I find it hard to conceive of circumstances in which I will buy another RPG rulebook "in anger" - that is, with the intention of playing games using it. I have a burgeoning collection of old RPG books that I will never play but which I like as objects. But the thought of learning how to use a new system, even a simple one, fills me with dread, sorrow, anguish and ennui. I cannot be bothered. The only thing I am now really interested in is content: imagine things which I can't imagine. I make an exception for useful subsystems within the context of games I already know. But I will almost certainly never learn how to use another RPG system afresh. I've had enough of all that.
Is there a word for people like me? "Grognard" has too many connotations, and I'm not old enough. Maybe RPG luddite? RPG philistine? RPG conservative? RPG reactionary? None of these are right: I'm not against change in general. Nor am I against new things. I'm just against spending time learning new systems.
Perhaps there's another way of putting it: as time goes on I become less and less interested in the kind of dilettantism that modern life encourages. We have access to so much new entertainments, new information, new content, new distractions, that we naturally tend towards becoming dabblers rather than experts. When there are 200 different RPG systems at your fingertips, it's easy to dip in and out of them, maybe play a few sessions of one before getting bored and moving on to another, maybe just reading bits and pieces of the rulebook for fun, maybe just looking at the pictures - all without ever putting in the time and effort to make use of any of them properly. We don't develop long-term relationships of mastery or expertise with anything - just a passing superficial interest in vast oceans of stuff.
Which is better: to be really, really good at running D&D, or to have hundreds of RPG pdfs on your hard drive and to know enough about them to talk about them online?
You're absolutely right. Stick to one system and master it. But I still read other rpg systems, and take some clever ideas (rules or setting) out of them to use in my own campaigns. But switching the core system? No thanks!ReplyDelete
There are certain times, though, where buying RPGs simply makes you better at running D&D - because you can bolt on the good stuff to what you're doing already.ReplyDelete
I was late to The Black Hack and Into the Odd, but have had a lot of fun with both recently and can see plenty from each to bolt on to our longer-running Whitehack campaign. I'll take the usage dice from The Black Hack, for example, and much of the arcana and aesthetic from Into the Odd, as well as starter packages and the idea of debt and poverty as motivation. (It's so good and so simple: "You're at the gates of the Devil-Warrens because you are penniless, with angry debtors, and own only this spyglass, this musket and a ferret. And you've heard that there's treasure down there ...").
Also, I've just played Emmy Allen's The Dolorous Stroke (a kind of RPG/wargame hybrid), which has some great stuff (mortal wounds, for example, which I've just blogged about).
Generally, though, I agree with you - and especially with new and complex systems.
And - pace the likes of Yoon Suin and Vornheim - I think settings are even worse for this. Ultimately, I think there are very few good RPG *worlds*. There's Glorantha, and there's Tekumel, but most of the rest pales in comparison. So *places* that can be dropped into worlds are great (Yoon Suin and Vornheim again), but *worlds* are generally tiresome.
And for some reason, I find games that are tied to (new) worlds especially tiresome.
New worlds in general are tiresome to me now. I was just reading about the latest Hugo winner, who happens to have now won three Hugos in a row. I looked up her books and instantly the setting seemed trite, boring, teenage. You would have to be really special to convince me to want to read something for the setting nowadays.Delete
I'm someone who, these days, also doesn't have a lot of patience for extensive fantasy-building. Give me M John Harrison or Thomas Ligotti or Kelly Link any day.Delete
That being said, NK Jemisin's new trilogy is pretty good. It has some clever ideas, and it discusses ideas like systemic oppression in a way that is interesting without being overbearing. The writing isn't remarkable, but it's around the level of GRRM; i.e., still better than a lot of novelists. If you've mostly given up on long f&sf trilogies, Broken Earth isn't going to change your mind. But if you have a baseline receptiveness to the set of stories to which it belongs, you will likely appreciate it.
Thanks for that. I think I have just about given up on long trilogies though. It would really have to sound remarkably different and interesting to get me to read it.Delete
I Don't need any new RPGs...but of course I want them.ReplyDelete
I am a tabletop RPG fan, a lover of the hobby and the medium. Show me new ways of doing things, of thinking of things, because who knows? Maybe your game is the one I've been waiting for.
True, I play Champions 4th Edition and they're up to 6th. I play 3rd Edition Ars Magica while 5th is the current one [I believe]. Yet I've switched my Star Trek gaming to Star Trek Adventures after years of running Last Unicorn's, and that after years and years of FASA.
