Super Heroes			   0
--	Dnd/Pathfinder				 DNC
--	Stage					 DNC
*DNC = Did Not Chart

Note that according to the chart page a 0 score doesn’t mean nobody’s mentioned a particular game – a statistically significant sample has shown up but no more than that. For sanity’s sake I’m only tracking zero-scores which previously scored. Games which did not chart presumably either failed to even yield a statistically significant sample or have had their categories retired from the chart (as appears to be the case with the redundant Dnd/Pathfinder category).

And here’s the chart of what’s moved and how much:

RANK	GAME					CHANGE
1	D&D 5th Edition				  =
2	D&D 3rd Edition/3.5			 +1
3	FATE					 +7
4	Old School Revival (OSR)		 +2
5	Pathfinder RPG				 -3
6	Savage Worlds				 -3
7	World of Darkness			 +6
8	D&D 4th Edition				 -4
9	Call of Cthulhu				+12
10	OD&D					 +6
11	Traveller				 +6
12	AD&D 2nd Edition			 -5
12	Dungeon World				 +9
14	Shadowrun				 -7
15	13th Age				-10
16	Dread					+11
17	GURPS					+10
18	Dungeon Crawl Classics			 +9
19	The Strange				 +8
20	Mutants & Masterminds/DC Adventures	-10
21	Star Wars: Edge of the Empire		 -7
22	Warhammer 40K				 +5
22	Numenera				 -5
24	RIFTS					 -3
24	Feng Shui				+17
26	Castles & Crusades			+15
27	ICONS					+14
28	Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space	 -1
28	Apocalypse World			+13
30	Stars Without Number			+11
30	Star Trek				 -3
32	Firefly					 +9
32	Dragon Age				 +9
34	AD&D 1st Edition			-24
35	DC Heroes				 +6
35	d20 Modern				 -8
37	BESM					 +4
37	Warhammer FRP				-10
37	Deadlands				 +4
40	Gumshoe					 +1
40	Earthdawn				 +1
40	The One Ring				-23
43	Star Wars (SAGA/d20)			-29
43	Eclipse Phase				 -2
45	HERO System / Champions			 -4
45	Iron Kingdoms				 -4
47	Exalted					-20
47	Gamma World				 -6
49	Marvel Heroic Roleplaying		 -8
50	Hackmaster				-23
50	Colonial Gothic				-29
50	A Song of Ice & Fire			-23
50	CORTEX System				 -9
50	Ars Magica				-23
50	All Flesh Must Be Eaten			-29
56	Fading Suns				-15
56	Mutant Chronicles			-15
56	Aberrant				-15
56	Other Superhero RPGs			-35
56	d20 Future				-15
61	Star Wars (d6)				-20
61	Marvel SAGA				-20
61	Smallville				-20
61	True20					-20
61	Brave New World				-20
61	TMNT					-20
67	Rotted Capes				-26
67	Alternity				-26
67	Silver Age Sentinels			-26
67	Villians & Vigilantes			-26
67	Golden Heroes / Squadron UK		-26
67	Hobomancer				-26
67	Chainmail				-26
67	Paranoia				-40
67	Runequest				-46
67	Ashen Stars				-26
67	Godlike / Wild Talents / NEMESIS	-26
67	Marvel Super Heroes			-26
--	Dnd/Pathfinder				DNC
--	Stage					DNC
*DNC = Did Not Chart

Thoughts:

