August is once again upon us, and that means it is time for RPGaDay! Started by Autocratik way back in the mists of time, RPGaDay is a series of daily creative prompts, meant to inspire folks to talk about TTRPGs. I write blog posts, but folks are encouraged to post on twitter and facebook, record videos, draw… the choice of expression is up to you. This year is a little different as well. In the past there were daily questions, but this year sees a series of single word prompts which you are encouraged to interpret as you like. Oh, sweet, horrible freedom!
As has become traditional, I am starting a few days behind (yes, four is a few) so this post covers the first four days; I’ll have a stand-alone post tomorrow and (fingers crossed) every day after that.
Day One – First
I’ve talked on numerous occasions about the game that first got me in the hobby, Dungeons & Dragons, so I’m going to leave that aside and instead talk about the first gaming convention I ever organized. The year was 1985, and I was just shy of my fifteenth birthday.
The thing of it is, I really had no business organizing a “convention” at all. I was a kid, I didn’t know the first thing about conventions except for snippets from Dragon Magazine, and there was zero reason anyone should have believed I could pull something like this off. The two things I had on my side? I knew most of the local gamers, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know, meaning I wasn’t scared by the scope of the undertaking.
But in Boy Scouts we did a lot of problem solving exercises and planning for our events, so I used a similar approach to this. I broke down the event into smaller tasks and starting knocking them out one by one. And I mercilessly exploited people I knew. I convinced the minister at the United Church in town to let me use the basement of the church for a Saturday; in lieu of a rental fee, the church could run a concession, and I would donate half the door to them at the end of the day (So generous, right? It wasn’t until later I understood that the church was basically risking giving me the space for free). I basically blackmailed every DM and GM in town to come and run games, and I took advantage of my excellent relationship with both the library and the local bookstore to get prizes.
Looking back, I’m a little fuzzy on the details of the day itself. I remember that the door was $5 for the day, and that let you play in all the games you wanted, and got you a free pop at the concession. I’m sure I remember it going off better than it did, but it went off. And I certainly remember the looks on peoples faces when they saw me in charge. I mean, the DMs obviously knew, but this was pre-internet. All the players from around town knew was that someone was running a game day, and they could hang out and play all day for five bucks. That it was organized by a teenager was a shock to most of them.
So my take-away from that? Don’t be afraid to do your first one, whatever that one is. Could be writing an adventure, could be running a game for the first time instead of being a player. Heck, it could be organizing your first convention/game day. Look at the whole thing, break it down into bits, and start solving those bits. You might find it easier than you think.
Day Two – Unique
I love TTRPGs for the unique experience we get from them, compared to other forms of imaginative entertainment, such as films, TV shows, books, and so on. First, roleplaying games are active as opposed to passive. I read a book, I watch movies and plays and TV, but I don’t get involved. I can’t affect them, except in rare cases of choose-your-own-adventure or audience participation.
But TTRPGs are something else. I play those, I am making choices and plans and acting on those plans. More than that, I am sharing the experience with my friends. Instead of us each reading a book and then trying to explain how we saw it, I am right there with my pals and we experience everything together. We still have different view points to be sure, but we share the core experience as a group. And we remember that experience differently as well. Someone more qualified can talk about the brain science, but I remember actions taken in game in the same way I remember things I have done in real life. No other entertainment media has ever come close to that for me.
None of what I just said is news to anyone in the hobby. But I feel like it bears repeating as often as possible because I believe that telling heroic stories with your friends is at the heart of this great, goofy, grandiose hobby. And sometimes you have to pare things back to basics and remember that.
Day Three – Engage
This is something I struggle with in many aspects of the hobby. I am an introvert, and putting myself out there, whether that’s to play with new people or run something at a convention or other public space, is hard for me. I need a lot of quiet time leading up to it to charge myself up, and when it’s over I need some time to recharge before I go again. I’ve had many players at cons either not recognize me, or be dismayed by what appears to be my standoffishness, when they run into me after a game. Because when I GM I am animated and energized, but that drains the batteries pretty quick.
Over the years I have learned tips and tricks that work for me, to help me spend my energy more slowly and regain it quicker. And I have found that running games for friends doesn’t task me the same way. I don’t feel drained after running either of my regular D&D sessions, for instance. In most cases I need to take a bit afterwards to rev down so I can go to bed. Which is good, because I could give up every other part of this hobby today, as long as I got to keep the parts I share with my friends.
Day Four – Share
Sadly, I feel like this should just get posted on a regular basis, along with what I wrote above for Day Two. But here we go:
Gatekeeping is horseshit, TTRPGs are for anyone who isn’t a nazi or an asshole who wants to play, and if you gatekeep even dogs won’t love you. And they will love anyone with a stick or a can opener, so you have to know you’re on the wrong side of things right there.
People you don’t normally play with coming into the hobby has zero effect on the game at your table. I think you’re the poorer for not trying to include folks with experiences different from you at your table, but I’m not going to tell you your fun is wrong. By the same token, though, I would appreciate it, the next time you have an urge to post a gatekeeping comment on someone’s tweet or FB post, or perhaps just blast that horseshit on the internets without any prompting at all, if you would take a second and not do that. Instead, follow these steps:
- Take a deep, cleansing breath.
- Step away from the keyboard for a while.
- Read a limerick or take the cat for a walk.
- Do literally any other thing except be a douchecanoe on the internet.
It isn’t difficult. However, if the urge persists, contact your health provider to schedule a rectal-craniotomy at your earliest convenience, and repeat steps one through four.
Okay, that’s the first four days. Join me on Monday for Day Five: Space. Oooo, what could it be?