2024 RPG Design Prophecies

Bold predictions for the future of rpgs. A few curses included.

2024 RPG Design Prophecies

I know, I know—it’s Summer—I'm too late to make 2024 predictions. That's why I'm doing y'all one better. I'm pondering the orb and soothing doom. I can’t release a run-of-the-mill list. I have to be bold. So, let’s pretend the ghost of Orson Welles visited me in a dream and—for some fucking reason—wanted to talk about roleplaying games.

These fell omens and underdog narratives are going to happen. 2024 might be ambitious. So, let’s give it two years from today. Two years for just one prophecy to happen. Deal? Deal.

If you agree or disagree with some of my predictions, share your vision on social.

The data shows that pictures increase engagement, so here are unrelated pictures.

1. Hyper-analogs will wage war with the replicants.

Generative AI is flooding every corner of the creative world, from books to art to articles—the world’s lamest terminators are here to turn our art into compost.

2024 is the year hand-written, glued-up, photocopied zines will rise in response. Creators will use typewriters, pencils, glue, and trash to keep things pure. The rpg art project—previously pretentious fringe—will now become pretentious high ground against AI. This year will become the experimental period for many designers. As unintended fallout, accessibility discourse will become unbearable. Creators will be vilified for making esoteric and hard-to-parse works. Shipping woes will intensify as some designers leap into cassette tapes, wood components, and props.

Meanwhile, Chat GPT and Midjourney will wear down and gain acceptance in more traditional game communities. DMs Guild, Pathfinder, and Call of Cthulhu will become AI wastelands. Mainstream players accept it for its promise of unlimited content, while contrarians label non-AI games as elitist and narcissistic gatekeeping.

2. Maps and art will enter the third dimension.

Blender and Cinema 4D (popular 3D design software) are officially mainstream. Amateurs can afford it, and young designers have learned how to use them. That means the time for fully rendered 3D illustrations and maps is here. It won’t replace traditional art, but it will become the new differentiator in art and design.

This skill escalation and maturing of the industry’s craft will open up new ideas that were previously inaccessible. We’ll get our first flood of 3D online maps that are fully articulated. Indie designers will start selling 3D printer files as supplements to their games. New how-to influencers will show up to bridge the gap. Meanwhile, traditional artists will have to innovate in new ways—weirder, more conceptual ideas will become a strength—this year’s breakout artists will be working in new mediums or be too strange to ignore.

3. RPGs and board games will continue to tangle.

Roleplaying games, in pursuit of new ways to tell stories, will mine board games for all they’re worth. This has happened for a decade, but 2024 will be the year popular RPGs use tried-and-true board game mechanics beyond just cards.

We’ll see the rise of the cube-collecting, deck-building, tile-laying, worker-placing RPGs of the future. These RPGs will blend the problem-solving culture of the OSR, the determinism of story games, and the ludo narrative physicality of LARP in ways we haven’t seen before.

Meanwhile, in the board game world, the realities of international shipping will bear down on the component-heavy shelf busters. Many board games will embrace free-form customization, interpretation, and roleplay to create replayability. These concepts exist predominantly in party games, but it's likely to spread to genres unaccustomed to it.

4. Hasbro will buy an RPG competitor for its IP.

Hasbro will want to expand its IP portfolio as D&D’s growth starts to plateau or become a known quantity. They’ll prioritize any game that can be chopped up and licensed across industries, such as movies, toys, D&D, and Magic the Gathering crossovers.

Chaosium would be a valuable competitor to buy out since it gives them a backdoor way to “own” Call of Cthulhu—an otherwise unownable genre in the public domain. However, they’re just as likely to buy someone smaller with IP access. Whether Wizards or Hasbro will invest in the brand they buy—or tank it like Google—is still unknowable.

The only certainty is that Hasbro will treat D&D like a stock. Shareholders will want big news to pump up their valuations, and D&D’s movie and video game production schedule will be too slow to provide whatever obscene year-over-year growth the executives are looking for. They’ll buy and create IP while cutting the people who make it to fatten the bottom line.

Here’s an unrelated picture of a man fighting a crab monster.

5. Bare bones will become the new counter-culture.

The ashcan trend was just a teaser. With the rise of high-production-value projects from established creators, and the waning efficacy of Kickstarter for newcomers, scrappy creators will start publishing work as text files and Google Docs. It’ll be like early 2000s videogame walkthroughs never left. Art will be whatever can be produced in the notes app, and the layout will be filled with dashes, backslashes, and ASCII art.

In collision with the analog trend, we might see some RPGs written on notepads and scanned into circulation—doodles, cross-outs, and eraser shavings included. This trend will gain traction within the OSR/NSR spheres, likely for one or two games that make it part of their subculture. Indie designers, in general, will do it as well, but it won’t extend beyond a meme or infrequent one-offs.


There they are. My most cursed prophecies. If any of these come true in the next two years, I expect a horde of rpg pdfs as my ill-gotten prize.

What do you think? What's the unlikely prediction you're harboring?