It's been six months now since City of Heroes was shut down, and I've started exploring some of the other MMO RPG's out there, old and new. I doubt any of them will have as big an impact on me as that game did but I thought I ought to take a look at them at least. I found CoH great both as a game itself and as inspiration for some of my tabletop RPG's, and diving back in has me thinking about the idea in general.
Now when it came to cross-pollination CoH was more about setting: the individual missions were fairly simple most of the time, but the setting was great. A big sprawling city full of heroes and villains with its own history and enemy groups and internal problems - there's a lot there to mine for ideas for my own home game. Some of the group-oriented task forces could make for a good adventure idea, but most of the inspiration was less tactical and more strategic. After all, part of the fun is posing the problem and then seeing what your own group of players does to resolve it - quite often MMO type games have an assumed solution and the trick is to find it. With a tabletop game you can allow for far more diversity in approach and in solutions.
Beyond this particular game there are a bunch of fantasy MMO RPG's out there that could serve as inspiration too. I talked about using the Ultima (offline) games as inspiration here and I'd still like to give that a try sometime. Everquest and World of Warcraft are the big dogs here. There were tabletop RPG's published for both a few years ago. I don't own them but I assume they have some value if you're looking for RPG inspiration, even if you don't run the actual game. I would probably pick a game I already liked though and use the MMO material as inspiration rather than hard mechanics.
I do like the idea of mining them for material though, especially if you're stuck for a campaign idea. There's a ton of lore, NPC's, monsters, and geography just waiting to be used. Now this assumes that the DM is probably a dedicated player of the game, or was at some point, but if you are/were why not put that knowledge to good use? Plus, a tabletop game gives you the chance to explore outside the constraints of the game engine, which could give familiar material a brand new feel once you dig in.
Now I'm not a WoW or EQ player but I do have some recently-gained knowledge of Neverwinter which is a special case: It was an online game that became an offline game that became a 4th edition supplement and then became an online game again.
- The quests in the game could easily be used as inspiration for some adventures in a tabletop game
- The locations and NPC's could easily be used as well
- One angle that could be big: Visualizations! If you're looking for pictures of people and places in neverwinter for your tabletop game it's pretty easy to take screenshots in-game of those places. Save them, load them to a tablet and you have a Neverwinter photo guide! I have done this at times with other pics - I load them into an iPad and use Airplay to throw them up on the TV so everyone can see them. If your table is like mine there are a bunch of electronics floating around anyway so why not steer them back towards the game at hand with something like this?
With so many online RPG's going free to play I think they are worth a look, both as games themselves and as inspiration and resources to fuel your "real" game. Take a look - you may find yet another tool to add to your DM toolbox.