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Translating World of Warcraft into a Tabletop Roleplaying Game: The Content Challenge
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Translating World of Warcraft into a Tabletop Roleplaying Game: The Content Challenge

January 8, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

[Many game developers are in the throes of creating a product based on a license. But how do game developers co-ordinate their IP with other media? Here, Gamasutra presents an in-depth look at the creative process that went into producing World of Warcraft tabletop RPG books, courtesy of Luke Johnson, the co-ordinator of the book series at White Wolf's end. What works and what doesn't when you want third-parties to extend your game world? Suggestions and solutions follow...]

The Warcraft world, without limits. That's what we wanted to create.

No matter how advanced and brilliant a computer game is, it limits your actions. Say you want to stop the arcane corruption in the Barrens. If you're playing the World of Warcraft computer game, you gather some buddies, head into the Wailing Caverns, fight a bunch of guys, find treasure, tell Naralex's disciple that it's time to revive his master, and hold off some monsters while Naralex returns to wakefulness.

That's pretty advanced, for a computer game, but it's limited. You can't collect materials to wake up Naralex on your own. You can't talk your way past Lord Serpentis. You can't dress up like a druid and infiltrate the druids' ranks.

In a tabletop roleplaying game, the only limit is your imagination. Players can do whatever they like. Also, the Warcraft world of your home roleplaying game isn't tied to the "real" Warcraft world with which we are all familiar, so players can alter the world however they like. They can play a group of tauren paladins, topple Stormwind, or watch angels descend from the sky.

It's a tempting experience, and that's why I was thrilled to have the chance -- along with the brilliant minds at White Wolf, a team of top-notch freelance writers, and the geniuses at Blizzard -- to create a tabletop roleplaying game set in the hugely popular Warcraft world. The game allows fans to immerse themselves in the setting to an extent not otherwise available.

Of course, the transition wasn't without difficulty. While designing World of Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game (the WoW RPG), we faced a number of challenges. The largest was content.

The nature of a tabletop RPG line is that you release a "core book," which contains everything you need to play the game. In our case, the WoW RPG core book is 400-page, full-color tome that we hope anyone would be proud to have gracing his or her bookshelf.

After the core book, you release any number of books containing supplementary material. These books come in many varieties, but most of them include some amount of both rules-related content (additional spells to cast, character types to play, monsters to kill, treasures to find, and the like) and setting-related content (history, cosmology, descriptions of lands and characters, and the like).

The WoW RPG line is no exception: We released supplementary books with titles such as More Magic and Mayhem (which included new spellcasting classes, new spells, new magic items, and new technological devices), the Alliance Player's Guide (which included a slew of material for Alliance heroes), and Lands of Mystery (an in-depth guide to Kalimdor, with little rules-related material). At the time of this writing, the WoW RPG supplement books number six (if you include Dark Factions, which is not yet released). All our supplements were hard-bound, quality books, and most had 224 pages.

Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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