ENWorld’s Hot RPGs – February 2016

It’s time for another look at at ENWorld’s list of hot RPGs.

Happily, since last time ENWorld seem to have done some spring-cleaning of the page and the underlying systems – maybe they read one of my posts where I complained about some of the oddities. For instance, they are no longer claiming to be tracking the Paizo and WotC forums – a practice they actually stopped pretty soon after they started. They have also added a caveat that their system is no longer actually tracking the ENWorld forums any more, because the closure of Wizards of the Coast’s own forums prompted that community to migrate en mass to ENWorld – now that it’s become a quasi-official discussion forum for D&D, they’ve decided it is unfair to track it whilst at the same time excluding the official fora of other games.

On the one hand, this shows commendable even-handedness on ENWorld’s part. On the other hand, I think their practice of not tracking official fora is inherently flawed. Surely the point of these charts are to track how much discussion is happening concerning a particular game, regardless of where that discussion takes place? If a popular game has an official forum which is widely used, that game will be hampered compared to other games due to a lot of discussion happening on the official forum rather than elsewhere. If a popular game’s official forum is not widely embraced by its community, for whatever reason, then tracking it won’t make much difference either way. I say track all the fora – and if there’s a forum which doesn’t provide an RSS feed, notify the forum owners that they aren’t being tracked and they can choose whether or not to provide a feed.

Other positive steps have been taken to rationalise the game categories. The Strange and the Cypher System are no longer being tracked separately, for instance – and at long last, Stars Without Number has been removed from the list of games tracked under the OSR banner, so the numbers for the OSR category might be a bit more trustworthy now.

Usual reminder applies: RPGs are scored on the chart based on what’s being actively discussed on as wide a pool of internet fora and blogs as ENWorld 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). What I present here are the scores assigned to each game, not the percentages (which can tend to obscure whether there’s been a recent explosion of RPG discussion – for example, as associated with the D&D 5E release – or whether things are comparatively quiet on the RPG talkosphere).

First up, let’s get the rankings and absolute scores:

RANK	GAME					SCORE
1	D&D 5th Edition				1193
2	Pathfinder RPG				  95
3	World of Darkness			  73
4	D&D 3rd Edition/3.5			  66
5	Exalted					  65
6	Old School Revival (OSR)		  56
7	D&D 4th Edition				  50
8	Savage Worlds				  46
9	What's OLD is NEW			  30
10	GURPS					  27
11	Gumshoe					  21
11	Call of Cthulhu				  21
13	Shadowrun				  20
14	Mutants & Masterminds/DC Adventures	  18
14	Warhammer 40K				  18
16	Dungeon World				  17
16	Dragon Age/Fantasy AGE/AGE		  17
18	Traveller				  16
19	Feng Shui				  11
20	13th Age				  10
21	CORTEX System				   9
21	OD&D					   9
21	The One Ring				   9
24	Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space	   8
24	ICONS					   8
24	d20 Modern				   8
24	RIFTS					   8
28	Stars Without Number			   7
28	Warhammer FRP				   7
28	Mutant Chronicles			   7
28	Eclipse Phase				   7
28	Cypher System				   7
33	AD&D 2nd Edition			   6
33	Firefly					   6
33	Apocalypse World			   6
33	Marvel Heroic Roleplaying		   6
37	Ars Magica				   5
37	Godlike / Wild Talents / NEMESIS	   5
37	Star Wars (FFG)				   5
37	Alternity				   5
41	Dungeon Crawl Classics			   4
41	Gamma World				   4
41	Deadlands				   4
44	AD&D 1st Edition			   3
44	DC Heroes				   3
44	Castles & Crusades			   3
44	Earthdawn				   3
44	Star Wars (SAGA/d20)			   3
44	Dread					   3
50	Marvel SAGA				   2
50	Colonial Gothic				   2
50	Smallville				   2
50	Iron Kingdoms				   2
50	Chainmail				   2
50	HERO System / Champions			   2
56	Other Superhero RPGs			   1
56	Star Wars (d6)				   1
56	True20					   1
56	FATE					   1
56	A Song of Ice & Fire			   1
56	BESM					   1
56	All Flesh Must Be Eaten			   1
56	Runequest				   1
56	Rotted Capes				   1
65	Fading Suns				   0
65	Hackmaster				   0
65	d20 Future				   0
65	Villains & Vigilantes			   0
65	Ashen Stars				   0
65	TMNT					   0
65	Star Trek				   0
65	Hobomancer				   0
65	Aberrant				   0
65	Brave New World				   0
65	Marvel Super Heroes			   0
65	Paranoia				   0
65	Silver Age Sentinels			   0
65	Golden Heroes / Squadron UK		   0
--	Stage					 DNC
*DNC = Did Not Chart

Here’s the chart of the shifts in rank (probably more significant for higher-scoring games):

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

And here’s the chart of shifts in absolute score (which I believe to be more significant for lower-scoring games):

