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Time and Learning New Roleplaying Games


I just don't have the time to learn many new games well enough to play them, let alone GM them, any more. I'm 53, and have work, a house to maintain, family, and other non-gaming activities that all require my time and effort. Time for gaming is very scarce. I'd rather spend that time playing games rather than learning yet another new and different system -- especially a multi-hundred page set of rules.

I can run TSR D&D, Classic Traveller, Call of Cthulthu/Stormbringer (and other BRP style games) and Marvel Superheroes almost without having the rule books at the table, so why not run them rather than spend time learning yet another new system? I can make an exception for very rules-lite games, but other than that I just can't make myself bother.

This is true for playing as well as running them. If the players really need to buy the book and learn the rules to play, then I really don't have the time. That's what I like about many old-school games, you could play without reading the rules, let alone learning them or "mastering" them.

I know this isn't what the gaming industry wants to hear, but I suspect a lot of people are in the same boat I am or will be as they age and acquire more and more time-consuming responsibilities. The constant churn of rules may not be in the long term best interests of the gaming industry even if it does produce profits over the short term. Think about it, I could go to the store and buy the same game of Candy Land, Life, or Monopoly I played (rules-wise, at least) as a child and play them with my niece and nephew. However, with the exception of a very few games like Call of Cthulhu, I can't do that with the RPGs I played in the 1970s and 1980s. Even staples like D&D are so different (rules-wise) now that they might as well be different games.

Will Douglas said...
September 8, 2010 at 12:23 PM  

"Think about it, I could go to the store and buy the same game of Candy Land, Life, or Monopoly I played (rules-wise, at least) as a child and play them with my niece and nephew."

Candyland and Monopoly, sure. But I bought a copy of Life and found out that there are at least two later editions since the one I played as a kid. And the one I got on the first try was awful.

Go to Target and get the wooden box edition -- that's the original.

Other than that, I have to say, I totally agree with everything you've said here.

N. Wright said...
September 8, 2010 at 5:25 PM  

I think it's a travesty that the pay-to-play RPG market consists of bigger and bigger RPGs, with longer rules than the edition before it. It doesn't make any sense.

I wrote a longer post about that here: http://lawfulindifferent.blogspot.com/2010/09/why-are-games-so-damn-long.html

Randall said...
September 8, 2010 at 5:52 PM  

@Will -- I haven't seen the new versions of Life. The one I bought a few years ago had a fancier looking board and cars that the one I had in the 1960s, but was pretty much the same rules and play-wise. I'll have to see what is available now.

@N. Wight -- Interesting post (and comments) on rules length.

Stan Shinn said...
September 8, 2010 at 8:07 PM  

I totally agree -- we need more commercially supported rules-lite RPGs.

Anonymous said...
September 9, 2010 at 4:09 AM  

I can play anything, whether I know the rules or not (you tell the Referee what you want to do, he/she tells you what to roll). But when I'm the GM (pretty much always) it's D&D (LotFP: WFRP at the moment) or Classic Traveller.

Dan said...
September 25, 2010 at 5:19 AM  

I regards to learning new gaming systems, I am totally with you. Many years ago, I used to play D&D, then when Advanced came out, I played AD&D a LOT. Table top, pen and paper games, then later, me and a lot of people I met through Irony games played online by email. Then when 3rd Edition came out, we all agreed to buy the core rulebooks, learn it together and started a basic game to get to grips with it. We liked it so much, we converted all our games to 3e.

Just as 3.5 was coming out, the proverbial Sh!t hit the Real Life fan, and I was thrown into disarray, and completely lost my gaming mojo. Didn't want to roleplay, didn't want to keep my home-brew world maintained, nothing...

Life carried on to be a but wonky for several years, but recently, the bug has returned, and I've been chatting with my friends about gaming. I missed most of the 3.5 changes, though I got the core books and learned them, even though I wasn't playing. 4th Edition came and went and I didn't pay it any attention.

Talking to my friends about starting gaming again, the issue of systems has come up, and we're torn between 3.5, 4th or a spin off called Pathfinder. My biggest issue is that 4th is just ANOTHER Wizards/Hasbro money maker (and I've seen they are re-releasing the books in a sort of 4.5 edition!). Alternatively, the Pathfinder system is based on 3.5 - except that it has so much different stuff in it, it's effectively a new system to me. A new, 500+ page PHB system. And I just don't have the time nor the inclination to go through it.

D&D 4th holds NO appeal to me. I remember previous version had the PHB, the DMG and the MM. Nice and easy. Then it was DMG2. MM2, MM3... Now with 4th edition, there are, what, THREE PHBs? TWO DMGs?? HOW many MMs?? People tell me "Just get it via torrent" but I like to SUPPORT the games I enjoy. And reading through that many book just to restart a hobby? No thanks...

Not sure what my point is here to be honest - Just waffling I think, but I'm glad there are others out there on the same sort of wavelength :)

PS, found your blog through Google Reader recommended sources, and glad I did :)

Byteknight said...
December 14, 2010 at 12:14 AM  

I agree, the constant learning of new rules was a problem for my gaming group in the early 80s but it was solved by 1986 when GURPS came along. Since then, standardized rules from many different companies have consolidated the rpg market.

Maybe the real culprit is that we're not kids anymore. I'm 43 and you said you're in your 50s. Real life is intruding now the way it wasn't intruding when we were 25 years younger. Even if I had the time to think of a campaign, etc and all my buddies were there to play like they were 30 years ago, I still think my mind today will not be 100% focused. I'll be thinking of my work assignments, office politics, etc.

In addition, after 30 years of playing, perhaps the magic of rpgs is fading for us. The Rpg industry has changed, we've changed.. it is not the charming new thing it once was. We've all been the hero, had the "perfect" character, GMed a great mission once, amassed X number of experience, have characters who shaped their game universe, etc. Done it all and been all. Eventually, you'll have to ask yourself, now what? Is that all there is?

Everything has it's day. Bear-wrestling, faro, etc, were popular games in their day. The same now can be said for tabletop RPGs. However, I'm glad I was "there" in the golden age of rpgs, the 80s. The happiest years of my life was GMing in the mid 80s. It's something kids today will never experience what with their other distractions and more cynical attitude. I'm glad and have personally come to accept that for the most part is over.

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