Transgaming: Bridging the Gap Between Tables & Silicon

Last week I pitched a game during a pitch event held by my company and during my presentation I believe I exposed many of my co-workers and the executives to more than a few new concepts (for them), one being transgaming. Since then, my research has led me to think about how the concept could integrate tabletop gaming. But before I get to that, I feel it is necessary to introduce the concept.


Transgaming is a nascent game design paradigm that provides interconnected gaming experiences. Two or more different games share the same the world where events and actions in one game also affect all other games sharing the world. For example, a real time strategy game that determines the vehicles and tech levels available to the players of a first person shooter. Though the concept isn’t new, CCP’s[1] Dust 514[2] is the first title to provide a transgaming experience.


Eve Forever

Dust 514 is a sci-fi FPS on the PS3 set in the New Eden universe with which it shares with the Eve Online[3] MMO sandbox roleplaying game for PC. But it’s not just set in the universe; the outcomes of the battles in Dust 514 will determine which planets Eve Online players may gather resources from and Eve Online players will contract with Dust 514 mercs to secure resources on the surface of the planets. The connection goes further with Eve players creating equipment (weapons, vehicles, etc.) that the Dust 514 players can purchase with in game currency.


Different platforms, different playstyles, shared universe, interconnected experience.


Related to Transmedia

Transgaming is rooted in another idea, transmedia. Transmedia is storytelling across multiple forms of media in order to have a wide array of entry points by which consumers can interact with a particular property.[4] Games are one of those entry points that storytellers can leverage to connect with an audience. Thus, transgaming is a recursive implementation of transmedia in the gaming medium, with the notable principle of interactivity.


Benefits of Transgaming

The following benefits of transgaming are articulated exceptionally well in Penny Arcade’s Extra Credits[5] episode, Transgaming, located below.

  • broadens the audience
  • increases player retention
  • increases microtransaction goods’ value
  • provides opportunities to interact with the game world even when away from it
  • brings hardcore & casual gamers together where we all play together even if we’re playing different games
  • allowing players to share their experience, their passion, with others who may do not enjoy a particular play style

Transcending the Tabletop

So I have talked a lot about video games, but how does transgaming apply to tabletop gaming? How can transgaming bridge the gap between digital and analog? How does looting the dungeon with paper and dice affect the video game running on some computer?


What if completing an objective in the video game unlocked content (powers, adventures, maps, paper models, other accessories) for the tabletop game? That’s fine, but that seems to be a bit of a one way trip. How do tabletop games affect the video game? A simple (there would be issues with logistics and perhaps theft) approach might be that tabletop supplements could come with a code to unlock similar content in the game. But if a game had an organized play arm, such as D&D’s RPGA[6], then actual actions could leave an even larger footprint.


An Opportunity with Pathfinder Online

If you are not aware already, Goblinworks[7] just closed a $300,000+ Kickstarter for a technology demo for Pathfinder Online.[8] PFO aims to be a hybrid sandbox/themepark[9] massively multiplayer online roleplaying game set in (initially?) the River Kingdoms area of Golarion.[10]


I think Paizo/Goblinworks has an extremely cool opportunity to implement a transgaming element by linking PFO with PFS, or the Pathfinder Society.[11] What if a PFS character could be linked to a PFO character? By using a robust tracking system, the characters could actually share the same character sheet.


Imagine gaining a level and acquiring some cool equipment while in Pathfinder Online, then logging out and printing your PFS character sheet out to see that new level and equipment on the sheet, then taking that character to a convention where you complete your faction goals in the Pathfinder Society module and return to find that you have increased your faction’s influence in the MMORPG?


There could be even more bleed into transmedia if the player-driven events (politics, trade, kingdom building) in PFO were featured in PFRPG sourcebooks, PFS modules, or made their way into Pathfinder Tales.[12] A good example of a game affecting media (and vice versa) is Syfy & Trion’s Defiance.[13]


The possibilities are numerous. Tabletop accessories could even be incorporated into the transgaming experience. By taking a cue from the very interesting Skylanders[14] console game (with figures), perhaps Pathfinder Battles miniatures could be a tool to transport and track your character between the digital and analog realms. Hey, maybe Paizo can step up their convention presence game by using a digital game tables[15] having those same miniatures function as control markers on the table.


Listening to: Excision – X Rated – Execute



[1] CCP is an Icelandic gaming company who bought White Wolf several years ago.
[2] Dust 514 is a first person shooter developed by CCP and set in New Eden.
[3] Eve Online is renowned for its sandbox gameplay and player created economy.
[4] From Gareth M. Sarka’s excellent blog series on Transmedia.
[5] Extra Credits is a video series hosted by Penny Arcade that talks about game theory.
[6] Role Playing Gamers Association organizes D&D’s Living Realms and Encounters.
[7] Goblinworks is a video game developer and sister company to Paizo Publishing.
[8] PFO Tech Demo Kickstarter raised $307,843 from 4,212 backers.
[9] Sandbox video games focus on open world exploration and player-driven gameplay. While themepark games are usually a more linear experience with the game guiding the character through the world via quests. This article actually does a bang up job of comparing & contrasting the two styles.
[10] Golarion is the official setting of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
[11] Pathfinder Society is Paizo’s organized play arm for the Pathfinder RPG.
[12] Pathfinder Tales is Paizo’s official fiction line for Pathfinder and the world of Golarion.
[13] Defiance is both a television series hosted by Syfy as well as FPS developed by Trion. Battles in the game affect the storyline in series and plot points in the series will appear in the game.
[14] Skylanders are figures that allow their owners to play their character on any console.
[15] I’ve spoken extensively about digital game tables using tech like the Microsoft Surface.

5 thoughts on “Transgaming: Bridging the Gap Between Tables & Silicon

  1. Craig, it is an unfortunate reaction I see among (at least a small but vocal group of) tabletop adventure gamers. This Neo-Luddism is definitely something I’d love to research to understand further. I’m not sure why it’s so resistant either.

    However, there did seem to be a high adoption rate of DDI (the D&D Insider tools); so maybe there’s hope.

    I imagine why we haven’t seen more expansive tools/integration so far is the amount of capital investment it would takes.

    Visionaries to watch? I wish I had a better answer, but really, the only publishers currently poised & willing to make the leap are Paizo/Goblinworks, White Wolf/CCP (World of Darkness MMO & TTRPG), and maybe Privateer Press (Matt Wilson seems very forward thinking).

    Everyone else I know involved in the digital arena of tabletop games are third parties. But as this is my area of interest, I tend to keep my fingers on the pulse of the digital movement, so I’ll post developments here as I see them.

  2. For a hobby so densely packed with early adopters and tech-workers, I’m amazed at how table-top RPGs have resisted modernization.

    Even the greatest digital products do nothing more than act as digital white-boards or character trackers.

    Transgaming is an opportunity to stretch the bounds of gaming. Do you know any true visionaries worth watching or working with?

  3. Even keeping up with they way content is distributed and managed seems to be beyond most in the industry.

    The 6d6 fireball folks are doing some interesting things with their Creative Commons licensed modules that can be rearranged and resold.

    Have you worked with any of the third-party groups? I’m looking for game related devs. to either work with, or at least bounce ideas off. Any thoughts on people who would be good to work with?

  4. I been keeping tabs on 6d6 as I’m a big fan of Creative Commons.

    I’ve not worked with any 3rd party groups as far as technology goes. I do have a good relationship with Nevermet Press, but they don’t really develop their own systems (did some 4e stuff, now doing PFRPG and fiction).

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