RANK	GAME					SCORE
1	D&D 5th Edition				 -40
2	Pathfinder RPG				  -7
3	World of Darkness			 -10
4	D&D 3rd Edition/3.5			-132
5	Exalted					 -58
6	Old School Revival (OSR)		   =
7	D&D 4th Edition				 -58
8	Savage Worlds				  +2
9	What's OLD is NEW			 +12
10	GURPS					  -7
11	Gumshoe					  +5
11	Call of Cthulhu				  +1
13	Shadowrun				  -6
14	Mutants & Masterminds/DC Adventures	  +3
14	Warhammer 40K				  -1
16	Dungeon World				   =
16	Dragon Age/Fantasy AGE/AGE		  -1
18	Traveller				  +3
19	Feng Shui				  +4
20	13th Age				  +4
21	CORTEX System				  +3
21	OD&D					  +2
21	The One Ring				  -3
24	Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space	  +3
24	ICONS					   =
24	d20 Modern				  +3
24	RIFTS					  +2
28	Stars Without Number			  -1
28	Warhammer FRP				  +4
28	Mutant Chronicles			  +4
28	Eclipse Phase				  +1
28	Cypher System				  -2
33	AD&D 2nd Edition			  -7
33	Firefly					  -1
33	Apocalypse World			  +3
33	Marvel Heroic Roleplaying		  +4
37	Ars Magica				  -1
37	Godlike / Wild Talents / NEMESIS	  +4
37	Star Wars (FFG)				   =
37	Alternity				  +4
41	Dungeon Crawl Classics			  +1
41	Gamma World				  +2
41	Deadlands				   =
44	AD&D 1st Edition			  -2
44	DC Heroes				  +1
44	Castles & Crusades			  -2
44	Earthdawn				  +2
44	Star Wars (SAGA/d20)			   =
44	Dread					  -4
50	Marvel SAGA				  +2
50	Colonial Gothic				   =
50	Smallville				   =
50	Iron Kingdoms				  +1
50	Chainmail				  +1
50	HERO System / Champions			  -3
56	Other Superhero RPGs			   =
56	Star Wars (d6)				  -2
56	True20					  -1
56	FATE					  +1
56	A Song of Ice & Fire			  +1
56	BESM					   =
56	All Flesh Must Be Eaten			   =
56	Runequest				   =
56	Rotted Capes				  +1
65	Fading Suns				   =
65	Hackmaster				  -2
65	d20 Future				   =
65	Villains & Vigilantes			   =
65	Ashen Stars				  +1
65	TMNT					   =
65	Star Trek				   =
65	Hobomancer				   =
65	Aberrant				  -1
65	Brave New World				   =
65	Marvel Super Heroes			   =
65	Paranoia				   =
65	Silver Age Sentinels			   =
65	Golden Heroes / Squadron UK		   =
--	Stage					 DNC
*DNC = Did Not Chart

By suddenly stopping tracking of ENWorld posts, the charts have inadvertently given us an idea of what the ENWorld audience likes – although caution should be used, since of course many changes to the chart may be the simple result of the usual variation taking place, sudden drops in the scores for particular games with no other explanation may be due to the games in question being particular darlings of the ENWorld community – and indeed, that’s kind of what we see here, with a bunch of games losing scores and no one particular game benefitting from this, with the points instead being redistributed amongst a range of lower-ranking games.

The effect is most apparent with respect to D&D. Aside from 5E, whose drop of 40 points isn’t really much of a big deal compared to its total score and isn’t really that different from the various positive and negative shifts in 5E’s score we’ve seen over the months, more or less every edition of D&D saw its score drop. D&D was particularly vulnerable here, because as well as the Wizards of the Coast forum community (dominated by D&D players of various editions) migrating to ENWorld, ENWorld itself was a quite D&D-focused forum anyway – as I seem to recall, it began as a site tracking news and rumours about D&D 3E back when that was in development. The major exception is OD&D, which has improved both its rank and score – presumably due to Wizards of the Coast finally starting to release PDFs of the original 0E booklets on dndclassics.com.

As well as dropping in absolute score, the various old editions of the game have dropped relative to other games, with Pathfinder and World of Darkness pulling ahead of 3.X and 4E being beaten into 7th place by the OSR – even with Stars Without Number no longer counting towards the OSR’s score. This may be good news for 5E, in a way – it means that, outside of communities like ENWorld which due to their history and focus can expect to be home to substantial numbers of old-edition holdouts (particularly when it comes to the Wizards-era versions of the game), 5E is even more dominant over older editions than it is within those communities.

Another game which has experienced a big drop is Exalted. Whilst that may be coincidental – perhaps representative of the boom in Exalted conversation that came hot on the heels of the PDF release dying down – my hunch is that it isn’t, since as a very crunchy fantasy game that hit its peak at around the time 3.X hit its peak Exalted strikes me as the sort of game which sits squarely in the ENWorld community’s wheelhouse. Likewise, the various Cypher system games seem to lose out as a result of ENWorld no longer being tracked, presumably due to Monte Cook’s status as part of the 3E design team endearing him to the ENWorld community. (Remember, although the score for the Cypher category only dropped by 2 points this time, The Strange is now being tracked as part of that category, so actually the score drop is more like 13 points – very punishing in the middle region of the chart.)

One last thought: just how much longer is ENWorld going to conflate the scores for World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness? It makes sense for now, since despite the name change I suspect an awful lot of people will still be talking about “new World of Darkness” instead of Chronicles of Darkness, but as time goes by and the new nomenclature gets settled it’ll be interesting to see if they split the category so we can track which game line has more traction.

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