I usually don’t post on Mondays, but I saw a conversation on Twitter that has me a bit upset and I felt the need to write about it. I’m not going to name any names. EDIT: I had a brief description of the conversation and indicated the sides of the argument and was politely asked to edit it down. Suffice it to say that the conversation talked about the complexity of RPG rules systems and it went in an ugly direction. I’ll leave it at that.
I don’t know how old all of you are, or how long it has been since you have been in school, college or otherwise. I returned to college a couple of years ago after a 7-year break between the completion of my bachelor’s degree and the start of my new educational endeavors. I remember something very clearly about starting into my first classes: thinking, actual collegiate-level thinking is hard.
When we go about our daily lives, we do a lot of stuff as routine. Sure we might be smart as all get out, but when you don’t use your brain muscle to think critically, day in and day out, it’s a rough time getting things going again. How does this all relate to RPG rules? I’m getting there, promise.
Think of a middle, high school or college student who has just been introduced to RPGs. They love what they’ve found and they dive into the rules with all of the verve of people whose brains are actively being used and who have the luxury of some free time. They devour the rules and within months, they can turn into some of the most nit-picky rules lawyers that exist. I know, I did that myself. I devoured D&D 3.5 and knew it like the back of my hand, often having to stop myself from correcting my DM during the session.
Then, I had a break from gaming. I left school to work jobs I didn’t care about and the machinery of my brain got rusty. When I got back to school, I kicked off some of that rust, but it took a while to get things going. And then, I started to game again. I got a handle on D&D 4e pretty quickly. After all, it had enough similarities to D&D 3.5 that it wasn’t hard. It was, at its core, still a d20 system.
Then I started writing for Troll in the Corner. I started looking at hosts of other systems and other ways to tell stories through games. And I found something out: I sucked, I mean really sucked, at learning new rule systems. Everything I thought I knew about RPGs was being challenged by the new games I was coming into contact with. The rules didn’t make sense right away they way they did with D&D 3.5 and 4e and I got frustrated a lot of times. In fact, I might have given Houses of the Blooded an unfair shake as my first review because my mind was so locked into D&D. (I need to revisit it when I have time).
My point is: we enjoy a very, very complicated hobby. The game systems we use, no matter how streamlined, can be layered with complexity and we would be absolutely remiss to not be aware of that. It’s a topic that is worthy of discussion, especially for those of us that want to bring new people into the hobby.
The schooling I referred to is going to see me as a middle or high school teacher someday. One of the most important things I have learned while training for that future job is that everyone learns things differently. One of the worst things that you can do as a teacher is tell a struggling student “oh, that’s easy.” The implication is that they should be able to handle it, when they are obviously not able so to do. As gaming enthusiasts, we often find ourselves in the teaching role, intorducing someone to the rules of our favorite games. We need to be aware that different people learn in different ways. Rather than deriding someone because they seem to be aware of that fact and want to address the complexity of entering into our hobby, we need to realx and make sure we are doing all we can to make those rules understandable to anyone who cares to try and learn them.
[tags]rpg, rpgs, role playing games, rants[/tags]