Spring is in the air: Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and dice are, in fact, rolling. Yes, Q1 has wrapped up, and we’re here to once again bring you the latest data on what systems are being played on Roll20.
Before we get into it, though, let’s talk a little bit about that word: Systems. This quarter, we’re taking a new approach to how we compile our data to make sure we’re focusing on systems rather than games.
So, you’ll now see Powered by the Apocalypse titles grouped together, Year Zero titles like Tales From The Loop and Alien grouped together, and the AEG games represented under one category. In past reports, we’ve sometimes grouped games together if it “felt” right, but it was more or less an arbitrary decision.
We’re shifting to this approach not only for the sake of consistency, but also to make sure that popular systems have their slices of the pie accurately accounted for. We don’t want to punish systems for their ability to incorporate diverse settings or sourcebooks in their rulesets; if anything, that should speak to those titles’ benefits. We hope that this change only serves to help smaller systems and more accurately represent their popularity on our website, especially since the top slot is so consistently dominated by Dungeons & Dragons: 5th Edition.
We put the Orr Report out each quarter not only to provide some transparency about how the site is being used, but also to help generate some insight about TTRPGs as both a hobby and an industry. We hope that this helps players discover new titles, and we hope it helps creators make more informed and targeted decisions about their products and designs.
We’re continuing to play with how to format the Orr Report text, as well. This go-around, we’ll have a blurb for every system that enjoyed significant growth in Q1. We hope this approach will help us better provide context. Let us know what you think of this format, either on the forums or on Twitter.
OK! Now that all that stuff’s out of the way, let’s dive in.
Roll20 Q1 2021, By The Numbers
Since the last Orr Report, the total number of campaigns on the site grew about 2%. It’s hard to draw any sort of meaningful comparison between these numbers and this time last year, due to the overall uptick in usage from new users bringing their in-person games online during quarantine. But, like we mentioned last quarter, in the context of 2020’s continued growth those percentages become more significant.
Still, many systems saw their pieces of the pie shrink this quarter. While Roll20 as a platform saw growth overall, the total number of games for these systems shrank. This is partially from players migrating to newer, smaller systems, but in some cases, it’s also from larger systems taking up an even bigger chunk of the campaigns played on the site.
The Orr Report At-A-Glance
Campaign Percentage: How many Roll20 campaigns use this game system.*
While you’re looking at Account Percentage and Campaign Percentage, keep in mind that we changed our method for grouping together systems this quarter. Things are relatively the same here as they were in Q4 of 2020, but under this new system, we get a more accurate portrait of how popular some systems are–namely, Apocalypse World games (or PBTA). You can see some of the percentages shifting around slightly, as we mentioned above, but again–not many major changes.
Account Percentage: How many Roll20 users play this game system.
*Only games with at least one hour of playtime are counted in these results.
Systems With Biggest Campaign Growth
So who were the movers and shakers this month? Let’s take a look!
Burning Wheel, whose creator, Luke Crane, has been the subject of some news recently, is a fantasy system that places an important emphasis on characters’ backgrounds, histories, experiences, and motivations, with the hope that these focuses will lead to a more organically developed narrative at-the-table. While there’s been a number of Burning Wheel campaigns on the site for some time, the total number of those campaigns rose dramatically in Q1 2021, but–this is worth noting–not all in a big, single clump, as one might expect. Instead, it was a very steady but still very dramatic consistent rise over the course of three months.
Torchbearer, from Crane and Thor Olavsrud, shares many elements with Burning Wheel, and is currently in a funding campaign for its Second Edition.
Apocalypse World System (or Powered by the Apocalypse)
With a growth of almost 80%, the narrative-focused Powered by the Apocalypse family of games enjoyed a significant increase in campaigns, even with a pretty consistent level of prior popularity. We’re keeping an eye especially on Son of Oak Studio’s City of Mist, an urban fantasy noir-inspired setting which saw a particular boon of interest this quarter.
