Thursday, March 24, 2016

What's the Deal with RPGGeek?

Wait, wait don't go away. Yes, we talk about RPGGeek in this week's episode of Play on Target. All four of us use it heavily and it's how we linked up to do the podcast in the first place. That being said, let me echo something we stress in the show. Yeah, the look and layout of the site can be a turn off and a barrier to entry. If you've fled the site, I'm with you on that. They're still working to roll out a new interface. BUT here's the thing: I think RPGGeek's fun, rewarding, and interesting. It pays off if you have the time and inclination to get past the barricades. That's paid off for me. YRMV. 

Thirteen More Thoughts & Ideas about RPGGeek 
1. Tree of Games: We discuss RPGGeek's data structure several times in the show. The site has a solid approach to organizing diverse items while showing meaningful associations. That structure has created some weird "corner cases." How do you organize New World of Darkness lines like Mage the Awakening and Changeling the Lost? Are they an independent RPG or something else? More importantly what would new users assume and how would they hunt for them? 

2. User Tip: The site has a simple search box at the top of the page. However, that only searches a limited pool despite saying “All” (RPGs, RPG Items, RPG Families, Series, and Settings I think). If you put a designer's name in, it won’t generate a result. Instead you need to choose your search type from the dropdown. The Advance Search option offers more power, though it still only allows for certain data sets (and their combination). So while you can search for Core Books from Superhero RPGs, you can’t search for Superhero RPGs that use d20’s.

3. Role Out the Barrel: Does RPGGeek put in everything? No, some products, like miniatures are still outside the site's range. But web-published homebrews, Game Chef entries, RPG art books, magazines, fanzines, convention materials fit. They’re all fair game and you can find awesome stuff there.

4. Get Thine Stuff: Here's something else I dig. In the podcast I mention the robust system supporting trades. There’s also a decent marketplace for sale (with a small commission going to the Geek). But Math Trades are even cooler.  In these trades you put up appropriate items you’re willing to swap. These go on a Geeklist, along with notes on condition and shipping policy. Usually there’s a separate "Wish List" for games and items everyone's hunting for. After the list closes, you go through to see if there’s anything you’d be willing to trade for each of your items. You don’t have to: if there’s nothing worth swapping for, you don’t. But if there are multiple cool things, you can mark those. Once everyone’s submitted their “Want Lists” the Math Trade program goes through and works everything out, aiming to maximize the number of trades. You’re then told who to send what to and what you’re getting. You can check out the current RPG Math Trade list here. (It closes April 2, 2016).

5. Mine Doesn't Look like That: RPGGeek’s a great way to track down what games looks like. Something with multiple printings may have different covers. Since each item has an entry for versions, you can figure out which you own. As well, the site's always looking for scans of games that lack images, so that’s a good way to get started helping the site.

6. Getting Game On: The last couple of years I’ve run at VirtuaCon, RPGGeek’s online convention. The first year I had players craft a setting with Microscope and then I ran a game in it later in the con. The second year, a group created a Superhero setting which I then I ran a couple of different supers game in. Last year we created a fantasy city and then I ran DCC and 13th Age there. Long story short: a good and fun online convention experience. One of the best parts is the linked experience throughout the weekend. There’s a virtual tavern and various panels broadcast throughout the three days. If you like online gaming, you should check it out.

7. Good Game, Would Play Again: One of RPGGeek’s most interesting options is the ability to rate things. You can rate RPG Items, RPGs, Series, etc. That has a couple of purposes. On the one hand you can go back and assess your collection. I try to keep up on rating items I own and have read/played. I review my impressions and sometimes update them. A couple of times these ratings revealed to me games I hung on to out of habit. On the other hand, every rating goes into the aggregate. That means you can check what others thought. You can trace that back to see who rated it and check if their opinions square with yours. Following people you like to see what they’re interested in is a great way to find new gaming stuff.

8. Helps Me, Helps You: The RPGGeek community’s small compared to BGG, but it has a vast number of items in the database. That means a smaller rating pool. And that means that if you love something, you can more easily bring it to others' attention. If you have a game or system you feel strongly about, go through and rate it. Help others who might be looking at buying it make their judgement. Consider putting together a Guide Geekllist, like I’ve done for Fate, 13th Age, and Mutants & Masterminds. That’s a great thing to point someone to when they ask “Where do I start with X”?

9. What's Missing? RPGGeek’s info is user driven. I’ve entered almost 1500 games into the system, with all the details like designers and such. If you see something missing, consider adding it. Or if you see a mistake or gap in an entry, submit a correction. In the show I mention designers and artists should go through to make sure their listings are right. That’s easy to do. Each item has a submit correction button on it. Why should you bother to enter things? On the one hand you increase the depth of an already large database. On the other it credits you Geekgold which can be used for microbadges and avatars. That’s a goofy achievement, but I like it.

10. Virtual Assistant: Data entry can be tricky the first time you try it. If you want to add something, feel free to contact me and I’ll help you out.

11. Sound & Fury: If you’ve been on Board Game Geek and dealt with their forums, you may already be turned off. The atmosphere over there can be aggressive and tumultuous. That’s not the way it is on the RPGGeek side. It’s one of the best online communities I’ve interacted with. The site takes moderation seriously. Users can mark posts for review, which mods then check and assess against the site's stated standards. That’s always been handled quickly and quietly. As well they use a rule which reduces some passive-aggressiveness. You can mute & hide other users if you find them a problem. But you can’t post about muting people. You have to keep that choice personal.

12. Bonus Features: The site also offers several initiatives and contests throughout the year. There’s a Play by Forum initiative. That gets many GMs to start new PbF campaigns and issues an open call for new players. They offer yearly 24-Hour RPG Design competitions. There’s an ongoing Iron Reviewer competition, where users try to keep up with an onerous schedule of reviews. There’s the “Ladder of Insanity” challenge pushing players to play ten sessions each of ten different RPGs in the current year. There’s many more beyond this. Sometimes publishers have contests. Pelgrane sponsored a Drama System Series pitch competition last year.

13. Finding Players: When I’m hunting for or starting online games, I check both G+ and RPG Geek. The Geek has a strong and active VoIP forum (yes, that's an archaic name). It’s a good place to track down GMs. As well there’s an even larger and more active Play by Post group if that’s what you’re into.

Full Disclosure: I hopped on RPG Geek immediately after beta. I worked hard entering in data the first couple of years (I’m in the Data Uploaders Hall of Fame). I was on the informal advisory team, did a regular blog there, and was also an Image Admin. I quit that position after an alienating experience. Despite that I still use the site and participate in activities like VirtuaCon.