Perfect Ten: You got your MMORPG in my tabletop RPG

For lore(n).

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.

2. Neverwinter

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.

This, uh, didn't work out great.

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.

Before this, even.

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.

8. EverQuest

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.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at or with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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Zen Dadaist

I was WoD TTer and LARPer for many, many years. Technically I guess I still am, I just haven’t been involved in a game in that particular setting in some time.

I have also snuck in a fair bit of some of my MMOs back into TT games though. Played in a long Babylon 5 game as a Technomage who was basically an Anarchy Online Nanotechnician. That was a lot of fun!

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Elite: Dangerous has two (Yes 2) Official RPGs :- We have the Elite-Encounters RPG which was one of the Kickstarter of a Kickstarter projects for Elite: Dangerous (and happens to have some excellent advanced ship to ship combat rules by yours truly) and we also have the E.D.R.P.G. which already has four extra supplements . RPG Groups can be found using the EDWTRB website which is a player matching site.


Surprised Warhammer didn’t make the list.


the fourth edition of D&D (best known as “the shameful one”)

I’ve played every edition of D&D over the past 30ish years and the 4th edition is still my favourite, as well as being popular with all the pen’n’paper roleplayers of my generation that I know locally.

1e and 2e are clunky and dated, 3.0e/3.5e is pretty decent but overly fiddly in places and has some serious class balance issues, 5e feels like a designed-by-committee update of 3.5e with a few neat ideas but the numbers are off so everything is way too reliant on dice luck. 4e has really solid combat rules and great class balance, the non-combat side of things is a bit simplistic but then the groups I’m in tend to play fairly fast and loose with the non-combat side of things and handle most of it through roleplay anyway.

Am currently playing in a D&D4e game with a homebrew dystopian-magitech-postapoc campaign setting and a Pathfinder game using the “Strange Aeons” adventure path, and having a lot of fun in both :)

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Ysayle was right

I mean, 4E is great if what you want out of your tabletop roleplaying is absolutely tight tactical balance in dungeon-based combat scenarios and literally nothing else.

Bango on Laurelin

I want to see an MMO version of “Flat Top”.

As in this – and not the hair cut.

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OMG! What a monster! But seriously, one of the best computer strategy games I ever played was Uncommon Valor: Campaign for the South Pacific. I could feel the tension and was holding my breath anytime the enemy (American or Japanese, played them both) would spot my carriers and send an air strike against them. Good times.

Rheem Octuris

I want to say that the problem with Tabletop games becoming MMORPGs isn’t that they are a bad match, I think it’s just the execution by the developers and them trying to put their own spin on it.


Mostly this. Considering that RPGs were likely the greatest influence on why MMORPGs even exist (either directly or indirectly), it’s rather silly to suggest converting them is difficult. Developers shoot for shortcuts because their developmental tools are often woefully lacking. Raids were shortcuts along with any repeatable, instanced content. Carrot on stick mechanics like endless gear grind through repeatable systems is a short cut. Worse still, RMT monitization destroys the recipe once employed successfully in old school MMORPG entirely.

To convert an RPG you simply must create the near-endless world of imagination from the player’s perspective. THAT is why players gather around an table to play an RPG. An MMORPG is nothing more than an RPG world created by the Game Master which in this case is the developer. This is why the old school MMORPGs were so wonderful despite their early tech limitations. The developers ATTEMPTED to create a massive world to openly explore.

Today, most MMO’s have a meaningless world to level in and an end game built around instanced, minimal content for maximum player participation which could be a stand alone game itself with no connection to the game world (in fact an entire genre offshoot was created by doing just this, which is a major f’ing clue). Or, the main world only exists as a pvp mechanic in later stages as often seen in Asian MMORPGs.

The next great MMORPG will be from a developer who knows the world is it’s subject and the diversity of game play will likely depend on a combination of dedicated horizontal content creation from both manual and procedural generation using highly customized tools. The current industry is not friendly on nurturing such artistic vision for an admittedly focused audience.

Bruno Brito

Interesting, given that a friend of us always played Hunters in our vampiric chronicles.

I murdered him everytime, so he would cross me again.

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I’ve played 1-5 in tabletop; none of them in MMRPG-Online form. It’s a similar situation to the sad conversion of a really good book into a really shitty movie, IMO.

Wilhelm Arcturus

I think you’d better get your timeline for the EverQuest role playing game straight, as it was out way before 2008. And there was an EQ and an EQII version both of which, by 2008, were showing up in the gaming section of your local used bookstore.

The fun bit though is that White Wolf did those games, and then were bought by CCP, so they get an extra MMO link with that.

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Not a MMO or tabletop game really but I did just discover there’s a Dresdon Files co-op card game thingy recently and holy shit did it make me stupid happy. Need to go out and buy it!

And it reminded me of my longing for a proper MMO set in the modern world with magic and shit. Yeah Secret World is good, but I want more more along the style of Dresdon where it’s more a popcorn flick with big booms and wisecracks than a narrative storytelling focus.