The world of video gaming owes a great deal to tabletop RPGs, as many early games attempted to recreate the experience of playing Dungeons & Dragons on the screen. The realm of dice, graph paper, maps, and minis was a major inspiration for many aspects of gaming and there are several prominent series that owe their existence to tabletop RPGs, such as Final Fantasy and Ultima.
There have been many video games based on the settings of famous tabletop RPGs, such as the Baldur's Gate series and Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, but few games have attempted to copy the experience of actually playing a tabletop RPG. Nintendo might have the best system for this type of game with the Nintendo Switch, but a developer needs to actually make it.
The Wasted Potential Of The Wii U
The idea of creating a game that was similar to a tabletop RPG was a common thought during the Nintendo Wii U era, such as the Penny Arcade strip about three gamers using the TV and a fourth player controlling the game using the Wii U GamePad.
The Nintendo Wii U GamePad had a lot of different possibilities, but few games made use of it outside of Nintendo Land and Super Mario Maker. The poor sales of the Nintendo Wii U meant that few developers were willing to touch it, especially with an experimental idea that relied heavily on co-op play.
The era of the Nintendo Wii U is over and the Nintendo Switch has been massively successful for the company. The Nintendo Switch is the perfect system for bringing around to a friend's house for some games, so it would be a far better fit for the tabletop RPG concept.
The Switch's Portability Makes The Tabletop RPG Idea Possible
The issue with using the tabletop RPG idea for the Nintendo Wii U is one of portability. The players would need a television set, the console, the Wii U GamePad, and three other controllers. If the idea was used with the Nintendo Switch, then the participants would only need to bring their Nintendo Switch consoles, as they already have a screen and controllers.
The most difficult aspect of bringing people together to play tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons is scheduling issues, so there is no reason why people couldn't also play these games online, but a big part of the experience is the social element of hanging out with friends. The Nintendo Switch would make it easy for both local and online play experiences.
The Possibilities Of The Switch Dungeons & Dragons Experience
The core idea behind a tabletop RPG game on the Nintendo Switch is based around the concept of using a dungeon master. In games like Dungeons & Dragons, there is one player who acts the dungeon master and they essentially create the adventure and act out every character who is not controlled by a player.
The way in which the dungeon master role can be used in a video game is by giving one player the ability to craft encounters for other players, which can involve designing dungeons and coming up with the abilities of the monsters. Think Super Mario Maker 2 but with another person who is throwing hazards at the player live while they are trying to complete a stage.
The players would have to work together as a unit in order to complete the dungeons created by the dungeon master. The reason why this would be different from a regular game of something like Dungeons & Dragons is the boundaries, as it won't be possible for the dungeon master to cheat the players or for anyone to forget a crucial rule, as they won't be able to act outside the rules of the game.
One game that attempted a multiplayer mode like this was Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption, which allowed one player to take on the role of a Storyteller and control different characters in the game. Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption was years ahead of its time in this regard and it's a shame that the possibilities of its multiplayer modes were ignored.
The Nintendo Switch has proven to be a great console for multiplayer games and it is especially fun at parties. The install base of the Nintendo Switch is such that a tabletop RPG-style game could be a big hit, especially now that games like Dungeons & Dragons have found a new fanbase on streaming sites.