Monday, January 10, 2011

On Roleplaying Games

I was an RPG fan first before I was a wargamer.  In fact, it was RPG's that got me into miniatures to begin with. First, I had a problem player in a game I was running.  She was constantly "where the action was" in gameplay.
"There's a chest in the room." "I check out the chest."
"While you are looking at the chest, someone approaches the door."  "I rush the guy with my sword."
Basically, where ever it was most beneficial to be, her PC would magically appear.  So I began considering using miniatures to help with the game.  Plus Champions, a frequent go-to game for me, practically required them.

The second factor was that as time went by it got harder and harder to get a group together.  I was out of college and my friends and I were all doing what most young adults do in their mid- to late-twenties: nailing a career down and having children.  And one day I realized that I could do a wargame with only one other person.  It was about that time that the company whose manual I had purchased on painting miniatures started a skirmish game, called Mordheim.  Mordheim was a total gateway game.  It got me buying White Dwarf for the articles on building terrain and the new warband rules, which in turn exposed me to Warhammer Fantasy Battles and Warhammer 40K.  The internet showed me other games, and highlighted some deficiencies in Games Workshop's business model.

When I left Columbus and began a new career in a very small town in Ohio, I found it almost impossible to organize an RPG.  There just were not the people around who played.  But I could find people who wanted to play WHFB or 40K via the internet, and from there I began a pretty steady diet of monthly-or-so wargaming.  After a few years I developed enough friendships where I could "out" myself as a RPG enthusiast, and basically built up a gaming group from scratch (one that continues on without me, as it turns out).

But RPG's and wargaming were never exactly apples-to-apples in terms of scratching a particular itch.  RPG's had the benefit of no material component.  I could plan adventures while driving my car on long trips, or during slow days at the office.  But that in turn felt shallow and lacked fulfillment sometimes.  I liked the tangibility of wargaming pursuits.  I was making things with my hands.  I also liked that I was being social in a wargame without constantly being "in character," either as player or GM.  I could bitch about work or talk about how my family was doing or whatever right in the middle, rather than breaking the flow of the game.

I also have continually found myself having to run a game, not play one.  That means a lot of front-end loaded work that all hinges on the inconsistent attendance (not to mention personalities) of the people playing.  If I paint miniatures and the game falls through, I have good looking miniatures to look at.  If I build an adventure and no one plays, I have a file on my flash drive called "GoblinRuins1A.odt".  It makes a difference.

And finally, and this may the most subjective of points, I just don't enjoy RPG's as much anymore.  I find less joy in the improv acting of roleplaying games now than I used to.  With the right game, I might feel differently. Who knows?

What I know now is that I really miss wargaming.  I thought about making a resolution towards doing one wargame a month, even if it meant coercing my pre-teen son into a game of Heroclix or just playing a solo wargame.  Just one wargame a month, that's all.
 

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