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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Expanding a player base, finding a comfort level.

This is one of those odd posts about my personal experiences and views on RPG's. If that's not what your into cool.  Skip this post and comeback for the next one I'll probably have some random charts or something.

I thought the internet was going to fix this.
Apparently I underestimated my own propensity to act like a hermit.

I have a very small player base. A few good friends with whom I have been playing for years and in some cases decades. I love those guys, and appreciate them putting up with my creative impulses. As is the normal way of life however  we have gotten older, life has become busier. We rarely get to play games at the table. We have started to lean more and more heavily on virtual table tops like Roll 20 and I-table-top  to get our gaming fix.

That leads me to my point:
If I am doing 90% of my gaming on line anyway why am I not actively seeking new players to join in?
WHy am I not using the  net, to  cast a larger net?
I heard a podcaster the other day , talk about how he has played with over 150 different people in various games on Roll20. I was awed, and a bit intimidated by that figure. What struck me was I'm sure he's not even a stand out. I bet there are others out there who have gamed with a much higher number.
So why not me?

Is it lack of social media fluency?
I don't think so.
I'm out there in the RPG world. I don't hide that I embrace RPG's as a hobby.

     I have this blog. I'm  not  one of the RPG blog long beards by any measure but I have been doing this for a while. A fair number of people have left messages on this  blog since 2013. Some of those messages have been positive, some of them have been welcome corrections. Other messages have been well meaning efforts to point out how much of an idiot I am. These communications mean that at the very least other people in this hobby know that I'm also in this hobby.
 
  I sort of have a twitter presence. I say "sort of" because I find gaming twitter to be for the most part a much younger demographic than I am. Which is not a bad thing in fact for gaming, but for me to recruit players, not ideal*. I also find holding any kind of conversation on twitter nearly impossible. I'm not a fan of the form. With that said, I make it a point to mention this blog on twitter. I limit myself to mentioning the blog no more than once a month. I don't want to be spammy.
   
Then there is  Google plus. First let me say I enjoy G+  far more than I enjoy Facebook, if those two are still even comparable platforms. The ability to setup, view and join groups so  easily on G+  has made finding people of similar interest far  easier. Keeping that in mind I like "old" google plus much more than I like their current interface. So much so that it has lead me to be  much less active on the  platform than I was just a year or so ago. I'm afraid I lurk more than In contribute. (I think this blog still auto posts a notification to a couple groups whenever I publish a new post.) I lurk, generally because I don't ever want to come off as that guy who says, "I think this is how it should be done, cause "my way."

I guess that's why I don't actively recruit players to play online. A new player coming in may be accustomed to  lighting effects, custom tokens, API scripts, voice acting, and all that jazz. Much of which Roll 20 is great at supporting, but I have never used. That player may be sorely disappointed to realize I pretty much only use the die roller, and the game screen as a white board. Hell, I don't even use the camera, and rely on discord for voice chat. The internet has opened up the world of gaming to a degree of peer review, that just never existed before. My game on Roll 20  can  or will be compared to someone else, or to one of the several live play "shows" which are actuality now being produced for the internet. Where in the past each group did their own thing, unseen by  the wider community. If a group picked up a new player, or joined another group half the time it was like playing a completely different game due to the style differences the other group had developed. None of us play it exactly like Gygax originally played it, which  is good thing.

In my view it is hard to tell a good game From a bad one out side of , "Is everyone having fun?"
For example. (lucky or unluckily for me this happened after I started writing this post, so I have a personal example.)
I ran an absolutely shit game on roll 20 last night. Several factors went into that.  I was tired and that's the worst time too run a game. To much time had past between the last session and this one for  players to remember exactly why they were risking their necks in a cave. Everyone was distracted by things going on in the background.*** Finally I was rushed in the evening and wasn't as organized as I like to be. The game, like I said was not a good game of basic D&D.

When I ask the players, or at least the two I talked to this morning, they had a good time. I'm going to assume it was more about the conversations around the game than the game it's self. Which is perfectly acceptable when playing with people all of whom I have known for over a decade.
If I ran that same game for  a stranger I would give that new player the impression (rightfully so) that I am the worst GM ever.**** In fact the time spent was not the worst social experience ever it just wasn't the best experience if viewed solely as a D&D game.