  • The chart has a longer “tail” this time than previously, with a greater number of games scoring at least one point. Many games went down in rank but actually managed to raise their score – just not to the extent of other games.
  • The number of games scoring at least 1 point is now back at the sort of level we had before July this year, when the release of the first 5E materials kicked off the explosive expansion in that game’s score. It’s notable that, even now that the initial bright “flash” has faded enough, D&D 5E is still scoring a heap of points. Unless ENWorld have tweaked the amount of discussion necessary to constitute one “point”, that suggests that 5E has succeeded at least in dominating the conversation so far even as conversation about other games have begun to perk up again.
  • Although these charts don’t translate to sales or people playing 5E directly, at the same time it would seem hard to imagine 5E being talked about with this intensity unless a serious amount of actual gameplay were taking place.
  • I’ve speculated previously that the various past editions of D&D and D&Dalike games might have had a boost in their scores due to people raising them in discussions of 5E by way of comparison, since I’m not 100% convinced that ENWorld’s algorithm is clever enough to distinguish between, say, 4E being discussed on its own merits and 4E being discussed in comparison to 5E. This time around, I think the shift in scores of the various games in question deserve a closer look, so here goes:
RANK	GAME				SCORE	CHANGE
1	D&D 5th Edition			1432	+536
2	D&D 3rd Edition/3.5		 196	 +91
4	Old School Revival (OSR)	 136	+114
5	Pathfinder RPG			 102	 -36
8	D&D 4th Edition			  89	 +42
10	OD&D				  68	 +64
12	AD&D 2nd Edition		  62	 +47
15	13th Age			  51	 +20
18	Dungeon Crawl Classics		  44	 +43
26	Castles & Crusades		  23	 +23
34	AD&D 1st Edition		  13	  +5
50	Hackmaster			   3	  +2
67	Chainmail			   0	   0
  • This is kind of fascinating. It’s difficult to speculate on why so many games this time got a boost in score – whether this really reflects greater activity on RPG fora in general, or a widening of the net of the sources ENWorld’s chart uses, or a change in the way they assign scores, or whatever other factor. But what’s significant is that, even when you take all these factors into account, Pathfinder’s share of the conversation has dropped sharply where more or less every other flavour of D&D which isn’t a complete obscurity has seen a handsome increase.
  • It isn’t clear whether this is a matter of Pathfinder being talked about less in general, or whether Pathfinder is being frozen out of conversations in which 5E is compared to other games. The latter case would be bad enough – 5E vs. other D&D variants is really a conversation in which Pathfinder, given its past performance, should be a huge factor of. If it’s more a matter of people just generally talking about Pathfinder less, that’s hardly better for the Pathfinder camp, particularly if this drop continues.
  • How have games’ points scores changed in absolute terms? Perhaps it’s worth doing a full chart of those since seem to have had a big shift in scoring paradigm. Here goes:
RANK	GAME					CHANGE
1	D&D 5th Edition				+536
2	D&D 3rd Edition/3.5			 +91
3	FATE					+162
4	Old School Revival (OSR)		+114
5	Pathfinder RPG				 -36
6	Savage Worlds				 +89
7	World of Darkness			 +83
8	D&D 4th Edition				 +42
9	Call of Cthulhu				 +69
10	OD&D					 +64
11	Traveller				 +61
12	AD&D 2nd Edition			 +47
12	Dungeon World				 +60
14	Shadowrun				 +42
15	13th Age				 +20
16	Dread					 +49
17	GURPS					 +48
18	Dungeon Crawl Classics			 +43
19	The Strange				 +35
20	Mutants & Masterminds/DC Adventures	 +22
21	Star Wars: Edge of the Empire		 +24
22	Warhammer 40K				 +25
22	Numenera				 +23
24	RIFTS					 +24
24	Feng Shui				 +25
26	Castles & Crusades			 +23
27	ICONS					 +22
28	Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space	 +18
28	Apocalypse World			 +19
30	Stars Without Number			 +16
30	Star Trek				 +15
32	Firefly					 +15
32	Dragon Age				 +15
34	AD&D 1st Edition			  +5
35	DC Heroes				 +12
35	d20 Modern				 +11
37	BESM					 +11
37	Warhammer FRP				  +8
37	Deadlands				 +11
40	Gumshoe					 +10
40	Earthdawn				 +10
40	The One Ring				  +8
43	Star Wars (SAGA/d20)			  +1
43	Eclipse Phase				  +8
45	HERO System / Champions			  +7
45	Iron Kingdoms				  +7
47	Exalted					  +4
