As always, we come to the part of RPGaDay that I play a bit of catch up. So enjoy, and if you want to chat about anything I’ve written here, find me on Twitter!
Day Ten – Focus
This is something I might write a longer article about, because there has been some interesting discussion around focus at the gaming table. We used to have (and in some case, still have) this picture of the Ideal Gaming Table where all the players are laser focused on the Game Master, their attention never wavering. But that’s a very neurotypical view of things. In reality, with things like ADHD as an example, a player may need to play games on their phone in order to be able to focus on what the Game Master is saying, or doodle, or have their headset in. Other players may need to do other things, but it doesn’t mean their interest in the game is any less. So before you lay down some draconian table etiquette rules, make sure to have a conversation with your players to figure out what everyone needs.
Day Eleven – Examine
It’s important to examine the games we play, because there are a great many holdovers from the early days of gaming that are highly problematic. They were problematic then, as well, but we were all still euphoric from the New Car Smell of the TTRPG hobby to call them out back then. We don’t have that same excuse today. There have been enough new editions of games that we can’t use the ignorance excuse anymore. The folx traditionally marginalized in our hobby have told the rest of us what the problems are. It is now up to the rest of us to get the work done fixing our shit. Or you have to finally admit, out loud for everyone to hear, that you actually didn’t care about the problems to begin with. I’d prefer the former, but the latter at least lets me know I don’t have to waste any more time listening to you.
I was involved in a thread the other day where someone posited (and I’m paraphrasing) that just because someone wrote problematic things back in the early days, does not then mean that person is problematic themselves. I disagree. Games come from people, they don’t just appear fully formed on an altar in some Temple of Games somewhere (by the way, if there is a Temple of Games I need to know now, so I can retire to that monastery). That means games contain, at their core, what the game writer believes. So if a game is problematic, it’s because the views of the game writer are problematic as well. Now, I’m willing to concede that people can change. And when you consider that many of these games were written two, three, even four decades or more ago, there has been plenty of time for those writers to have grown and learned better. But if I’m seeing the same type of writing coming from those people now, or I see them defending that earlier work and telling marginalized gamers that they are wrong? Nope. You’ve just shown me that the hobby has outgrown you. And while I can be sad about that, I don’t excuse it. Our hobby continues to grow because we examine these problems and learn to fix them. If someone can’t or won’t do that then we need to move on from them.
Day Twelve – Friendship
This isn’t a new or original idea, but TTRPGs have been responsible for more new friends, as well as long lasting friendships, than anything else in my life. I’m told that talking to someone is a key component in making friends, and as an introvert, talking to anyone is a job of work. But games give me something in common with the other folks around the table, a starting point for conversation. If we do nothing else, I will talk to and about their characters for the entire game. I may even learn their actual names, but probably not before I learn their character names. To this day there are folks I know only as their character name, and I’m lucky that they accept it as an eccentricity when I run into them at cons. I will learn them eventually, I swear.
Day Thirteen – Mystery
I’ve said it before, but my favourite game for playing out mysteries is Trail of Cthulhu. It has some wonderful rules around problem solving and finding/using clues that make the investigation part of an adventure as satisfying as the combat and roleplaying portions. I would even go so far as to say that they promote good roleplaying. The big reason I love Trail of Cthulhu is that it solves a problem common with other games not directly created for mystery and investigation; that failing a die roll can stall the players. Of course you can find work-arounds, and in fact I pull heavily from Trail to house rule other games so I can avoid that issue. I highly encourage you to pick up the core book and check it out, if you haven’t already. I’d also recommend the setting book, Bookhounds of London, as an excellent first setting to play with those rules. I consider it to be the perfect setting to highlight the Trail of Cthulhu ruleset. It also speaks to my nerdy, bookworm heart.
Day Fourteen – Guide
Besides the games themselves, probably my favourite part of TTRPGs is guiding new players as they enter the hobby. I love everything about dispelling confusion and anxiety for them, and giving them an excellent early gaming experience. I’m not going to go on an anti-gatekeeping rant here, because I have done that before. In short, gatekeeping is horseshit and anyone who plays games is a gamer. So as soon as you sit down and roll dice with me or anyone else, you are part of the hobby, and I want you to have the best time! Ask me questions, try things that scare you, play all the games! Welcome, and I hope you find as much joy in TTRPGs as I have.
Day Fifteen – Door
Lately I have been thinking about ways to make doors more interesting in D&D. Too often the players get into a rut when they encounter doors. They quickly develop a checklist that usually runs something like: I listen at the door, do I hear anything? Is the door locked? I check for traps, is it trapped? This litany is divided up by the appropriate die rolls, and either they succeed or fail. But repetition becomes tedious, and I really want to find a way to spice up what is arguably the single most common encounter in all of D&D.
Part of this process for me is making the die rolls myself, instead of letting the players make them. That small change already adds some tension back into the encounter; if the player checks for traps and I tell them they don’t find anything, they don’t know if that’s the die roll or the absence of traps. While this is a good first step it still just makes doors a dice-rolling encounter. I want to find ways of making memorable door encounters, and I’m still puzzling that out. If you have ideas, please share them.
That’s it, all caught up! We’ll see you tomorrow for your regularly scheduled post.