So perhaps that's why I have never really gone out looking for or to be a player in a ton of online games. My RPG experience is unique to me, just like everyone else's D&D experience is unique to them. I'm not sure I want that experience to start to homogenize via things like  actual play live streams and  "professional, rent a GM services." I don't want there to be "best practices," or a right and wrong way to do RPG's. I will never look at another persons game and say "that GM sucks," as long as I can see everyone is having a good time.*****

I recently had a brief discussion on Twitter which relates to this subject where in I was told by DMLeviathan**,
"True. But, IMO , that's speaking more to style than ability. You can still learn skills  from other GM"
I wholeheartedly agree.  We can always learn from others. Pick up tricks, new ways to present information, good game management techniques all of that. For me though style, or the infinite multitude of potential styles is what makes the RPG hobby interesting and enjoyable.

In that same twitter conversation mentioned above I wrote:
"It's also kind of hard to know what "good" is as most of us DM in a vacuum, at our homes with our groups"
And,
 "Fair enough. A player coming to the table w, "You should DM more like that guy on Youtube." would be disheartening."
Lastly: The  order of these quote on Twitter was not as it is shown here, DMLeviathan's quote shown first here, was the last substantive post of the conversation to which I replied, "I agree." I have them in this order on the blog for purposes of the blog, to to misrepresent context in any way.

That is a 140 character synopsis of what this post is about. It  is also a perfect example of why twitter is shit for communicating thoughts.
I'm on / part of  the internet RPG community, I'm available. I embrace the digital medium for RPG's as best I can. I am happy to learn from other players and GM's methods. I'm just not sure I have a very high level of comfort when it comes to comparing GM's to each other based on games run on the internet or via services like Roll20 or I-table top.
The gap between what someone like me does with the technology which is bare bones, VS what a slickly produced, and fully realized use of tools available ^ is immense. The  good times had at the table however are not that different.

So What do I do to resolve this divide between What I think (I should be out there as part of the community more. VS what I do  (Hermit crab man)?
I'm going to start watching a lot more of the  exact actual plays and such that I have not been. Taking GMLeviathan's tweet to heart and going out there looking for the tips and tricks.
I'm also going to try and  get involved in more online games that other people run, as a player. One shots probably because committing to the same time and  day  is kind of hard for me.
I also Have to do some cons with Neal this year. I'm an asshole for not doing it. I find it hard to commit the time once the time comes. I'm psyched to do it a month away, but then invariably when the con gets closer, shit blows up on me at work, or some home thing crops up and by the time the weekend hits I just want to sit and play Terraria mindlessly. I have to fight that. I want to sit at stranger's tables and play RPG's.

To conclude this rather long and meandering post. As a community I see RPG's becoming more main stream (good.) I would hate to see the new ability to watch other groups play afforded by the streaming internet result in any single or particular style of  running a table come to be thought of as "the right way" to do  RPGs. However, I feel I need make myself more open to those influences as an individual. We are in the golden age of table top gaming right now, and to miss it would be a great mistake.

Thank you for reading.
Mark.


 (yes, I admit as a 41 year old man I find the idea of asking a 20 year old female gamer to join my online game a bit on the  creepy side. I know that won't be a popular viewpoint but it's true. Messages can be so easily misconstrued on the internet that I'm not even willing to open myself up to a perception of misguided intentions.)
** A good Twitter follow for those into talking about games.
*** It is Wrestle-mania Weekend after all and for us heathen pro wrestling fans that's basically Christmas. Everywhere you turn some one is streaming a good match.
**** Worst Miko Ever.
***** Even the concept of "Having fun as a GM's Goal in RPGS" has been debated on blogs over the years... What other goal is there why you are hanging out with friends playing a game? I know everyone's fun is different, but that's the point.
^ Man I spent a lot of  effort not mentioning Critical Role in the main text. Reason being is I love that stream without ever having watched it  because it has brought so many people, particularly women and young people, into the hobby. I don't want to cast any  aspersions towards the show because I have none to cast. It's also a perfect example of exactly what my online game can / will never look or sound like. Aint nobody got time for that kind of production.