Imagine your typical nerd. They’re probably into comic book movies, fantasy books, and, of course, video games. But do you know what else I bet that typical nerd plays? Tabletop roleplaying games.
Tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs) are a genre of board games in which players assume the role of a character in a fictional setting and work with their fellow players to tell a story. The game is usually headed by some sort of “Game Master,” who serves as a sort of narrator for the game. Most TTRPGs involve rolling dice to determine outcomes, and the characters you create have special abilities they can use to help the dice roll in their favor.
The most notable tabletop roleplaying game is Dungeons and Dragons. There has been a renaissance of tabletop roleplaying games, especially Dungeons and Dragons, over the last few years. Shows like Stranger Things have shown a glimpse into the history of the ever-popular Dungeons and Dragons, and long form webseries’ like Critical Role have shown what playing the game can actually look like in the modern era. Combine these factors with the ease of access with online support tools like Zoom or Discord to help get a group together to play, and it’s no wonder tabletop roleplaying games have become so popular.
However, on the other end of spectrum, many players in the Dungeons and Dragons community have been abandoning ship due to updates to Wizards of the Coast’s Open Gaming License. The whole situation is enough to take up multiple articles on its own, but in short, Wizards of the Coast (WotC, also known as “Wizards”) updated some policies in regards to third party content and monetization, which was terribly received by the community. WotC heard the “feedback” and tried revising their policies. However, Friday, January 27th, WotC announced to keep the original license intact without any changes. Many fans rejoiced at the news, but not without a good amount of fans having a bad taste in their mouth, looking away from D&D to other roleplaying systems to try out.
TTRPGs come in many shapes and sizes. Outside of D&D, there is the Call of Cthulhu system, emphasizing a dark, eldritch horror theme. Some systems like Apocalypse World have a Mad Max vibe set in a post-Apocalyptic world, and has even led to its own game engine, Powered by the Apocalypse, being used in a vast variety of genres for different roleplaying experiences.
Which leads me to my main point today: it’s time for Nintendo to dip it’s feet into TTRPGs.
There are quite a few TTRPG systems based on and inspired by video games. Rhapsody of Blood is inspired the Castlevania series. The Brightest Things We Know is a TTRPG inspired by Destiny. Pokémon Tabletop United is an entirely fan-made game system for players to take on the role of a Pokémon trainer, involving different trainer classes and individual stats for each and every Pokémon. There’s even a Dark Souls RPG, which uses the D&D Fifth Edition rules set in the world of Dark Souls. So why couldn’t we get a Legend of Zelda TTRPG?
The Legend of Zelda has tons of fan content that’s been converted to Dungeons and Dragons already. Want to play a Hylian? Tweak the Elf stats and traits a little bit. Want to play a Ruto? The Aarakocra is already a race of bird folk from D&D. You can take a few classic D&D monsters, like the goblins, and replace the “g” with “bok” and you’ve got bokoblins.
But not everything from Zelda would transition perfectly to D&D. D&D has specific spells players cast, while magic in Zelda seems very vague and mysterious. Boss fights in D&D primarily involve smacking the boss until it reaches 0 hit points, while Zelda boss fights typically involve targeting specific weak points while avoiding attacks, typically by using a newly acquired item. If you have to change and add in a bunch of different rules to make D&D feel more like Zelda, at what point is it no longer Dungeons and Dragons?
Aside from The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo has a large wellspring of other recognizable franchises that fans love like Metroid, Pikmin, Splatoon, or Xenoblade. And what TTRPGs allow that standard video games don’t is freedom. Freedom to try and do whatever you want. The freedom to create your own characters and see what happens. The freedom to tell your own story.
One big reason Nintendo in particular would do great here is simple: Super Smash Bros. Let’s say you and your friends have been playing a bunch of the Xenoblade TTRPG and you‘ve been playing an original character that you really like, but your friend wants to play his Goron from the Zelda RPG. The lore of Smash Bros. would allow simple crossovers to easily take place. Nintendo could release individual TTRPGs for the different franchises, and then string them all together with a Smash Bros. game.
This makes sense from a marketing standpoint too. Nintendo’s done their fair share of board games, with things like Legend of Zelda Monopoly or Mario Chess. Why not try an adaptation of one of the most successful board game genres in the world?
It’s time for Nintendo to step outside of their comfort zone and try their hand at tabletop RPGs. There is an insane amount of untapped potential here, and thousands, if not millions, of Nintendo fans who are already playing TTRPGs. With so many members of the TTRPG community looking for new game systems to try out, the time has never been better for Nintendo to take this leap.
Featured Image: Nintendo