47	Gamma World				  +5
49	Marvel Heroic Roleplaying		  +4
50	Hackmaster				  +2
50	Colonial Gothic				  +1
50	A Song of Ice & Fire			  +2
50	CORTEX System				  +3
50	Ars Magica				  +2
50	All Flesh Must Be Eaten			  +1
56	Fading Suns				  +2
56	Mutant Chronicles			  +2
56	Aberrant				  +2
56	Other Superhero RPGs			   0
56	d20 Future				  +2
61	Star Wars (d6)				  +1
61	Marvel SAGA				  +1
61	Smallville				  +1
61	True20					  +1
61	Brave New World				  +1
61	TMNT					  +1
67	Rotted Capes				   0
67	Alternity				   0
67	Silver Age Sentinels			   0
67	Villians & Vigilantes			   0
67	Golden Heroes / Squadron UK		   0
67	Hobomancer				   0
67	Chainmail				   0
67	Paranoia				  -1
67	Runequest				  -2
67	Ashen Stars				   0
67	Godlike / Wild Talents / NEMESIS	   0
67	Marvel Super Heroes			   0
  • And to drive the point home, let’s rank the games in order of score change:
RANK	GAME					CHANGE
1	D&D 5th Edition				+536
2	FATE					+162
3	Old School Revival (OSR)		+114
4	D&D 3rd Edition/3.5			 +91
5	Savage Worlds				 +89
6	World of Darkness			 +83
7	Call of Cthulhu				 +69
8	OD&D					 +64
9	Traveller				 +61
10	Dungeon World				 +60
11	Dread					 +49
12	GURPS					 +48
13	AD&D 2nd Edition			 +47
14	Dungeon Crawl Classics			 +43
15	D&D 4th Edition				 +42
15	Shadowrun				 +42
17	The Strange				 +35
18	Feng Shui				 +25
18	Warhammer 40K				 +25
20	RIFTS					 +24
20	Star Wars: Edge of the Empire		 +24
22	Numenera				 +23
22	Castles & Crusades			 +23
24	ICONS					 +22
24	Mutants & Masterminds/DC Adventures	 +22
26	13th Age				 +20
27	Apocalypse World			 +19
28	Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space	 +18
29	Stars Without Number			 +16
30	Star Trek				 +15
30	Firefly					 +15
30	Dragon Age				 +15
33	DC Heroes				 +12
34	d20 Modern				 +11
34	BESM					 +11
34	Deadlands				 +11
37	Gumshoe					 +10
37	Earthdawn				 +10
39	Warhammer FRP				  +8
39	The One Ring				  +8
39	Eclipse Phase				  +8
42	HERO System / Champions			  +7
42	Iron Kingdoms				  +7
44	AD&D 1st Edition			  +5
44	Gamma World				  +5
46	Exalted					  +4
46	Marvel Heroic Roleplaying		  +4
48	CORTEX System				  +3
49	Hackmaster				  +2
49	A Song of Ice & Fire			  +2
49	Ars Magica				  +2
49	Fading Suns				  +2
49	Mutant Chronicles			  +2
49	Aberrant				  +2
49	d20 Future				  +2
56	Star Wars (SAGA/d20)			  +1
56	Colonial Gothic				  +1
56	All Flesh Must Be Eaten			  +1
56	Star Wars (d6)				  +1
56	Marvel SAGA				  +1
56	Smallville				  +1
56	True20					  +1
56	Brave New World				  +1
56	TMNT					  +1
65	Other Superhero RPGs			   0
65	Rotted Capes				   0
65	Alternity				   0
65	Silver Age Sentinels			   0
65	Villians & Vigilantes			   0
65	Golden Heroes / Squadron UK		   0
65	Hobomancer				   0
65	Chainmail				   0
65	Ashen Stars				   0
65	Godlike / Wild Talents / NEMESIS	   0
65	Marvel Super Heroes			   0
76	Paranoia				  -1
77	Runequest				  -2
78	Pathfinder RPG				 -36
  • As can be seen, for the most part the order of the above chart is much the same as the order ranked by absolute score: those games with higher scores overall got higher boosts to their scores. (Indeed, most of the games that got 0 extra points this time had 0 points last time). A few games buck this trend to leapfrog higher in the charts – Call of CthulhuWorld of Darkness, and OD&D (and several other old D&D editions) accomplish this.
  • Moreover, only three games actually dropped in points, of which two were habitually low scorers anyway.
  • The only game which got a really substantial drop in its score was Pathfinder. This is bad news for Pathfinder however you cut it. Regardless of any changes in catchment and methodology in the compilation of the chart, every single game was subject to the same factors, and almost every game got a big boost – certainly, every game operating at the level Pathfinder does got a substantial score increase, aside from Pathfinder itself. Even with all the uncertainties of the ENWorld poll, it seems we can fairly confidently say that the conversation is turning away from Pathfinder – and whilst that doesn’t mean people are immediately going to stop playing Pathfinder, it is evidence that Pathfinder was a distinctive phenomenon of the 4E era which may struggle to find continued reason to exist if 5E turns out to be a better “big tent” than Pathfinder is.
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10 thoughts on “ENWorld’s Hot Roleplaying Games – October 2014

