I’ve spent the last year working on both MMOs and tabletop RPGs. Here are some conclusions I’ve drawn.
Writing for MMOs Is Better Because Of…
Immediacy: You can write something one day and see it the next day’s build. That’s pretty cool when you are used to waiting 6-18 months to see a finished book.
Showing, Not Telling: You don’t have to worry so much about describing things because the graphics speak for themselves.
Filthy Lucre: The money is way better than what you can make doing tabletop RPGs.
Easy Updates: If you discover that your barbarian class is broken, you can just fix it in the next patch of a MMO. It’s a lot harder to fix when it has been printed in thousands and thousands of books.
Writing RPGs Is Better Because Of…
Variety: You are unlikely to spend 3 or 4 years working on the same project. It’s nice to do different things.
Unfettered Vision: As a MMO designer you’ll have lots of cool ideas that will never get in the game because the programmers or the artists say it can’t be done or they don’t have time to handle it. In a tabletop game, if you can write it, you can put it inside.
Fewer Chefs: Building a MMO is a real team effort. This has many upsides but it does mean that any game becomes a series of compromises between individuals and departments. It’s much easier to have a driving vision behind a RPG (well, except for post-TSR D&D;, which suffers from the previously described problem as well).
Failure Limits: One failed RPG book can’t kill your company unless you are really stupid. One failed MMO can, and put 70+ people out of work.