When a MMORPG shuts down, generally that is that for the player base. Admittedly there are ‘private’ servers for some games, like the SWG Emulator for Star Wars Galaxies or the much newer Warhammer Online revival server. But for many games no such community-led resurrection occurs.
It’s a rather different story for pen and paper RPGs though. These are games of the imagination, games of shared storytelling fun, so the rules and fantastical worlds have no need of expensive server hardware or technical support call centres to live on. Also print books can last a very long time if well looked after. I have a large stock of old RPG books any one of which I could pick of the shelf and use.
Wilhelm at The Ancient Gaming Noob recently posted about receiving a new edition of the Tunnels and Trolls RPG, the original vintage edition hails way back to 1979! In the era of kickstarter, digital publishing and community content forums RPGs can live on long past their sell-by date even if they are not resurrected in print like T&T has been. The DriveThruRPG website and those like it offer reasonably-priced PDF digital archives of older editions or defunct games that have been preserved in a searchable format.
This weekend I finally had the chance to run a game of the Alternity RPG (using the Star Drive ‘space opera’ setting). Alternity is a TSR Sci-Fi game that predated the release of the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons by a few years. It’s a rather different game from D&D mechanically. You are still rolling lots of d20s but actions have grades of success or failure and character creation is largely skill based. The character classes (called professions) are also much broader, customised mainly by your choice of skills. The artwork may be somewhat dated but the system ran well and it was a thoroughly enjoyable departure from our groups d20 system norm.
So we had some fun playing a twenty year old game that has been out of print for over ten years. Granted to play it fully now you’d need to find manuals on E-Bay or the like but that’s hardly the same hurdles as a MMORPG fan faces? Community forums are a key asset for RPGs surviving beyond the years. Alternity has a very strong community website (alternityrpg.net) that has kept me interested despite the lack of opportunity to run the game.