  1. At this point I feel like maybe Pathfinder is increasingly niche, because it’s only the best option in specific crossover cases? I mean, if you like building complicated or optimised characters then 4E is arguably more supportive of that, and the rule-heavy mindset it seems to go with. If you don’t like tactical mini play, then 2E or 5E both offer loose games with quick combat. If the OSR seems brutal and messy, 4E makes you a superhero and 5E is (I think) much more generous and smoother. Pathfinder is the best option is what you really want is 3.5E with tighter rules and some general polishing, but that’s possibly the only case. So here, I’m wondering if it’s just appearing on fewer routes through the mental flowchart of game choices, no matter where you start out?

    1. I’m not sure that 4E is necessarily more supportive of character optimisation – if anything, my impression was always that it tended to channel you down particular directions more than 3.X did. But otherwise that analysis seems sound.

      1. In some senses yes. Cutting down (but not out) on multiclassing does limit your breadth of choice a fair bit. But if you can find one class you’re fairly happy with and are prepared to stick with limited multiclassing, you have powers to choose between that interact in different ways with your stats and specialisations, like laser cleric/punchy cleric. It also actively encourages swapping out existing powers, which 3E didn’t allow, and suggests writing lists of dream magic items for the GM to work from when planning loot. So it’s a different kind of tinkering, but it’s still strong for tinkerers. And 4E places more weight on synergy of abilities within the party.

      2. Ehh, I can see what you mean, but I think it has worthwhile angles to it. Because magic equipment is pretty complicated in 4E (weapon-specific builds, mechanical synergies and so on), and it’s a necessary part of balance, it’s harder for the GM to remember what might be useful versus unusable loot. Always getting stuff that’s unusable or runs against your character’s MO is annoying – I speak as one who played a monk in NWN and could only ever use what was specifically planted by the GM for me. And having to retrocon what loot was found feels artificial too. The GM would otherwise have to dump staggering amounts of random loot to ensure people got enough usable stuff to match intended magic items per level.

        So it does fill a role in helping the GM plan loot, especially if the game doesn’t feature magic item shops. It just feels weird and clumsy. You can of course talk to people, but that’s essentially doing the same thing and having it on paper is more convenient. I’m honestly not sure what more elegant way there is to deal with the specific 4E setup of several interacting specialisations plus obligatory magic items.

      3. Oh, magic items as essential components of a character build are one of the axiomatic points where 4E and I part way. I’d much rather magic items be random weird stuff you find and does interesting flavourful stuff that any character could come up with interesting uses for than stuff which is specifically about making characters of a particular race/class better at being that race/class; give me a Bag of Holding or a Deck of Many Things over a +5 magic sword any day. 5E seems to be going in this direction and I couldn’t be happier.

      4. We are of one mind on this. Magic loot is fun because it’s weird and wondrous, not because it gives a +1 bonus. I actually spent a fair bit of timing devising combat-useless magic trinkets for my 4E games, trying to emphasise that side of things while downplaying the mechanics. My plan was always to sideline the level-scaling maths if we got a serious campaign going, but I don’t see it happening now.

      5. I will be interested to see what happens to 4E play, particularly once the full 5E core is out. Obviously if people just want to play whatever the latest edition of D&D is, they’re going to abandon 4E, and likewise if people are keen on the official organised play network they’re going to shift to 5E too. There doesn’t seem to be a Pathfinder equivalent for the 4E die-hards to rally around either; 13th Age seems vaguely intended as such but doesn’t seem to have had the mass momentum behind it that Pathfinder obtained.

        To be fair, more or less all of 4E is on PDF via DNDclassics, so it’s not like it’s being driven into extinction through sheer lack of availability. At the same time, it’s divergent enough from the OGL that I don’t see any full-blown retro-clone action stoking interest in it the same way the retro crowd pushed TSR-era editions of D&D during the 4E era.

        I can easily see 4E ending up being “the lost edition” in 5 years time. Particularly since we seem to have hit a point where people would rather discuss Pathfinder, 3.X or OSR games than 4E.

      6. Yes, that’ll be interesting to watch. I’m sure someone will look to set up an unofficial 4E network, but then again I wonder what proportion of 4E games favoured the kind of political and worldbuilding arcs that networks seem to be tailored towards? Then again, it’s probably quite well-suited to competitive-type play where there’s a Dungeon of the Month or whatever for everyone to explore and report on.

        I have to say that 13th Age is something I barely recognise – I’d heard the name, but wasn’t even aware that it was a 4E product. Probably assumed it was some sort of generic fantasy RPG.

        In counterpoint, I wonder whether in a few years we might see a pool of people interested in dissecting or hacking 4E in the same way that other editions get considered. Up to now, it might just be too recent, because you’re either playing 4E or not interested in it. On the other hand, it may be that the style of the game doesn’t appeal to the kind of people who enjoy that kind of thing. It’s weighed down in my mind by everything being specific powers and individual effects, which means you always have to look at individual cases rather than rules.

        At the same time, that might actually make it highly viable for hacking to run completely different games – like that JRPG-style one we talked about, but also anything turn-based. Heck, you could probably run turn-based strategy games or even political games by just adjusting the physical scale. Hit points would make more sense, for one. Possibly even survival games with resource gathering and stuff, I can see modelling collecting firewood as a combat with trees that taxes your stamina…

      7. Yeah, if anything I suspect 4E’s legacy will live on in tie-ins rather than in the tabletop RPG itself. The Neverwinter MMO runs off it, and it’d be ridiculously disruptive to try and update that to an edition which is less suited for being implemented in a videogame. And I see a lot of people who otherwise don’t care for 4E as a tabletop RPG system praising the boardgames that came out during the 4E era (which presumably looked to 4E for flavour and system ideas).

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