I can't stick with one game to rule them all any more then I could eat my favorite food three meals a day for the rest of my life. Even burritos aren't THAT perfect a food.
"Even burritos aren't THAT perfect a food."Delete
...but in all seriousness, I remember a conversation from my college gaming group where the subject came up of using GURPS for everything. A friend of mine reasoned. "Imagine that every meal you eat for the rest of your life is going to be potatoes. They might be hashbrows, or fries, or mashed, or escalloped, but it's always going to be potatoes."
I do feel noism's pain, though. I have more games than I will ever, ever be able to run, and in the era of PWYW and Humble Bundle, it is very easy to let a collection turn into more of a hoard.
I get that, but for me it's not the right analogy because RPGs aren't like food. You don't just consume them. They're also a kind of skill.Delete
You're not a grognard if you feel this way, you simply want depth over breadth and tired of gamers getting distracted by the latest shiny things. It's okay to feel "dread, sorrow, anguish, and ennui"--that's what happens when you're about to decide not to keep up with the Joneses. It's how I felt right before I made the decision to walk away from a gamer lifestyle which encourages constant distraction, trying new systems, and buying books I might not use, or use only a few times before the group falls apart or switches to a new RPG. Life's too short for that.ReplyDelete
Here's to depth over breadth.Delete
"Which is better: to be really, really good at running D&D, or to have hundreds of RPG pdfs on your hard drive and to know enough about them to talk about them online?"ReplyDelete
--Neither, of course; it all comes down to what kind of experience you and your group are looking for. If you're happy with your current version of D&D, bar a little tinkering, then by all means keep at it.
That said, a word of caution: If someone ever comes to you with an offer to play using some other system, please don't let your self-identification as a "RPG Luddite" or whatever keep you from trying it out. There are plenty of systems designed to be beginner-friendly, and plenty of GMs who can give beginners a smooth intro to a system, and it would be pretty sad to pass up on the point of TTRPGs (having fun with friends/family) over some sort of imagined matter of principle.
Finally, and I apologize if this is intrusive or comes off as rude, but please take care of yourself if you're feeling depressed. There's a decent gap between "I don't feel like reading 200 pages worth of new rules just to add some variety to my hobby" and "I don't feel like getting out of bed or eating or showering," but the line "cannot be bothered" or the idea of feeling dread (!?) at the thought of reading a new book sure sounds like depression. Take care of yourself!
Noisms is British. He'll be fine.Delete
I don't feel depressed, don't worry. I'm exaggerating for effect.Delete
I also won't turn down playing with new systems - of course not. Just don't ask me to read the rules and properly understand them. ;)
Good to hear, then. :)Delete
If "grognard" weren't taken as pejorative it would be the perfect word. If you were a wargaming buff and you self-described as an "old soldier" because you weren't interested in the new rules then that doesn't carry the same emotional freight.ReplyDelete
I'm the same. It's why I buy OSR stuff - I already know the system, so I can run it.ReplyDelete
These days I feel even when I've played a new system, eg Savage Worlds, I don't really know it.
Sorry, to me not reading new RPGS is like not listening to music you have never heard before, not watching movies you have never seen, and not reading books you have never read. Sure, there is something to be said for being an expert on chapter 8 of Moby Dick, but there are a lot of other books out in the world.ReplyDelete
I suppose it's how much a commitment one attributes to reading an RPG. I'd be more inclined to associate playing a session of a new RPG - run by somebody else - with listening to a different song or style of music. I would get a basic understanding of the system, as explained (hopefully) by the game master or one of the other players, but it wouldn't come back to me if I were to return to that game a few months later.Delete
For me, reading through a new RPG system properly would be more like learning how to play a new musical instrument, or playing one musical instrument in a new musical genre. You get a better understanding of the structure and underlying intricacies, but if you want to get better at playing a particular piece or genre you would need to be prepared to be more focused in your practice. Sure, learning how to play the ukulele might help you pick up the guitar (you're just learning finger positions for two more strings, after all), but if you don't know one well before trying the other, then you will only be playing two instruments poorly!
There's music I have no interest in hearing, books I don't care to read, movies I'll never watch. Having tastes isn't a bad thing.Delete
As I posted up thread, I think food, music, books, etc are the wrong analogy.Delete
RPGs are more like skills or sports even. Sure, you could spend your life playing all sorts of different sports at a beginner level, but focusing on getting really good at one or two is likely to be more rewarding.
