Nearby Gamers

Nearby Gamers is a website designed to help tabletop gamers find each other. It’s a fine purpose, one which many other website owners have given themselves to since this internet fad caught on. For a hobby like tabletop games, which relies so heavily on in-person interaction, it can be amazingly difficult to find fellow enthusiasts in real life.

Given there are so many different sites intended to bring gamers together, what makes Nearby Gamers stand out? Two things in particular; the first of which simplicity. Rather than lots of check boxes and categories of interest for a user to fill out, Nearby Gamers uses a wiki-like system of tagging. A new user inputs their name, geographical location and list of games they like to play. This list can be as straightforward as “AD&D, Cosmic Encounter, Rifts, WitchCraft.” All tags are editable, so they can be given explanatory text and outbound links, as well as redirected to other tags, which is the really awesome part. That user who put “AD&D” on their profile can, through the magic of tag redirection, be included in the larger “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” tag without any work on their part, thus improving their odds of finding a fellow user who also enjoys that game, leading us to the second stand-out element of Nearby Gamers.

Where other tabletop networking sites use a series of nested geographical category containers — nation, state or province, etc — Nearby Gamers takes advantage of Google Maps to display graphically users by their location. This way, a user can tell by glancing at a map who’s physically nearby, which I find much more helpful than staring at a list of entries sorted by user name that reel off information like city and state without putting it in relation to my own location. Nearby Gamers can also pull together a list of users within a certain distance of your account’s given location, made helpful as it’s sorted by distance, rather than user name or some other less relevant criteria.

One of Nearby Gamers’ strengths is also its greatest drawback. The tag cloud is enormous and unwieldy. Anything typed into the preferences field becomes a tag, typos and bad copy-paste jobs alike. I’ve spent a fair bit of time myself helping redirect bad tags to their correct counterparts, but there are always more mistaken duplicates and nonsense tags to clean up. It’s a Sisyphean task, but that’s the nature of wiki-based tagging. It’s indefinitely expandable, but it’s also especially susceptible to “Garbage in, garbage out.”

The lesson here is: when you make an account, make sure you’re putting in good tags other people use. After that, Nearby Gamers is a great resource that presents a very straightforward way to find other gamers.

You Don’t Know the Future

I spend what can be fairly called “too much time” reading the forums at RPG.net. It’s become habit over the last seven years, since I first found the place in 2002. As I first explored the roleplaying hobby, RPG.net was an amazing one-stop shop for reviews and interactive discussion. Every topic and opinion was new, shiny and required thorough investigation.

I feel differently now. Seven years later, the recurring questions and cyclical patterns of a discussion forum make themselves apparent. Someone always wants to know what is the best system for a particular game concept. Another person has an extensive alternate take on some published setting. And rancor is always, always fomented by asking questions that can’t be answered with any degree of satisfaction.

Take, for example, this thread about Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition. The game only had a preview display case at Gen Con and people are already concerned about whether its $100 price point will set a new standard for core roleplaying materials. And that’s not even getting into the needless debates over whether the play style could somehow bastardize the pastime of roleplaying by introducing board game-like components.

For questions like that, the only sensible answer is it’s much too early to tell. In fact, the only time it will be possible to tell will be a year or so after Fantasy Flight Games publishes their edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Only then, after consumers have or have not bought into the game in numbers making the model worthwhile, and other publishers have or have not followed suit in mimicking the game design, can a person come up with a useful analysis of how the game design and price point affected the market. Until then, it’s all hand-wringing and guesses of varying degrees of education.

Toe Tags, Diplomas and Other Pieces of Evidence

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society is a group dedicated to the Cthulhu Lives live action roleplaying game — LARP for short — which itself is a thematic, if not direct, cousin of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, wherein investigators brush up against great and terrible beings with a frightening regularity. Their motto, Ludo Fore Putavimus, translates as “we thought it would be fun.”

Among the various resources the HPLHS offers to people interested in putting on LARPs are a number of PDFs of printable props. When outfitting oneself to take the role of an adjunct faculty member of Miskatonic University, you can go forth with Massachusetts driver’s license, Miskatonic Library card and the telegram from your reclusive Uncle Boris all in your hip pocket.

My particular favorite is the Miskatonic Library Conversion Kit. You can turn any book into a tome from the restricted collection. Snag some spine band-aids from your local public library for hardcore verisimilitude.

Even if you’re not a LARPer, a few well-placed props to pull out at the game table can do wonders. When the players come across the bloated corpse in the well, the first thing they’ll do, after choking down the bile, will be to check the poor soul’s wallet. Now you can throw one down on the table.

And this stuff isn’t good just for period Cthulhu games. Typewritten driver’s licenses and library cards will fit in anywhere from the late nineteenth century up to well into the 1980s, at least, depending on locale. (Until 2002, my own license was typewritten with no photo, albeit on a flexible piece of plastic.)

The Arcana Wiki

Curated by Jürgen Hubert, the Arcana Wiki carries on the legacy of the Suppressed Transmission columns. So you can tell it covers a field near and dear to my own heart. As the introduction says:

Legends, mythology, UFO lore, Conspiracy theories, Fiction, and even (seemingly) mundane cultural traditions from other countries. These can and have been used to inspire role-playing game adventures and even entire campaign settings. This wiki aims to collect information about all those, ready for gamers – and then adds suggestions by other gamers – for actually using them in your game.

Right on the front page is a random selection of topics hosted at the wiki, with such tantalizing titles as “Huge Sea Worm Captured in Britain,” “Oasis in the Ice” and “Library of Lost Books.” I’m already getting ideas just from combining those three titles together.

RPG Geek Goes Into Open Beta

A couple weeks ago now, the staff of RPG Geek announced the site’s passage into open beta. RPG Geek seems to be a cousin, if not outright sibling, of the megasite Boardgamegeek.com. If Boardgamegeek.com’s format and content is anything to go by, there will be a steadily torrent of pictures, component scans, play aids and feisty discussion about every aspect of roleplaying games and ways to play them.

People interested in participating in the open beta should visit the site’s Google group. Once accepted there, you get access to the beta site. It looks pretty much just like the original Boardgamegeek, except a lot of the front page content is related to roleplaying games. Right now they’re expanding the database of titles and people, uploading cover scans and sorting out the bugs cropping

What this means for RPG.net’s Game Index, which fulfills a function very similar to Boardgamegeek in the RPG arena, remains to be seen. The Boardgamegeek brand has a lot of internet cred among its adherents. (It also has a fair bit of anti-cred in other online communities, I’ve learned in the last couple days.) A portion of the future user base for RPG Geek will certainly make the jump from Boardgamegeek, but by no means all. So a significant portion of RPG Geek’s community will have to come from other sites like RPG.net, ENWorldTheRPGSite.com, Story Games and The Forge, most likely.

[Thanks to The Escapist for the tip-off.]