Cyberpunk (2020, Red)
Look at that jump! Cyberpunk Red’s core rulebook got a full release in November of 2020, but it seems that some waited until the new year to pick up R. Talsorian Games’ big, bold TTRPG. We mentioned last quarter how Cyberpunk 2077, the series’ video game cohort, has injected interest in the genre and series, despite its own rocky launch and reception. While that holds true, Red’s certainly rising on its own merits, and it seems a returned interest in both capital-c and lowercase-c Cyberpunk is here to stay.
Year Zero Engine
Between Tales from the Loop, Alien, and Mutant: Year Zero, publisher Free League has carved out a healthy space for the Year Zero-powered titles in their catalog. These games rely on large pools of six-sided dice and a unique skill-check system based on players pushing rolls to add more dice to their pools for important checks–and soaking the consequences, in turn.
This quarter, we blogged about how Alien: RPG’s unique Cinematic Scenarios make for ideal bite-sized gaming. Alien has been a breakout hit since its release, and its success no doubt has much to do with the overall success of Year Zero titles this quarter.
Pokemon (Tabletop United, Adventure)
These Pokemon titles are fan-made pen-and-paper RPGs that cast players as trainers in the world of pocket monsters. Both systems (called PTU and PTA by their communities) have been mainstays of the Orr Report for a while, but taken together, we can see the two systems’ rise significantly in popularity.
This Brazilian TTRPG is built with a focus on ease-of-play, with a streamlined D6 system. It shares much of its character creation DNA with Steve Jackson’s GURPS. Alpha, specifically, was released in 2008, and remains the most popular edition on the site.
Forged in the Dark
The Forged in the Dark games are built on the back of Evil Hat’s breakout hit, Blades in the Dark by John Harper. Forged in the Dark is a particularly robust system for telling stories of heists gone wrong, and unique settings like Girl by Moonlight and Band of Blades explore unexpected ideas surrounding that concept.
The Adventure Game Engine powers Dragon Age RPG, published by Green Ronin and based on the popular video game series from BioWare. The Expanse RPG, based on James S.A. Corey’s science-fiction series of the same name, also lives under the AGE umbrella.
Tormenta is a Brazilian fantasy campaign setting that has been repurposed for a number of systems, including D&D 3.5 and the previously mentioned 3D&T. In 2019, a funding campaign began for Tormenta 20, a new D20 system set in the world of Tormenta. It broke history at the time as the largest Brazilian crowd-funding campaign up to that time.
Call of Cthulhu (Any Edition)
Chaosium’s Cthulhu Mythos-inspired TTRPG continues to grow, seeing even more growth than last quarter. In particular, Call of Cthulhu has found success with audiences outside of the US, especially in Korea and Japan. In the latter’s case, the system has overtaken D&D 5E as the most popular RPG.
Beyond being difficult to Google, inSANe is a Japanese-language horror RPG that, like the above, speaks to the popularity of horror TTRPGs in Japan. It has numerous sourcebooks outlining different settings and scenarios, and features unique mechanics revolving around players’ reactions to those scenarios.
Mutants and Masterminds
Mutants and Masterminds is a superhero RPG from Green Ronin publishing, powered by a d20 system. First introduced in 2002, Mutants and Masterminds has been in its 3rd edition since 2011, and there are tons of supplemental materials and additional books for the system.
Dungeons & Dragons: 5th Edition
5th Edition continues to dominate the campaigns on the site, accounting for more than half of the games played on Roll20. Last month, Wizards of the Coast announced that D&D had its best year ever in 2020, with sales rising about 33%.
This quarter saw the release of Candlekeep Mysteries, an anthology of adventures all themed around the titular library. Here at Roll20, we shifted the way we’re handling anthology releases; you’ll now get each adventure bundled as its own solo game as well as a complete collection when you purchase an official WOTC adventure anthology on the Marketplace.
This May, the hotly anticipated Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft swoops in to the Marketplace.
Das Schwarze Auge
Germany’s most popular roleplaying game gets even more popular! Das Schwarze Auge has seen a steady increase in popularity over the last year, no doubt due to the resurgence of the hobby in Germany. A new English edition of the rules was crowdfunded last year.
Check out the full Orr Report below!