"As I posted up thread, I think food, music, books, etc are the wrong analogy"Delete
Certainly true. RPGs are closer to mediums or implements or tools. A DM will bring his mental environment to those games elastic enough to accept it. He can bring Lovecraft to CoC or D&D.
I only play one game because I know I can do anything (I care to) within it. I suspect people who move about among RPGs either don't have a stable player group or are not good DMs (yet) .
@ William Morris -Delete
Your own tool analogy should explain why people use different systems, to be honest: different tools give different game-feels. And while I agree with your assertion that you can "bring Lovecraft to D&D" - that is, you can bring different window-dressings and settings to the bare mechanical skeleton - it's like you're saying that it's possible to paint with a monkey wrench. Technically true, but the feel is going to be different.
Once again let me enter a plea not to speak in negative ways about people with different tastes than you. Someone can simply enjoy using different systems for different game-feels at different times, and I no more want to hear you attacking their quality as GMs then I would want to hear a system-switcher imply that your preference to use just one implies that you're not up to the task of learning more. Can it really be so hard to extol the virtues of your preferences without attacking everyone different? :(
"Your own tool analogy should explain why people use different systems, to be honest: different tools give different game-feels"Delete
I think the point is what can you construct with a substantial or complete set tools? Can you construct everything you need for the fantasy world you imagine? Then freeze the tools and conjure the environment. New RPGs invite you to tinker again with slightly different versions of tools you may well have mastered.
The core to gaming is are you equipped as DM to fairly resolve the player question, 'can I do this thing?'. Most of this depends on respect, some on tables. I believe players are itchy to try a new game when they don't trust the DM's judgement. (In which case they should offer to DM IMO).
"I believe players are itchy to try a new game when they don't trust the DM's judgement."Delete
- That falls entirely out of my experience. Some people want to try a new game because they like the things the game does at the table. (O)D&D is very good for a specific style of exploration-adventure centered on combat and resource-management, but it's not that great at e.g. simulating court intrigue in a consistent way or supporting space travel and trade with alien beings. Even within fantasy, it's not good at simulating most forms of magic that we see in fiction. If I want a campaign based on the Last Airbender universe, I'm not going to want to use D&D because the systems don't fit well.
And, I mean... come on, everyone has different tastes. You can have mastery in system A and still want to take a break from it at times and use system B. This doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, and enjoying novelty doesn't have to mean you distrust your GM.
Confanity seems to have appointed himself judge and jury over our rhetoric. He thinks he has the authority to tell us what we can and cannot say.Delete
Here's my recommendation: until he stops being an utter pray, ignore his every point in favor of asking that he stops trying to control our thoughts.
Ozy, some of us are trying to have a sincere conversation about gaming. If you don't have anything to say that isn't snide and ugly, maybe take it somewhere else.Delete
Sometimes I'm reminded of the character of Jean des Esseintes in 'À_rebours' and the endless hunger for the new sensation, but then I have to remind myself all these games are just houserules for the ur-text of D&D, distorted thru a hall of mirrors.ReplyDelete
posting when drunk..classic
True. At the end of the day, it's all D&D really.Delete
I have two words for it that describe me: lazy and apathetic. :)ReplyDelete
It may be the hour and the amount of ale in me but this post made me really want to dust off my old never-used RIFTS ultimate edition from 2003(?) and slap it on the table in front of my friends this Sunday and bark "4d6 down the line kids WE'RE DOING THIS"ReplyDelete
I think it's a matter of understanding what RPGs are, at a fundamental level. Media content like YouTube videos, traditional movies or Netflix originals; books, comic books or periodicals; board games, card games or video games; and so on ~ these are the things we tend to compare RPGs to. But RPGs are not like these entertainments. For a GM, RPGs are more like wood carving or painting or designing and building a house. I'd go so far as to say that it's the same for players, only on a smaller or limited scale, since they're concerned with creating a character and using that character to alter or shape the GM's world. RPGs are a creative activity, not a consumption activity. Once a player comes to that realization, it's only natural that he should focus on a handful of games, seeking to improve his skill in those systems.ReplyDelete
The amateur role-player or the traditional story consumer is the one who constantly buys new RPG books. The rest of us have moved on to better things.
