Tabletop games and MMORPGs seem like they would go well together, but remarkably they often don’t. That’s true for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is that we have a lot more games adapting different source material separately. You can certainly run a Star Wars: The Old Republic-themed game with a Star Wars tabletop system, but neither one is based on the other. (Technically there was a supplement published for it, but that was covering the first two single-player games, which themselves were based on that tabletop system.)
But there have still been incursions from MMOs into the tabletop space, and MMOs which pluck that fertile ground for the seeds of inspiration. So let’s spend today looking at these games, when you can log off of your favorite MMO, gather around a table with your friends, and keep playing your favorite MMO. More or less.
1. Dungeons and Dragons Online
You may not be aware of this, but Dungeons & Dragons Online is actually based on a long-running series of tabletop roleplaying games! Some people would even argue that it’s the original roleplaying game! You know, it’s a whole thing.
To be very specific, DDO is based on the 3.5 rules and at least used to be based upon the Eberron setting, which was Wizards of the Coast’s none-too-successful push to really rebrand the “default” setting for Dungeons & Dragons. At this point it’s hopped to other settings so often that it’s become more of a grand setting tour, so we can only hope for the day when we’ll start exploring Dragonlance or Birthright, or if we’re very lucky, Planescape.
Oh, look, here we are again. Sadly, Neverwinter is based upon the fourth edition of D&D (best known as “the shameful one”) and the Forgotten Realms setting (best known as “Greyhawk, which was Tolkien run through the Gygaxizer, run through the Ed Greenwood-izer”). So it has that as marks against it. But it does mean that all of this stuff should be very familiar to anyone who’s familiar with the tabletop game.
Based on this trend, I look forward to another MMO based on the fifth edition any week now. Seriously, I’m ready to go. Include some Unearthed Arcana specs and we’ll be golden.
3. Pathfinder Online
Technically, this game isn’t based on D&D… kind of. Pathfinder Online is based on the Pathfinder tabletop system, which is sort of like an alternate evolutionary path based on 3.5e D&D. Since we had so many supplements for that because of its more open nature, it resulted in a whole pile of content that could be used for Pathfinder as well. It’s a bit like if instead of the dinosaurs all evolving into birds, we had our usual birds but also packs of roaming raptors.
Actually, that sounds kind of awesome.
Regardless, you’re probably more likely to be playing the tabletop version (which is popular, uses the aforementioned well-known rules, and already has lots of free material available) than the online version (which has a long and generally unpleasant history). Oh well.
4. Champions Online
It’s still kind of wacky to me that when Cryptic wanted to make a new superhero MMO, it just… went out and bought Champions. Back in the day, Champions was basically the game for playing a superhero tabletop campaign, and that seemed to tie into how Champions Online was meant to go. It didn’t work out that way, but there was a certain brilliance in buying the company rather than licensing out the IP.
Not that it helped, but…
5. World of Darkness
Sure, you could argue that this game never reached the “finished and playable” state, but you can still go mourn it around the table as you and your friends pretend that the ’90s never ended and the goth look is still “in.” Or you could spend a whole lot of time taking the piss out of that particular stereotype. My experience with these games has always been at one of the two extremes.
Now, if this had been based on Hunter: the Reckoning, you couldn’t play it in tabletop form. Not because the books weren’t published, just because no one would play with you. Zing.
6. Cryptic’s Magic: the Gathering game
Is this still happening? Let’s assume that it is, which will make it an odd example of a game that was originally designed to fill the gaps in tabletop playtime turning into an MMORPG. It seems sort of backwards, like if Candyland somehow inspired a critically acclaimed series of comic books.
7. World of Warcraft
All right, enough stuff that’s not D&D; let’s get back to D&D-based supplements! World of Warcraft has had a few of those from distinct lines, although they slowed to a trickle and stopped around the same time that d20 (also known as 3.5e D&D, also known as the game system that opened a backdoor for dozens of these things) stopped being a viable force in the world. But they exist! And every bit of game lore that has come out since seems determined to contradict anything they said. Whoops.
There was also a tabletop board game, although good luck finding that out in the great wide open. Now that you can probably run the game on a toaster oven, it seems rather unnecessary, but hey.
And another d20 supplement for EverQuest! The timing of this really made sense when it was released; rather than being a shambling half-forgotten franchise of dubious relevance, EverQuest was still a big name in 2008, and so putting out a supplement made a certain amount of sense. If anything, it’s surprising that we didn’t get more of these; considering how cheaply d20 books were being produced, I’d have expected some from at least a few other fantasy titles.
I can only speculate on how well it actually played, of course; my suspicion is that it was similar to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons version of Diablo 2. Yes, that was an actual sourcebook. I own it. And it’s kind of bizarre, but it’s a bizarre trip for another day.
9. Final Fantasy XIV
Here’s where I get kind of mad. There’s a Final Fantasy trading card game, you see. It features decks and cards from Final Fantasy XIV. That’s good, especially because it allows me to list the game here. But it doesn’t include Final Fantasy XI, and that makes me downright angry. Come on, guys, Final Fantasy XIV didn’t come out of nowhere. Why do you make me choose like this?
Also for all I know the card game is hot garbage, a friend wanted me to buy into it and I just kept saying “no” until she stopped asking. So maybe it’s for the best.
10. LEGO Universe
Sure, there aren’t any rule books, but the tabletop version of LEGO Universe seems to have enjoyed much longer popularity and it’s been played for ages now. There’s lots of fun permutations on the core gameplay, but I think that’s part of the fun. And there’s no shortage of new game components to buy, either.
It is, however, not cross-compatible with bare feet, as most parents (and several adults with poor pick-up habits) have found out over the years.