5. World of Darkness Still Has a Strong Fan Base
World of Darkness had some crushing Kickstarters this year. They funded a new version of the live action rules, rebooted some game lines, and generally exceeded every goal they had. Onyx Path's Kickstarter for a reboot of their wuxia-influenced fantasy game, Exalted, was funded in 18 minutes, which is pretty damn amazing considering that they were raising a cool $60,000. World of Darkness has an upcoming Kickstarter for their new demonic themed line as well, which is looking really good so far. This shows the power World of Darkness still has.
http://www.kicktraq.com/projects/200664283/deluxe-exalted-3rd-edition/ Look at those numbers! Impressed?
To be fair, these Kickstarters weren't all necessarily slam dunks, either. The new game setting this year was Mummy. Now, a mummy is a classic monster, sure, but they lack some of a vampire's pizzazz. You don't necessarily think of them as drowning in money and women, for instance. Nope, they tend to wear bandages and complain a lot, which isn't everyone's bag. They're basically the grumpy old people of monsters. The name is the worst - how long can you play a Mummy game without someone asking "Are you my mummy?" Sure, Moffat made a scary Doctor Who episode based on that question before he fell in love with River Song, but it's still a long shot.
6. A 21st Century Business Model
The RPG industry has basically always been tied to a business model based on small hobby stores. They were great because they introduced you to people, helped you find new games, and were generally cool places to be. They were homes away from home for the misfits who didn't want to be with their parents, but didn't have anywhere to go. However, they aren't really as practical these days, with tight margins and few customers. So, lately the industry has largely been going PDF. I have a problem with this, though. RPGs are reference heavy books and have lots of tables, often requiring a lot of flipping. I am slowly gaining these skills with PDFs but generally am much faster with a physical book (which works better in the bathroom as well).
Onxy Path has a great solution to this. Their partnership with DrivethruRPG allows them to offer a great assortment of Print on Demand versions. This means that I can get the physical book that I want as well as the PDF, and it gets to me within about ten days. This isn't Amazon speed, but it isn't bad either. I am aware that many consider my preference for physical books to be very old-fashioned, but this way I seem to get them without harming anyone. No print runs to put distributors or stores out of business, no overhead for anyone. They also have deluxe editions I would be tempted by if most of my pretty RPG books weren't transformed from Topher Grace to Ron Perlman by being carried about to clubs and conventions.
Book abuse at it's finest.
7. New Editions! New Editions Are Cool!
Yes, much like, say, DC Comics, RPGs get too confusing and weird after a while and need some help. You have all of these freelancers writing and rewriting things, then after a while you just have a lot of contradictions and ideas that have gotten away from people. This is not unknown to geeky properties, but is especially bad because the G in RPG is for Game, and so all of those differences can matter. You have to keep people interested in your books, and an easy way to throw out some red meat is in the form of cool secret moves and powers that crush the stuff that came before. Also, people thinking the old rules are boring can lead to all kinds of weirdness, a weirdness that can lead to rage and arguments and mean words like rules-lawyer. While there is often a feeling of rage when publishers start releasing books that are just like the old ones you already have, new editions are generally better as the designers have learned from old mistakes and can pick the best of the old edition.
Free RPG Day release, complete with new "Blood and Smoke" rules updates!
World of Darkness did this one better in that the rules updates in the new books are a free download for the core book. This means you can get the new rules for free, which I think is pretty great, as well as fair to all of us who have the original books. Roleplayers are somewhat infamous for being penny-pinchers, but I think it is pretty hard to feel ripped off by this deal, especially since the new rules are actually better than the old ones. Though then again, given the number of people you see raging against sites like Facebook, which are completely free, I'm sure the universe can find a way.
8. The God Machine
The original World of Darkness book was huge on 'sandbox', which is to say it was trying to give you a few ideas to build your own mythologies with. Although later lines like Werewolf and Mage had a lot of ideas for the universe, the main book was pretty vague. It generally talked about mysteries and small town horrors that could more or less hide in plain sight, elevators that go nowhere, weird little kids, all of those sorts of things. It had some great flash fiction, cool art, and generally just seemed creepy as hell. However, the big setting questions were up to you.
Tentacles make everything more awesome. Even this cover.
Now, however, there is a God Machine, a giant sentient device that plugs into the stars and generally runs life on Earth as we know it. It isn't evil, just alien. It has its own purposes and is not a big respecter of human lives. If something strange happens in the world, instead of it being just because, it is a result of a glitch or malfunction in the God Machine or, on the other hand, some strange and mildly sinister project it is working on. On one hand, you still have immense freedom since no one understands the God Machine in the first place. But on the other, it has a little more detail and fleshing out.
Personally I found it a bit more disturbing than the old 'monsters behind every shadow' approach. I think that was a bit of a post-modern approach, the Truth is out there, the world is more than we know, etc. There is nothing wrong with it, but it is a product of its time period. It may be because I'm getting older or my experience working at a corporation, but the horror of the universe being run down by an old, stupid, breaking down machine is a lot scarier to me than any given Lovecraft style entity or conspiracy. Maybe I've just seen too many senseless things and faceless entities ruining things I love. Like, the economy getting wrecked by useless loans. Or the Green Lantern movie. Or Firefly getting cancelled. Or, you know, Congress. Anyway, its faceless stupidity we have to worry about now, not zombies. Although, zombies are pretty faceless and stupid. So there is that.