It's kind of sad and frustrating that a lot of people seem to be missing the same basic point: Playing RPGs is a broad hobby. There are lots of ways for lots of people to enjoy it. In character you might be big on kick-in-the-door-and-fight, or on scheming and planning, or on roleplaying interpersonal drama, and so on. On a system level you might want to play straight from the book, or you might have so many house rules that Gygax and Arneson would be at a loss at your table. Your characters might live in a meticulously detailed homebrew campaign world, or it might be a barebones pastiche just deep enough to let you raid dungeons.Delete
And some people are happy playing the exact same ruleset for decades, enjoying all the myriad situations it can put their characters through... while other people get just as much enjoyment from playing OD&D for one campaign, Star Wars for another, Call of Cthulhu for another, and so on and so forth.
There is no One Right Way.
If you've found a flavor that will make you happy for life - more power to you! We're all happy for you. Just don't pretend that daring to learn and use multiple rulesets is "amateur," or immature, or in any way worse than picking one system to use always and forever.
I mean, come on. I agree with noisms that system mastery is more a skill than a flavor, but you can also have taste in skills, and I would no more condone putting someone down for learning both D&D and Fate than, say, learning both karate and knitting. Of all the things we can do online, let's not put people down over matters of taste, okay?
"No one right way," is the rallying cry of those who would diminish efforts toward improvement for the sake of their bruised ego. "Don't tell me my game is less," despite the fact that no one actually said that.Delete
Yes, there's no need to put people down for holding their amateur status in value. I agree that we should be civil to each other.
How is the claim, "I want to get better and I want to engage with people who want the same," an indictment against those who aren't interested?
Look, the phrasing "The amateur role-player or the traditional story consumer is the one who constantly buys new RPG books. The rest of us have moved on to better things" really makes it sound like you think trying out new systems is worse, and not buying new RPG books is "better." For that matter, your new phrasing ALSO implies that people who don't just focus on one system don't "want to get better." But - I repeat - there are values in RPGs beyond mastering the minutiae of a single system.Delete
And I really don't know where you get off with that line about "the rallying cry about those who would diminish efforts toward improvement for the sake of their bruised ego." That really makes it sound like you're just spitting utter disdain at everyone who has fun in different ways than you do. Because for crying out loud; this isn't about egos. This is about not expressing base contempt for people just because their way of having fun doesn't match yours.
Perhaps that disdain was not your intent; in that case, please be more careful about your phrasing in the future.
Tit for tat.Delete
You didn't need to respond to what I've written. I can only assume that your motivation to do so is that a stranger on the internet somehow offended you with something he said.
Yes, reading new RPGs is necessary to being a better game designer. No, you don't need to read every RPG out there; there's a ton of repurposed and rehashed work, such that, at a glance, those who pay attention to what they're reading can discern what is and is not worth spending time on.
Yes, there is a better way of doing things. There's always a better way; that's how things work. No, there isn't one true way because that's just stupid; but that doesn't invalidate my previous statement.
No, I feel no disdain for the amateur gamer. I feel disdain and contempt for the amateur who insists that being an amateur is on equal footing with being an expert.
...Dude, all I'm saying is it would be nice if you could simply talk about what you enjoy without being nasty toward others. It takes a really special kind of someone to take that as another excuse for supercilious self-congratulations.Delete
You're not, as evidenced by the fact that you were the first to bring up "one-true-way" in this thread. No one said that. You did.Delete
My ire has nothing to do with what you personally enjoy. It has everything to do with your insistence on telling me (and others) how to have a conversation.
I've tried to imply that message. I'm stating it as clearly as possible. If you can't get the concept, that's on you.
If you do come around, I'll gladly discuss the merits of dabbling in many RPGs as opposed to mastery of one (and the full range of options in between).
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
While D&D isn't my system of choice, I am 100% with you on not being terribly interested in learning a new system. I like perusing other systems for ideas, inspirations, and diversity in means of approaching problems, but please don't ask me to actually be good with the latest-and-greatest system to hit the market.ReplyDelete
I have generally tried to make a point of being good with one system over knowing lots of systems. I spent more years than I prefer to mention playing D&D before switching around the time 4e came out. That wasn't the easiest thing to do, and I really just don't have the morivation to do it again. I'm happy with what I play, and don't see the need to change.
I do still like seeing how others handle things, and obviously still read D&D blogs. But that's the extent of my system hopping.