The Core Mechanic proposed that an opportunity exists for RPGs to utilize the technology that popular social media games (SMGs), such as Farmville or Mafia Wars, employ today and by extension make RPGs more accessible. The objective is the ability to roleplay around the clock without needing to wait for game night.
While I think Jonathan and I have some different ideas about what constitutes a roleplaying game, and how well one can be managed through social media, I do agree that there is a ton of opportunity that begs to be exploited. Also, I’m tired of seeing what your gangster vampire grew on the farm to feed his endangered species pet whenever I check my news feed on Facebook.
My only concern is providing the accessibility, the interactivity, and social media penetration without the roleplaying game reduced to a mere SMG or massively multiplayer online game (MMOG). The human element needs to be preserved; it is probably the most important aspect of roleplaying games.
Assuming the integrity of what is a roleplaying game is maintained, there are still many issues to overcome. For the remainder of this article, it is given that the following exists:
- The platform is built around a single game system
- Human Game Masters supervise games
- Many rules are automated, but may be selectively overridden by a GM
- Game Masters may list their games publicly
- Player characters have some sort of advancement
- Players may interface with the game through many clients (browser, Facebook, iPhone, etc.)
The Accessibility Hurdle
Probably the biggest issue facing an infrastructure that allows the level of accessibility that social media games provide is maintaining a consistent experience for players (including Game Masters). Jonathan had mentioned in the comments that “The game is always moving forward, and there’s never any point in which a player can’t “poke” the game and participate.” 
This is where the entire platform breaks down when I try to visualize it in my head. The idea, as I understand it, is that a player should be able to engage with the game at will and without any expectations of commitment. What about when a game is half-way through an important combat or a serious interaction with a prominent non-player character (NPC)?
Accessibility raises a few questions about what behaviors are acceptable or encouraged:
- Do you want players to enter or leave important scenes at will?
- Can players use the same character across many games and enjoy all the benefits?
- Are players free to perform actions without waiting for approval or consequences?
- Are players allowed access to any and all options?
- Is everyone at once both a player and a Game Master?
Of course, it all depends on how far accessibility is taken. If the goal is truly to provide players the ability to game at their convenience, without taking others’ stakes in the game into consideration, I think the game then crosses the line into SMG territory.
However, if the goal is to merely provide multiple lines of communication and methods of accessing the game, then I am on board. Then the next question is, “Would placing a ShareThis feature on MapTools accomplish most of our goals?”
Mini Games Option
One approach to lightly embed a roleplaying game into social media is to implement mini games that do not require moderation by Game Masters, but could be amended by them and add value to the actual game. These mini games might include tasks normally glossed over in most games such as researching inside a great library which could yield access to rituals in game. The majority of crafts could be given this treatment as well stronghold building.
Virtual LARP Option
Another method that possibly maximizes player accessibility while minimizing interruptions during critical play is treating the platform like a Live Action RolePlaying (LARP) game in the spirit of White Wolf’s Mind’s Eye Theatre (MET) series of games run by the Camarilla.
Using the LARP option would most likely utilize two modes of play, structured and unstructured. The structured mode is the traditional roleplaying with a Game Master moderating the session. The unstructured mode would essentially be one or more players engaging in self-moderated roleplay. An option might even be available that allows players engaging in unstructured play to request a GM to moderate when necessary.
Only by participating in the structured mode can players receive new objects (treasure) and progress through official storylines. However, players may always trade objects they already acquired when participating in either structured or unstructured modes.
Like the Camarilla, the platform would be a shared world where you can travel from game to game (mostly) freely. Limiting GMs to only official modules (or stories, adventures, etc.) would allow a modicum of control over balance and power creep (which will no doubt be a constant struggle to maintain). Placing restrictions on when players can enter structured mode play and wait periods to join after bailing from structured mode play could also help maintain consistent experience.
The LARP option actually begins to sound like a very advanced MUSH and there are probably a few things that such a platform could heavily borrow from such established technologies.
I’m not sure my vision of possible implementations concurs with Jonathan’s vision, but I think we can surely agree that there are opportunities for roleplaying games to take advantage of social technologies. Tomorrow I plan on taking a look at how one might develop an infrastructure that actually interfaced with popular social networks.
Articles that continue the discussion:
I should also note that using footnotes is a great idea and I actually tried to make a habit of using them a year ago with my Roleplaying Philosophy series but failed to maintain the discipline to use them.
 Roleplaying Games, Social Media Games, and the Shared Fence. The Core Mechanic. 2010-01-12.
 Social media games for Facebook created by Zynga Games.
 “A roleplaying game is a dynamic form of play, structured by rules with human moderation, where players assume and develop virtual roles of sentience and overcome opposition by freely improvising character actions in order to achieve a possibly infinite number of goals.”
RPP-101: Defining Roleplaying Games. Mad Brew Labs. 2009-01-15.
“The only requirement is that you play a game where you assume the role of a PC/avatar. The medium doesn’t matter – it’s the role that matters.” 
 ShareThis is a plug-in that allows you to post content across several social networks.
 A virtual table top (VTT) created by RPTools.
 Mind’s Eye Theatre is the LARP imprint of rules for White Wolf’s Word of Darkness setting.
 The Camarilla is the official World of Darkness fan club that also doubles as White Wolf’s organized play arm.