As a part of their annual April Fool's "spoof product" tradition, Wizards of the Coast has announced the release of two "much needed" new products for any roleplaying gamer's collection with Roll-playing for Roleplaying and Dice-n-Wipes.
Of the two, Dice-n-Wipes is the more farcical as it pokes fun at the overly common superstitions of many gamers. The "karma cleaning" joke is one that has been done to the point where it has become almost dull, but the ad for the wipes is amusing in a way that adds a little freshness to the joke. I did find myself saying, "well, I could use these to wipe down my gaming mat." The fact that I found a real use for a joke ad was sufficient to make me laugh.
The ad that really amused me, though it pales in comparison to the brilliant My Little Pony role playing game ad from a few years back, is Roll-playing for Roleplayers. This product is also known by a couple of other names, The Amber Diceless System, Over the Edge, Vampire: The Masquerade "old school edition pre-diablerie roll-playing power creep," Bullwinkle and Rocky Roleplaying Party Game (an under-appreciated work by David "Zeb" Cook), and Wizard's own 4th edition Dungeon Master's Guide and Dungeon Master's Guide 2, as well as quite a few other products.
The point is, while it is an amusing joke to infer that a product is needed specifically to incorporate more "roleplaying" in a group that focuses on "roll-playing," the real irony comes from the fact that several products have been created specifically to produce this effect. Aaron Allston's classic Champions campaign product Strike Force is one of the best examples of a product of this type. Champions, like 4th edition and D&D in general, can easily fall into the "roll-playing" trap where everything is decided by die rolls and the "improvisational persona performing" that makes "roleplaying" so unique -- and is the aspect that Greg Stafford argues make "roleplaying" an artform more than a game -- can be abandoned for pure mechanics. The riff that D&D is "roll-playing" and not "roleplaying" is a riff as old as the hobby, and it is good to see Wizards have a little fun with the stereotype. The ad also takes a couple more self-deprecating jabs at Wizards; look carefully at the bottom of the book.
It just hit me that the joke of the book may be the fact that it is a book filled with rules that will better allow players to substitute "roll-playing" for "roleplaying" more fluidly, rather than the inverse -- which was my initial assumption. If this is the case, the joke is even better and more self-deprecating. What company in their right mind would release a product that intentionally provided rules designed to removed the "improvisational narrative" aspects of the game experience? Other than FATAL, Rolemaster, and Hero System 6th Edition I mean?