Jul 262010

This month’s Blog Carnival (hosted by Mad Brew Labs) is almost over and I’ve put a bunch thought into this one. The whole subject of growing the table top RPG hobby is interesting one.
Let’s go with the biggie first. Stigma. In our modern society, the geek subculture has been pretty much accepted by the mainstream. Geek is now “cool”. There’s shows like The Big Bang Theory, Comic Con is now a major Hollywood marketing expo, movies based on comic books are blockbusters and the computer is now a common household appliance. Table top RPG’s are still one of the last bastions of true geekdom that hasn’t been accepted. Why? First, since geek is now cool there’s just too many posers out there. “I have a computer, a blog and I tweet. I’m such a geek.” Giggle. No. That doesn’t make you a geek. The same person might rant about how great the latest X-men, Watchmen or Batman movie was. But if ask them about Chris Claremont, Alan Moore or Frank Miller, they will stare at you blankly. They just know what they’ve been fed and their still getting fed the line that people who play PnP RPG’s are socially awkward, hygienically challenged and sexually repressed. This one is pretty easy to combat. Hello, I am a normal person and pretty damned average in most cases. And yes I play those old time games with dice, paper and little toy soldiers. But for every ten regular Joe’s out there, you’ll meet the Comic Book Guy or the Cat Piss Man. And who do you remember? Of course, the negative experiences always seem to stick out. Yes, we may always say remember the good old days. But if you go to a restaurant a hundred times and then go again the food and the service just plain suck. What do you remember more? What do you rant about more? Not the hundred times but the one bad time. It’s the same about meeting people. What drives more beginners from the hobby? Is it time? Cost? Other obligations? Or is it just their first experience involved “that guy”. It’s pretty simple bathe and don’t be a dick. We have met the enemy and he is us.
Of course, there’s another problem in the modern world. People are just getting stupid and lazy. One of the big competitors with table top games is, of course, video games. Pretty much every MMO or video RPG can trace it’s virtual genetics back to good old D&D. Compare what a hard core video game player spends in time, consoles, hardware, subscriptions and software to what a table top game costs. A hardcore video gamer will have dungeon maps, gear and character spec’s all memorized. They will know every trick to beat the game and its monsters. They will know the numbers behind each piece of equipment and what is the best possible combination. It pretty much takes about as much brain power as learning a table top game. But the difference. In a table top game, you just might have to read a BOOK and do the MATHS in your head! Most people won’t even read instruction manuals let alone a 400 page rule book. It’s simple. Millions of people will tune into the latest vapid reality show. How many of them will take the time to read even a bad book let alone a good one? Books are scary. The written word it just too time consuming when you can have pretty moving pictures. Just look at Hollywood. Even I’m guilty of this. We can name actors, producers or directors. How many of you can name screen writers? And out of the creative team, they get paid the least. They wrote the god damned story! C’mon.
The key to keeping the hobby alive and vibrant is simple. If it all possible don’t be a closet gamer and represent. Don’t be the stereotype. Show the world that you are not some obsessed drooling fanboy. Invite new players in. Don’t draft them. If someone isn’t interested or doesn’t want to hear about your paladin and the latest dungeon crawl then just let it go. Fledgling gamers will find their way into the hobby. Great them and take them under your wing. Just grow the hobby one gamer at a time. It will happen. Have patience. There’s an old article I read somewhere and I don’t even remember who wrote it. It basically said that video games are to PnP RPG’s what television is to live theater. Live theater has survived literally for centuries.

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