For years I have been acting as if I sat on a seat of ice. I looked at gaming as if it was open ground for human development and achievement of fun. Fun is a very special thing for me, and I said that it was everyone’s prerogative to find their own path.
Alas I am human… and for some reason, some things infuriate me to no end. There is no rational explanation, there is no moral support for such wrath but its burning presence is no less powerful because of that.
If you have read my previous posts, you might have noticed that I am not what you’d call a ‘supporter’ of D&D in any of its incarnations. Then “why are you writing about such a D&D topic Fred?”, well it’s because it’s a perfect example of the silent gap between me and some forms of the roleplaying hobby.
The past, current and future clientele of D&D are mostly geeks. I define them as people who spend a lot of time and energy mastering and enjoying their favorite hobby. The inherent technical challenge of mastering said hobby being part of the geek’s appeal for it.
D&D 3.x was an ever changing system that was a challenge to master. Us committed geeks did. We bought countless books, we poured over them, we tinkered with the rules and we created awesome campaigns.
Yes, D&D 3.5 (and its predecessors) had warts and some less than stellar components. Still we mastered them. The more adventurous of us even opened the game’s hood and fiddled with the engine to get rid of the warts we didn’t like (Save or Dies comes to mind).
I raised an eyebrow when I read the “mastering the hobby” part, it was an odd way to put I assumed it was talking about getting fluent with roleplaying or something along those lines. But of course I continued to read on. By the time I reached the “D&D 3.x was an ever changing system that was a challenge to master. Us committed geeks did” part, I was raging. And what was I raging about?
My own life basically.
Even in my hack and slash youth, filled with afternoons of unreasonable battles against orcs that would bore even the more passionate Diablo fans I never wanted the kind of game that D&D promotes. What I meant is that I don’t want to feel tactically challenged as a player that is dealing with a system. I want to feel challenged as a player who is creating a collective narrative, one that it’s uncertain, but not random. So why feel upset? Just because it is a constant reminder of all the times I have played an RPG just to be sitting there annoyed and oblivious as to where the ‘romance’ had gone and why was I not enjoying something that I knew I loved.
So what is the problem? It a basic premise of this website that there are countless ways to promote gaming as a funnel for fun and enjoyment and that those paths are valid. The problem is miscommunication. And it is a very current problem that happens and will happen to you if you’re not vigilant for it. Miscommunication can cause clashes between the players and have effects both inside and outside of the game, and it is easy to be surprised by this if you don’t know just how much our particular gaming goals shape the experience that we get from the hobby. Everyone is looking for something different, the issue with roleplaying is that in 99% of the times you depend on your fellow players to deliver the kind of content or situation that you are looking for. So the question is…
What do you want?
Make sure you think that through, and remember “I don’t know yet” is a perfectly good answer. But you owe it to yourself, and quite frankly you also owe it to the other players who depend on you, to be perfectly honest and public about it. This is usually not easy to do. Whether you are with a new group or you are with your old gaming buddies, it’s not easy to say: “Guys, this is not my thing. I would really want to be able to do [insert whatever it is that you want] but I see that we’re going in a different direction. Do you think there is some way we can come to a compromise?”
And that’s the pleasant angst-less and anger-less way to put it. And even then it’s not easy: you might feel like you’re letting your buddies down, or that new groups won’t accept you, or that what you want isn’t popular or that “it’s ok, I can still have fun.” The truth is that you are responsible for everything you do and allow into your life, and if you are going to sit through afternoons of boredom rationalizing on the fact that you’re not doing what you want to do… well it’s your choice. Do remember that compromises can be achieved, and that people will usually collaborate so that everyone can have their share of fun. What is even better, roleplaying games are one of the best mediums for this diversity of objectives (within certain limits, of course) so you have a great chance of getting exactly the kind of fun that you want.
There is much to be said about social contracts in roleplaying, but going to that field without a good grasp on the very simple (but powerful) issue raised here, is not very efficient. Give this a thought, you’ll come out of it with a better understanding of your goals with gaming, and a much better chance of having fun.
Until next time, Fred.