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Why I Have Little Interest in Trying the Average New RPG

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illo of a pile of RPG booksI'm often looked upon as some strange type of gamer as I have no interest in even trying most of the new RPGs that are published every year. This is apparently especially annoying to some RPG players as I'm willing to try just about any boardgame at least once. There are, however, major differences between trying a new RPG someone I know has bought and wants to run and trying a new boardgame someone has bought and wants to play.

With the boardgame, all I have to do is show up and play. I don't have to invest any time or money in trying the game other than the hour or three it takes to show up and play. Rules are generally easy to learn as you play and no one expects me to purchase the game and study rules before I show up. On the other hand, most of the people who want me to try new RPG X expect me to buy a copy of the rules and at least read through them before the first session. That's too much of an investment of both money and time for me, especially since I already have RPGs I really enjoy and of which I already own and know the rules. Unless I am very sure that I will both like the new game at least as much as the ones I already own and play, investing time and money on a new game has too high of an opportunity cause to be something I want to do.

I believe that one of the reasons I've never had any trouble getting people to play the RPGs I run is that from a player's perspective, playing in one of my campaigns is a lot like playing a boardgame -- you can just show up and play. I can teach a new player all the mechanics he really needs to know in 10-15 minutes while I help him create a character and then all he has to do to play in my game is pretend to be that character and tell me what his character is trying to do and I'll report what happens, asking for any die rolls that might be needed. Players have no need to buy and study rules in advance. Actually, players have no need to ever read (let alone study) the rules unless they just want to as owning and studying the rules for the games I run gives one little or no advantage over players who never learn more about the mechanics than I taught them in their first session. In my opinion, the further an RPG strays from this "keep mechanics and play simple enough to play well without knowing the rules" principle the harder task someone who want to play that RPG is likely to have when it comes to recruiting players. RPGs that expect people to "master" their rules to play seem to strongly appeal to most hard core tabletop RPG players, but they also limit the pool of possible players to those who have the time and interest to study and master those rules -- not to mention the spare cash to buy a copy of rules they may only use two or three times.

Personally I'd rather spend the cash on my wife's medical bills and rather spend the time and effort I would spend on reading a new and very different RPG actually playing RPGs as I only have a few hours a week to devote to RPGs. What this generally means is I'm going to be playing the RPGs I already know and know I enjoy instead of trying new RPGs -- but I'm still happy to try a new boardgame. I'm also often willing to try a new RPG that is just a relatively minor mechanical variation on a RPG I already know and enjoy. That's why I'm generally happy to try a RPG based strongly on the rules of TSR D&D, the rules of Classic Traveller, the rules of TSR's Marvel Superheroes, the rules of West End's Star Wars, or the rules of Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying Game. I can just sit down and play a new game based on one of these sets of rules without having to invest any time or money in them -- almost like a boardgame.


Swords and Glory Volume 1 BoxThe Lazy Days of Summer RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund Drive is on. Every $10 donated gives you one chance to win a one of the many early D&D, Empire of the Petal Throne, and early TSR games items items described in the above-linked post. Multiple drawings will be held as described in the above linked post. The highest donors will have a separate chance to receive an Artists of TSR portfolio. These are in addition to the usual PDF downloads and other benefits of a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. To get help us pay our medical bills (and to get access to some special downloads and possibly the above mentioned lazy days of summer items), send a donation in any amount -- small or large -- to me via Paypal. Thank you!

As of the time of this post $994 dollars have been donated. That's about 29% of our goal and about 32% of the way to the second $750 drawing trigger point.

5 comments:
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Hot Soup said...
November 6, 2015 at 5:27 PM  

Hey! I trundled over from the Google+ community.

I don't need to help solve a perceived problem any more than you need to have an excuse not to play new games - there's just as much value in keeping the classics alive as there is trying out the new hot title. But if I can just unload two containers off your train of thought:

"With the boardgame, all I have to do is show up and play. I don't have to invest any time or money in trying the game other than the hour or three it takes to show up and play."

"I believe that one of the reasons I've never had any trouble getting people to play the RPGs I run is that from a player's perspective, playing in one of my campaigns is a lot like playing a boardgame -- you can just show up and play."

There it is. If you want to see what the new games are about, don't try to buy them, learn them and run them - you need to find a game already good to go and show up as a player.

You could show up at a convention that hosts Games on Demand (http://www.indiegamesondemand.org/) or hop on G+ Hangouts and play a game online using Roll20, or hell, just convince someone else who has a game to be the GM.

Again, not trying to solve a problem - lack of interest isn't something that needs to be fixed. But if it's not actually lack of interest but lack of accessibility... there are avenues to just pull up a chair and go.

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Gordon Cooper said...
November 6, 2015 at 10:32 PM  

I like all sorts of role-playing games, new and old, but I have never expected or required my players to buy or read the rules themselves. I consider it my duty as a GM to explain the rules (or house rules as the case may be). That's one reason why I gravitate towards less complicated and more intuitive rules. I want the players to be able to start playing as soon as possible.

"I can teach a new player all the mechanics he really needs to know in 10-15 minutes while I help him create a character and then all he has to do to play in my game is pretend to be that character and tell me what his character is trying to do and I'll report what happens, asking for any die rolls that might be needed."

That's exactly my approach as well. If the players are interested in investing their time and money in rule books, more power to them (especially if they decide they'd like to try GMing), but if they just want to role-play and not worry about the underlying game mechanics, that's perfectly fine, too.

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Gordon Cooper said...
November 6, 2015 at 10:41 PM  

"Actually, players have no need to ever read (let alone study) the rules unless they just want to as owning and studying the rules for the games I run gives one little or no advantage over players who never learn more about the mechanics than I taught them in their first session."

This is my credo. I think it makes the hobby stronger and more accessible to new or lapsed players.

"In my opinion, the further an RPG strays from this "keep mechanics and play simple enough to play well without knowing the rules" principle the harder task someone who want to play that RPG is likely to have when it comes to recruiting players"

Very true. This is the key.

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Fuzzy Skinner said...
November 6, 2015 at 10:44 PM  

This is why I switched from Pathfinder (even the Beginner Box demands a certain amount of rules mastery) to B/X D&D; the other day, I walked a guy who had never played a tabletop game through creating his thief character, and we were finished in less than half an hour. Considering most of my players (and me) are college students, it certainly helps that they don't need to devote time to reading the rulebook, and I can just tell them when a die roll is warranted.

Alas, this means I may never get to run an AD&D 2e campaign... but I can dream.

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Randall said...
November 7, 2015 at 7:47 AM  

Hot Soup: If someone does not have the money to buy or the time to study/learn new games willy-nilly, I think it is likely the person would not have the time or money to go to a convention. As much as I would like to go to the North Texas RPG Con (which is right in my own back yard), for example, I've never made it even for a day due to my wife's medical issues. Last year, she had a pain treatment (minor surgery that leaves her unable to do much for a few days). This year, she fell the day before I had planned to go. Etc.

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