Building your own house of cards, pt. 3

August 1, 2007

Options for Better Gaming

So, there’s a list of common things that produce common problems.  How about… not doing them?

It’s hard, because pretty much a lot of those ideas are imbedded as fundamental ideas of roleplaying in many games, and for many people.  If you take one or more away, suddenly, “It’s not roleplaying”.  (see various games which break one or more assumption and the endless arguments if it’s “really a roleplaying game?” or “Are you really playing a character?” etc.)

So what are we talking about?

1. Short Commitment Games

2-4 hours, like a deep boardgame, not 6+ hours like taking on a part time job.  One shots, or 3-6 session games, where players can actually get payoff for seeing a story to the end, rather games with no end in sight.   (“OMG! How can you get anything done?” keep reading, I’ll tell you)

2.  Try playing with a lot of different people

When you have these short commitments, it’s easy to get drop in players, pick up games, play in other groups, etc.  This also changes the basic dynamic- you’re not looking for a perfect group that will stick with you forever, you’re looking for folks who can play now, and are ok people.  In the short run, this doesn’t seem much better than what you had before, but in the long run you build up a network of folks and can find some group of people from the bunch who are into what you’re into, and if you’re into multiple things, you can also get that going on.

In other words, it’s like CCG or boardgamers- you now have a network of gamers, not just a few tiny huddled circles.

3.  Play what you want to play

You don’t have to be caught in THE ONE GAME that you HAVE to play because “everyone else wants to play it”.  Because not everyone else wants to play it- in the network you’ve developed, someone wants to play something different, or at least is willing to try it out.  You might make concessions or compromises here and there, but you also have others doing the same- you’re not forced to spend all your time wishing you could try out new stuff.  You also don’t HAVE to keep playing with anyone you think is a jerk.  Imagine that!

4. Say what you want, meta is ok!

“It would be awesome if the Dark Lord’s army attacked, right now!”  “Maybe the King is actually my half brother, and neither of us know it” etc.   How can you get stuff done in 4 hours?  Because you’re not fumbling around trying to get it to happen through verbal charades.  It also helps that your game groups are now made of folks who want to play -this game-, in a similar style, instead of playing tug of war about what the game is going to be about.

5.  Criticism is ok!

Well, now that you’re playing with a bunch of different folks, if someone doesn’t like the game you’re into, or your style of play, it’s not the end of your gaming.  You can criticize and understand where things work for you, where they don’t.  This also lets you make better decisions in the future as to what you’ll play, how you’ll play, and who you’ll play with.  No need for hard feelings or bitter broken relationships- consider it the same way if someone you know doesn’t like the same kind of food as you- it’s not a big deal.

Basically, the folks I’ve seen work this system not only avoid a lot of problems to play (“How do we keep a group together?” “No one has time to play!” “20 minutes of fun in 4 hours”), but also a lot of the problems that go outside of play, such as the tension between friends or weird “let’s just not say anything and not invite them back” passive aggressive bs.

Take bits that work for you, give them a shot.  Try playing with different folks, see the difference.  People say, “No play is better than bad play” but I have to ask why we should choose between either, when we can JUST play, and play well.

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